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No Happy Endings in Gaza

December 30th, 2008by Haim Watzman · 13 Comments · Politics and Policy

Haim Watzman

I’ve got war refugees in my home today. I mean my daughter’s fellow second-year students from the animation program at Sapir College, located right next to Sderot. The campus is under fire and has shut its gates, so these budding cartoonists are unable to work on their projects or attend their classes. The studies are so intense, and the creative energy so high, that they all look like lost souls when they are denied their storyboards and cameras.

Their displacement is nothing compared to the suffering the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been enduring since Saturday, nor compared to that of the permanent residents of Sderot and other southern Israeli towns near Gaza, those who don’t have homes up north to flee to.

When they enrolled at Sapir, they knew they’d be studying under fire. But that advance knowledge doesn’t mean that they don’t long to study and draw in peace.

Israel’s attack on Gaza is unlikely to achieve that. Israelis should be wary by now of national leaders who promise that this war, finally, will end Palestinian (or Hezbollah, or whatever) attacks on Israel….

Read the rest on Jewcy–Comment there or here.

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13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Shlomit // Dec 31, 2008 at 4:45 am

    I too would love peace – but do both sides want peace?

    So when one of the precious animation students you mention is hit and killed by a kassam, and then another, and then another – what then? Just keep letting the rockets continue to fall? How many students are you willing to allow to die – or live in fear daily?

  • 2 aliyah06 // Dec 31, 2008 at 7:42 am

    “A managed, low-level conflict is a realistic, achievable, and worthwhile goal.”

    I’m speechless. I can’t believe you said this. Go tell it to the Sderoti.

  • 3 Haim Watzman // Dec 31, 2008 at 9:19 am

    aliya06, you shouldn’t be speechless. We make policy decisions like this all the time. When we make traffic laws, set a national budget for road repairs, and decide at what age people can receive a driver’s license, we make an implicit decision to accept a certain level of traffic fatalities as acceptable. When the health care system makes difficult choices about what medicines and treatments to fund, it implicitly decides that the marginal cost of saving another life with expensive treatment is not acceptable and that the money would be better spent elsewhere. When an army and a government faces an armed conflict, it must make the same sorts of decisions–deciding how much civilian loss of life and property and peace of mind is worth as opposed to the loss of enemy lives, of soldiers’ lives, and the costs of a military response, both in terms of the lives of soldiers, the financial cost of the operation, and the cost we suffer to our economy, our diplomatic position, and other such factors. To set the military goal as “not a single missile should fall in Sderot” would mean incurring huge and largely unpredictable costs in these other arenas–with little chance of actually achieving the goal. This is the mistake we made two and a half years ago in Lebanon.

  • 4 aliyah06 // Dec 31, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    “When we make traffic laws, set a national budget for road repairs, and decide at what age people can receive a driver’s license, we make an implicit decision to accept a certain level of traffic fatalities as acceptable. ”

    This is overly simplistic. We establish these things but at a certain level we do NOT accept fatalities. We have a law enforcement and criminal justice system to compensate through punitive and rehabilitative modes. People who kill other people go to prison and are taken off the road; civil suits are available for relief from negligent construction, etc. This is a system of checks and balances between restrictions on individual liberties and privileges versus societal needs.

    There is no such thing in war. War is the absence of social contract.

    I am still appalled that you said that, but reading your comment in reply, I think you merely misapprehend the situation. This is in no way a decision a civil society can expect to make and remain intact.

  • 5 Haim Watzman // Dec 31, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Of course we don’t accept either traffic fatalities or war dead in an absolute way, and we use all the means at our disposal to protect and save lives. But we never use all the means at our disposal. We could, for example, make a big reduction in traffic fatalities by imposing prohibitive taxes on cars and prohibitive tolls on roads. Or we could do by stationing a traffic policeman every 100 meters along every road in the country. These measures would drastically cut the number of drivers and thus fatalities. But we don’t consider that a reasonable use of resources, nor would we want to live in a society in which only very rich people could drive. Your underlying assumption is that we can, through the application of sufficient military force, end Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. But that’s an illusion. So long as the root causes of the dispute between us and the Palesinians are not resolved, we can only manage the conflict.

  • 6 ivan // Dec 31, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    I don’t know who you are or what is your background or political motivations, but when you state “nor compared to that of the permanent residents of Sderot and other southern Israeli towns near Gaza, those who don’t have homes up north to flee to” I smell an envious rat speaking. Noting than someone has more than one home has nothing to do with anything here, except that you are breaking the tenth commandment.

