For a happier new year

Happy new year -- I mean, let's all work to make this year happier than the way it is starting out.

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza is a great crime, partly but only partly provoked by the crimes of Hamas. I can understand the terror and rage of Israelis, who on top of all their other fears now find that places as far from Gaza as Barsheeba can be hit by Hamas rockets, but this latest massive response is no more likely to succeed than any of its predecessors. The continuing asymmetric reciprocity of violence (you kill 4 of my people, I'll kill 400 of yours) has never brought peace but has instead intensified the desire for revenge by Palestinians. And with or without kassam rockets, vengeful people always find some ways -- suicide bombs, runaway bulldozers, etc. -- to wreak their vengeance. Israeli politicians surely know this. So why do they, counter to the advice of their own generals, wage such an offensive at this moment? I think The Independent's Adrian Hamilton has the only plausible answer: Adrian Hamilton: Pure politics is driving this war.

I'm back at my desk (actually a new desk, in a new house) in Spain now and plan to resume more frequent blogging, mostly on events in Spain, which I am following closely. But sometimes more distant events, like Gaza, are so great that they demand comment even from non-experts. I am no expert on Mideast politics, but as a sociologist I do know how to recognize patterns of human conflict. This one won't be easily resolved, because the forces driving the conflict include powerful political pressures in both Hamas (which can't surrender its unyielding hostility to Israel without dissolving into nothing) and the two big right-wing Israeli parties, all of whom need to be seen to be violent. Best bet for the U.S. is to step back; U.S. government interference has always been naive and ended up being used by the hostile parties (mostly by Israel) for their own hostile ends. See How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in the New York Review of Books -- just out and already outdated by this latest attack, but with good historical analysis of the past failures of U.S. intervention. Also interesting are these Egyptian views of the conflict.