This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Whether it is done, mostly done or just waiting for another opportunity to strike hard, Israel’s announced “withdrawal” from Gaza is a brilliant move. In one stroke, Israel at least partially removes its soldiers from the battlefield, maintains its ability to bomb from the air and sea and defies the most public aspects of international mediating efforts.
Yesterday that is exactly what happened. More bombing. More carnage. More death.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t keeping his cards close to the vest. Ever the bully, Netanyahu promises Hamas that it will pay an “intolerable price” if continues firing rockets into Israel. Meanwhile, Israel’s military will “prepare for continuing action according to our security needs and only according to our security needs.”
So Israel is buying time, accomplishing what it wants, even as it thumbs its nose at the international community.
In its mind at least, no one in the world – not even the United States – tells Israel what it can and can’t do. The most amazing aspect of Israel’s strategy is that it works. No matter world opinion, Israel accomplishes its goal of further setting Gaza and the entire Palestinian enterprise back for years.
If the fighting eventually dies down, over the next weeks the rebuilding of Gaza will begin. Gaza’s partners will return. A new incarnation of the Goldstone Report will take shape. Israel will also thumb its nose at both. Gaza will remain an open air prison.
Meanwhile the burning children – and adults – of Gaza will be left to their own devices. The posturing of the outraged global community will make little difference in their prospects for the future. Likely, Hamas will stay in place or some variation thereof. Perhaps a unity government will be (re)announced. Egypt will work closely with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to quiet Gaza. Disguised as statehood, autonomy talks will reappear.
If luck holds, John Kerry will fade from the newspapers for a while. His posturing as a lone courageous figure seeking first a lasting peace then negotiating a ceasefire – both of which failed miserably – will be consigned to the dustbin of history where hypocritical political figures’ double talk defines them.
What are the lessons of Gaza for the NGO, religious communities and people of conscience on the ground and around the world?
As the burning children of Gaza are accounted for, there needs to be a reckoning. It won’t come from the powers that be. Will it come from the institutions that have expressed such moral outrage at Israel’s behavior?
Such a reckoning won’t matter – it won’t be authentic – unless the institutions that serve the Palestinian people note their own failures.
Despite their best intentions, these institutions are invested in the status quo. They are in many ways enablers of Israeli power.
Moral outrage has run its course. It simply isn’t enough.
Of course, as the day turns the siege of Gaza might intensify again. As if it could get worse.