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In case you missed this UPDATE

UPDATE, AUGUST 3: JJ Goldberg of the Jewish Daily Forward is, I hope, on top of the news this morning. He has a rundown of a possible scenario to bring the carnage in Gaza to closure. Whether Netanyahu will follow this path may be up in the air. Reading between the lines, it appears that the Israeli military thinks its job is done. (Goldberg is my neighbor and I salute his general sanity on Israel and his ability to keep five or six conflicting ideas in the air at the  same time.) Jewish Forward

August 2: PM Netanyahu has issued marching orders to President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and perhaps the rest of us: "Netanyahu told [U.S. Ambassador] Shapiro the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to the people. Netanyahu added that he now "expected" the U.S. and other countries to fully support Israel's offensive in Gaza...."  AP at Yahoo News

Obama and Kerry seemed to have clicked their heels and saluted. "I have been very clear throughout this crisis that Israel has a right to defend itself.  No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities and people having to rush to bomb shelters every 20 minutes or half hour.  No country can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land that can be used to launch terrorist attacks. And so, not only have we been supportive of Israel in its right to defend itself." 8/1 Obama News Conference. Kerry's statement.

In the meantime, "Hamas Says It Isn't Holding Missing Israeli Officer." Hamas also says that the confrontation with Israeli soldiers began at 7 AM, an hour before the cease fire was to begin. Israel says it was 9:34.  NYTimes  Different time zones??  And per the missing soldier: Are soldiers "kidnapped" or "abducted" in war time, or are they captured? 

Turns out: Hamas is not holding Israeli officer. The Israeli military says he was killed in action on Friday. AP

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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"Obama and Kerry seemed to have clicked their heels and saluted."  Curious that you would use a metaphor that associates Israel with history's most murderous scourage of Semitic people.

Really, MOS?  What is the most appropriate response for an American administration according to your thinking?  John Kerry has been vilified in the Israeli press of late because he has been so honestly critical of Israeli urban warfare in Gaza.

Just whenever Hamas is on the verge of winning the propaganda struggle with the Israelis, they go and do something really stupid which shows the real depth of their duplicity and mindless rage.  Hamas proves yet again their real thirst for Israeli blood.  

No revolutionary discipline.  No strategic thinking beyond the immediate rage.  No hope for a better life for millions of Palestinians.

To be fair, it has to be said:   That if Israel continues down this path, eventually their savagery will come home to roost, as it always does.  And the horror of that outcome is beyond imagination.

Maybe Israel is not any longer losing the contest of public opinion.  There's been a lot in the news the last few days about the badness of Hamas.  I saw this news video from the UK Independent about the people in Gaza hating Hamas, and usually the UK press is very anti-Israel ...

Oh, MOS:  It just occurred to me that perhaps you could report on some of the reasons why the Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis have been strangely silent about their support for their brother Arabs in Hamas in this latest combat with Israel?

Could it be that they are as disgusted with Hamas as Israel is?  Could it be that they privately would like to see Israel wipe out Hamas for them?  Could it be that the Arab dictatorial governments - who get a lot of support from the US - would like to see the popularly elected Hamas leadership crushed because it makes them look bad on the Arab street?

Just asking ... 

The more I think about it the more I have to conclude that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are probably playing their weak cards just about right.

Oh oops!  ;)  actually that's Fox news, which may explain the content.

JJ @ 1pm: A military metaphor of clicking heels and saluting means to convey an immediate response to "stop second guessing me." Militaries around the world (except perhaps the French and Italians) are known to respond to orders by clicking and saluting, including the U.S. military.  Why do you choose to associate it only with the German SS in WWII?  Do you imagine our president's behavior mimics theirs?

Hamas goes and does "something really stupid." That seems about right. Except, of course, until recently there was almost no coverage of what Hamas said or did. That is slowly changing (cf. Charlie Rose interview with Mashaal and even the link above to the NYTimes). Are they telling the truth about the time of the battle with Israeli soldiers? Is Israel? Should the abduction/kidnapping/capture of a soldier take our attention from the 35 or more Palestinians killed in Rafah by Israeli shelling in response?

