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Ceasefire. Tightening the Gordian Knot?

on 35 Comments
A Palestinian girl stands in a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike in  Gaza City on July 08, 2014. (Photo: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMSMAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian girl stands in a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike in Gaza City on July 08, 2014. (Photo: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMSMAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Yet another ceasefire? The people of Gaza need it badly. But what Gaza needs badly isn’t the only or best option in the long run.

Maybe that’s why Hamas is a reluctant ceasefire partner.

Of course, the people of Gaza don’t have much say in the matter. If they did, no doubt they’d take a ceasefire in a Gaza heartbeat. If I was living in Gaza I would.

Because there isn’t another way out or so it seems. No one in the world with any power is offering anything more than more of the same. A ceasefire means we’re back to square one.

But to write that Gaza – without highlighting Jerusalem and the West Bank – is a Gordian Knot as Nervana Mahmoud does is to miss the point. Mahmoud concentrates on the present as if it will determine the future. Perhaps unintentionally, she makes the issue of Israeli occupation and control of Palestinian borders intractable by placing them in the background.

The Palestinian situation is longstanding and dire. Intractable it isn’t.

Like most observers, Mahmoud assumes that Israel is following a tragic line. Israel cannot continue its occupation policies forever. She is correct that Hamas lacks the ability to build a viable Gaza. Still it remains that, politically speaking – in reality rather than in global public opinion – Israel is doing quite well. Israel’s invasion of the West Bank and bombing of Gaza has further strengthened its stranglehold on Palestine.

Hamas is a failure. I agree. But with Israel and Egypt’s control of Gaza’s borders no government could succeed.

So, too, the Palestinian Authority. As big a failure. But with Israel’s occupation no government could succeed.

The ceasefire? What it offers Gaza is the status quo – with a little more food and materials, some operating tunnels, restricted access to Egypt and a few other items that keeps everything that was in place. Minus the recent and accumulating destruction meted out.

That is, if the ceasefire is implemented. If it holds.

A ceasefire doesn’t change the designed-to-fail Palestinian governing bodies. Or the designed-to-fail Palestinian society. Or Israel’s dominance.

Untangling the (un)Holy Land is difficult. Too many moving and immovable parts. Nonetheless, the political task remains. Settling for a ceasefire is to admit failure and create the context for further failure.

A ceasefire tightens rather than untangles the Gordian Knot of occupation and destruction.

Is this what Israel, the United States, Europe and the Arab world really want?

The Palestinian people deserve an answer rather than a ceasefire that promises failure and destruction without end.

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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35 Responses

  1. OlegR on July 15, 2014, 9:21 am

    Already crumbled,
    Hamas in Gaza rejected it and kept on firing.

    • annie on July 15, 2014, 9:28 am

      your point? a ceasefire is not worth parchment. what don’t you get:

      A ceasefire tightens rather than untangles the Gordian Knot of occupation and destruction.

      Is this what Israel, the United States, Europe and the Arab world really want?

      The Palestinian people deserve an answer rather than a ceasefire that promises failure and destruction without end.

      • OlegR on July 15, 2014, 9:34 am

        My point ?
        Egypt proposed a ceasefire and then negotiations between parties.
        Israel agreed and since 09:00 ceased offensive activities.
        Hamas couldn’t make up it’s mind the politicians wanted a ceasefire
        the militants didn’t and kept on firing.
        Now the ceasefire is gone and more Gazan’s will die tonight that didn’t have to …
        Quite simple.

      • Justpassingby on July 15, 2014, 9:36 am


        plus israel rejected truce all week offered by Gaza.

      • mondonut on July 15, 2014, 10:42 pm


        No. They rejected their demands.

