The Economist on the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

May 23, 2021 • 9:30 am

Reader Diana MacPherson sent a link to an Economist article with this note:

I subscribe to The Economist so I can read these articles which are often behind a paywall, which is a shame because I find The Economist to be one of the last true bastions of balanced journalism. Their Israel and Hamas coverage I find quite good. Here is their take on the ceasefire which I have put in a mediocre PDF since it’s behind a paywall. Note that they don’t pander to Hamas and talk about them as the ones who have ruined peace in the past.

Fortunately, the entire article is online; you can read it by clicking on the screenshot below. And Diana’s right in saying they don’t pander to Hamas and do indict them for ruining the peace. Still, I want to make a few tangential comments.

Excerpts from the article are indented. As you can see from the sub-headline and from the article’s last paragraph (below), they are not optimistic about the prospects for peace, nor am I. I predict six months as a maximum for the ceasefire.

Yet there were new elements to this round of violence. A wave of clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel itself unnerved Mr Netanyahu. There are new types of pressure from abroad, too. Whereas President Joe Biden emphasised “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself”, some fellow Democrats called for putting conditions on American aid to Israel.

But for now, none of that is likely to stop the cycle of violence. Israel and Hamas will come out of this battle much as they went in. Nothing has been gained; nothing has been resolved. And yet they are likely to do it again.

(Try this link if the screenshot below doesn’t work.)

Now my comments. First, on the casualty data:

THE FIGHTING lasted less than two weeks, but there was no shortage of explosions. By the end Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, had fired some 4,000 rockets at Israel. Most were intercepted by Israel’s missile defences. Israel responded with hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, a cramped enclave ruled by Hamas, which had no shield. More than 200 people were killed, all but 12 of them Palestinian.

This is pretty accurate: Hamas fired 4,360 rockets at Israel. Of these, 680 fell into Gaza, killing an unknown number of Palestinians who are surely included in the casualty totals. The Palestinian Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, announced that a total of 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children (people under 18) and 39 women. The Health Ministry implies that the dead are all civilians, but that is dubious given the imbalance of sexes. Of the 177 adults killed, 138 were men (78%) and 39 (22%) were women. If these are truly civilian deaths, then there must be a severe sex-ratio imbalance in the Gaza population! More likely is that the male toll includes Hamas fighters. A separate fighting group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) did announce that 19 of its fighters were killed by Israelis.

Thirteen Israelis were killed by Hamas, none of them members of the IDF (Israel does separate out military deaths from civilian deaths). While this disproportionality is used as a reason to indict Israel, that is somewhat misguided given the way “disproportionality is used in wartime, but I’ve discussed this before and won’t get into it here. I’ll only add what I said before: Palestine, like Israel, does have an Iron Dome to protect its civilians: the dome is the mantra “Don’t fire rockets at Israel.”


Since the Islamist group [Hamas] grabbed control of Gaza in 2007, the two sides have fought four wars and several smaller battles, costing thousands of lives (again, mostly Palestinian).

This refers not to a battle with Israel, but to the Fatah-Hamas battle for Gaza.  Remember that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 as a voluntary good-will gesture in connection with the Oslo Accords. PM Sharon also evicted 7,000 Jews from Gaza at that time, leaving it “Judenrein” (“Jew free”). The Jews didn’t want to leave, and many had to be physically carried out of their homes by Israeli soldiers, homes that were destroyed by the soldiers as well.  However, the agricultural and industrial infrastructure of Gaza, previously owned by Jews, was donated by Israel to Gaza and the Palestinians, who promptly destroyed this infrastructure simply because it was Jewish. Have people forgotten this?

As I said, the article doesn’t gloss over the actions of Hamas, including storing weapons at schools and hospitals and their use of human shields. I have just one more comment on one of its statements:

Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts. Hamas’s control in some ways suits Mr Netanyahu, inasmuch as it weakens the Palestinian leadership and dims the prospect of a Palestinian state. Israel will still try to keep the group down, though. It and Egypt have kept Gaza under blockade since 2007, making it harder for Hamas to arm itself—and making life grim for ordinary Gazans. Restrictions on travel mean they cannot leave. The isolated, impoverished territory draws comparisons to an open-air prison.

