The AJDS Executive found itself with two different viewpoints over the current outbreak of violence between Israel and the Hamas Government in Gaza.  While there was much in common, there were different emphases. We felt that it was best to present the two points of view to the AJDS members and the public, even though on most points there is agreement. To us, this  is the essence of democratic process and education towards more informed points of view.
23 November 2012.
Viewpoint One
This viewpoint has been finalised as a ceasefire goes into place. Though the situation may change on the ground, the broad thrust of our argument stands.
We strongly condemn Israel’s latest, and ongoing, attacks on Gaza and its people. The launching of “Operation Pillar of Defense”, which builds on the continuing land, air and water blockade of Gaza, will do nothing to further peace and security for the people of Israel and Palestine. Instead, it continues and exacerbates a cycle of asymmetrical violence which will harm, traumatise, and kill both Palestinians and Israelis, though at this time, at least 160 Palestinians have been killed compared to 5 Israelis, without even accounting for injuries on both sides.
The cycle of violence must be broken as it serves nothing for peace and instead only entrenches hatred and pain from all sides. Israel, as the party to the violence with greater military power, needs to cease hostilities immediately.  We reject the use of extrajudicial assassinations as a means of resolving problems, and its associated “collateral damage” – the innocent civilian deaths perpetrated by Israel in the process. It is clear that Israel is again engaged in an action akin to the horrific attacks of Operation Cast Lead in 2009 that included war crimes because it has been able to get away with it. We call on Israel to immediately end its preparations for war and call on the Australian Government to condemn the attacks in the strongest possible terms.
Despite the propaganda spin, Israel does not face an existential crisis from Hamas, it can afford to engage in negotiations, and there have been signs for several years that Hamas is prepared to come to an accommodation with Israel. The blockade on Gaza is also completely unsustainable. It inevitably leads to outbreaks of violence such as this one, and the abuse of human rights in Gaza by Hamas under the cover of isolation and external threat. The blockade must end immediately, not only due to its crushing social and economic consequences for people in Gaza, but also in order to regularise trade and help put an end to the smuggling business that is benefiting armed groups.
We believe that Israel, with the international community, should sit down for serious negotiations with the Palestinian governments in both Gaza and the West Bank aimed at urgently addressing the cause of ongoing violence in the region – the ongoing statelessness of 4 million Palestinian people who have been living under Israeli military occupation for 45 years.  At the same time,  the international community need to work with all Palestinian interests to build a strong civil society that can move away from self-defeating tactics that are all-too-often adopted as a means of confronting Israel.
Viewpoint 2
The latest violence in Gaza is one more page in the sorry history of that tiny strip of land. From the time that Egypt relinquished it to Israel in the June 1967 war, it has been a monumental defeat for Israel – out of all proportion to its size – and a tragic disaster for its residents.
They have been failed by their leaders, failed by militants determined to have their revolution by firing rockets into Israel, failed by Israel who is the occupying authority and bears a responsibility to protect them, and failed by the international community. Few seem really interested in their plight. Even the peace activists who have tried to break the Israeli naval blockade and deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, seem more interested in making grand political gestures than making a real difference to Palestinians. And Israel’s actions in 2010, resulting in the death of nine of those activists in international waters was incompetent and negligent.
The establishment of Israeli settlements in Gaza was a failure. It required huge resources from Israel to provide security for 8,000 settlers amid 1.6 million Palestinians. The 2005 unilateral withdrawal by Israel from Gaza, carried out for demographic and cost reasons, was a failed opportunity to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians for the mutual benefit of both sides. Ever since then, some advocates for Israel have falsely claimed that Israel’s unilateral withdrawal was a gesture of peace. The historical record does not support that claim. As much as Israel has justifiably complained about rocket fire from Gaza, Palestinians have had no reason to be grateful to Israel for the treatment they have received.
At every turn Israel has managed to add to its failure. From its land, sea and air blockade that has made life miserable for the civilian population but has not stopped militants from acquiring weapons, to Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009 in which some 1400 Palestinians died, many of whom were civilian, to the latest flare up and the assassination of Hamas military Chief Ahmed Jaabri, Israel has proved beyond doubt that whatever the provocation of Gaza militants in firing rockets into Israel, major military intervention is guaranteed to escalate the situation to the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians.
There is a fundamentally false assumption that Israel’s undisputed obligation to protect its own citizens requires a military response. If a fraction of the resources Israel devotes to its military campaigns were diverted to pursuing real negotiations with its perceived enemies, all parties would benefit.
Now that a ceasefire has been implemented, if anything is to be salvaged from the tragedy of 160 deaths and 1200 wounded in Gaza and 5 deaths and 240 wounded in Israel, it is well past time for negotiations to replace violence.
Our thoughts and sympathy are with all those affected by the violence through no fault of their own.