From air defense to ‘occupation’: The plan for endless war in Gaza
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From air defense to ‘occupation’: The plan for endless war in Gaza

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In the wake of the Gaza war, several narratives have emerged that are preparing the ground for the next war and which guarantee to try to give Hamas more legitimacy even as it fires thousands of rockets at Israel’s cities. The narratives include arguments that Israel’s Iron Dome somehow is perpetuating the conflict and that Israel continues to “occupy” Gaza, despite Gaza being controlled by the Hamas terrorist group.  The twin theories present a recipe for endless war. On the one hand, the theory that Israel’s success at defending its civilians against rockets somehow reduces the urgency Israel feels when faced with Hamas and rocket threats, and on the other hand the argument that regardless of what Israel does it will always be defined as “occupying” Gaza.

The occupation narrative is designed to press Israel to always have full responsibility for Gaza. Some commentaries don’t even mention Hamas control of Gaza as a factor. This is strange. When the Turkish army and Ottoman empire was forced out of Palestine in 1918, it was not still defined as occupied by Turkey. When the British mandate ended and colonial authorities left, it was not still called “occupied” by the UK. When Egypt was pushed out of Gaza in 1967 it was not still occupied by Egypt. Oddly, only Israel upon leaving Gaza, was said to still “occupy” it. This is not just because of Israel’s naval blockade off the coast. You can blockade something or interdict weapons flow and not be “occupying” it. Even though dozens of countries recognize “Palestine” as a country, Gaza is still “occupied.”

It stands to reason that Gaza will always be “occupied” no matter what Israel does. Israel can’t recognize Hamas-run Gaza as a state, because then Israel will be accused of doing what South Africa did in recognizing a “Bantustan.” It doesn’t matter even if Israel recognizes the Palestinian Authority as a state, the PA doesn’t control Gaza. The “occupation” argument is designed to give Hamas a “right to resist” occupation. This creates a catch-22. Israel left Gaza, but Israel is said to always “occupy” it so that people can excuse terror against Israel from Gaza, so Israel has to blockade it so that the blockade can be used as evidence of further “occupation.”

The Gaza Director for UNRWA Matthais Schmale hinted at some of the catch-22 aspect of these narratives in a series of tweets. He began a thread of tweets because of recent comments he made on Israeli TV that had been slammed. On Tuesday he made several key arguments about the recent conflict in Gaza. “Military precision and sophistication are never a justification for war. Many people were killed or have been severely injured by direct strikes or collateral damage from strikes. In a place as densely populated as Gaza, any strike will have huge damaging effects on people and buildings,” he wrote.
“The terror from the sky that we have just experienced amounts to a form of collective punishment of the civilian population. This must never happen again….Wrong to reduce Gaza situation to humanitarian crisis…crucial to put this brutal conflict in context of 14 years of blockade, succession of conflict, Great Marches of Return and devastating COVID impact…the blockade must be lifted and a meaningful political process must resume to lead to a just solution.” He then wrote that he fully agreed with a tweet accusing Israel of a “brutal colonial occupation.” He claimed that “in that the context in Gaza does not start with the blockade 14 years ago but with the Nakba more than 7 decades ago. And Israel must be held fully accountable for all its brutal measures against Palestinians.”

Oddly he had said days before that he had the impression Israel had huge sophistication in the way it carried out airstrikes in Gaza. He said Israel didn’t hit, except with some exceptions, civilian targets. Asked about Hamas, he said “you cannot work in a place like Gaza without coordinating with the local authorities, that’s true for any autocratic regime of this nature.”

The narrative here purposely ignores Hamas, not even using the word “Hamas.” It presents the “problem” as the “Nakba” which means it presents Israel’s existence as the problem. Agreeing with the term “colonial” in relation to Israel indicates this as well. While the argument presents there being no justification for war, there is no mention for of the 4,000 rockets Hamas launched, because that is apparently not called a war. When Hamas attacks Israel it is not a “war” but when Israel carries out any airstrikes it is “war” and “collective punishment.”

These narratives essentially create a recipe for endless conflict, not the absence of conflict. On the one hand, Israel’s Iron Dome is said to be a problem because it doesn’t force Israel to deal with Gaza. How would Israel have dealt with Gaza without Iron Dome and thousands of rockets being launched? It would have invaded the Gaza Strip. This appears to be the real goal of those who advocate against Iron Dome and who claim Gaza is occupation. No more airstrikes, only ground control by Israel of Gaza as was the case before 2005. It’s unclear why those who advocate for an end to “occupation” also want more occupation, unless the overall agenda is not only endless conflict, but also the one state solution now being advocated by some. Recent reports by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have tried to paint all of Israel, Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank as part of the same territory, essentially looking at it as one state. Paired with terms like “colonial” and advocating for Israel not having Iron Dome, but rather being forced to re-occupy Gaza, would appear to mean the end goal is war until Israel ceases to exist.

The idea that Israel has to coexist with a Hamas that fires thousands of rockets at airports and civilians in cities is part of the agenda here. Some have even trotted out arguments during the last war justifying Hamas targeting Tel Aviv by claiming Tel Aviv has Israeli military buildings. In essence the argument is Hamas can fire rockets at millions of people if there are a few buildings used by the IDF, but Israel cannot harm any civilians in airstrikes in Gaza, in fact the airstrikes themselves are condemned as “collective” attacks.

This essentially is an argument that says Israel must not have any air defense, Gaza must not be blockaded so Iranian missiles can flow to Hamas, Hamas has a “right to resist occupation” and can fire rockets anywhere in Israel at Israeli civilians and Israel must not carry out any “war” or airstrikes against Hamas in Gaza.

There is no conclusion based on that logic that does not involve endless war. This is because the argument doesn’t demand Hamas stop the rocket fire or put any onus on Hamas. It appears after the recent conflict that one main thrust of arguments is designed to justify more Hamas attacks based on various excuses and that any Israeli retaliation is deemed “illegal” and “occupation” and “war.” There is no evidence that this paradigm, suggesting endless war, will lead to peace.

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