I think the most appropriate response for U.S. officials is to press ahead with a cease-fire effort, to rein in the apologias for Benjamin Netanyahu, and to cut off subventions and arms unntil a cease fire has firmly taken hold.

Your last two sentences capture my fears exactly: "if Israel continues down this path, eventually their savagery will come home to roost, as it always does.  And the horror of that outcome is beyond imagination."  As long as American politicians salute Netanyahu, he will persist along with his cabinet and right-wing allies on a destructive and perhaps suicidal path.

Just because Hamas is stupid, doesn't make Israel smart.

JJ at 1:11 PM: In a comment at 8/1/14; 3:54 PM, I included a link to the NY Times story about Egypt, etc.

I repost here;   "Here is an article per Bill deHaas's comment on some Arab nations' (Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) views of Hamas. "Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse than Israel, Stay Silent." NY Times, July 31. As far as I can tell, Turkey and Lebanon do not share this view. Syria? Busy with other issues, I suppose. Iraq? Ditto.

The story identifies opposition to Iran as the common source of their convergence on this issue.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that the Israeli public is fully united behind Netanyahu:  I guess that just shows my ignorance of the situation - and perhaps my failure to appreciate the fear that Israelis feel towards Hamas. Still, it's hard for me to understand when around 80% of Gaza deaths have been civilians, including over 200 children:!/image/2320157484...

87-95% of Israelis support that?

"Anti-Semitism Rises in Europe Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict"


I douby Israelis support killing children.  Why does no one seem to ask  about the morality of the Gaza public supporting targetting civilians with suicide bombs and rockets?

I think geography matters in any armed confrontation between Gaza and Israel.

Gaza has a population density of something like 13,000 people per square mile (Israel's density is something like 300). Israel may claim that Hamas stores its armaments around heavily populated areas, but what armaments would NOT be in a heavily populated area in Gaza. Israel also claims that Hamas fires on its own people. I'm not sure it needs to. All it needs to do is start firing wildly into Israel, and Israel will return fire back in spades, and given the population density, that's going to result in calamitous civilian casualties.

The Israelis have shown disregard for Palestinian life, freedom, and property in the past. Up until 1966, Arab Israeli citizens had to carry papers and follow a curfew. Israelis provoke Palestinians with West Bank and Gazan settlements. When Israeli soldiers are attacked, the response is swift and fatal, often without regard for the ages of the people involved. Gaza is surrounded by walls and the sea, and getting supplies is often difficult and slow. 

So who benefits when rockets are lobbed into Israel from Gaza, and Israel retaliates with superior forces? Not the Gazans or Israelis. But Hamas ... they get to keep that narrative of Israeli oppression alive and stay in power. 


Suggest that the Israel captain was killed in the fire fight that broke the ceasefire. 

Bibi's response about *second guessing* - needs to be politely and diplomatically turned on its head.  There is a conference in Cairo that started today with all parties (except Israel) to find a way to end this conflict - some of the aims are to find a way to supplant Hamas; to open the borders of Gaza; and achieve demilitarization of Gaza linked to a two state solution that happens in steps over the next year.

Fact - Hamas was losing its position of power in Gaza prior to this conflict (they had been forced to sign a merger with Abbas). Yes, Hamas was also losing its support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE. And yet, Israel did not act on that movement by offering to work with the Palestinian people or Eygpt - rather, they retaliated when attacks began.  Suggest that a different response (not short term but long term) might have altered the way things have happened over the last month.  What does Israel expect when they have literally laid seige to Gaza for 7 years.

Isareli public supports this campaign - go back historically and you will see that these types of public opinion polls have all shown the same results during a conflict - but the minute the conflict is over.....the Israeli public are very divided over how to move forward.

