middling new things
home contact archive
People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.
Gaza, Ctd.


This war will only end when Hamas either stops shooting rockets into Israel, or runs out of rockets, whichever comes first. Also, if Hamas doesn’t want a hospital to be bombed, then stop shooting rockets from the hospital!

This is a very common response directed towards people who criticize Israel’s use of force in the Occupied Territories.  I think it is unpersuasive, for the following reasons.

  1. The logic being employed here looks a lot like victim-blaming.  The IDF, to its credit, in what seems to be an acknowledgment that not every single person living in Palestine is a terrorist, called the Director of the Hospital and told him to evacuate the building.  But this probably means that militant Hamas members who may have been occupying the building would also have evacuated it as well.  Will this deny them a base of operations?  Perhaps.  But only temporarily.  Hamas is waging something akin to a guerrilla war against Israel.  History suggests that the militant wing of Hamas will find other places to go, and  the rockets will not in fact stop.  So in the end, all that was likely achieved by the hospital strike was that a vital civilian resource—a hospital—was destroyed.

  2. Hamas may not care if a hospital gets bombed, but the patients who rely on that hospital probably do.  Not every Palestinian living in Gaza supports Hamas, but the Israeli military often behaves as if this were true.  Some claim that Hamas forces civilians to act as human shields.  But if that’s true, then those civilians are unwilling participants in the violence.  They are therefore still “innocent,” and however despicable this tactic may be on the part of Hamas, it is equally despicable to carry out military strikes in disregard for these peoples’ lives.  This idea that the residents of Gaza are all expendable in the fight against Hamas is morally objectionable.  To risk an analogy, few people would agree that it’s ok to shoot through a hostage to kill their captor.  But that is precisely what the Israeli military does every time it bombs civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and then justifies civilian deaths by claiming that Hamas is forcing civilians to be “human shields.”

  3. As I’ve said many times on this blog, the reason why Hamas has the degree of political influence they have is because the Israeli government actively empowers them through its policies in the Occupied Territories.  Gaza and the West Bank are open-air prisons.  Freedom of movement, commerce, and expression is restricted in numerous ways by the Israeli Government in a manner which most reasonable people would view as intolerable.  To take one example: A former U.S. diplomat once noted in a leaked cable that the policy of the Israeli Government is to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” and to keep the Palestinian economy "functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis."  Dov Weisglass, a former senior Israeli official, put it this way: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”  It should come as no surprise that at least a portion of the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories have become so frustrated and angry by the mistreatment they receive at the hands of the Israeli government that they take up arms to violently resist.  Which  brings me to my next point…

  4. What is it that keeps the rockets coming?  Ostensibly, there are two primary reasons: the first is that some members of Hamas views Israel as an illegitimate state and will never accept its right to exist under any circumstances.  There is little, if anything that Israel can do to change this.  However, another reason why these rockets keep coming is that it remains one of the few accessible ways that residents of the Occupied Territories have to fight back against an occupying force—one they view as the source of their oppression.  When that oppression ends, support for Hamas will dry up considerably.  And—I humbly submit—the number of rockets being fired into Israel will also shrink considerably.

  5. Whether the Israeli government likes it or not, this is a guerrilla war.  The Israeli government has blown up hospitals before.  It has blown up schools before.  It has blown up homes before.  Yet the rockets always keep coming.  They keep coming in part because the IDF can’t be everywhere all the time.  But mostly they keep coming because residents of the Occupied Territories find a new reason to legitimate Hamas’s violence every time another Palestinian house, business, or family gets blown to pieces by an Israeli bomb.  

With all this being said, the greatest impetus for rocket fire into Israel, in my opinion, is the Israeli government’s ongoing military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.  The Israeli government’s policies toward the residents of these areas generate resentment, anger, and hatred in those affected by them. As a result, a portion of the Palestinian population is invariably radicalized by the trauma of enduring the Israeli government’s policies, and they come to view violent resistance as reasonable.  This violent resistance is in turn empowered by foreign sponsors who sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people (e.g. Iran, Hezbollah).

That’s why the rockets won’t stop coming until Israel ends the Occupation.  Militants will always find ways to commit violence against Israel.  The only true way to stop these attacks is to remove the impetus for them.  That impetus is, for the most part, the Occupation.  The Occupation is the lifeblood of Palestinian resentment towards Israel.  It is the Occupation that radicalizes the Palestinian population.  It is the Occupation that empowers militants through the sympathy of foreign sponsors.  And it is the Occupation that continues to put the lives of Israelis in danger every day.

One final note: it bears mention that I’m not suggesting that ending the Occupation will mean Israel never suffers another terrorist attack.  What I am suggesting is that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories are a large motivator for those attacks, and changing those policies would reduce the number of rocket attacks considerably.  It would also deprive Hamas of political legitimacy, because ending the Occupation robs Hamas of most of their talking points.  This would deprive Hamas of political power, which would reduce their ability to finance their militant wing.  That means less rocket attacks, and a safer Israel.