When times are tough

Europeans dust off their thinking caps.

An iron dome launches rockets to intercept incoming rockets from Gaza on Tuesday. (photo credit: REUTERS)
An iron dome launches rockets to intercept incoming rockets from Gaza on Tuesday.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
First there was a loud bang. Suddenly the conflict in Gaza was very close. The night sky flashed brightly as the passengers of the Aida Diva watched rocket debris falling on the deck of their cruise ship. That night, the passengers traveling with the Rostock shipping company witnessed the conflict escalate between Israel and the Palestinians.
On-the-ground reporting by European news outlets gave a firsthand account of the rise in tensions. Insights and features mostly came from the cultivated people of France. The people that once powered the enlightenment in Europe with liberal discussions in coffee-shops and indeed, nude pictures of royalty among the bourgeoisie, last week debated in social media where indicatively, strong imagery was just as popular as textual afterthought.
Debates on Twitter-channel #France24 followed the prime-time TV debate that hosted four high-profile pundits. Majed Bamya, a Palestinian diplomat, was one of them, who admitted to not being an objective expert. Among other things he said: “The young Palestinian has been killed in Jerusalem which is illegally occupied by Israel. It’s not the first Palestinian, nor the first Palestinian child who has been killed. It’s a reminder once again...”
The hostess tried to interrupt, but failed. She asked who was behind the kidnappings to Michel Ben Ami, a pundit speaking to the Israeli position: “There are terrorists everywhere. In Israel they are outlaws. In Palestine, they are in the law. They are in the government.
In Israel, we criticize hate. In Palestine, they are taught to hate Israelis. One week prior to the kidnapping, a leader of Hamas declared on TV that he had kidnapped Israelis. It’s not the first, or the second time this has happened...”
In Le Monde, the largest French daily, Ofer Salzberg, a Middle East specialist, answered a series of questions about the political situation in Israel that gives a good summary of many pundits over the past week with a characteristic realist discourse. “[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu realizes that if this formula – ‘peaceful calm’ – fails, then he must order a ground operation. Netanyahu adapts to a new reality.” Another highlight, “strategically, Israel is ready to reinstate peace and wants to do it at least cost.” Or, “Netanyahu does not want to destroy Hamas, but to make Hamas kneel [before Israel].”
On the other hand, Yaron Ezrahi, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, set a more idealistic tone.
“[Former prime minister] Ehud Olmert was pretty brave when it came to advance peace negotiations, but very bad in the conduct of military operations. With Netanyahu, it is the reverse.” And, “In the coming months, we will see the dangerous fantasy of a military solution outweigh the negotiation and complex reality on the ground. But this may act as a boomerang and cause eventual desire for new leadership [to a leftwing government] for the Israeli side.”
Hamas targets Israel as a reaction to ‘Zionist aggression’
Le Parisien, France, July 7
A Palestinian teen was burned to death, followed by the arrest of six Israeli suspects [Editor’s note: A seventh suspect was arrested on July 9]. Several rockets were shot from Gaza and were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
The rockets exploded over Ashdod and Netivot. Warning sirens went off in Beit Shemesh, 45 km. from the Gaza Strip, not far from Jerusalem. According to the Israeli army, 100 rockets have been fired into Israel over the course of one night, lightly wounding a soldier and inflicting damage on homes. The armed wing of Hamas quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The rockets are a natural response to Israeli crimes against our people. Israel understands the message – We do not fear threats and we will respond to Israel’s crimes,” said a Hamas leader.
An American is beaten in an Israeli prison
Libération, France, July 5
The United States has voiced concerns after learning that the cousin of the young Palestinian who was kidnapped and burned alive had been “severely beaten” in an Israeli prison. The State Department condemned the excessive use of force that was directed toward Tareq Abu Khdeir, 16. Jennifer Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, confirmed that the teenager was detained by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem. Washington “sends out a message of deep concern in respect of the rising violence and calls on all parties to take measures to restore calm and prevent further innocent people from getting hurt.”
The prime minister promises murderers of Palestinian teenager feel ‘the full arm of the law’
Le Figaro, France, July 7.
Both Israeli media and officials did not show any shortage of vocabulary: “Shame,” “nightmare” and “diabolical crime,” were among the few choice words mentioned in denouncing those accused of kidnapping Israelis.
Subsequently, Israelis killed Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in vengeance for the murder of three young Israelis whose bodies were found last week. Netanyahu called the father of the victim in order to ensure that the murderers will be “judged and punished to the fullest extent provided by law.” Social networks and blogs are ablaze with posts. According to some of them, the suspects are close to a group of supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, known for their anti-Arab racist actions. They are also members in a right-wing religious movement. They have been found “acting in a suspicious way” by a surveillance camera.
Netanyahu has faced criticism by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman for not launching a military invasion in Gaza. Netanyahu has highlighted the importance of “keeping a cool head” for the moment.
Israel and Hamas are on the verge of a large-scale w
El Mundo, Spain, July 5
The situation is heating up in the Middle East. The attack on Beersheba has significantly increased the chances of an offensive against Hamas in Gaza. One rocket has fallen into an open field as another was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense battery. Ruvik Danilovich, the mayor of Beersheba, has criticized Netanyahu for being too passive. “For three weeks, Israeli citizens have been fired upon incessantly. The role of government is to defend its citizens. It does not suffice to simply contain the terrorist attacks,” he said.