The Gaza Case: Is Just Surviving a Victory or Self-Delusion in the Face of Severe Defeat?

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Pablo Edronkin

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Germany didn't perish after WWI neither it did after the allied onslaught on its soil in WWI, yet it would be hard to call that a victory; just surviving after your opponent has razed your territory can hardly be considered in any other light than a sound defeat. However sometimes after armed conflicts - typically in the Middle East and for propaganda reasons - someone states that his side has won because it has just survived but is that argument valid at least in some cases?

When is it reasonable and realistic to claim victory just for the sake of surviving? Obviously, when part of the battle equation implies the intention of one of the fighting parties of exterminating its enemy and this one survives. On the same argument if you establish as your goal the annihilation of your enemy and don't achieve that, you suffer a defeat. But if the success or not of an extermination project is what defines victory or defeat, this means that the underdog - the side facing extermination - is unable to achieve nothing else in that situation and the victorious side could not get anything else to define its success, like a strategic goal. Im a war that would be fetching more territories, resources, causing severe losses to the enemy, destroying the initiative of an attack, etc.; alas, if the only aspiration of the underdog is to survive, things are really bad anyway. Survival as the sole definition of victory is something that could be applied to people like a prisoner with no hope in the hands of captors determined to kill him. In that case, indeed, the prisoner would be victorious each day he manages to survive, but the intention of extermination should have been specifically determined - i.e. by means of documents stating in writing such intention or official expressions of similar value - or be absolutely evident not inferred as part of an interpretation based on the views of the underdog or someone that feels hatred towards the enemy because, as we will see, that may lead to severe mistakes of understanding. Hatred is not a good voice to tell anyone why he is in a terrible situation, or how to get out of it.

Even in a very bloody and violent war, declared enemies acting quite ruthlessly may not be poised to really exterminate their enemies: for example, the United States never intended to exterminate Japan during WWII, and the soviets never intended to do that with the Germans even considering that the Nazis reserved such a fate to the peoples of Eastern countries. It is often the case that people belonging to one side in which things are seen as a matter of exterminating their enemies interpret what their opponents do in the same light. The Nazis and fascists of Germany and Italy portrayed allied forces as hordes that wanted to destroy civilised Europe. A opponent that has been threatened with extermination may fight very hard and ruthlessly but that doesn't mean by itself that it is poised to clam an eye for an eye.

This is what happened in Gaza: Hamas as an organisation has some creation documents - a sort of proclaim or letter of intentions written at its creation - in which they literally say that they don't just want to liberate Palestine but actually destroy Israel and create an Islamic State in the area. Thus, their war is not about liberation but extermination of those they don't like - they did the same with Palestinians who do not share their views. Thus, they attack Israel and the Israelis respond violently and in some cases, even violating war conventions and human rights, but that alone doesn't equate the Israelis to Nazis trying to exterminate anyone. More or less, that equates them to those soviet soldiers that behaved very badly towards Germans because these, in turn, tried to exterminate them.

Are the Palestinians in a prison of sorts? Whenever you consider a prisoner in a camp or jail it is relatively easy to define the situation. When the alleged prisoner is a nation under siege, the term ghetto comes into mind, sometimes it applies and sometimes not. Not every war situation implies mutual desires for extermination, even if the situation becomes very violent. I other words, not every person that believes that he is in a ghetto actually is in one and this is why the situation between the Warsaw ghetto cannot be compared with what happens in Gaza because there is an essential difference: The kind of demands placed by the "jailers" - so to speak - in both cases: From the Nazi ghettos the only way out according to their desires was by dying. In the case of Gaza, border crossings to Israel and Egypt as well close or open according to the violence mood in the area because such checkpoints have been created to hamper the movements of groups like Hamas and as reprisals for certain actions. The fact that in the end of the day the results look similar for civilians of both sides is in no doubt, but the facts that led to both situations are different. Not every drop of blood falls for the same reasons.

Gaza and the Warsaw ghetto are different categories and is frankly stupid to pretend to blur the differences so that they look similar. The reason why Jews were in the ghettos was that the Nazis explicitly wanted to obliterate them from the face of Earth. The reason why both Israel and Egypt have clamped down on the Gaza borders is the number of violent activities and terrorist attacks perpetrated by groups such as Hamas both in Israel and in Egypt. Indeed, the Israelis receive far more attacks on their soil coming from Gaza, but the Egyptians also suffered in several occasions from activities of fundamentalist groups of a terrorist nature. The condition to open a gas chamber during the Holocaust was to have every Jew, Gipsy, Homosexual or undesirable person dead. The condition to open the border crossings in Gaza is that the violence should stop, violence that is not limited to attacking Israel or in lesser cases, Egypt. Groups like Hamas deal in the same fashion with every problem of dissent: Summary executions and brutal, public punishment are common in Gaza. It is, in fact a reign of terror that exports terror. These are facts, not a matter of opinion.

Of course, both Israelis and Egyptians do not treat Palestinians impeccably and there have been several cases of abuse, but their mistrust against Palestinians comes from the number of terrorist attacks that have taken place in the past. Israelis don't make people undress at checkpoints because of some sort of sexual fantasy or to humiliate Palestinians, but to stop anyone trying to enter their territory with explosives or weapons. Then, there is proof that no unnecessary collective violence is employed in the fact that not all territories occupied by Palestinians were counterattacked; it was only Gaza, In the West Bank these weeks were of business as usual. Had the Israelis thought up an extermination campaign, the West Bank would have followed a similar fate because they have the firepower to deal with both at the same time and then some.

