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How to be stupid ...

Posted: Friday, January 09, 2009

... Hamas style

• Refuse to recognize Israel. Remind the world that the establishment of Israel in 1948 was accompanied by the often violent displacement of 700,000 Palestinians, but ignore the fact that more than 60 years have gone by, making it a bit late for a do-over. Ignore the fact that most Israelis weren't even born in 1948, and that Israel is recognized as legitimate by an overwhelming majority of the world's states. Keep insisting on its destruction.

• Use suicide bombings and rocket attacks on civilian targets as a method of warfare. Don't stick to military targets. Instead, blow up civilians on buses and in cafes. Adopting a deliberate policy of war crimes and crimes against humanity helps ensure that few of the world's governments will want to go anywhere near you.

• Get into vicious factional battles with fellow Palestinians. Why present a united front when you can fight with each other? Constant infighting gives the Israelis yet another reason to consider you a worthless interlocutor. And by driving rival party Fatah out of town, you can drive a wedge between Palestinians and give many Arab governments another reason to hope you fail.

• Keep that cycle of violence going! The Israelis killed a Palestinian? Quick, fire a barrage of rockets toward Israel. You know they'll respond with even greater force. Be stubborn and keep up those rocket attacks! Israeli bombs can't tell the difference between your fighters and Gaza's schoolchildren. Let the civilians pay the price for your "brave" resistance.

... Israeli style

• Never pass up a chance to rub salt in open wounds. Keep on building settlements in occupied territory. Stuff like that. Ya know?

• Undermine and isolate potential interlocutors who might be able to represent the Palestinians. First, destroy Palestinian Authority infrastructure and withhold funds and supplies needed for critical social services, thus helping to push ordinary Palestinians into the arms of Hamas, with its ample social services programs funded by Iran and private Arab donors. Then, when Hamas wins Palestinian elections, isolate Gaza and undermine Hamas.

• Be trigger happy. A recent statistical analysis by three academics (one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one at Harvard and one from Tel Aviv University) found that an overwhelming majority of lulls in violence since 2000 (when the second intifada began) ended when Israelis killed Palestinians, sparking renewed tit-for-tat violence. According to Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer and Anat Biletzki, "79 percent of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8 percent were interrupted by Palestinian attacks." The pattern was "more pronounced for longer conflict pauses. ... Of the 25 periods of nonviolence lasting longer than a week, Israel unilaterally interrupted 24, or 96 percent." Always give war a chance!

• Carry out intense aerial attacks on densely populated civilian areas. Civilians in the Gaza Strip are fenced in - the sea on the west and heavily guarded borders on the land perimeter. As Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian surgeon working at a Gaza hospital, put it, the aerial bombardment of Gaza is like "bombing 1½ million people in a cage."

Heavy civilian casualties are inevitable - like those from the deadly Israeli strikes on Tuesday that damaged three United Nations schools, killing at least 48.

• Complain about unfair media coverage, but don't let any Israeli or foreign journalists into Gaza (in defiance of the Israeli Supreme Court, which has ordered that a limited number of journalists must be allowed in). That way, nearly all news coming out of Gaza will come from Palestinian journalists.

• Don't have a plan. Start bombing Gaza to eliminate the Hamas capacity to fire rockets and mortars at Israel. Realize, as the Palestinian death toll approaches 700, that Hamas rocket attacks on Israel are still ongoing, there's no obvious military solution short of leveling Gaza, international dismay is rising, and you don't really have a game plan. Continue to play it by ear - it's just a war.

... Bush style

• Avoid opportunities to push for a rapid end to the conflict. Wring your hands every now and then, but don't engage seriously with European, Turkish or Arab actors eager to propose compromises that could end the conflict. Block a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a temporary cease-fire on the grounds that it doesn't offer a durable solution.

• In general, sit back and relax. It's just the Middle East exploding again. It's just a harbinger of ongoing suffering, regional instability and global terrorism. No big deal. Let the new guy handle it.

... Palestinian civilian style

• Be born in Gaza. Well, that was dumb of you, wasn't it? Next time, try to be born in London or San Francisco.

• Rosa Brooks is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.



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