However, the war in Gaza does need some explaining, I believe, although in general I find the official reporting a lot better than during the Second Lebanon War - this how our unfortunate encounter with Hezbollah is meanwhile officially being called. Nevertheless, fundamental analysis is rare, and so I'll try to explain what is actually going on around here.
The very basic question underlying the whole mess in Gaza is the following. After the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the subsequent Hamas election victory, why did Hamas not concentrate on building a better life for the Gazans and show the world that they can be responsible rulers (if inconvenient at times)? The PA was in so bad shape at the time that any reasonable administration would have made a better impression on the world than the corrupt and incompetent competition in the West Bank. Any Hamas member would answer on CNN "Because our brothers in the West Bank are still living under the Zionist occupation, and we need to resist that occupation overall, even if we in Gaza have managed to beat the Zionists out of our territory." We have heard this line a thousand times, and some people actually believe it. Well, I don't, and you'll soon know why.
If that line was the true, then the solution would be very clear cut. Withdraw from the West Bank unilaterally, just like we did it in Gaza, risk a civil war with those demented settler fanatics, and everything will be just fine. In the short period of quiet right after we left Gaza there was a clear consensus that this is the way to go, and Olmert won his election with a promise to do just that - the Israelis suspected Olmert to be a corrupt crook (they knew him well from his years as mayor of Jerusalem), but the majority of them wanted to do the final step and get out of the West Bank as well, most of it anyway, and the faster the better. So they swallowed the frog and voted Olmert back into office, which he had entered initially only by Ariel Sharon falling into coma (see the joke a few posts down).
And then Hamas did two things. A) They started to get the chaotic Gaza life under control, instilled some law and order, and all-in-all proved to be indeed a better alternative to the Palestinian Authority. Quite good. Okay, they used some unconventional methods along the way, like throwing Fatah members of the highest roofs they could find, leaving their bodies for the families to scrap off the pavement. But then again, this is Gaza, not Tuscany, so let's not be too picky. B) They used every opportunity to attack Israel, with terror attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel, and countless missiles fired at the Israeli communities around Gaza. Not so good.
For Olmert and all peace loving Israelis this was a very nasty surprise, which eventually forced Olmert to change course and postpone the withdrawal from the West Bank due to rapidly evaporating public support. "Why are those Morons in Gaza not getting it? All they have to do is to behave reasonably for a year or two and it will all be over, they have their state and we can live peacefully ever after." This was the most commonly asked question in the public debate.
The answer to that question is what our Hamas member forgot to mention on CNN. Hamas' national aspiration goes far beyond Gaza and the West Bank. There is no place for Israel alongside Hamas' vision of Palestine. Hamas has consistently refused to recognize Israel - on the contrary, Hamas declares the destruction of the Zionist entity as their primary political goal at every opportunity, in Arabic and even in Hebrew (believe it or not, Hamas spokespeople love to give interviews for Israeli TV, no idea why they even bother). Everything in this world has to serve this one purpose, the life of every Hamas member and his family, the quality of life in Gaza in general, and yes, also the very life of regular Gaza residents. So indeed, when this is your worldview it doesn't make sense to put too much effort into developing Gaza, other than to make it a launching pad for the next stage on the path to the final solution (pun intended).
Everything happening around us makes perfect sense when you look at it from that perspective. Of course it is okay to kill Israeli civilians, and really, why not? Hamas is willing to blow up their own people in suicide missions (they are even dying to do so), and to destroy the lives of over a million regular Gazans along the way, to keep them dirt poor, to use them as human shields and to murder them in the most barbaric ways imaginable if they object, so why should Israeli civilians enjoy any special consideration? Muslims go to heaven and the infidels go to hell, so everybody ends up where they belong (I don't really know if there is the concept of hell in Islam, but for sure the infidels are not headed for a 5 star hotel). If that is not a final solution, then what is? Every missile fired from Gaza into Israeli cities is aimed at civilian targets and loaded with a war head designed for maximum damage to soft targets - translated from military lingo that means hundreds of small pieces of shrapnel to kill every unprotected human being in a radius of 30 meters from the point of impact.
