There is no reason for me to get involved in the Gaza debate. I am neither an expert nor directly involved. I am a very worried observer trying to make sense of the images I see and the feelings they give rise to inside me. Since many people I know are the same, you might find my thoughts useful in some small way.
Two enemies, let us call them A and B, are at an impasse. A is stuck inside an armoured vehicle with his family. It has an assortment of weapons, including a mounted rocket launcher. B has taken refuge inside a school. He is pinned there. He has a pistol. There are roughly a hundred children in the school. B keeps shooting at the armoured vehicle. It is bulletproof, but only 99% effective, so there is a small but real danger to A’s family.
An examination of how they got there is possibly relevant, but not directly pertinent to the situation in which they find themselves. Maybe A terrorised B for decades, has stolen everything he had and occupied his house. Maybe B has always wanted to obliterate A because he hates his race deeply and A has only acted in self-defence. Maybe A has given B countless chances to stop shooting, but B doesn’t trust him enough. Maybe even B has gone into the school with the express purpose of using the children as a human shield.
A fires a rocket at the school blowing B up. He aims it carefully, so that only thirty children are killed and another thirty lose a limb.
In the inquest that follows, what questions would you ask? Would you investigate whether there were any other options, whether the reaction was proportionate, whether a smaller weapon could have been used, whether an external negotiator could have been brought in, whether the small danger posed justified the loss of thirty innocents? Would asking these questions indicate bias against or even a hatred of A or are they legitimate? Or would you just say: “A was in the right and that is all there is to it”?
It is not Israel’s actions that I am struggling to understand. I may not agree with their reaction, but I understand why they have chosen it. Nor can I say with any certainty what I would do in their position. It is their apparent lack of any remorse at the loss of innocent life, any compassion for the human misery it causes that I struggle with. It seems to have been totally replaced by a cruel and almost maniacal desire to say “we are in the right”.
If I saw even a single Israeli official on the news, genuinely sleepless and affected, saying: “This is an impossible situation. Believe me, we do not do any of this lightly. We have struggled with our conscience. The images of those dead kids will haunt me for the rest of my life.” maybe I would have more sympathy. But all I see are people who appear to believe that the rights and wrongs of how A and B found themselves at an impasse, somehow make the moral dilemma disappear. That the circumstances absolve Israel of responsibility for every rocket they fire from now on. That “they started it” is an impenetrably blame-proof defence for all that follows. I see an absence of humanity which can never contain any sort of peaceful solution.
I wish people on both sides, who understand that there is no such thing as “only thirty children”, all luck and courage in wresting the solution from the hands of those who are simply preoccupied with being right.