After a shaky ceasefire for six months, the fragile semblance of stability has finally ended in Gaza, and the area has returned to being a state of exception. The devastating air raids carried out by Israel on Gaza, killing more than 200 civilians, made a mockery of existing international laws and procedures. Since June 2007, a “golden period” for the Palestinian movement had prevailed over Gaza. After its incredible victory in a general election the year before, Hamas had finally wrested control over the area. Though a pre-eminent force behind the Palestinian cause, Hamas was still unable to win power after winning an election. It had to fight its rival, Fatah, and smaller factions to arrive at a position from where it could hope to restore normalcy to Gaza. To this end, it suspended large-scale attacks on Israel, although a few militant groups did continue to fire rockets across the border. There was provocation indeed; but nothing deserving the deadly retribution that Israel has chosen to retaliate with.
Israel’s response, however, does not totally surprise. In the four decades it has spent locked in a no-win struggle with Palestine, a palpable asymmetry has dominated the terms of the battle. In March 2008, after yet another sporadic outburst of home-made rockets from Gaza, Israel’s deputy defence minister threatened the Palestinians with “holocaust”. Even considering the frequent suicide attacks, this was a shuddering hyperbole. A radical discrepancy has marked the history of the struggle in West Asia, owing to the unconditional support that Israel has enjoyed from the West, and particularly from the United States of America. Instead of the routine “peace negotiations” (that George Bush and Condoleezza Rice have by now turned into a ringingly hollow phrase), one hopes that Barack Obama would make a firmer resolve to end the seemingly endless crisis in the region.