      • Abierno on July 15, 2014, 1:02 pm

        The issue of a ceasefire needs to be put in context: Historically, Israel has used the lull surrounding movement to a ceasefire as prime time for targeted assassinations. Readers of this site remember the bombing of the house of Sheik Salah Shehadeh 30 minutes before the ceasefire was
        to take effect. Then, Ahmed Jabari, who was killed while carrying the signed agreements which not only negotiated a cease fire, but also a communication mechanism to prevent further escalation, notably that if Israel intelligence knew of potential rocket launches, they would communicate through Egypt to Hamas and Hamas would squelch them.
        Also, remember Lebanon, wherein the last three days prior to the cease fire taking effect, Israel dropped 90% of the 1 million cluster bombs on South Lebanon. People, including children, are still being killed by these bombs because Israel would not give the UN information as to exactly where they were dropped. People who live these betrayals are slow to forget. In Ma an news, it is reported that none of the many actors in the ceasefire talked to Hamas about it, which is unfortunate since Hamas have put out reasonable demands: These include lifting the siege on Gaza, freeing prisoners who were freed in the Shalit agreement and then rearrested and permanent opening of the portal to Egypt for free egress of the Palestinians. Also, one should remember
        although it’s little reported to the press – that Abbas has a request before the UN for a protectorate, as well as requesting that Geneva sanction Israel. In this context, there is much to negotiate, little trust and with Israel a proven track record of bad faith bargaining. Finally,
        despite Netanyahu’s most fervent hopes, the unity government is still standing.

      • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 2:21 pm

        It does seem one of his intentions were to flatten not only Gaza, but that unity government, which that seem to irritate him. As some article said, that made HIM look bad, a loser, because the rest of the world seemed okay with it, even the US.

        I am sure when this one sided massacre dies down, Israel will predictably announce more illegal settlements, as part of the collective punishment. That being part of their master plan to get rid of those pesky Palestinians, and take over land, and all their resources. The biggest real estate scam going on right now in the world. They kill, maim, ill treat, blockade, occupy and abuse the present land owners, just to make living there a suffering, and then the thieves can easily take over.

  2. Boomer on July 15, 2014, 9:31 am

    You should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t you know that anyone who wants to free Palestine “is either ignorant of the situation or hates the Jewish state of Israel.” — from TMZ:

    “The oldest “Pro-Israel” organization in the United States is lashing out at NBA star Dwight Howard — claiming his “#FreePalestine” tweet is hateful and ignorant.

    “As we previously reported Howard tweeted — and then deleted — the message on Saturday … and then issued an apology for commenting on international politics in the first place.

    “But the Zionist Organization of America — an international group with more than 30k members — says Dwight’s apology isn’t enough.

    “He should be publicly condemned as strong as Donald Sterling was,” ZOA President Morton Klein tells TMZ Sports.

    “Anyone who uses the phrase ‘Free Palestine’ is either ignorant of the situation or hates the Jewish state of Israel. It’s a hateful position.”

    “Klein adds, “Celebs have great influence. When he makes a ridiculously false statement like ‘Free Palestine,’ it’s frightening.”

    “Read more:


  3. mondonut on July 15, 2014, 9:47 am

    Hamas is a failure. I agree. But with Israel and Egypt’s control of Gaza’s borders no government could succeed.

    Nonsense. The “government” of Hamas could succeed by ending the very policies that Israel and Egypt object to.

  4. Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 9:50 am

    Although the people of Gaza desperately need relief and I hope they get it, and whatever Hamas’s real intentions are, we cannot fault them for taking this opportunity to make a bid for their rights and freedom. They want the blockade OFF and the right to live like normal human beings. Who can blame them for that?
    Israel might readily agree to this ceasefire, because it loses nothing. They have collectively punished ALL Palestinians, killed many civilians, and are feeling uncomfortable that Hamas keeps sending their rockets, and every Israeli life is more precious than the Palestinians. Israelis must be safeguarded, right?

    • Justpassingby on July 15, 2014, 10:50 am


      Exactly, but as usual blaming palestinians is what we hear today.
      Remember netanyahu rejected ceasefire offered by Gaza early days in the massacre against Gaza.

  5. Jon66 on July 15, 2014, 9:51 am

    This is why Israel rejected the hudna proposed by Hamas years ago. A ceasefire is not the same as a peace treaty.

  6. JustJessetr on July 15, 2014, 9:56 am

    Well, Hamas could change it’s charter for starters…

    • Ron Edwards on July 15, 2014, 10:07 pm

      Israel could draft a charter in the first place, specifically that constitution it was required to provide in order to become a member of the UN, and which we are all still waiting for, along with a declaration of borders. In the now 64-year-old failure to provide these, why is it still permitted to participate at the UN, again?