Here is another source that offsets the hyperventilation of Mr. Jenkins:

Most especially recommend the links within this paragraph:

"This is the “inevitability” she and other Israelis wish to challenge. Important global pressure for change comes from civil society agents like, in the United States, the Jewish Voice for Peace. Within the political establishment in Israel, the Meretz Party is committed to breaking the binary thinking Omer worries over in pursuit of preferential options for peace. What an event it would be, she muses, what a political earthquake, were the tireless Secretary Kerry to consult with Meretz leaders the next time he lands in Israel instead of dutifully and futilely visiting with Likud leaders. “That would be a very bold, creative move, but I don’t know if [the Obama administration has] the courage or the political capital to do that.”

Omer insists all the same that the existence of Meretz and other persistent actors for peace in Israeli civil society—Breaking the Silence, an organization of I.D.F. veterans testifying to the reality of the occupation; Combatants for Peace, a joint campaign by Palestinians and Israelis; and the Coalition of Women for Peace, a feminist organization against the occupation of Palestine and for a just peace—should be a source of hope that a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians remains possible.

According to Omer, an honest dialogue will begin with a shift away from the media focus on what has been the purported the cause of the current crisis, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens on the West Bank—a crime Hamas leaders deny any connection to—to the true source of the conflict, the outrage in the Netanyahu government over the success of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas in June and, most important, the persistence of the 47-year-old occupation."

Especially commend the last line - success of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas and the 47 year old occupation.

Going along with Netanyahu is not a service to Israel.

Amos Oz asks two good questions:

"Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?"


David Ignatius on Kerry's diplomatic fiascos:

"Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza."

Patrick Malloy: In the same DW interview, "Lose-lose situation for Israel," Amos Oz also says: "My suggestion is to approach Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - the ed.] and to accept the terms - which the whole world knows - for a two-state-solution and coexistence between Israel and the West Bank: Two capitals in Jerusalem, a mutually agreed territorial modification, removal of most of the Jewish settlements from the West Bank.

"When Ramallah and Nablus on the West Bank live on in prosperity and freedom, I believe that the people in Gaza will sooner or later do to Hamas what the people of Romania did to Ceausescu. I do not know how long it will take, but it is destined to happen - simply because the people in Gaza will be very jealous of the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by their brothers and sisters on the West Bank in the state of Palestine. This in my view is the solution, although this solution cannot be implemented in 24 hours or 48 hours."

That people can see picture after picture of wounded children suffering  and still support the bombing of Gaza is astounding to me.In the name of good vs. evil no less.An absolute travesty this whole thing is.


Hamas is simply utilising it's psywar tactics:  Initiate an unprovoked launch of missiles into Israel, with their missile batteries located in densely populated facilities, with missile supplies and various munitions located in schools, hospitals, etc.  When Israel responds to defend itself, children and other civilians are maimed and killed, and the dependable media drones respond with outrage, and Israel is the villain.  And this happens over and over again.  Guess what?  All of the children killed and maimed is on Hamas.  Period.

I am always surprised at the success hamas has with these tactics.  But Hamas will get theirs one of these days, and when it does, I will be there to say I told you so.  Or not.

Please discuss the fact that these massacres of Palestinian children are funded by the US.

Israel has amazingly efficient anti-missile defense. Only 3 civilian deaths on the Israeli side since the beginning! The thousands of rockets launched by the Hamas are frightening but not lethal. The Israel defense system knows how to intercept them. 

Given that, why is it necessary for Israel to go after the missile batteries, killing 242 Palestinian children in the process? It is possible that the Hamas has positioned its weapons near schools on purpose (using classical war tactics), but so what? How does that justify Israel's actions? 

It doesn't.

About the rockets fired by Hamas ... the reason they haven't killed more people is because of the Iron Dome system, but people *have* been killed (28 people)  by the rockets and people have been maimed by the rockets (thousands) and there has been property damage.  Even the rockets that are intercepted siill cause damage as the hot shrapnel from the blown-up rockets falls.    Speaking of photos of maimed children, take a look at this photo of a 9  years old Israeli child who lost a leg to a rocker ... Human Rights Watch has called the Palestinian rocketing of Israel a war crime because of the targeting of civilians.  You can read more about the rockets at this wikipedia page if you care to ...

