[Marxism] Re: Deja vu

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Aug 11 07:13:58 MDT 2006

Johannes Schneider wrote in regard to the Israeli peace camp (Thursday,
August 10, 2006 12:48 PM):

> I agree with you that it is not a moral issue here, but a political one.
> And given the past experiences with those forces I doubt they can really
> make a change.
I think your expectations are reasonable in light of the Israeli peace
camp's sorry history. But it might be worth bearing in mind that up till
now, Israel has enjoyed overwhelming military superiority and its population
has been supremely confident in its army's ability to  ultimately solve all
problems with the Palestinians and its other neighbours by brute force. This
suggests that there was never enough of a felt need or urgency to compromise
with the Palestinians, despite the suicide bombings and chaos of the
occupation. The vacillations of the peace movement can be seen in this light
to have been a reflection of the half-hearted commitment of the larger
population to any peace settlement with the Palestinians which could
possibly be acceptable to the latter.

But things have changed dramatically, and it's possible that this war may
mark a turning point rather than a reversion to the status quo or a more
catastrophic escalation of the violence. The apparent change in the
situation is the advance in military technology which now allows guerrilla
armies such as those in Iraq and south Lebanon to engage heavily-armoured
enemy forces at much safer distances with antitank missiles and
remote-controlled IED's, and to even carry the war into the heart of the
enemy population. The further development of longer-range missiles with
higher payloads will make it possible to inflict even greater damage on
Israeli civilians and infrastructure.

In other words, I think we need to take into account that we may be
witnessing a change in the military balance which will for the first time
force on Israel a real practical "incentive" to make the necessary
compromises to come to an accomodation with the Palestinians, which means,
above all, Hamas. This suggestion, you'll recall, had even been floated at
the beginning of the war by the former Israeli foreign minister, Schlomo
Ben-Ami, when Israel still seemed certain of military victory. But it has
since disappointed its US patron, and may well face added pressure from the
Americans and the Europeans for whom the failure of conventional warfare in
Iraq and Lebanon now confronts them with no other way of trying to resolve
the long Middle East impasse other than through a wider war possibly
involving the use of nuclear weapons.

It wouldn't surprise me also if the Kadima/Labour government responsible for
the war were to subsequently turn towards a peace process for partisan
political reasons in addition to the military and diplomatic pressures
described above. What other option would be open to it since the program of
no withdrawal/no negotiations/more military force/ a wider war is already
the property  of Natanyahu and the Likud? Everyone is expecting Likud will
be the main beneficiary of the apparent defeat, but the current government
may calculate its survival rests on persuading its insecure public that it
can deliver a lasting peace settlement. It may sound far-fetched to see this
as a winning strategy given the present bellicose state of Israeli public
opinion, but prewar polls have showed a majority vaguely in favour of
withdrawal from the occupied territories in return for security, and Kadima
defeated  Likud in the last election by promising to move in this direction.

Kadima's "peace plan" was fraudulent, of course - a limited unilateral
withdrawal behind a wall - and its first act was to attempt to starve Hamas
into submission. But, thanks entirely to Hezbollah, a more sober political
climate may emerge in Israel after it absorbs the lessons of its defeat
which could allow it to make the transition from a policy of limited
unilateral withdrawal to a fuller negotiated one.

That's the optimistic scenario. The pessimistic one is that the current
discussions at the UN are merely a charade like the ones in the leadup to
the invasion of Iraq, meant to satisfy the formal diplomatic niceties, and
that Lebanon is merely setting the table for a larger US-Israeli war against
Iran and/or Syria. I don't dismiss this given the political character of the
US and Israeli administrations and in deference to the law of "unintended
consequences", but it seems to me to be the lesser possibility, and I don't
think either side can accept going back to the status quo, given how the war
has gone.

It is tragic and outrageous that so many innocents will have died and been
displaced and have had their surroundings laid waste if this is the point at
which we finally arrive after weeks and possibly months of a ferocious and
futile Israeli assault.

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