Positive Developments In Gaza

Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, but I’m surprised not to have seen anyone comment on this article from today’s New York Times.

GAZA — Seven months after Israel started a fierce three-week military campaign here to stop rockets from being fired on its southern communities, Hamas has suspended its use of rockets and shifted focus to winning support at home and abroad through cultural initiatives and public relations.

The aim is to build what leaders here call a “culture of resistance,” the topic of a recent two-day conference. In recent days, a play has been staged, a movie premiered, an art exhibit mounted, a book of poems published and a television series begun, most of it state-sponsored and all focused on the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. There are plans for a documentary competition.

This seems to me to be a very promising development. As the article notes, there’s little doubt that the abatement in rocket attacks will be viewed by some as vindication for Israel’s misguided invasion of Gaza in January, but if this is successful — and I think it will be — it will strongly demonstrate the strategic folly of the invasion. Between the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and India’s path to independence from the British Empire, there’s very powerful evidence to support the efficacy of nonviolent dissent. Given the intensity of scrutiny and passions on both sides of the debate, I think there’s little room for something like this to go unnoticed.

If Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza can stick with this plan, it seems to one of two things could happen. First, draw down of tensions met with with loosing of the Israeli blockade could build positive momentum leading towards a peaceful two-state solution. Obviously, a lot needs to happen — and crucially, Israel needs to stop settlement activity elsewhere — but reversing the trajectory is an important step. Alternatively, if Israel mainatins the status quo, its position will grow increasingly untenable, and perhaps, could result in greater pressure from the West to make concessions. Considering Israel receives some $3 billion in direct aid from the United States, there’s cause for hope that Western pressure could produce real change. I realize there are a lot of big “ifs,” but there’s one less than yesterday.

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