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I learned from Palestine.

At first glance, you’d think the Palestinians would have significantly more international support than they do, especially if one were to wax purple in his description of their plight; “A refugee people, riven from their homes by the desolation of war, confined to cramped ghettos by their conquerors, subject to the vilest invasions of privacy and person in the name of ‘security’, forsaken and forgotten by the Western powers that sowed the seeds of this catastrophe”.

Admittedly, that’s a very selective view of the matter, but it’s one that I expect a significant number of people actually believe.

But for the most part, when one gets some distance from both of the extremes in this debate, there is a distinct air of “a pox on both your houses”, a feeling that there is no “right” side of this conflict, merely two wrongs that will stab and slash at each other until they’re both exhausted… only to rise and do it all again tomorrow.

Israel’s situation is unenviable, and leaving aside the provocation inherent in settlement of the West Bank, it is also almost unavoidable.  Israel finds itself in a position where all its options are bad, an endless loop where restraint is taken as weakness and exploited, and action simply feeds into the endless cycle of conflict.

Make no mistake; despite the typically unbalanced nature of the nightly casualty reports, the truth remains that Israel is the subject of vastly more, and more indiscriminate, attacks than Palestinians are.  In the month of July alone, over two thousand rockets will have been launched at civilian targets in Israel.  Weapons that, if they reached their targets en masse, would kill thousands.  Israel is kept safe in some small part by missile defense systems, but primarily by virtue of the fact that the rockets are grotesquely inaccurate.  They’re weapons built by hand in garages and machine shops, fired in piecemeal salvos by amateurs pointing them in the approximate direction of their targets.

And they are, quite frankly, one of the stupidest possible moves imaginable for the Palestinian people.  What make it all the more tragic is that they are, on multiple levels, a propaganda coup by a Palestinian leadership kept in power by the perpetuation of an endless state of war.

The rockets are ineffective.  At most, they kill a handful of civilians.  One could argue that the single greatest military/economic impact they’ve had is in forcing Israel to expend resources shooting down the small fraction of such launches that might actually strike their targets.

However.

The rockets force Israel to respond, perpetuating that cycle of citizens demanding that their leaders “Do Something“, regardless of whether or not it’s the right thing to do.  Hamas launches rockets, Israelis demand a response, Israel strikes the launchers, Palestinians demand a response, ad infinitum.  Keeping the launchers in close proximity to civilians simply feeds more grist to the mill, turning the rockets into a weapon that, for all intents and purposes, kills more of the people who fire it than those who are fired upon.

Hell, given the failure rates associated with amateur rocketry and the nature of the launch sites, it’s entirely possible that the weapons actually kill more Palestinians than Israelis even leaving out the inevitable Israeli response.

Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad, and all the other groups firing these weapons have concocted a brilliant strategy that results in an endless flow of recruits, at the cost of innocent Palestinian lives… and one other thing.

International support from outside the Islamic world.

It’s difficult to play the victim card when you’re indiscriminately shelling your neighbors.  Even if your neighbors kinda deserve it sometimes.

You can get away with a surprising number of atrocities so long as you pick your targets, oddly enough.  Killing soldiers?  That’s to be expected really.  Blowing up government buildings?  Unconscionable, but not unanticipated.  Politically-motivated assassinations?  Par for the course.  All tactics that have been employed by countless resistance movements in the past, to varying degrees of success.

But when you cross the line into widespread attacks on civilians, in the eyes of many you immediately leave behind the role of “freedom fighter”, and assume the role of “terrorist”.

And nobody likes terrorists.

It creates a situation where Israel’s actions against the Gaza Strip, its control of the borders and discrimination against Palestinians, are all justifiable.  Because for every tunnel smuggling car parts and medical supplies into Gaza, there’s another smuggling explosives and rocket parts.  For every Palestinian child killed by the blast of a missile fired at a rocket launch site, there’s a rocket launched towards Israel with at least the potential to kill dozens.

It’s self-destructive, self-defeating, and sadly self-perpetuating, until such time as the Palestinian people themselves rise up against their self-declared champions and instead declare an end to the violence.

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