Let’s be clear here: Israel is not depriving Gaza of food, medicine, or other amenities and necessities of life. The blockade, which is enforced by Israel and Egypt (Egypt is stricter!) is meant only to prohibit the importation into Gaza of weapons or of material that can be made into weapons. The EU, the UN, and many GMOs pour millions and millions of dollars into Gaza (more is coming soon), and if there is a reason for a grim life for ordinary Gazans, let us rememeber that much of that is due not to the blockade of weapons, but to the appropriation of donated money to build rockets, tunnels, and to line the pockets of corrupt Hamas officials. Those who continually indict Israel for turning Gaza into an “open-air prison” often seem to forget that this is largely due to the leadership of Gaza by Hamas.

Finally, my friend Malgorzata had a comment on the first sentence above: “Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts.” Here’s what she wrote me:

This is simply stupid. Israel doesn’t want these eruptions. Israel would be happy if Gaza was a prosperous place with contented, productive people. That was the idea in 2005: a dream that Gaza would develop into “Singapore of the Middle East”. Israel still is helping Gazans not only with medical treatment of Gazans who need more specialized help, but also by training its doctors, and farmers, thinking up new crops they could export, and so on. It’s Hamas and PIJ, and Iran in the first place, who are happy with the misery in Gaza.

50 thoughts on “The Economist on the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

  1. “…making life grim for ordinary Gazans. Restrictions on travel mean they cannot leave. ”

    Really? Thousands of Gazans emigrate every year. Thousands commute to jobs in Israel. Gazans can travel into Egypt.

  2. “Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts.”

    I believe “both sides” here refers to Netanyahu, Hamas and other political leaders, not the people of Israel and Palestine.

    1. It’s eqally stupid statement when applied to Netanyahu and other Israeli politician. It’s true about only about Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other terrorist organizations.

      1. I know next to nothing about Israeli politics but, when viewed from afar, I find the Economist’s opinion of Netanyahu to have the ring of truth. He’s a ruthless politician and these days we know a lot about such people and their priorities. I also know that Netanyahu is on the edge of political oblivion and, therefore, quite desperate.

        1. It’s really difficult to know the truth about a politician when all you have to go after is his picture painted by political and ideological opponents (and the Western journalists who are all too often victims of “group thinking”). It’s much safer to try to find out what a politician did or said without the filter of what others said that he did or said. That’s, anyhow, my motto. I know, it takes more time and it’s impossible to do such research about every topic or person. So if I don’t know enough, I do not offer any opinion.

            1. It depends what you mean by “resolving the conflict”. Both Hamas and Fatah have in their “Chartas” the aim: destruction of Israel. Hamas repeats it openly and often, Fatah never says it in English but repeats it often enough in English. What kind of compromise you can have when your opponents want the destruction of your country and death of your fellow citizens? But Netanyahu went a different way. For years he tried to convince other Arab countries that Israel is not their enemy. Palestinian can be as intrasingent as they are thanks to support they get from the Arab world, from Iran and from Western Left. If one could minimize this support, possibly they would come to their senses and understand that their goal is destroying their own people. Abraham Accords was the first very tangible achievement on this road.

        2. “Ruthless” … “Such people and their priorities”.

          You paint the picture of a monster. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. The man is a centrist who has kept Israel to the highest standards of restraint against the Palestinians. There are many on the right who would have happily decimated or exiled the Palestinians.

          And far from acting in his own self-interest, he has done wonders for the prosperity and the prospects of Israel the past two decades. Even Fareed Zakaria thinks so:

            1. You just called him “ruthless”, a member of a category you call “such people and their priorities”; claimed he is desperate with the implication that this is tied to what one can only assume is war, and then concluded by saying he is not interested in peace. But, he is not a monster ?

              My apologies. I thought you were, in fact, describing a monster.

  3. After seeing mainstream coverage by CNN, MSNBC, and similar news organizations I’ve come to the realization that many on the left are simply anti-Semitic or at least are willing to tolerate it. No one is causing more harm to the people of Gaza than those who are ruling Gaza, and yet a large chunk of the left can only blame Israel for everything. The biggest issue isn’t that there are several Democrat politicians that quite openly are anti-Semitic, but that the rest of the Democrat party isn’t calling it out. The Democrats need to jettison these people (and the open anti white racists) from the party or they and the country will lose until they do. Unfortunately, if they get rid of all these people I’m not sure how much will be left of the Democrat party. It’s hard to tell for sure how many believe the narrative and how many just don’t condemn it for political reasons.

    1. BTW “Democrat party” and “Democrat politicians” are epithets. The correct word is Democratic party/politicians.

      I agree that too many Dems are wishy-washy when it comes to Israel and a few fools are openly anti-Semitic, but I’d also argue that a MUCH larger problem in American politics is the open white/Christian nationalism (aka Trumpism) that has gripped the Republican party- along with the Big Lie, which is a byproduct of it.