  7. MHughes976 on July 15, 2014, 10:17 am

    Absolutely, Kay, well said. As to what we in the West, with our elastic consciences, really want, I think it’s not to be bothered by these people from the East. Just shut up and send us oil, maybe plus a few Jaffa oranges and cherry tomatoes. There is a thin but visible vein of anti-Semitism in our attitudes plus a thicker, coarser vein of anti-Islamism. We’re not all bad, of course, but we’re not as nice as we think.

    • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 10:49 am

      It also depends what the media keeps drumming into your head, MH, when the channel you may always tune into keeps saying the same thing, in many different ways, the majority in this country thinks that is how it must be. I am sure a poll will show many Americans think Palestinians are terrorists, and that Israel is always the victim. Oh those pesky rockets how can the 10th most powerful nation compare to that:
      “Israel stands out in military capability where it is ranked 6th in the world, and technological capability where it ranks 4th. Its capabilities ranked 25 in economy, 17 in population and 19 in foreign affairs.”

      Yeah Israel, with a military capability ranked 6th in the world, is struggling against unarmed, very poor civilians, who live in a fenced in concentration camp, for decades. Poor Israel, must be tough facing such opponents. Yet there was John Kerry condemning Hamas for sending those rockets, and I heard crickets about the deadly weapons Israel is using right now, and the massacre of civilians in Gaza.
      Shame on our officials.

    • seafoid on July 15, 2014, 1:19 pm

      Gaza is Israel’s abused child. Viral meningitis reported in 3 UNRWA shelters. The fruit of the siege and 47 years of pauperisation. Wait until the health situation is linked to Zionism. Gaza is not stable. Israel doesn’t have much time left to trash the place before it becomes unliveable. The occupation is a moral cesspit. Judaism needs to get out of the way ASAP.

  8. Maximus Decimus Meridius on July 15, 2014, 10:24 am

    I think it’s fairly obvious that this ‘ceasefire’ patched up between war mongers Israel, collaborator Mahmoud Abbas, war criminal Tony Blair and his pet military dictator Al Sisi, is a ruse designed to paint Israel as peacemakers who will only reluctantly continue the ‘war’ due to the intransigence of Da Khamas.

    That said, however, part of me thinks that Israel genuinely does want a ceasefire, albeit one entirely on their terms. What more can they ‘achieve’ in Gaza, other than continued death and destruction, which of course is an ‘achievement’ of sorts for Zionism? By their own admission, the IDF hit all ‘military targets’ in Gaza in the first few days of the onslaught, leaving them only with sewage plants, hospitals and family homes to destroy. I have never believed that Israel seriously plans a ground invasion – they are far too cowardly, especially if Richard Silverstein is right in saying they were repulsed on their first attempt a few days ago.

    So while it’s obvious that the real, horrible suffering will be in Gaza, the Israelis, once again, are in a no-win situation. Their stated goal – stopping the rocket fire – cannot be achieved short of a ground invasion and continued occupation, and maybe not even then. What more can a continued orgy of violence do for them?

    • SQ Debris on July 16, 2014, 3:40 pm

      Of course Israel wants a cease fire (on their terms). This whole sirens going off thing has made the “status quo is kol besir” attitude within Israeli society a little shaky. Tourists having to leave the beach and go to shelters? Being reminded that everything is Not good? It’s unthinkable that denial is being put to the test.

  9. American on July 15, 2014, 10:57 am

    Last time there was a US-Egypt brokered cease fire and agreement Isr violated the agreement and started shooting up Gaza fishermen and their boats the very next day.
    A agreement with Israel, the US and Egypt is worth less than the paper it is written on for Gazans.

  10. Maximus Decimus Meridius on July 15, 2014, 11:28 am

    Richard Silverstein believes that Hamas’ rejection of the ceasefire is bluster and that they’ll end up signing it in a few days.

    I can see what he’s getting it – Hamas are not the most principled or strategically gifted of groups – but isn’t this different to their usual practice? Have they ever rejected a ceasefire in either of Israel’s previous massacres?

