The New Intifada?
Israel’s reaction reveals some interesting observations.
The US has used human rights abuses as excuses to intervene in conflicts around the world while at the same time satiating their ulterior self-interests. The US has done that exceptionally well in Iraq, claiming to remove a tyrannical regime while it accumulates petrodollars and oil supplies in the process. It appears that the US places a valuable premium on human life yet as argued in my previous post “Iraq: No Chance of Perpetual Peace?” a double standard surfaces once Abu Ghraib, Haditha and Guantanamo are mentioned.
A similar case goes for Israel. Israelis place a very high premium on human life (since the population of 6.2 million is only slowing growing at a 1.18% population growth rate with approximately 20% of the population being Arab and 16% being Muslim – these figures exclude Gaza and the West Bank – and thus the country cannot afford to lose its citizens) and would make headlines for a single soldier captured.
Or would they?
In the past, there have been Israeli prisoners of war held by Palestinians for longer and under worse conditions yet Israel has not reacted the same way. It seems that the capturing of Shalit was merely a symbol of action, a spark (a la Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in June 1914 which sparked WWI) and an excuse for Israel to drive back in to Gaza.
A major problem when discussing who’s to blame in this case rests on several factors:
1) Where does the story start? Should one go back and assess Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinian women and children as well as those held in captivity or is it merely that Palestinians are savages and that the world needs to sympathize with the captured Israeli soldier and place the blame on the Palestinian Authority? Should one take the ‘easier’ way out and merely blame Hamas since they do not want to recognize Israel and continue to encourage militant attacks? Or should one step back and think why Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and try to dig deeper in to the reasons?
2) Should one view the conflict in a quid pro quo manner? In other words, should an observer equate the Palestinian perpetrators to those of Israel and vice versa? How should standards be set?
Israel has certainly gained incredible media attention for the captivity of the soldier. Despite the fact that acts of terror against Palestinians gain media attention, they are not of the same intensity as their Israeli counterparts. This is in part due to the general bias of the Western media towards Israel as well as Israel’s much lower damage-infliction threshold (i.e. they won’t tolerate large losses of their citizens and large infliction of damage on their society).
On the other hand, Palestinians (with a 'nothing-to-lose-mentality') have a much larger damage-infliction threshold indicating that they will continue to fight Israel and lose thousands of their citizens (as martyrs) in order to establish a state and gain back the land which was rightfully theirs.
The escalating events could very well trigger a third intifada, Israel needs to be very careful of their responses and Hamas should take up the offer of a roundtable discussion. Until then, the situation will continue to exacerbate and any progression made will be rendered entirely futile.