08 September '14..
UK-based Israeli academic and longtime Israel critic Avi Shlaim has weighed in on the Gaza war in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section, and predictably, he unleashed a scathing critique of Israel.
To do so, however, Shlaim invokes a logic so twisted, it’s hard to believe he himself subscribes to it.
For example, he insists that Israel is responsible for starting the war and for “initiating the cycle of violence.” This is how he puts it:
What did Israel gain by unleashing the deadly firepower of the IDF against the caged population of this tiny coastal enclave? Virtually nothing. Israel had in fact provoked this crisis by its violent crackdown against Hamas activists on the West Bank following the murder of the three teenagers. Hamas rocket attacks – the ostensible reason for the war – were a response to Israel’s aggressive security measures. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, defined the operation’s objective as “calm in return for calm”. But calm prevailed before Israel initiated the cycle of violence.
But if Israel’s actions came after the initial Palestinian provocation, then the Palestinians provoked the crisis, not Israel.
And how exactly does Shlaim define “calm” it if it included the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths? What sort of calm is that, and why is the response to that the act that set off a “cycle of violence,” not the act itself?
Put another way, whether Hamas is kidnapping innocent Israelis or firing rockets at Israeli civilians, the violence only begins when Israel fires back.
The effort to whitewash Hamas, however, doesn’t end there. Further down the article, Shlaim offers his advice to Israel on moving forward. The first step, he writes, is for Israel “to end its relentless campaign to demonise the people of Gaza” – a campaign that consists of a single op-ed from a former IDF general from the beginning of August and a blog post published – and removed – by a writer who represents no one but himself.
The Hamas whitewash comes next:
Second, it is time to remove from Hamas the terrorist tag. This is a powerful weapon in the propaganda war but useless in the quest for peace. Hamas is indeed guilty of terrorism but it is also a legitimate political actor, having won a fair and free election in 2006.
If Hamas is, indeed, guilty of terrorism, it would be dishonest to remove the terrorist tag until the group at least renounces the use of violence. But for Shlaim, waiting for that would be inconvenient for peace – presupposing, of course, that peace can be reached with an organization that is “guilty of terrorism.”
The question he should be asking, however, is whether peace is even on the Hamas agenda. Threats to restart the violence if Israel refuses to meet its demands seems to indicate that Hamas, Shlaim’s wish notwithstanding, is clearly a terror group, not a “legitimate political actor.”
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