    • annie on July 15, 2014, 5:58 pm

      maximus, israel started this thing w/the pogrom in the WB rounding up hundreds of people many from the prisoner exchange and invading thousands of homes and killing people. so this is not about a ceasefire, it’s about returning what was stolen, which includes people. what would be the point of a ceasefire under these conditions. they were not even included in writing it up.

  11. crone on July 15, 2014, 11:42 am

    Netanyahu’s bombing of Gaza has so far killed over 192, 80% of them civilians, wounded 1,400 people, completely destroyed 990 houses, damaged another 1,700 houses, and created billions of damage to the infrastructure in Gaza, including the already fragile water distribution system. For what? (Revenge is mine, saith the Lord)

    In total Israel air force and missiles hit more than 2,000 “targets” while some 1,000 rockets were fired from Gaza. No Israeli was killed by the unguided rockets Hamas and other organizations launched from the strip.

    This morning there was some talk of a cease-fire allegedly after an agreement was negotiatated by the Egyptian dictator Sisi. But this cease-fire agreement was actually written by the war criminal and Zionist Tony Blair. No Palestinian had even seen it or was involved in its creation. They learned of the “agreement” through the media. It included nothing but a stop of fighting and some vague promise of further talks. For what then did so many people die? Israel’s security cabinet immediately accepted it. Tony Blair basically just negotiated with the Israeli side and surprise surprise, both the Zionist war criminal Blair and the Zionist war criminal Netanyahu were in complete agreement on what the peace deal should look like. Is this the first time in history that anyone has tried to negotiate a peace deal between two warring parties, while just inviting one side to take part.? The Chutzpah of then expecting Palestine to agree to this is astounding. “

    Hamas and other groups rejected this scam and continued their ineffective rocket fire. Hamas, which has also to keep consensus with more radical Palestinian groups in Gaza, had set several conditions for stopping the fighting: 1) an end to all Israeli attacks on Gaza; 2) opening of the border crossings to Israel and Egypt 3)
    release of the Hamas prisoners Israel, without reason, took in the West Bank over the last three weeks and 4) payment by the Palestinian Authority for the government workers in Gaza. (H/T MoA

    Those sound like reasonable, very reasonable, terms Hamas is asking.

    What happened to Israel’s threat of a ground invasion? Here’s Richard Silverstein with an explanation:

    “… I reported yesterday on a failed Israeli commando raid on a northern Gaza beach where the IDF claims long-range rockets were launched. Hamas claims that it knew about the raid in advance and ambushed Israeli forces. My Israeli source, as I reported last night confirms there was an ambush and that the Shayetet 13 soldiers were repulsed (see above FoxNews report in the midst of the fighting). The fact that the IDF called in helicopter gunships and F-16s to repel the Palestinian attackers indicates the Israeli force was in trouble and needed assistance extricating itself from the field.

    … Whatever the original mission, the commandos had their asses handed to them. Now, the IDF is saving face by denying what really happened.”

    So, it’s okay for Israel to attack Gaza from the air ~ but forget Israel risking the life of one single IDF soldier by attempting a ground invasion? (not that I am promoting a ground invasion, I am not)

    Israel has made its point, for the time being, so time to agree to a ceasefire. (Of course, any time in the future that Israel decides to resume bombing it will do so.)

    Hamas says NO ~ Israel needs to pay ~ and frankly, they are asking for very little, all things considered. ymmv

    • annie on July 15, 2014, 5:50 pm

      Israel has made its point, for the time being, so time to agree to a ceasefire.
      Hamas says NO ~ Israel needs to pay ~

      hopefully hamas will stick to their demands. there’s not a lot of sense to hamas making ceasefire agreements when israel just ‘mows the grass’ every couple years. israel needs to return the prisoners and lift the blockade.