Israel is not completely innocent in dealing with Palestine, but it is important to understand these differences in order to see what validity should be assigned to what Hamas says. This group defined this event as a victory of their own because - according to their own statements - they survived the Israeli onslaught We have to remember that one of the declared goals of Hamas is to wipe out Israel and the country is still in place, so by all accounts it is Hamas that failed in one of the most significant aspects of its existence. Thus, if Israel survived as well as Hamas, a cording to the same reasoning used by the terrorist group, then neither one could be said to "survive" to a higher degree because it is a binary question: Either you survive or you don't. Thus, using survival as an argument is false, just a verbal trick to try to convince a doubting constituency. Their argument is like saying that humankind can declare victory over the cosmos because no meteorite has killed us so far.

Then, even considering that there are also some Jews that contemplate exterminating Palestinians as an alternative, the Jewish people itself and Israel as a nation know all too well based on first hand experience - better than any critic of the country does - that it is impossible to annihilate a whole nation; plus, Palestinians, like many other ethnical groups in the Middle East, originated in tribes, are literally splattered all over. There are Palestinians in Gaza, the Wes Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait (most have been expelled from these four countries in recent years), Egypt and other nations. It would be absurd to pretend to exterminate Palestinians without first invading all those countries, like the Nazis did in Europe. This is evidently, another reason why both situations can only be equated in an idiot's mind. Moreover: Israelis have a lot of military experience and they have fought terrorist groups in the past. They know all too well that grass-roots movements like Hamas cannot be wiped out only with weapons, and their stated military goals for this campaign never described any sort of annihilation scheme. The operation "Cast lead" was - no doubt about this - a punishment exercise designed to show Palestinians and their would-be allies what kind of power Israel has and how it does intend to use it. It is a warning in the most basic level.

So, with our without abuses included, the campaign was not designed to exterminate Palestinians or Hamas. After all, what would really have stopped them from staying some weeks more in Gaza and exterminate everyone? Nobody and no military force could oppose the Israelis there or in the area; there was literally no way to stop them except their own criteria. So, while the punishment was sever and the damage inflicted very high, it wasn't an extermination attempt and thus, once more, Nazi activities and these cannot be put on the same level. Explanations about supposedly high casualties among Israelis to describe their withdrawal have proved so far to be baseless. There is no information of an unusually high number of soldiers wounded or killed and in fact, considering what in the Israeli's mid was at stake they would in all likelihood have accepted more casualties and would have answered with even more fierce bombings. It is also obvious that Israeli soldiers went back to their homes in a land that was left much lie it was before the conflict started. Gaza, on the other hand, is devastated. The effect of the launching of all those rockets against Israeli cities ash been a counteroffensive made with an iron fist inside a steel glove and threatening messages from the Israeli high command in the sense that future rocket attacks would be answered with even more force. The defeat of Hamas can be measured by the number of buildings destroyed by both sides: Zero in Israel, 25.000 in Gaza, for which now Hamas would have to answer in front of very sad an angry people. The victory in this has more to do with the post-conflict burden left on each side than on any other factor because it is the single most important factor that could cripple the home front in the long run. So, in order to understand who has been defeated one has to answer a simple question: Who took the worst beating?

Israel would need to pay however more attention to the psychological impact of its military undertakings - be them justified or not - because such degree of devastation causes revulsion among people that see things at a distance. No matter that Hamas has been throwing hundreds of rockets to Israeli cities; the fact is that civilian Jews in the minds of many do not qualify as people in danger. Added to this, there is the real concern of human rights abuses by part of the Israelis on Palestinians. But what's more important is that there is a lot of people around the world that simply hate Jews, no matter what they do, and would love to dilute their guilt about the Holocaust in a pond of hypocritical tears dropped for the Palestinians that they - by the way - despise almost as much as the Jews. Just seeing the minute amount of donations for their cause as opposed to what is promised reflects that. Israelis should remember that while for them and Palestinians this is a serious problem between two parties, there are lots of anti-Semitic types that are not valiant enough to openly admit the fact but will fume each time they think that Israeli actions give them a chance.

It is very sad to see what the Israeli attack has done, but it is even more sad to see how a group of gung-ho adventurers make sever blunders of judgement and I return receive a blow as harsh as anyone could imagine, sinking their own people into a tragedy of immense proportions. It is necessary to ponder whether this has been necessary or not: From the Israeli viewpoint it was worth a fight in order to limit their enemy's capability to attack their soil. The Israeli offensive was frightening, but that is exactly what the IDF commanders had in mind: As they said, they meant to send a message to the Hamas leader in "the only language they understand" and for the moment, it seems that they got it. However, this presents some chilling perspectives for the future since Israelis are increasing the violence of their retaliations and while it is absurd to talk now of a genocide attempt, things may change in the future.

From the viewpoint of Palestinian interests, it has been shown that armed conflict as a means towards independence is clearly senseless; the results are in exhibition all across Gaza. Egypt and Jordan managed to get concessions from Israel in the past not by means of wars - which they also lost - but by signing treaties and choosing to deal with their differences using diplomacy instead of weapons: the evidence is also in exhibition. Thus, while Palestinians deserve indeed their own state and territory, they should stop trying to blame every single disgrace on the Israelis and point their fingers first towards their own inept and bellicose leaders to whom they have nothing to thank about this crushing and tragic defeat.

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