      1. Sorry, Democratic Party. What is the white nationalism you talk about and why do you think the Republicans actually increased their share of minority voters under Trump if they were pushing it? I mean what Republican policies under Trump would you describe as white nationalism? Honestly, I think the trend has begun and in the next several elections the Democratic Party is going to slowly start losing more and more of the black vote and maybe even Asian vote. But we shall see.

        1. I haven’t the time to teach you about white nationalism; Minority voter’s tick=up for Trump was and is inconsequential. Trump’s racist polices would encompass failed attempts to ban all Muslims, build a southern Wall, separate families at said Wall (policies should have a premise that people seeking refuge are not really human and are “illegal aliens”) disregard amnesty and other humanitarian norms, shithole countries… Before his POTUS gig, he spent a lot of time and money trying to discredit Obama’s Presidency. His well-funded birther movement was a racist movement, feeding on racist memes and the American paranoid style. Did you not hear Trump’s dogmatic rhetoric during his Presidency and in his rallies…caravans at the border and such? And what say you about the Big Lie? Isn’t it interesting that all the faux recounts of “voter fraud” are happening in majority minority districts? Are you even tuned into the reality sans Fox news? No, the minority vote is not swinging to the Republicans. The only way they can win is by cheating, and they’re bent on that in myriad ways. Sorry that you can’t see the subterfuge for what it is. Americans, sadly, are in love with conspiracy; I can only conclude you’re of that bent.

          1. What makes building a wall inherently racist? I mean I didn’t support it because I thought there were better ways to secure the border. And I think it’s true that some who supported the wall probably did so out of racist beliefs, I don’t think that means building a wall is a racist policy or that a majority who supported the wall did so due to white nationalism or racism. Separating children from parents actually goes back much further than Trump. We can’t put juveniles in jail like we can adults. I guess my questions to you are if we should even secure the border at all or should we just allow everyone in that wants to come here? Should we allow people in who we can’t verify if they are a threat or not?Look at polling data and no group hates illegal immigration more than black people. Well maybe legal immigrants hate illegal immigration as much. I think that was part of what caused more black voters to vote for Trump. As far as Asian Americans the left has been throwing them under the bus with affirmative action type policies in the name of diversity. We shall see what happens , but I think if the Republicans put someone like Desantis against Biden in 3 years the Democrats will lose and I suspect they will lose seats at the midterm as well.

            1. Well said. It is a bad move to do everything differently from racists as a matter of principle. Not only is it stupid, but it means that they determine your behaviour. As to the wall, the reaction of some has been “open borders” and “no-one is illegal”. As long as the country does not have an open-door policy, and there is illegal immigration, then one has to take steps to stop it. At most, one can debate about which means are most effective. It has been shown that walls, accompanied by mines and marksmen, are very effective.

              And before any Dummkopf starts comparing Trump’s wall to the Berlin wall, note that the former is for keeping people out and the latter for keeping people in.

          2. Also, I would add that a majority of every racial group supports strict voter ID laws. Would this be a racist policy even if a majority of black and other minorities support it?

            No doubt Trump’s rhetoric was crude and rude. Very anti-PC. Shithole counties for example. I wouldn’t use that language, but can you agree there are some countries that are basically that? Some places for sure I wouldn’t want to live.

            But overall I find it odd that Trump actually increased his share of minority voters from 2016 to 2020, but lost more of the white vote. I personally didn’t vote for him either time. Not a fan of his rhetoric. But that being said I have a hard time thinking he was pushing white nationalism while still being able to increase his minority vote.

            1. Even Republican politicians tell us that they are doing the voter ID laws in order to reduce voting of the “wrong” kind. It is easy to see exactly what they’re talking about. I guess you just can’t hear the dog whistles.

              1. Ok, I guess a majority of black and Hispanic voters miss the dog whistle as well. Maybe some of it is people seeing racism everywhere, even where it isn’t.

              2. I think Black and Hispanic voters may well miss or ignore the racist dog whistles. Some voters, especially males, liked Trump’s take-no-prisoners approach to politics. There’s lots of reasons someone might vote for Trump: abortion, religion, anti-immigration, anti-globalism, etc. The fact that a few stupid voters of color voted for the man, doesn’t mean he’s not a racist and white supremacist. Ever since Trump’s ridiculous birther movement, everyone knows where he’s coming from. It has been noted that he purposefully floated the birther idea to test the waters. If he could get people behind such a crazy idea, and gain media attention using it, he knew that a lot of voters would be receptive to a racist presidential candidate.