      So, it’s okay for Israel to attack Gaza from the air ~ but forget Israel risking the life of one single IDF soldier by attempting a ground invasion?

      it’s a little more complicated than that, but you’ve got it they are not prepared to for a land invasion. this is not going to be a walk in slaughter lane like the 08-09 massacre. they don’t know what they will find on the other side. israel is in a crunch which is why netanyahu agreed to a ceasefire. they know (one would imagine) they don’t know where the weapons are. they are destroying people and infrastructure but thus far no evidence of weapons depots. the logical explantion is they are underground and no amount of destroying mosques and houses will fix that. it will require a ground invasion. and they don’t know where the weapons are, just like with hezbollah, they couldn’t figure out where the targets were so they slaughtered people.

      anyway, they want to stop the rockets. but a land invasion doesn’t guarantee the rockets will stop, or even find the missiles. they just don’t know how many hamas has, where they are, what finding them entails. and they don’t wan to loose their boys or be seen as loosing the war like they lost to hezbollah.

  12. lysias on July 15, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Obama speaks up at Iftar dinner with Muslims: defends Israel’s right to defend itself; condemns Hamas rockets. The Hill: Obama ‘encouraged’ by Egypt ceasefire plan:

    Despite pledging his hope that the Egyptian plan would resolve the crisis, sparked last month by the murders of three Israeli and one Palestinian teen, Obama also defended Israel’s military action in Gaza.

    Obama said “no country can accept rockets fired indiscriminately at its citizens,” and condemned the “inexcusable attacks from Hamas.”

    But in a nod to growing anger among Muslims over civilian deaths in the Israeli counteroffensive, Obama also said “the death and injury of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy.”

    “The pictures we are seeing in Gaza and Israel are heart-wrenching,” Obama said.

    • Kay24 on July 15, 2014, 2:14 pm

      I bet he whispered the part about death and injury of Palestinian civilians, quickly looking around if AIPACs agents were around to record it.

  13. seafoid on July 15, 2014, 1:22 pm

    Gordian knot images miss the point. The I/P situation is not sustainable. Israel bit off more than it could chew in 1967 and whether it is apartheid or a gaza health catastrophe Israel is not ready for the PR and antisemitism to come.

    • Mooser on July 15, 2014, 1:34 pm

      And I thought the Gordian Knot is a technique used by obstetricians to insure an ‘innie’ instead of an ‘outie’. But it’s, uh, knot, I guess.

      • seafoid on July 15, 2014, 1:47 pm

        Gordian Knot was a berry farmer who became prime minister of Scotland.

  14. Citizen on July 15, 2014, 2:04 pm

    Really hard to see the Jewish Israelis as the victims, just saying as a simple American taxpayer who wished he had some control over where his tax dollars go.

  15. Kris on July 15, 2014, 2:16 pm

    Patrick Henry: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

  16. ivri on July 15, 2014, 5:19 pm

    Realities can be much simpler than tortured argumentation. Hamas invested years in accumulating the many missiles, in placing them in safe tunnels (that cannot be attacked because in densely populated areas) with a view that they are acquiring a “winning card” here” – one that will force Israel to yield to their demands, lest its cities will be bombed (with no real way to stop that). That was also supposed to give them prestige in the Palestinian street and in the Arab world at large (as with Hezbollah before). So they cling to it with the hope that “in the end” they calculations will prove right.
    Yet, the Syria war, and Iraq again, assure that in the present Arab world what they do is a footnote. The resent serious severance of relations with Egypt also weakens their hand. And then there is the much improved Iron Dome.
    The worst thing that can happen Hamas is not that it is defeated, which they can still survive as heroes, but that it will begin to look pathetic – especially to the Gazans or to the Palestinians in general

  17. DICKERSON3870 on July 15, 2014, 8:33 pm

    RE: “Hamas is a failure. I agree. But with Israel and Egypt’s control of Gaza’s borders no government could succeed. So, too, the Palestinian Authority. As big a failure. But with Israel’s occupation no government could succeed.” ~ Marc Ellis

    MY COMMENT: I’m certainly not an expert on Vichy France (and even less so as to Norway under Vidkun Quisling), but more and more it seems to me that the Palestinian Authority collaborates with Israel in much the same way that the Vichy government in France during WWII collaborated with Nazi Germany, and Mahmoud Abbas’ role is quite similar to that of Quisling’s in occupied Norway.

  18. DICKERSON3870 on July 15, 2014, 8:36 pm

    RE: “Ceasefire. Tightening the Gordian Knot?”


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