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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غومة

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Thursday, 8 January, 2009

WAR OR MASSACRE?

By: Ghoma


        War, the most hateful human activity, par excellence, has been a controversial issue, among philosophers and thinkers in general throughout the recorded history. As to when and how a war must be waged and when it’s a just war. Though the tradition of just war is rich in theory, it’s less so in practice. Trying to come to terms with war and understand its necessity or less, was started quite early on in history. With Saint Augustine, who, in the 5th century AD, had cogitated, in his, On the City of God, on the justice and conduct of war, summarizing his pondering in "just wars avenge injuries." Throughout the succeeding ages a score of other thinkers including, Thomas Aquinas, and up to contemporary theorists have produced enough material on the subject to chew on. However, most of the discussion on war has centered on distinguishing between just war (jus ad bellum) and just and fair conduct of war (jus in bellum). As to the necessity of war, the relative strengths or less of the combatants; and when and how it must waged, have been left to the circumstance of each war. Whether, for instance, the ability to wage and respond to war, is one of the determining factors that must be taken in deciding the justness or unjustness of it and its conduct, have not, it seems, found yet enough consensus to broach its details.

        Nonetheless, the present Israeli blitz on Hamas -practically on all of Gaza Strip residents -as was the case with Hezbollah and Southern Lebanon back in 2006- brings the ethical, moral and even political concerns of waging -when is a clearly in favor of only one side- the war to the fore of the debate and makes of the disproportionate attacks, a difficult tragedy to ignore. Particularly in view of the fact that Gaza Strip and Hamas were blockaded economically, militarily, politically and every other way we can think of, for quite sometime now. This, in itself, is waging a war, warrants justifies any reactions from the part of Gazans! Israel also was the first to break the terms of the truce, back in November, when it sent its ground troops to destroy a tunnel on the Gaza-Egyptian border. If we add to all of this misery to the frequent and ad random invasions and blockades, and what must have created, then we can understand why Gazans were forced to do something to ease their misery and to break the prison type living conditions. Needless to say that Israel has never removed the condition of virtual occupation and as an occupying power must be responsible for the life and well-being of the population under its siege. Israel, rather than doing something to fulfill its obligations toward Gaza, instead, has unleashed its American supplied arsenal on the poor residents, under one pretext or another -if it was not a dud they’d have found another excuse! The fact of the matter is, notwithstanding Israeli politicians empty rhetoric, as that of its Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he said: "We will treat the population with silk gloves but will apply an iron fist on Hamas!" With this kind of tosh, he was implying the F-16s and the Apache-Helicopters, in their high altitude bombings, could differentiate between a Hamas militant from the rest of the Gazans! Beyond any spinning, the fact remains that a disarmed and hungry 1.5 million people living in the most densely piece of real estate, and to boot on the most flat landscapes on earth, have no other recourse -nowhere to hide nor a friend to call upon for help- than to take the cruel daily beatings in quite desperation. All these raining bombs, from the sky and any other direction, only stoke the fires to the already burning hellish existence for these people. Is this, can this, still be considered and qualifies as war, or should be called by its proper name: Massacre? We need not shy away from calling things as we see them. We must think of language as a mean to capture and describe what contemporary Western wars in the Middle East theaters have been reduced to and are all about: pure punishments that lead to massacres?

        This begs the question: What’s the difference between a war and a massacre? And without getting bugged down into academic formalities, and at the cost of gross generalizations, and one must add, likewise oversimplifications, it could be argued that a proper war must be between two or more disputing parts, that may not have equal forces but are close enough in strengths to enter into armed conflict and to duke it out. When each side feels to have more or less the at least some chances of winning or losing. Including the capabilities to resist and/or to inflict enough damages on the other side(s). If we assume the purposes of war have always remained more or less the same: To force the losing side to come to the table for a settlement of the issue(s) which triggered the conflict. If that’s still the case then when and how to bring the loser to negotiations is as important as the modalities of surrender. However, a cautionary note is due here, attempting to end an explosive issue by only brute force, has always been problematic -just think of the reasons for the rise of the Nazi Party after WWII bad of beatings of Germany. Thus any wish to settling of the issues only by brute force alone remains only that. If any agreement has been reached will have very little chances to endure, assuming it could take place. When only one side has all the abilities and capabilities to commit whatever atrocities, without retribution, knowing very well that the other side cannot do anything to deter his acts, only leads to more humiliations and thus more piling of grudges.

        This scenario, of one side initiating the war and completely and totally dominating its theater of operations, constitutes the clearest case of committing massacres for the sake of achieving one’s goals. Since, in this situation, it’s not never a warring parts but rather simply one part is punishing the other part, knowing in advance, the other side is unable to resist the attacks and far less to answer them back. The attacker is free to inflict the maximum penalty with impunity. A far superior power, as that of the Israelis, attacks very weak antagonists, as the Gazans, to punish, to revenge or just to induce them to accept conditions otherwise will never accept.

        The Israeli military siege of the Gaza Strip from all sides adds to its complete isolation from the rest of the world. Thus Gaza, besieged and encircled was disarmed enough to not have any recourse, from the relentless air strikes, except to endure their onslaught. For more than a week now, the 1.5- million Gazans are living in truly hell on earth. Bombs falling from the sky, missiles swishing by, and tanks hurling their fires from the ground. A truly one sided campaign of devastations and destructions. In a flat landscape like the Gaza Strip, there’s no where to go or a place to hide. Humanity has turned its back and abandoned Palestinians to their fate. Not the only remaining Superpower nor one of the world institutions, not even the Humanitarian and Human rights organizations, this time around, have raised their usual fracas or voiced a viable concern as a protest to what’s going on in Gaza. What is going on? Is the world becoming deaf or its conscience went on vacation?