There is no country in the world with the means to retaliate which would not retaliate if thousands of rockets were constantly being fired at their civilian population.  Why is it so surprising that the Israelis are doing so?

PS - which is not to say I approve of all the Israelis are doing.

Crystal, when you say

people *have* been killed (28 people)  by the rockets

I assume that you got your information from which is linked to by the wikipedia web page that you reference. Note, however, that this counts people since 2004, civilians and military together. If you count, as I was doing, casualties since the start of this war last month, the list is much shorter. That link helpfully gives information about each case, and so you can see that only 3 of the 2014 dead are civilians: Dror Khenin (37 years old), Ouda Lafi al-Waj (Bedouin, 32 years old), and Narakorn Kittiyangkul (Thai national, 36 years old). Number of children: 0.

Yes, people have been injured and there has been property damage, but if you want to go there, you need to compare that to injuries and property damage on the Gaza side... 

There is no country in the world with the means to retaliate which would not retaliate if

This is an extreme case of "retaliation". It is insane.

I know Israelis who are aghast at what their country is doing. I know Israelis who are risking arrest by doing peace demonstrations. We are not doing them or their country any favor by supporting unconscionable actions by their government. True friends of Israel must speak up against this war.  

Crystal, if your point is to object to my contention that the anti-missible Israeli defense is amazingly efficient, observe that the Iron Dome system was launched in 2011, and that in November 2012,

 defense reporterMark Thompson wrote that while these numbers were impossible to confirm, the "lack of Israeli casualties suggests Iron Dome is the most-effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen."

The Iron Dome is a game-changer. Israel is currently almost immune to rockets sent from Gaza. The technology may change, but that's the state for now. Given that, killing scores of Palestinian children again and again to get to rockets hidden nearby is morally indefensible, and responsible Israelis understand that.


Guess what?  All of the children killed and maimed is on Hamas.  Period.

Well, sorta. But as George D. pointed out above, Israel did nothing to take advantage of disenchantment with Hamas among Gazans and other Arab nations. And Hamas and other insurgent groups have been able to flourished among Palestinian Arabs because of Israeli policies toward native groups since 1948. 

This civil war has been going on for more than 60 years, with Zionists and Arab Palestininian groups endlessly keeping the radicalization of their movements going by conveniently martyring each other. Nobody's going to come out of this mess looking too good.


Yes, the info was from the wikipedia page and was for all rocket attacks over the years.  I was responding to your question of why Israel could not just put up with the rocket attacks without retaliating since the attacks have killed so few people.  I think what you ask of them is unrealistic - I don't think any other country would just not retaliate under the same circumstances.  *How* they are retaliating is another thing.

Soory, meant to write  "Claire"


I think it's a question of degree. You're right that it is not strictly true that rocket attacks do not kill anyone at all. What I ask of the Israelis, given that they have the upper hand, is to not have a 100-to-1 ratio in civilian casualties. I do not call that retaliation. What if they went to 1000000-to-1 instead of 100-to-1? Puff! No more Gazaouis. Problem solved. Would that be ok? Surely not. How many factors of 10 are needed before "retaliation" becomes "massacre"?

Certainly, at this point, the people of Gaza look more and more threatening for Israel, when one thinks about the future. If I were living in Gaza, I think I would probably become a "terrorist" at this point even if I wasn't one a month ago. 

If I were living in Gaza, I think I would probably become a "terrorist" at this point even if I wasn't one a month ago.

Sadly I think the same is probably true of the people in Israel right now.  War just makes everyone hate the other guys even more.


I don't know if anyone will be interested, but I read this post at Oxford University's Practical Ethics blog today on the conflict and it seemed to go into all the bits that make the ethics of this conflict difficult to figure out for some us us   ...

@  Bill de Haas:  "Hyperventilating"?  Really?