    2. I think it’s an error in thinking clouded by a lot of ethnocentric ideas of race and thinking one’s own cultural history is exactly the same everywhere. This leads them to see Palestinians as oppressed brown people and the Israelis as powerful white peoples and we all know none of that is true. I listened to Sam Harris’s latest podcast and his guest said that because there was such an imbalance of power between Israel and Palestine, Israel just had to be abusing its power (I am paraphrasing liberally) and as a Canadian I found this humourous because I live right next door to the Unites States, the most powerful nation in the world. The US could, as Ann Coulter speculates, just roll over us. But they don’t. Sure, they have the upper hand in many negotiations but except for the orange menace they seem to respect that other nations can exist (at least in modern times) so just because one country has way more power than another doesn’t mean they are guilty of oppressing the one with less power. And I’ve often speculated to those who chastise Israel for responding to attacks, “just what do you think the US would do if Canada kept launching rockets into Vermont and upstate NY?”

  4. This thread reemphasizes the value of following news of the real world by reading The Economist. One thus saves time that is otherwise taken up by the task of deconstructing the stereotyped background noise found in the NYT, WaPo, the Guardian, NPR, etc. etc. etc.

    This has led me to wonder whether The Economist’s balance and realism has something to do with its
    ideological stance, which is certainly not of the Left, but also cannot be assigned to what passes for the Right in the UK, let alone the USA. The magazine, founded in 1843 by a Scotsman, seems to be one of the few representatives of classic,19th century Liberalism, and unillusioned, accurate observation.

    1. I’ve always like The Economist. They try harder than practically any other publication to take a rational approach to issues. They also penetrate each subject to the right level for my consumption.

      1. Their covid coverage has been spectacular. I learned so much about mRNA vaccines and other associated science from reading articles there.

    2. Whatever it is I hope they keep doing it. I wonder if some of it is because they haven’t positioned themselves to be incentivized by clicks. They have maintained a fee for service model where good journalism is rewarded with subscriptions and they appeal to people who appreciate good journalism. Pure speculation on my part of course but I always find their coverage whether science or politics very good with a very international perspective. I have see. no where else the level of coverage that The Economist has for Africa, Canada, South Pacific. So many media outlets focus on Europe (and not very deeply) and the US and that’s it.

  5. This morning’s Fareed Zakaria GPS show on CNN had an interesting segment on the conflict. His own opinion (his “take” as he calls it) is now online: He followed that with a panel discussion. It is clear from their back-and-forth that no one can expect this conflict to be resolved anytime soon, if ever. What did stand out to me, though, is the asymmetry of the situation. Israel is so much more powerful than Palestine that it is essentially their problem to solve. Hamas can say “Death to Israel” as much as it wants but it won’t matter. That’s not to say that they should be saying that, of course.

    1. I don’t understand the reasoning about “asymmetry”. Let’s take 9/11. Al-Queda was not even a mosquito comparing to US. How come, the whole might of US went after such a weak opponent?! Shouldn’t they have come to some commonly agreed solution? Argentina was so much weaker than Britain. How come nobody talked about “asymetry” in the Falklands war? Combined forces of US, U.K. and USRR were much stronger than the forces of Nazi Germany. Why no talko of “asymetry”? Why it is only demanded of Israel that it leaves in peace people who fire thousands of rockets on its civilian population only because the one, who is doning this is “weaker”?

      1. I think the reason is becoming more and more clear. Many who claim to only be criticizing Israel are actually anti-Semitic. But this idea that those groups or countries that are better off or stronger are only that way because they are oppressing the worse off. There is no other possible explanation other than they are oppressors. It’s basically the same argument we see when it comes to BLM and CRT. It is a world view that isn’t based on a rational thought process.

          1. Not what I said at all. I said MANY, and I stand by that. You can criticize Israel without it being anti-semitic, but a good amount of what is said to be merely criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism.

            1. If you say it without specifying a referent, it is assumed to be a comment on the current discussion. That’s the way discussion works. As a general statement, it is undisputed but vacuous.

              1. When you have Democrat politicians claiming Israel has committed war crimes because they responded to attacks on Israel civilians, but never mention of the actual war crimes committed by Hamas. When you have Democrat politicians calling Israel a terrorist and apartheid state. These types of statements are so irrational and divorced from reality the only conclusion I can come to is that they are anti-semitic and not merely criticism of Israel.

