The conflict in the Middle East is the Perfect War. That it’s 4000 years long and going strong is probably an underestimate. It might be 5000 years.
At this writing Israel has invaded the Gaza Strip and cut it into three pieces. Hamas, the political party that “governs” Gaza is not close to surrendering. In fact, it is safe to say they have no intention of surrendering, even though it would save hundreds, perhaps thousands of their citizens’ lives (the death toll is already over 500).
Israel’s invasion, clearly a show of force to make up for their mistakes (and loss of face) in Lebanon two years ago, is a military operation that could easily end up in the text books of every military academy as an example of how to “do it right” against an intransigent enemy. They have two stated goals. One, find and destroy Hamas’ missiles and the routes (tunnels) to resupply them. Two, destroy Hamas’ political machine.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s justified? Who’s the oppressor?
I will leave that to the analysis of the historians.
But what I observe is pagent. A perfect war scripted over millenia. Rhetoric honed to emotionally charged but meaningless sound-bites.
Here is the latest:
A senior Hamas leader made a rare appearance to rally his troops. Hamas’ second in command Mahmoud Zahar released a statement to Alaqsa TV stating, “By killing our children you legitimize us killing your children. By bombing our mosque you legitimize us bombing your synagogue. By bombing our hospitals you legitimize to us bombing your hospitals.” ABC News
From the Israeli Government:
Israeli military sources told ABC News the overarching goal of the campaign in the Gaza Strip is to strike “a hard blow against Hamas” and to force the organization into a more amenable negotiating position “to bring about a more stable security situation for its citizens in the south.” ABC News
From the United States Government, by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:
“It is obvious that that cease-fire should take place as soon as possible,” Rice said, “but we need a cease-fire that is durable and sustainable.”
“Hamas has used Gaza as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli cities, and has contributed deeply to a very bad daily life for the Palestinian people in Gaza and to a humanitarian situation that we have all been trying to address,” she told reporters after meeting with Bush. ABC News
From the United Nations humanitarian staff on the ground in Gaza:
“When women, children and babies are killed in Gaza, how can you say Gaza is not in a humanitarian crisis?” Christopher Gunness, a spokesperson for the UN relief operation in Gaza, told ABC News. “When hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, how can you not say Gaza is not in a humanitarian crisis? When bakeries are shut down, how can you say Gaza is not in humanitarian crisis?
“We are on the ground and we have a much better idea of the situation than those who view Gaza through the lenses of high-altitude bombers.” ABC News
From Hezbollah in Lebanon north of Israel:
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a political science professor close to Hezbollah, says the group sees the ground invasion as a new phase in the fighting and in its potential involvement. On Sunday, local media reported that Hezbollah militants have been put on “high alert.”
“We shouldn’t overestimate Hezbollah’s restraint. … At this stage, if Hezbollah is provoked in any way, even a small incident, it could give Hezbollah the justification and pretext to enter the conflict,” Saad-Ghorayeb said. ABC News
From another Middle East country with Radical Islamists (in this case, next to a mosque in Cairo, Egypt):
A crowd of about 100 protesters, including women, managed to begin a small demo. People in this country are usually careful about what they say about the government in public but today their voices were loud and clear — “watch the terrorism in this country,” they said, referring to the Egyptian police. They were also chanting pro-Hamas slogans and saying, “With our blood, with our souls, we will avenge you Palestine.” But as soon as the demonstration started, riot police moved in and broke it up, arresting people and putting them in vans. Lama Hasan, World View Blog, ABC News
From the Arab League, meeting in Cairo, Egypt:
One interesting point to note: Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal discussed the need for a Palestinian national unity government. He said that had such a government been in place, a “massacre” would not be taking place right now.
So will the meeting generate any change in Gaza? One of the journalists I spoke to said that it was unlikely. She remarked that it had taken the Arab League five days to finally meet since the strikes had started and after nearly 400 Palestinians had been killed.
The meeting therefore could be just a show for the people on Arab streets, to make them feel that their leaders are trying to do something about the situation when in reality nothing may come of it. Lama Hasan, World View Blog, ABC News
Finally, from leaders in the European Union:
In Ramallah in the Palestinian-ruled West Bank, French President Sarkozy called for a ceasefire as soon as possible and said that “time is running against peace.”
“The guns must fall silent, there must be a humanitarian truce,” Sarkozy said.
He said he would tell Israeli leaders the violence must stop but he also condemned Hamas for its attacks on Israel.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, heading an EU peace mission, sounded more resigned to prolonged fighting.
“We do not have a specific plan for a ceasefire because the ceasefire as such must be concluded by the involved parties,” he said in Jerusalem. ABC News/Reuters
There you have the rhetoric of a perfect war. Tit-for-tat. It will end, this conflict, that is. But a perfect war is far too valuable to bring to a close, once and for all. I invite you to read my previous post, “Abraham’s Lot” (Click on the Recent Entries link to the right). It is my commentary on why this 4000 year old war is perfect. Except, of course, over the past 4000 years, for all those who have been killed by perfection.