As I write this the news is that the UN Security Council wants an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. But Israel’s incursion descended into a human rights abyss days ago. The complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict have created a hopelessly intractable knot, but as ever, people want simple answers.
My modest tweets suggesting there are two sides to this Gaza conflict elicited raging reactions on Twitter. I said essentially that Israel is hit with thousands of rockets every year from Hamas in Gaza, tunnels exist to carry attackers into Israel, and ultimately, if not military action, what should Israel have done?
It was not a question many wanted to consider (though I still offer it.) The main answer to it on Twitter has been – mostly photos of mangled children, and vituperative fury at Israel. I was told that there is no evidence that Hamas is using civilians as human shields; this was backed up by BBC journalist Jeremy Bowens on the scene.
I was told that the peace agreement drawn up by the government of Egypt was a complete give-away to Israel; Egypt’s President Sisi has sold out the Palestinians and is a pawn of the Israelis. I was “naïve” for not knowing this. Any real answer to the question of what Israel was supposed to do about Hamas has not been forthcoming on Twitter. Maybe they prefer that Israel passively receive rockets by the thousands and kidnappers and gunmen coming in from tunnels.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other outfits like them are closed to any future that does not include the destruction of Israel. As is well known, the charter of Hamas calls for Israel to be wiped out. They might negotiate a temporary cease-fire, but nothing permanent that allows Israel to exist. All of those pictures of dead Palestinian children would be dead Israeli children if Hamas had their way.
It is simply another of the ultra-fundamentalist religious mentalities, not unlike the Taliban. Here in the United States we have fundamentalist Christians, and in their teeming millions they support anything and everything Israel wants to do. Why? Because the sky is going to open up over Israel today or tomorrow and a supernatural Jesus is going to float down and rule the world. Through their Congressional representatives they have the United States bankrolling this proposition.
I am no zealous supporter of Israel. The settlement expansions and “Greater Israel” fantasies have long been hindering peace. The confinement of the people of Gaza, sealed off in what they call the world’s biggest prison camp, is a disgrace. But the existence of modern Israel is a fact of life. It isn’t going away. And as powerful as its military is it won’t be destroyed except as part of a gigantic, world-wrecking war. We should also remember that Israel has contributed plenty to the world in terms of medical and scientific advances, including the cell phone you may be reading this on.
Still, this latest Israeli assault on Gaza is beyond appalling in its overkill. Over a thousand Palestinian civilians are dead so far. The Hamas rocket campaign that was given as the justification for it has never posed an existential threat to Israel. It has killed 28 Israelis since 2001, though it has wounded many thousands. The main damage from it has been psychological. Every Israeli has to live within a minute’s distance from an air raid shelter and an alarm that can go off at any time. This has been the situation there for years. Certainly no other country on earth would put up with that. On the other hand, the Palestinians say that their lives are being made a living hell by Israel’s permanent control, embargo, restriction, blockade, etc. And I don’t doubt it.
We hear a lot about how the world today looks like the powder keg that existed just before World War One. This Arab-Israeli situation could absolutely degenerate into a colossal regional or world war. How much of human civilization are we willing to lose for this religion-and-testosterone-driven madness? I say Israel is a fact of life and has a right to exist. There is only one hope – two states. But the simple, grim reality is that the leaders on both sides have now clearly given up on the idea of peace.
You often hear about “the equation” in the Middle East. The hard truth may be as simple as this:
Religious Fanatic + Religious Fanatic = War