Should we call it "shock and oy"? There is no questioning Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, but the ongoing aerial assault and ground invasion is Bush-like in its conception and Rumsfeld-like in its execution. It is as if the caretaker Olmert government wants to unleash one last spasm of violence against Hamas while they have the blinkered W still in office. The lame-duck Ehud Olmert, like Bush, has nothing further to lose except his legacy. After the disastrous incursion into Lebanon in 2006, which empowered Iran and strengthened Hezbollah, Olmert's popularity among Israelis fell to 3 percent, and, also like Bush, he became the subject of a Hebrew Google search where his name was synonymous with "miserable failure."
The violation of the truce by Hamas and their indiscriminate firing of Qassam rockets into southern Israel as a foolhardy provocation needed to be addressed. But if you have a sniper in a tall building, you take out the sniper; you don't level the entire building and hope the sniper is killed in the explosion. The massive ground invasion proves that the Olmert government is still fighting last century's wars and hoping for new results. The outrage has been the civilian casualties of the bombardment. United Nations observers say that as many as a third of the total deaths in Gaza are women and children. This philosophy of "destroying the village to save it" was discredited in Vietnam, and if they're keeping score by body count, the Gazans are losing 540-5 at this writing. The blockage of a cease-fire demand in the United Nations by the U.S. further inflamed humanitarians, Muslim and Israeli alike, for abandoning the Gazans to the cold and dark.
My father used to tell me that it wasn't wise for Jews to publicly criticize other Jews, because there were so many others eager and ready to do so. But American Jews need to make the same differentiation between the founding principles of the Jewish state and the succession of transient power-holders in the Knesset, as was done in this country with the Johnson/Nixon Vietnam era and the current war of choice in Iraq. I consider Americans such as Richard Clarke and John Dean, who were among the first to criticize the Bush war policy, as the true patriots of this dark period.
In Israel, even the frontrunner for the next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the Sharon/Olmert Kadima Party government was a "total failure." It's normal and understandable for Jews everywhere to wish to defend Israel against all naysayers, but in the succession of larger-than-life prime ministers — from David Ben-Gurion to Golda Meir to Itzak Rabin — Israel has come to Olmert, an official who has already formally resigned his post over suspicions of corrupt activity while in office.
There will be no Mideast peace until a new group of actors take their places, but it's hard to imagine that the Hamas government, even if physically destroyed, will be discredited in the eyes of the Palestinians. Israel has had peace governments and war governments, and it hasn't seemed to make much difference because of one fact of life: The Israeli people and their governments have shown the desire to live in peace since the nation's founding in 1948, while the acting governments in Gaza, the West Bank, Iran, and Syria and massive portions of the Arab populations that surround Israel live to kill the Jews. The original conflict has turned into a blood feud.
It's unfortunate, then, that the image of the heroic Israeli fighter in the War of Independence and the bravery of Jewish soldiers during the Six Day War should fall victim to this current image of aggressor and occupier resulting from the poor judgments of politicians seeking short-term gain. As the U.S. sheds itself of the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war, so Israel should examine its response of massive retaliation which has caused a humanitarian catastrophe and is in danger of transforming the Gaza Strip into a new Warsaw ghetto.
The Gazans must be responsible for electing Hamas as their representatives. Israel must realize, however, that every Gazan is not Hamas.
Memphian Randy Haspel writes the blog bornagainhippies.