You'll never read this in the U.S. press about the Middle East

Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East corresponent for the London-based Independent newspaper, is one of my few journalistic heroes.

 Here's one reason why:


And here's another take on the Israeli assault on Gaza--again, you'll have to search high and low to find anything close to this in the American press.  Dyer is a Canadian with a Ph.D from the University of London in military history and Middle Eastern history.


Battlefield Gaza

/> By Gwynne Dyer


/> Yosef Sheinin, the chief rabbi of Ashdod, was understandably

/> distraught at the funeral of Irit Shetreet, one of four Israelis to be

/> killed by Palestinian rockets since Israel launched its bombing campaign

/> against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Sunday. However, he was wrong to say

/> that her death was "the latest manifestation of 3,000 years of anti-Jewish

/> hatred." The hatred is real, but its sources are a good deal closer both in

/> time and in space.


/> Western media coverage of current affairs rarely goes into the

/> origins of those affairs: even what happened last year or ten years ago is

/> treated as ancient history. So the fury and despair of the million and a

/> half residents of the Gaza Strip can easily seem incomprehensible -- the

/> "bottomless hatred of wild beasts," as Sheinin put it. Why do these

/> Palestinians fire murderous rockets at innocent civilians in Sderot,

/> Ashkelon, Ashdod, even Beersheva?


/> Because that's where they come from. Only about a fifth of the Gaza

/> Strip's population is descended from people who lived in that barren

/> stretch of land before 1948. The rest are people, or the children or

/> grandchildren or great-grandchildren of people, who were driven out of what

/> is now Israel during the 1948 war, or simply fled in fear and were not

/> allowed to go home again afterwards. Their former homes were mostly in the

/> south of former Palestine, in places like Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and

/> Beersheva.


/> This does not give them the right to launch rockets at the people

/> who now live in those towns, of course, any more than Israel has the right

/> to use its massive air power to pound the crowded Gaza Strip. But it does

/> provide some context for what is happening now -- and indeed, happens every

/> year or so. This struggle is still about what it has always been about: the

/> land. And the fact that Israel is killing a hundred Palestinians for every

/> dead Israeli does not mean that the Israelis are winning.


/> Israel cannot actually lose this fight, since Hamas, the Islamist

/> organisation that now controls the Gaza Strip, is distinctly short of

/> F-16s, tanks and UAVs carrying Hellfire missiles. Israel will not lose a

/> lot of soldiers -- more than a couple of dozen -- even if it invades the

/> Gaza Strip on the ground for a while, because Hamas is not like Hizbollah,

/> the Shia militia in south Lebanon that fought the Israelis to a standstill

/> in the 2006 war.


/> Hamas does not have the discipline or the weapons that Hizbollah

/> had. It cannot even prevent Israeli infiltration of its own ranks, which is

/> why its leaders die like flies in Israeli air strikes and "targeted

/> killings," whereas Hizbollah successfully purged its ranks of informers and

/> has not lost a single senior leader to Israeli assassination for more than

/> a decade. The Israelis can do pretty much what they want to the Gaza Strip

/> -- but they cannot win.


/> Ehud Olmert, Israel's interim prime minister, and Tzipi Livni, his

/> successor as head of the Kadima party, and Binyamin Netanyahu, head of the

/> Likud party and her principal rival for the prime ministership in next

/> month's Israeli election, all know that. They are all old enough to have

/> watched Israel try to bash the Palestinians into submission half a dozen

/> times before, and they know it does not work. But that is strategy, and

/> this is politics.


/> For Israel's political leaders, this is mainly about looking tough

/> in front of an electorate that just wants someone to "do something" about

/> the Palestinians and their rockets. Nothing much can be done, short of a

/> peace settlement generous enough to reconcile them to the loss of their

/> land, but Israeli politicians have to look like they are trying. Hundreds

/> of people are dying in the Gaza Strip to provide that show.


/> The Hamas leaders are equally cynical, since they know that every

/> civilian death, and even every militant's death, helps to build popular

/> support for their organisation. The dead are pawns, and the game is

/> politics. No wonder there is such lack of enthusiasm elsewhere for spending

/> much effort on trying to persuade the two sides to agree to a ceasefire.

/> They will stop when they have achieved their (purely tactical and

/> short-term) political goals.


/> There is a more profound issue behind all this, which is Israel's

/> right to exist versus the right of the Palestinians to their homeland, but

/> we shouldn't get carried away with the unique moral dimension of all that.

/> It's just one more conquerors-versus-previous-inhabitants conflict, like

/> the European settlers versus the Indians in the Americas in the eighteenth

/> century -- or, for that matter, the Israelites versus the Canaanites three

/> thousand years ago.


/> Those earlier conflicts were all settled by force, but the world

/> has changed and force doesn't work so well any more. Israel has the power

/> to hammer the Palestinians endlessly, but they don't give up and go away.

/> They cannot, and neither can the Israelis. Neither side can eliminate the

/> other, as has been amply and repeatedly demonstrated.


/> That doesn't necessarily mean that this conflict will ultimately be

/> settled by peaceful negotiation and compromise. It may mean that there will

/> be no solution of any sort for the foreseeable future, just an endless

/> series of bloody, indecisive clashes like the present one. Happy New Year.

/> ____________________________