The Height of the Flames
Palestine, Vietnam and imperial rage
What will happen to Gaza? Since October 7th, I’ve written about Israel and its ongoing occupation of Palestine on two separate occasions. Each time, the beleaguered strip, under an indirect occupation since Ariel Sharon’s 2005 withdrawal from the territory, was impossible to factor into my previous analysis. Its long-term status is still far from settled. Rather than make any assumptions as to what Israel planned to do with the territory following its nigh-guaranteed upcoming invasion, I chose to wait for signs from Israeli leaders as for its future plans. I watched as the Israeli War Cabinet was officially sworn in. All they spoke of was defeating Hamas, but nothing of what could come after. After that, I followed the forced evacuation of over a million people with only a 24-hour notice. Still, no mention of what Israel plans to do with the territory they are set to invade. Following that, I saw the President of the United States himself visit the country on a trip that was reported to be aimed at pressing Netanyahu to articulate a long-term plan. Once again, nothing.
This seems impossible for a country as powerful as Israel. It appears especially confusing if you look at the current conflict as resulting from an unexpected terror attack—shouldn’t their top priority be stopping attacks from happening in the future? It might even be tempting to believe that Israel and its allies are exercising a kind of strategic ambiguity. This is, after all, a powerful country, with experienced leadership, that is about to undertake one of the most consequential military operations in the recent history of the Middle East. They’ve fought in countless wars, most in living memory. There’s no way they just don’t have a plan.
But they don’t. If reporting is any indication, the Israeli government isn’t keeping some long-term plan secret. They just don’t have one. Despite pressure from political figures at home and allies abroad, everything indicates that the Israeli government truly has no idea for a path forward after they are done fighting Hamas. They see the application of military force as their sole priority, more important than the lives of civilians or even the lives of their own hostages. With a full-on ground invasion set to occur at any moment, the country looks primed to plunge head-on into the abyss without an exit strategy or even a plan to find one.
This is hard to believe. It also makes complete sense if you understand Israel’s occupation of Palestine for what it is: an imperialist project. Military humiliations of the scale that Hamas inflicted on Israel early this month have time and time again led occupying powers to act impossibly recklessly without ever learning from it. To see what this has looked like in the past, and the catastrophes it has led to, it is once again best to turn to the American War in Vietnam.
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