Sunday, 3 August 2014

What will be the unintended consequences of Gaza II?

If the second Gaza “lawnmowing” now winds down, it will be time to take stock and see what has changed in that nightmarish landscape.

The history of the establishment of Israel and all the wars and conflicts that have taken place since looks from one perspective to be an unending lesson in the law of unintended consequences. Back in the 1940s, there were plenty of idealist zionists who thought the country would be a socialistic experiment based on the noblest strains of Jewish traditions of justice.

Military exemptions and economic support for a few Torah scholars to preserve Jewish traditions were never meant to create a permanent bloc of religious zealots and an expanding demographic that threatens to overwhelm its secular counterparts.

The 1967 war was not originally planned as an irredentist wet-dream. But it became a permanent occupation of conquered territories and created an even more extreme, religio-nationalist settler movement dominated by orthodox klansmen bent on terrorizing the non-Jewish residents.

And so on endlessly. What will be the unhappy results this time? Probably the divest and boycott movement will grow considerably as evidenced by the refusal of Irish shops, English supermarkets and other entities throughout Europe to stock illegal, settler-produced goods. Given the close ties between the settler economy and Israel proper, it’s only a matter of time until “Made in Israel” becomes a liability. Zionist voices will howl, but they should be glad instead given the intent of moral suasion behind such a campaign, which was so effective in pushing South Africa to a peaceful settlement.

At the other extreme, anti-Semitic attacks are likely to increase, especially in Europe, although whether this is really an ‘unintended’ consequence is debatable. Every time it looks as though Jews can never live in peace anywhere on earth, the raison d’étre of the Jewish state is strengthened. Enemies of zionist aggression must always be enemies of anti-Semitic acts and sentiments, but this is going to be too subtle a distinction for many. The Israelis insistence that Israel = Judaism and that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic by definition will only exacerbate this tendency.

Israel’s diplomatic isolation has deepened in hitherto unknown ways. The Latin American reaction to the latest slaughter—four withdrawn ambassadors and very harsh statements from several presidents—may be only temporary. But popular sentiments in Latin America are quite clear. This is an intangible effect and thus hard to gauge, but the childish reaction of Israeli leaders (making fun of Brazil’s loss in the World Cup? Really?) reflects self-indulgence rather than sober calculation.

Netanyahu’s open mockery of the leadership of his principal ally is similarly imprudent. It is kind of funny to see the reality of Israel’s vast dominance over Washington displayed so starkly. Humiliation of Barack Obama is almost too easy as, like a chronically battered spouse, he reacts to attack with paralysis and hopes for reconciliation. But the rest of the U.S. military and security state cannot be pleased at being wagged by the tail. And it is worth asking how long the American public will be satisfied to accept this unequal (and costly) marriage. Israel’s behavior is based on the relationship lasting forever, but divorce lawyers make millions betting against those vows.

Finally, there is the missing debate about terrorism at home, against which our vast security apparatus will never entirely protect us. Suicide bombers have restricted access to Israeli targets due to the separation wall and other segregation strategies. But there are plenty of opportunities here. What will happen if there is a new incident of whatever scale? Or more than one? Unleashing the dogs of war in this latest episode of wanton cruelty means we really don’t know. War, as Clausewitz taught, is unpredictable, and globalization means that goes double.

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