A Pyrrhic victory

European media consider Israel-Hamas war ‘a stalemate.’

daily highlighted the Jerusalem school ‘Hand to Hand’ for its work in bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian students in an effort of co-existence. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
daily highlighted the Jerusalem school ‘Hand to Hand’ for its work in bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian students in an effort of co-existence.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was accompanied by mellow tones in European newspapers.
“Even a cursory analysis of the outcome shows that neither side won very much in this latest conflict,” Anne Allmeling wrote in German daily Deutsche Welle. Like many other European journalists, she scoffed at both Hamas and Israel’s self-proclaimed victories.
First she took on Israelis who are celebrating, writing that the damage caused by the IDF to civilians and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip has made the country open to reproach, and that it also lost “considerable” esteem in the process. Similarly dismissing a Hamas victory, she points out, “Only now has a cease-fire been agreed upon with Israel, one that fulfills just the bare minimum of its demands – and yet, Hamas is calling itself the victor. Let’s not forget that victory could have been proclaimed weeks ago... to speak of a ‘victory’ over the Israelis here makes the Palestinians look, well, not credible.”
While most European journalists reasoned between the two sides in a similar way, Italian journalist Lucio Caracacciolo was certain of the winner. He wrote in La Repubblica last week, “[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu has not achieved his goals, and the Islamists have won on points.” Caracacciolo’s perspective – which, it should be taken into account, is clearly influenced by realist discourse in political science – argues that the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas is part of a regional tragedy that runs through North Africa, the Levant and the Middle East – a departure from the typical resurgence of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
In such a torn landscape – with complicated religious and political alliances – Caracacciolo highlights, among other things, the dangerous rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
In his opinion, Hamas has more victories than Israel.
“Hamas has won because the Islamist movement has been strengthened, and can also boast of having endured the conflict and gained a few concessions,” Caracacciolo writes. On the Israeli side, he notes that the IDF has failed to destroy the Gaza tunnels. Furthermore, “the Israeli government is shaken by internal conflicts. The radical Right was questioning Netanyahu’s strength, but could not present any alternatives.”
Jacques Benillouche wrote in French Slate magazine that if Islamists claim this as a victory, it must be considered a slight one – as the more than 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas at Israeli towns caused minimal human damage, and were quickly destroyed by the IDF. “One even wonders if the Islamists are serious about peace, because the status quo ensures Israel’s survival as an independent entity.”
In a reference to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s roles in the security cabinet, Benillouche wrote, “A sword of Damocles [allusion to the story of Damocles, who wanted to be king but gave up his life of luxury after realizing a sword was hanging over his head by a single hair on a horse’s tail] is hanging over the head of the prime minister, whose coalition could break at any moment.”
IN OTHER NEWS FROM EUROPE french VILLAGE named ‘Death to Jews’ will go up for vote this month El País, Spain, August 6 An international petition to rename the French hamlet La Mort aux Juifs (“Death to Jews”) called on the government to take action as a gesture of tolerance, in the wake of rising anti-Semitism and nationalistic violence in the country. “The fact that this name has been maintained during the Napoleonic era of the emancipation of the Jews of France is surprising,” Shimon Samules, director of international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which started the petition, wrote in a letter to the French interior minister. “That it went unnoticed during the 70 years that followed France’s liberation from National Socialism and the Vichy regime is extremely shocking.”
Asked to comment, Emmanuel Courcier, one of four farmers in the roughly 2-km. area, referenced a similarly controversial case in Spain. After a referendum, the town Castrillo Matajudios (“Fort Kill Jews”) was renamed Mota de Judios (“Fort Hill of the Jew”). “There were just 52 people living in the Spanish town,” Courcier said, “but here are only four houses.”
Lessons against horror El País, Spain, August 8 In a departure from the Spanish paper’s coverage of Israel’s war with Hamas, Carmen Rengel, writing from Jerusalem, profiles the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School for Jewish Arab Education. With the start of the new school year, the article highlights the challenges that the institution, with Arab and Jewish students studying together, faces after such a traumatic summer. Education did not stop with summer vacation, and over the break students, parents and teachers got together once a week to march in solidarity and raise money for humanitarian packages to deliver to the Gaza Strip. Many parents praised the school for its work to promote tolerance and integration, but note society often criticizes them. “It’s tough, but it’s honest,” says Uri Ben-Tzion, father of one of the students.
He continues that sometimes his brothers won’t talk to his son because of fear they will get in a fight. The benefit of the school is that there is no “indoctrinated racism,” he adds, saying the benefit of the school is showing the other side, allowing them to practice living together and recognize the other not as a stranger, but as a friend.
History and myth: response to António Guerrero O Público, Portugal, August 7 Nova Aguia magazine director Renato Epiphanes takes O Público commentator António Gerrero to task, in regard to the right wing being in danger of turning history into myth. Gerrero had written earlier that his assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is perpetuated by the internal Jewish debate on Zionism’s legacy.
“The proto-Zionism of the 19th century was the ideal that made the creation of a Jewish state possible...
But the ideals of Zionism dissolved, or have undergone a transformation. Zionism has now turned to ideology, with anti-Zionism [reconfiguring] its image.”
Epiphanes answers that historical narratives in general take on mythic status on their own, and that it is not an argument unique to the Right. He draws parallels to Russian history, using the historical facts of the October 1917 revolution and transforming them into a mythical construct. That the mythic legacy of Lenin is good, compared to Stalin’s bad, inserts itself into the conscious of the people.