      2. I think the US reaction to 9/11 was ridiculous. It was exactly what Bin Laden hoped for. Rather than start a war, the US should have treated it as something to be policed. Instead, politicians took every opportunity to stoke outrage at the attack and turn it into an existential threat. I understand the outrage but it is important not to turn it into hysteria.

        There is always talk about asymmetry in conflicts. I’m pretty sure it was mentioned a lot during the conflicts you mention. However, I’m amazed you would mention it with respect to WWII. Germany really was an existential threat in Europe, if not the entire world. Asymmetry didn’t come into it.

        1. You seem not to realize that Hamas and Fatah (supported by Iran, Qatar and many others) are an existential threat to Israel. Asymmetry do not come into it.

          1. The Pacific theater of World War II (see Wikipedia) presents a classic case of asymmetry. The US armed forces suffered 161,000 deaths, and there were virtually NO civilian deaths. The poor, put-upon Empire of Japan suffered at least 1.1 million military deaths at the hands of the American forces, and about 800,000 civilian deaths. One can envision how this would be presented by PBS news, if it followed the same slant employed in covering every major
            exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza. If PBS even mentioned the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it would hasten to elaborate on the terrible casualties inflicted on Japan when the US continued “the cycle of violence”.

      3. Yes I think this asymmetry thing is stupid. And I mentioned something similar in here somewhere. I always ask Americans how they would respond if Canada launched missiles into upstate NY. And why should they respond since they are so much more powerful.

  6. I’d like to point out what seems to me obvious but hasn’t been made explicit with respect to “proportionality” and “asymmetry” in warfare casualties.

    I’ll use PCC’s referenced numbers above.
    243 Palestinian dead
    105 women and children (let’s presume all innocent)
    138 men (assume majority Hamas + innocent)
    But surely a number of these innocents were killed accidently by the 680 rockets (16%) that were launched toward Israel but fell short.

    Of the 3,680 rockets that didn’t fall short, the Iron Dome apparently intercepted over 90% of them (let’s say 95% were). That means approx. 184 rockets led to the death of 13 Israelis, all innocent. But Hamas and other groups launched a total of 4,360 rockets into Israel with the intent of killing Jewish citizens, all innocent. Were it not for the Iron Dome and assuming the effectiveness of 13 Israelis killed/184 rockets scaled proportionally, the intent of Hamas’s strikes would have led to the death of 308 Israelis – ALL innocent.

    That number would easily exceed the surely < 200 Palestinian innocents that were inadvertently killed by Israeli airstrikes. In other words, the intent of Hamas and the actions they actually took should have resulted in the death of more innocent Jews than innocent Palestinians. So not a “disproportionate” response then by Israel. Hamas’s desired outcome would have been to intentionally kill an equivalent or greater number of innocent civilians than they suffered from Israel’s unintended military actions. The intent to kill civilians (Hamas does, Israeli does not) which is a war crime, strikes me as a crucial difference in this conflict.

    1. And I don’t know why there seems to be some sort of unspoken criticism toward Israel for having the iron dome. It seems Israel is not supposed to defend themselves and not supposed to respond.

  7. Ignoring, if you can, the Hamas and Israeli conflict. the Economist is a haven of clear, accurate journalism with a first class science section ( how many mainstream news outlets have long articles about RNA interference as does the current edition?) which together with the superb political and economic coverage makes it a go-to source of news.

    1. Yes I have loved their covid coverage. They churn out great content week after week and I can hardly keep up. I subscribed because it’s really the only news I see that attempts to be fair.

    1. Sorry about the double posting…..seems like the editing grace period may not always work. Although it is working now………..

  8. The comment “Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery” seems fair to me. Furthermore, if anyone is interested in Arab life in East Jerusalem, I recommend today’s front page New York Times article “Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict.” Its opening paragraphs describe the plight of an Arab man ordered by Israeli authorities to demolish the home he just finished expanding. According to the article, “Zeev Hacohen, an authority official, said erasing Mr. Sandouka’s neighborhood was necessary to restore views of the Old City ‘as they were in the days of the Bible.’
    ‘The personal stories are always painful,’ he allowed. But the Palestinian neighborhood, he said, ‘looks like the Third World.’”
    That kind of thing would make anyone’s blood boil, I think.

  9. The Islamic world has kept the uncompromising stance of the Palestinians alive. Over the decades trillions of petrodollars were poured in. With little result either way.

  10. Hamas unloaded 35% of its rocket trove, and will now receive $$. For better weapons, drones and evasives? Moreover Hamas now leads the fight for Palestine, river to sea, one nation, under Hamas. US Left supports. Cagey.

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