An improved understanding of the dynamics of the conflict between Hamas and Israel — one that goes beyond “they started it” — is probably a prerequisite to any enduring reduction of the violence and the terrible human suffering that the conflict now entails.
A detailed new assessment (pdf) by an analyst at the U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute traces the evolution of the Israel-Hamas conflict prior to the end of the recent ceasefire and identifies steps that both sides would likely have to take in order to arrive at a long-term truce.
“Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have a unified position towards the other,” writes Sherifa Zuhur, professor of Islamic and regional studies at the Strategic Studies Institute. “Each group is socialized in particular ways, through the educational system, employment experiences; and for Israelis, in the military, in political parties, families, and bureaucracies.”
Based on her own interviews and analyses, the author attempts to elucidate the social, cultural and political factors at work.
A struggle to control the narrative of the conflict is itself part of the conflict and Prof. Zuhur’s account may not be fully embraced by anyone. On the whole, her analysis seems more sympathetic to Hamas, whose objective, she says rather incongruously, “is not the destruction of Israel” but only the “liberation of Palestine.”
But even those who cannot accept her terms or the way she frames some of the issues may find food for thought in her 100-page paper (which does not represent an official U.S. Army position).
She concludes optimistically that “each side is still capable of revising its desired endstate and of the necessary concessions to establish and preserve a long-term truce, or even a longer-term peace.”
See “Hamas and Israel: Conflicting Strategies of Group-Based Politics” by Sherifa Zuhur, U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, December 2008.