        The irony, all this Israeli blitzing, as their spokesmen continue to say, because some lousy home-made duds had fallen somewhere in the Negev desert! Even if we take what the Israelis have reported, that’s, Hamas, since 2007, has fired 5,500 rackets, killing four Israeli. This must be the most expensive and useless undertaking, from Hamas part. It takes more than1400 rackets to get one Israeli. It took Israel only few jet-sorties to kill more than 400, 500, 700, ... the count is still gong on of Palestinians and the injuring of other thousands so far. History may not recall a case where the utter dominance of one side, of the war and all its means, on the other side had ever been counted outside of what’s going nowadays in Gaza. Where the Israelis have all the sophistication of a Superpower’s arsenal while Gazans have only simple and imprecise rudimentary concoctions. Thus the Israeli onslaught is beyond doubt way out of the so-called proportionate response, of a just war or to as a precondition to any of possible and reasonable outcomes.

        Israeli claims to the timing of the assault must be taken with a grain of salt. One may say many things about Hamas but crazy bunch they are not. They’ve not and they couldn’t afford to break the ceasefire terms even though they were not willing to renew it. There’s difference between not accepting a renewal of a state-of-war condition, that’s seen as favoring the stronger side, Israel, from going ahead and breaking its terms by initiating a war. Gazans and Hamas were/are not in a position to start anything since they are under siege for quite sometime now, barbwired and seized from all sides. If they don’t have enough to eat nor enough supplies of fuel how could they be expected to start and to conduct a war! In such conditions, if they ever have started anything, they must be intent to commit collective suicide? Israel is squeezing them to death by preventing food and medicine supplies to reaching Gaza. How could Gazans have gotten weapons when they could n’t get food in? And, with no food, no medicine, no weapons, how, in the world , could Hamas embark on a war? Assuming, for instant the unthinkable, that Hamas has started the war, it was simply as last twitching of a dying body, since they were reacting and responding to a state of war, imposed on them by the Israeli siege. People, unlike some animals, don’t just sit and accept to starve to death without in the least doing something to change the condition if they can.

        There’s a certain similarity between this Israeli "awe and shock" assault and the other awes and shocks in the area, in South Lebanon in 2006, and with the first one (after which this campaign was named), that of United States’s in Iraq back in 2003. As the U.S. went about weakening first Iraq to virtual submission, so now the Israelis are doing the same in Gaza. After long and sustained seizes came the assaults. In Gaza as was in Iraq, there was a long and sustained campaigns of isolation and disarming to the point when Gazans like the Iraqis were beyond the point of mounting any meaningful resistance to the attacking forces. Gazans are now in no condition to react. The question is: If a country or people have been rendered so impotent to the extent not to be able to mount any effective reactions, why then the attackers continue with their sustained air, sea, and ground assaults for a prolonged period of time? In Iraq the air bombing campaign continued for at least 45 days, day and night, and in Gaza Strip it is still going on? Have such campaigns any military values, in and by themselves, or just acts of punishment, revenge, or what-have-you? Can this still be considered a war? When one side has all the means of destruction and other just hunker down and take the beatings?

        Or should things be called by their proper names? As, what took place in Iraq could be anything but war. The same what’s going on nowadays in the Gaza Strip. One can argue if they’re not outright massacres they came close. Neither the Iraqis nor the Gazans have any means to hide and protect themselves from the falling bombs and raining missiles and shells. And they could less mount any effective resistance. The attackers have all the means of dominance of sky, land and sea. These assaults have, then, only one aim, and only one, to induce the assaulted people to surrender without conditions. Bring them on their knees. Force them to accept conditions otherwise would not be acceptable. If anything such tactics can prove is what the recent history of the Middles East has shown crude force may work in the short-run but as to its effectiveness to reach a long an lasting settlement and durability is certainly still in doubt.

        Solutions that were imposed by one side will never work one minute longer than the time it takes the defeated side to build up its strength and come back for revenge. If the Israelis are looking for a durable solution they must change their attitude, that of the Arabs know only the logic of power, and come to terms with what still keeps Arabs and Israelis on each others’ throats. Israel cannot live in a bunker, ringed from all side by concrete blast walls, barbed security fences, or UN soldiers and monitors, for ever. Israel has to get out of this vicious mentality and accept genuinely the two states solution. Two equally viable and sovereign states. And not the mangled Palestinian one made out of bits and pieces, Israel was said to accept. To live, in the area and in peace, Israel, must accept to be one state among equal states. Other than that the fight will go on for generations to come. Despite the fact, Israel, today, has the capability to impose some unfair and unjust conditions, on the Palestinians and the rest of the Arabs, but anyone wise enough knows well that conditions imposed, by force or other means, will always be seen as a temporary truce, from the death and destructions, rather than a permanent solution and a coming to terms with what the enemy’s wished. Palestinians, and Arabs in general, are now defeated and conquered but will never give up the fight. They will always be dreaming of the day when they can come back and inflict the same bitter and humiliating conditions the Israelis are now inflicting. From what’s going on nowadays, the state of war will go on until both sides were either exhausted, or some power(s) offer to arbitrate (fairly), or some other unforseen miracle will bring the parts to their senses and come to the table to settle what keeps them part. But certainly, seeding more death and destructions will not improve anything, rather will only add to the agonies and sufferings that in their turn , will augment further the amount of discords already there. One only wonders why Israel, and its powerful allies, are still intent on exacerbating further an already unbearable situation? To what plans this will lead and what purpose(s) will be served?

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com


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