Israel,  Israel/Palestine

Israel: Calling Hamas’ bluff

An excellent piece by Nick Cohen on Israel. Read the whole thing. Cohen also makes an important point about “Whataboutery”, an always tempting option:

“Whataboutery” is always a disreputable way of distracting attention. Those who look at Gaza and say: “But what about Syria, Iran or Kurdistan?” are as bad as those who looked at Saddam’s Iraq and said: “But what about Burma, Congo or North Korea?” At least Barghouti concentrates on the issue at hand: the lack of basic humanitarian supplies, including foods and medicine, and the mass unemployment and restrictions on movement Gazans have suffered for five years, and will continue to suffer unless Israel or Hamas change course.

Israelis do not see why they should blink first. Their belief that they are on the receiving end of a hypocritical campaign sustains their siege mentality and nurtures the fear that if Israel pulls back from Gaza’s borders, Hamas will grow in strength and arm itself with Iranian missiles.

Israelis are not being irrational. The same fears persuade the Egyptian government to blockade Gaza from the south, although we rarely hear about that. But the way to handle hypocrites is not to say as Israelis do that “the world will condemn us whatever policy we follow” but to call their bluff. If Israel were to relax the import restrictions and Hamas were to rearm, reasonable opinion, including reasonable Palestinian opinion, would see it for what it would be: a declaration of war.

The obvious riposte to Cohen’s idea is the “the world will condemn us whatever policy we follow” he mentions, but the fact is Israel needs friends and their current policies are making it increasingly hard to stand at their side. I’ve had previously sensible liberals (no friends of Hamas) prompted by the flotilla shootings into statements that wouldn’t look out of place in the CIF comments boxes. Attempts to bring some balance to the discussion about the threats posed by the “activists” on the boat, who seemed intent to kill the IDF forces, are not going to change the broader problem of the blockade. The damage is done.

Can it really be so hard to make Hamas look bad?