Now, even the most fundamentalist Muslims understand that since the Renaissance the Western World has developed different values, and they use those values daily for their propaganda machine. So while their indifferent targeting is justified by the Divine purpose, Israel's surgical strikes are genocide, even a Holocaust, what have you. And the absolutely shocking truth is that 95% of all Europeans and maybe 80% of Americans actually believe this bullshit. Israel has dropped so far about 200 tons of explosives on well selected targets, with some 400 causalities, among which they are some 100 unfortunate civilians, which by any military standard is a very impressive ratio. (Civilized Britain, today the biggest critic of Israel in Europe, bombed German cities in WWII for maximum impact on the population, killing 20,000 civilians and basically no military personnel in a single bombing raid on Dresden, just to name one example.) But the Hamas propaganda machine declares a Holocaust, and the world is demanding an immediate cease fire. Even the Israeli left wing had enough and is joining the calls to end the war now, while Hamas is firing 80 missiles a day into Israeli cities.
If Hamas had the possibility to deliver that amount of explosives into Israel, where they want it and how they want it, 90% of the Israeli population would be where they belong by now - in hell, remember? And let there be no doubt, not a single Hamas member would even think for a second that maybe this was disproportional use of force. There would be endless thank you prayers, gigantic feasts and fireworks all over the Middle East. Allah is great! Oh right, I forgot to mention Iran. One more thought experiment before we get there.
What would happen to the 10% surviving Israelis? Would they get medical care in Hamas hospitals, allowed visits from the Red Cross and communication with their relatives abroad? You bet... Civilian casualties from Gaza are treated in Israeli hospitals, international help organizations are allowed to ship some 100 truck loads of medical supplies and food to Gaza almost every day. If you want to compare Hamas attitude just watch what is happening to Gilad Shalit - but that is another topic for another time.
Having said all this, Hamas is really our smallest problem. That is as long as they don't have the means to deliver something like 200 tons of explosives. Unfortunately Iran will have those means very soon, and as Ahmadinejad has declared over and over again, it is God's promise that Israel will be wiped off the pages of history (not off the map apparently, this translation is disputed), but who in the West cares, other than the otherwise strangely incompetent Bush administration? The holy warriors of Islam need to fulfill that promise, and therefore, given the means, they will deliver the nuclear strikes on Israel. And kill the Muslims living in Israel in the process, you might ask? Of course! They will go to heaven as martyrs, and what could be better than that? Remember the bus loads of Iranian children that were sent into the Iraqi mine fields to clear those mines by triggering them with their bodies? That was islamist humanity then, and nothing has changed. (Not that modern ideologies like communism or fascism were much better in that aspect, but they did reserve their most most terrible abuses for their enemies, and in any case, they just didn't last that long.)
It does not take a lot of fancy interpretation to predict the future behaviour of a nuclear Iran from Hamas' current behaviour, or Hezbollah's behaviour. Essentially these are all entities driven by the same value system. I suggest you have a look at the link in the headline and hear about Hezbollah and PA in Lebanon first hand from a Lebanese journalist. If you don't take it from me, take it from her!
How will it all end? Well, the only possible scenario I can see is that eventually Israel will make Hamas understand that they can not achieve their ultimate goal by terror, and that a prosperous, well-developed state is necessary to develop the military might to get rid of those Zionists after all. This insight can only be generated by military defeat, again and again, but once Hamas reaches that point, they will agree to a long term cease fire (hudna) and stick to it. Developing that powerful state will take a couple of decades, and we can only hope that they forget along the way what they set out to do from the start.
This is why Israel has no choice but to fight Hamas back into reality, and isolate them from Iran's military resources, so they can not continue that proxy war for Iran any longer. It doesn't look good on TV, but it has to be done.