The only way to make sense of Israel's senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel's vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration's complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Zionism was a gathering force for the creation of a Jewish homeland. The movement only achieved its goal, however, after the Holocaust. But the Palestinians have paid for the sins of Nazi Germany, and they are continuing to pay.
Defenders of Israel say,"The Palestinians don't recognize the existence of Israel." Well, as a matter of fact, Israel doesn't recognize any state for the Palestinians, either, and has continued to assert its sovereignty over Gaza and the West Bank without making or considering the Palestinians as citizens. They are truly stateless. The Palestinian Authority is plainly not a national government.
The principal reason that Hamas - and Hizbullah - are successful insurgencies, and they are successful, is because they have a lot of indigenous support. And bombing the bejeezus out of Gaza is not well calculated to reduce that support. In the article by Avi Shlaim quoted by Spot yesterday, and linked above, too, he said that eighty percent of Gazans subsist on less than $2 a day. The Palestinians don't have much to lose, but a more dreadful and counterproductive "hearts and minds" campaign could scarcely be imagined.
When you add it all up, Israel has proven a lot more enthusiastic and successful at eradicating Palestinians than the Palestinians have been at eradicating Israelis.
One of the great ironies in all of this is that Israel gave early support to Hamas in an effort to weaken Arafat's PLO. And it worked! In 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory over Fatah for control of the Palestinian Authority. Now, this was kind of a student council election, in view of the limited powers of the Palestinian Authority, but it does show the indigenous support that Spot was talking about.
Israel has spent forty years backing itself into the current corner, and it will probably take at least that long to get out of it. The only way to get rid of the insurgencies is to get rid of the aggrieved population that supports them. That is, pacify them, or kill them. Israel seems to have chosen the latter course.