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When the facts cannot be contained within the prevailing intellectual framework (the conventional wisdom), honesty requires that the framework be modified.
According to the conventional wisdom, the purpose of Israel’s assault on Gaza is self-defense, i.e., to stop rocket fire and to destroy “terror tunnels”. However, the facts include repeated attacks on hospitals, an open air market, UN schools designated as safe refuges, playgrounds, zoos, Gaza’s only power plant, etc.) by means of high-tech “smart weapons”, and these attacks are inconsistent with the notion of self-defense. These are calculated, deliberate attacks on civilians and the numbers speak for themselves: about 80% of Israel’s victims are non-combatants, including at least (for now) 318 kids.
To make these facts comprehensible, the framework must be modified.
Assume that Israel’s paramount goal is, as articulated recently by PM Netanyahu (see http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-finally-speaks-his-mind/), to permanently prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, so that Israel can annex the land without the non-Jewish people. That is after all the core of the Zionist project. Achievement of that goal entails is the total destruction of Gazan civil society, meaning the permanent destruction of Gaza (and ultimately of Palestine as such) as a political entity. Some people have used the word “politicide” to describe this goal. See this.
Preemption of the possibility of a Palestinian state entails politicide of the Palestinian people, and politicide entails massive attacks on civilian infrastructure and civilians themselves, as we see every day in Gaza. Deliberate attacks on civilians make sense within the intellectual framework of politicide.
The problem is that international norms considered to be binding on Western-style liberal democracies prohibit deliberate attacks on civilians, and Israel wants to be considered a Western-style liberal democracy (even if it isn’t). The problem then becomes: How to deliberately attack civilians when international norms prohibit this?
Answer: Change international norms.
My hypothesis is that the real purpose of Israel’s attack on the people of Gaza – apart from the immediate goal of destroying the political entity formed by the Fatah-Hamas unity government (see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/18/op…west.html?_r=1) – is to change international norms by repeatedly and openly violating those norms on the assumption that over time norms will change so as to accommodate the violations. This is why Israel commits its atrocities in broad daylight, barely even bothering with excuses or justifications.
Evidence for my hypothesis is found in statements of former senior Israeli military lawyer Daniel Reisner a few years ago:
‘What we are seeing now is a revision of international law,’ Reisner says. ‘If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries. If the same process occurred in private law, the legal speed limit would be 115 kilometers an hour and we would pay income tax of 4 percent. So there is no connection between the question ‘Will it be sanctioned?’ and the act’s legality. After we bombed the reactor in Iraq, the Security Council condemned Israel and claimed the attack was a violation of international law. The atmosphere was that Israel had committed a crime. Today everyone says it was preventive self-defense. International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassination thesis and we had to push it. At first there were protrusions that made it hard to insert easily into the legal moulds. Eight years later it is in the center of the bounds of legitimacy.”
If this hypothesis is correct, then message being sent by Israel is roughly this:
“Go ahead and stop us – if you can. Because if you can’t or won’t, we will change the world. In particular, we will repeal (de facto if not de jure) those international norms of behavior that were adopted in the wake of the Holocaust, thus dragging the world back into the dark ages.”
Stella Roberts lives in Dallas, Texas.