  • 7 aliyah06 // Dec 31, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    We’ll simply have to disagree on this point. The managing-the-conflict school of thought merely prolongs the conflict (and increases the casualties). Historically, conflicts end when one side gains a clear advantage over the other, and the other agrees to terms. This is a war, not a police action or an exercise in crime deterence. We are dealing with an opponent who will not be ‘managed’ in any event. When Hamas doesn’t get what it wants, it escalates. You cannot ‘manage’ endless escalation and expect to remain a viable nation, continually sacrificing your civilians to the voracious, impossible demands of the enemy.

    The Judenrats of occupied Europe made the same mistake: just go along with this demand, then that demand, and eventually we’ll manage to muddle through the Nazi conquest. Needless to say, history proved them wrong….

    We have a state today in order to not be at the mercy of predatory gentiles. I disagree with your analysis because I don’t think you can ‘manage’ the demands of fanatics who are politically and religiously committed to genocide.

    The key is what you perceive, versus what I perceive, as the ‘root cause’ of the conflict. Your perception is that the ‘root cause’ is the Occupation; my perception is that the ‘root cause’ is an Arab mindset that for religious, political and nationalist reasons, cannot permit any Jew to live as a free man or woman in our own country. From that mindset sprang opposition to a Jewish state, war against a Jewish state, generations of incitement against a Jewish state, the ultranationalist culture of ‘liberation’ (of pre-67 Israel) thru fedayeen, and the post-67 culture of redemption through jihad and martyrdom. You posit that Occupation is the problem; I believe rather that the Occupation (and re-Occupation of 2001) is the result of irrridentist Arab terror and warfare.

    It is no wonder we disagree on the solution since we don’t agree on the problem?

    While we may not use, as you put it, “all the means at our disposal,” I simply don’t accept “a managed, low-level conflict ” as an acceptable solution.

  • 8 pabelmont // Jan 1, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    “So long as the root causes of the dispute between us and the Palestinians are not resolved, we can only manage the conflict.” Well, the root causes are being augmented at such a rate that the current killing (whether “quietly” by blockade or “noisily” by bombing) may become the new “root cause.” Is it possible that if Israel had “managed the conflict” by making the Gazans (and the West Bankers) comfortable and prosperous over the last 41 years, instead of miserable, that a peace acceptable to BOTH peoples might now be at hand? And would not this still be a better “management” scheme than what Israel has been doing?

  • 9 aliyah06 // Jan 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    …and if the Arabs had accepted the UN Partition instead of engaging in a frenzy of racist warmongering which continues to this day, we would have two states living side by side in prosperity.

    BTW, it’s not Israel’s duty to make the Palestinians comfortable. Israel’s duty is to make its own citizens safe. With the billions that have poured into the PA and Gaza in the last two decades, certainly something other than missile launching sites and Kassams could have been built. Perhaps if the Palestinians hadn’t persisted in making the Israelis dodge missiles for 7 years, we wouldn’t be bombing them today.

    Try to remember who broke the truce.

  • 10 fiddler // Jan 1, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    If peace and prosperity was all the Palestinians wanted, they would’ve followed the Jews’ example, packed their stuff on the Exodus II, and left. Instead they stayed, and they demand first of all justice, including for 1948. You can always corrupt and buy some individuals, including political leaders, but never an entire people. One should think the Jews of all people would understand that.

  • 11 Raed Kami // Jan 2, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Justice will only come when the Jews cough up stolen Palestine and return it to the only group that has historical rights to it, the Palestinians. Hamas is just sending symbolic rockets into Israel to remind the world that Palestine is still stolen

  • 12 Ben // Jan 3, 2009 at 7:34 am

    I believe all of the self righteous hypocrites evident here would do well to consult their own religious lexicons.

    If you are willing to do something to someone else, you better damn well be willing to have it done to you.

  • 13 Joshua // Jan 5, 2009 at 6:33 am

    “Try to remember who broke the truce.”

    Stupid. The ceasefire was broken, many times, by both sides. Read the proposal and it stated that Israel had to ease the blockade, which it did not. Truce broken. Rockets fired. Blah, blah, blah.

    November 4. Destruction.

    “The truce” was cover for this operation. More stupidity. It would have mattered little if there were no rockets or 1,000,000 of them. This operation was going forth sooner or later.

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