Futility On Top of Futility (No Solution) (Gaza 2014)


This is why I think the left in Israel loses this argument. In what has been described by one prominent observer as the most cogent anti-war statement from that Israeli left, Dahliah Scheindlin, in her recent piece in +972. http://972mag.com/how-can-you-possibly-oppose-this-war/93924/, notes with great precision the utter futility of this military operation now underway in Gaza. The argument may be as good as it gets, but I wish it went further. The claim is that this is a lose-lose venture, and that there’s no good solution to this conflict that more armed hostility can provide.

In answer to the question what Israel is supposed to do under the current circumstances, Scheindlin can only recommend in her article “a unilateral, not agreed upon, ceasefire,” in addition to providing the necessary incentives to get Hamas to agree to ceasefire on their part. The critical hole in the analysis is how the author ignores Hamas as a political factor and its leadership as political actors. Unilateral ceasefires work only as an opening gambit. I don’t see how they do not quickly fall apart if one side or the other side keeps fighting, either because it wants to or because it has no choice.

In this FB post, the thread of which turns into an ugly scrum about genocide, Gershon Baskin writes, “I seriously hope that this horrible crisis can be turned into an opportunity to pull us back from the brink. Something good can and must come from these horrors. I know it is hard to see something positive right now – but this is what we must work towards – now, immediately, without delay.” Against this article of faith, a thin sliver of hope, my own fear is that good never comes out of bad, that it goes from bad to worse, and that the conflict is heading over the brink. I don’t see how anything “positive” emerges out of this. I would like to think that genuine Israeli peace leadership might have prevented this bloodshed. But I have my doubts, believing that the bloodshed has as much to do with the recent collapse of a political horizon as the collapse of that horizon contributes to the bloodshed. With no way out of this loop, there’s no peace without justice, and no justice without peace.

Without wanting to disagree with the main body of Scheindlin’s analysis, all that seems left is futility and more futility. Both frustrated and feckless, my own guess is that there’s no remotely satisfactory end to this brute round of ugly conflict until there is a final resolution to the conflict as a whole, a political horizon based on mutual recognition and territorial compromise about and to which neither side, neither the government of Israel nor Hamas, is ready to consider, much less commit.



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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9 Responses to Futility On Top of Futility (No Solution) (Gaza 2014)

  1. dmf says:

    among other things this tragic enmeshment highlights the limits of thinking in terms of abstractions like “sides” or states or governments when what we have is many different individuals/actors that are loosely linked at best and technologies that allow their potential impacts to be widespread.

  2. Mordy says:

    My own tentative thoughts on charting a future:

    1. In the context of the historical conflict (going back, let’s say, to ’67), these conflicts have become shorter and less severe, w/ fewer casualties. This particular conflagration is less severe than 2009, and both 2009 and today are significantly less severe than ’73, or ’00 (Second Intifada era). Huge reconfigurations of geographies and politics have lasting reverberations. I think that it’s appropriate to see these skirmishes with Hamas as a kind of aftershock, rather than the bulk of the conflict.

    2. In support of that, the West Bank is quieter than it has ever been. Abbas and the PLO are more critical of Hamas than ever, and the West Bank, despite myriad predictions of an eruption into a Third Intifada, seems nowhere near such a thing. Since this conflict is primarily about two competing ideologies/narratives, it is worth noting that it won’t end until one of the ideologies finally signals defeat. There won’t be peace until Arab nationalism gives up on establishing a Palestinian state in the area of Israel. The West Bank population has given up on this (symbolized by Abbas’ admission that he’ll never go home to Tsfat). What we’re seeing, I think, is a similar process by Gaza. Once that process is complete, there can actually be a two state solution.

    3. People are too quick to feel despair over this conflict. The truth is that the world is full of violence and death and political struggle. I/P has certainly gone on a long time by contemporary standards (though not historical standards). The truth is that Hamas is a fascist, annihilationist ideology that needs its operational capacity to be curtailed. Their rocket stockpiles need to be eliminated/exhausted and their tunnels into kibbutz dining rooms need to be buried. Both to establish Israel’s territorial sovereignty, and to prevent a future loss of life. To fulfill this mission objectives, civilians are going to die. We can and should mourn every civilian loss of life, but it is shortsighted and naive to decry the mission because people are dying. That’s what happens when two political bodies go to war. People die. I’m unwilling to condemn Israel for not yet inventing a style of war that doesn’t hurt innocents.

    4. So what does the future hold? Well, Steven Pinker-style it probably augurs less violence and more peace, especially as Palestinian nationalism continues to recede. By the time they are ready to use non-violent protests to gain equal rights and citizenship within the State of Israel, that will ironically indicate that they are ready for a State of Palestine. I believe Gaza is demonstrating the final gasps of nationalism. It will look desperate and bloody as it is extinguished, but what it will lead to will be peace and equality. It has taken a long time to get to a point where all the Arabs of the Middle East are willing to let the Jews have a State without trying to destroy it. I think we’re almost there.

    • DMS says:

      You certainly are the optimist!
      And I hope that you are correct.
      I agree that Hamas must be destroyed politically and must unconditionally surrender to, at least, Fatah.
      I used to think that “Oh, they’ll evolve as they get more prosperous.” But Hamas ideology seems to prevent them from building a Gazan state; Hamas had the choice, once Israel withdrew from Gaza, to build. But it chose to wage ideology instead.
      I only hope that the IDF knows what it is doing.

    • zjb says:

      from y6ur mouth to God’s ear. i have my doubts about Pinker’s thesis, at least in relation to the contemporary Middle East. i hope you’re right.

  3. Jessie says:

    That’s exactly the question: “the political horizon based on mutual recognition and territorial compromise about and to which neither side, neither the government of Israel nor Hamas, is ready to consider, much less commit” is the rub. But maybe there’s a loophole. What if Israel were to pursue this political horizon through the Saudi initiative and more moderate Palestinian leadership than Hamas? On that account, I’m decidedly against blaming Hamas. Hyperfocus on Hamas is an easy diversion from the responsibility to seek partners for an overall regional solution. Given the likelihood of that scenario, however, I’m with you: futility, with its long half-life, is radiating outwards in concentric circles. And as you imply, we could surely use some more feck ’round here… its cousin tweaked, it’s ultimately a life-giving expletive.

    • zjb says:

      I;m with you about the Saudi Peace Plan, but I don’t see how you can read Hamas out of the equation.

      • dmf says:

        across the region these funding sources are or at least could be vital to putting out many of the current conflagrations but hard to get a read on how much the internal politics/pressures/fears in places like Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia lead their official powers that be to at best stay on the sidelines. As with Europes’ dealings with Putin gas/oil muddies the diplomatic waters.

  4. Jessie says:

    Ha-moetza le-Shalom ו-Vitachon, comprising many retired generals, supported the incursion, but like the former GSS directors in “The Gatekeepers,” they are already starting to push for diplomacy now. (This was the major gripe of the interviewees in the movie – that military “collateral” obtained at great pains by the Shabak (acting within their mandate, whatever one may think of it) was never used towards a political agreement). In this case: a return to the table immediately, bolstering Abu Mazen, and a just agreement. Akh, men tracht…

  5. Michael says:

    Most Arabs in Gaza and Judea and Samaria see their own state on the 67′ ceasefire lines as a stepping stone in getting ALL of “historical Palestine”. Until they give up on that, there will be no progress.

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