I think I was being most sober about the tragedy that is taking place in Gaza.  For all our power and money - to say nothing of decades of political capital sunk into the Middle East, the US is essentially powerless to stop the slaughter of women and children.  

MOS is the one who hysterically depicts the American president and secretary of state as "click[ing] their heals and salut[ing]" to the Israeli prime minister.  No hyperbole there???

Again I say:  No one, either on this blog or in the media, seems to take note that except for the Turks, that most of the Arab dictatorships seem content to have the Israelis dismantle Hamas militarily and politically, giving at the same time the Iranians a punch on the jaw in the process.  It would appear that they welcome the Israelis doing their bloody knife work for them.

Don't you find it the least bit ironic that it is an Arab proverb:  "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Where is your outrage about that [MOS/deHaas]?  Or would that be "hyperventilating" on my part?

Sorry, in fact advocate that Hamas be included in discussions, etc.  But, the twisting and ever changing alliances and allegiances don't instill much confidence. 

Lont term strategy - work with Abbas and set up two states and clearly sideline Hamas in the process - based upon a clear agreement to demililtarize Gaza.  Open Gaza borders; invest in its infrastructure, social agencies, and support businesses.  Is there a risk?  Yes, but this way Israelis can go over and around Hamas and start to leverage the Gaza people in the effort to set up two states.  I know - it will never happen - it is much easier to use military force.

Remember when Philly police bombed a cult killing women and children and destoyed a neighborhood?

A stinking tactic...

 Sure , terrorists and bad guys will always needed to be rooted out. But Isreal and it's tactics stink. They had better start thinking up better tactics... maybe start by giving incentives to the PLO in the west bank..something like what happened in No Ireland... make concessions.   That's my second guess... Bibi.  

JJ at 6:57: Did you bother to read my response on saluting? And clicking heels? @8/2, 1:50 pm. Shape up or be barred from my posts.

Hysterical, what sexist shit! If you want to participate pay attention and don't show up ignorant of what has been siad.

Crystal Watson: Did read the Practical Ethics post. Not uncommon for professionalized ethicists to try to match up situations with ethical theories and finding the situations not quite up to professional snuff. But good of you to seek it out.

Thanks, Margaret.  I've been trying to read up on the conflict.

Netanyu is out of order in upbraiding Kerry and Obama. He interfered in an American presidential election by inviting Romney. A real no no. 

The reality is that much if not all of the terrorism that is so a part of this world is rooted in the Israel/Palestine question. Israel, as well as everyone else involved, should be shamed to come up with a permainent solution. Another irony is that the Israelis were terrorists as they demanded to have the right to Palestine .

This warfare illustrates entirely the dilemma of modern conditions of war: namely who do you shoot at? Innocent and uninvolved civilians are intermixed among seriously armed and vicious insurgents who care not about what is "fair" or reasonable. They will hide in plain sight among their own people who now become victims and hostages. Look at all the "Great Wars" as well as the smaller recdfent wars and the highest casualties are always among civilians, mostly women and children. The ultimate war weapon will be a nuclear wastage of an entire country. Can any of that ever be considered "just?"

MOS:  Sorry you're so upset.  I'm aware of what you posted: I'm just not convinced of your argument(s). I am perhaps paying attention too much, just not how you expect or respect.

I'm old enough to remember Georgetown professor and US ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick - a Reagan Democrat - getting thunderous applause for delivering a good political punchline by labelling Democrats as "the blame-America-first caucus."  

I don't buy that line - nor am I directing that epithet toward you, but I do believe that progressives need to be aware that despite our dominant American ideology of preeminent self-importance [I believe its dressed-up expression is America is the indispenable nation], America is not totally responsible for every political and military atrocity around the world - specifically the IDF in Gaza.

As to your "sexist s _ _ t" comment, if I responded in kind as you're obviously hoping I will, that may not get you banned from dotCommonweal, but it would be sufficient to get me silenced.  

No harm, no foul.  Small potatoes ...

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