War and Peace in Gaza: An Alternative Strategy

01/16/2009 04:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For too many decades Israel has shown a shocking lack of positive planning and productive thinking in its strategic dealings with Palestinian leadership and the fundamentalist Arab world. Because of this Israel is too often misunderstood, the lies of their enemies too often believed.

When ceasefires and agreements are violated again and again by Palestinian leaders, backed by the most ruthless members of the Arab world - when lives of Jews and Palestinians alike are constantly under threat of violence -- there is an Israeli military response without a plan for what follows. This leads to sympathy for the suffering of Palestinians and further empowerment of corrupt "leadership."

Anthony Cordsman, Middle East scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C., has been highly critical of this lack of sound strategic planning, asking what will follow the physical weakening of Hamas. In his words: "As we have seen all too clearly from U.S. mistakes, any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory."

Humankind has a short term memory deficiency, one of the reasons that Ike insisted that concentration camps be documented by photos and film. Many have forgotten that leaders before Hamas, The Palestinian Fatah, stole millions of dollars provided for basic needs of their people. They made themselves wealthy beyond belief while their people endured misery in all facets of their lives.

Enter Hamas, whose leaders reject personal wealth and who provide basic services, while at the same time they continue in their fierce commitment to wipe out Israel. When "leaders," no matter how ruthless, distorted, and pathologic their thinking, relieve suffering and appear to offer hope, they instill rock bedded loyalty. Their ABCs are explicit: feed, clothe, provide, not only food but outlet for simmering, sizzling rage and relentless violence, with no true concern for the lives, well being, and futures of their own people.

The Mafia's strength was based on the same principle. Regardless of the sociopathic paths of their existence, they offered their neighborhoods immediate relief from the brutalities of poverty. They also offered opportunities for expression of rage fueled hatred. And in return, they received fierce loyalty.

Israel and her supporters are now at a crossroads of golden opportunity. The Israelis have learned well the tactical lessons of their failure in Lebanon, but to paraphrase Anthony Cordsman, "What now?"

I suggest what I have believed for decades: an international military presence organized by the UN, coupled with an organized rational, humane, and savvy battle for the hearts and minds of the suffering.

The people who brought life to the desert can choose to demonstrate in word and deed that they will no longer stand by and see their half brothers and sisters, those with whom they share the same father, Abraham, suffer at the hands of leaders who exploit and manipulate them. They can choose to turn the passions of war into productivity and build and rebuild homes, neighborhoods, hospitals in Gaza; they can choose to provide schools where there is an opportunity to learn, to think, to question. They can choose to provide food for the hungry and work for the desperate.

Israelis can chose to invite volunteers from all over the world to participate in what the writer and activist, Claudia Horwitz, calls "spiritual activism" - a concern for the well being of all people. They can invite others to Israel to join their cause. Toward this end 150 committed international students from the Communication School of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, a private university established 14 years ago by the scholar Uriel Reichman, are posting on foreign blogs 24/7 in 65 languages including Arabic, responding with fact and reason to hostile and irrational misrepresentations, lies, distortions, and expressions of hatred.

This determined effort could inspire and unite thinking people everywhere as well as propel the UN to rise to the level of common sense, decency, and an active presence in Gaza -- and work toward the goal that propelled its birth -- peace, health and opportunity for all people everywhere.