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Two Enemies

July 25, 2014

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2014 3:00 pm

    I’m the same as you I haven’t picked a side and more than likely won’t as I just don’t know enough. From the outside looking in it seems as though the Palestinians don’t want peace with the jews and no ‘two-state-solution’ is possible.

    There is so much rhetoric and propaganda around the media its just almost impossible to find anything without a clear agenda for one side or the other. Therefore it requires a deep dig into the history books.

    What is clear is that there is a deep river of antisemitism in our culture which is as deep, if not deeper, as anti-Islamist sentiment in the general public. Some of the tweets have been jaw-dropping.

    • July 25, 2014 5:52 pm

      “What is clear is that there is a deep river of antisemitism in our culture”

      Given that the Palestinians are also a semitic people I don’t think that argument really washes. I am afraid I have picked sides. One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. If you contain a people in a ghetto, cut off supplies, limit water, power, control every aspect of their lives what can you expect? War is a symptom not the disease.

      I do not for a second condone Hamas or their firing of rockets into Israel, but I can, perhaps, understand them.

  2. gusman permalink
    July 25, 2014 3:01 pm

    Blair will sort it !

  3. Xaroula permalink
    July 25, 2014 3:30 pm

    “In the inquest that follows, what questions would you ask?”

    Cui bono?
    Perhaps all us common ordinary people should collectively stop the arbitrary and eventually ineffectual moralistic weighing up that has been taking place in the public sphere at large (is one life more valuable than 30 limps? is A’s life more valuable than B’s? Is B’s right better than A’s?) and focus instead on the more pragmatic and political question of who benefits from this conflict? Instead of trying to measure whose morality is bigger, better, more worthy, perhaps we should be focusing on our own governments and the roles they play in benefiting or perpetuating this conflict. Asking, for example, questions such as Why did the UK, along with other European countries, abstained from the Human Rights Council’s recent vote on establishing an independent, international inquiry into the conflict? And why have the media largely ignored this?

    I am not saying that there is no moral issue here but it seems to me that this side of the problem is being deliberately exaggerated at the expense of a more political and critical discussion.

    • July 25, 2014 3:39 pm

      You may be right. I didn’t offer this as all-encompassing thesis, but as my personal reaction.

      For what it’s worth, I disagree fundamentally. If either Hamas or Israel no longer felt they had the support of the people, change would not be far behind.

      • Xaroula permalink
        July 25, 2014 3:59 pm

        Indeed and I didn’t take this as an all-encompassing thesis. These are just my personal reflections (rather than targeted criticisms) on the ways that this conflict is generally being discussed in the media and (subsequently) among friends.

        So, would you say that Israel feels that it has the support of the people and continues to do what it does? What people would that be? The whole world, the people of the west? It’s own people? Or are you referring to the western governments?

      • July 25, 2014 5:33 pm

        Support from within Israel is, apparently, steadfast with an overwhelming majority. As is support for Hamas, among Palestinians.

  4. July 25, 2014 3:43 pm

    I lived in Israel/Palestine for a year, shortly before the 1st intifada, I lived on a kibbutz,for a few months, most kibbutznics, and in general Israelis, were peace loving, there is enough land for all us, they would say, to share.
    The Palestinians were starting the stone throwing and it was reported a family had their house bulldozed because one of the kids had thrown stones at a tank! Most of the young IDF people i met didn’t want to have a rifle, they just wanted to have fun, go to the beach, study, travel. The “right to return” Americans were the most militant I met.
    Then i went travelling, where i should’ve, to the West Bank and later Gaza, the Palestinians i met weren’t really angry/violent, they were confused, upset and didn’t think the Israelis wanted to share. As one elder told me in the West Bank, they steal our land with force, they tax us off our land, we have inadequate water,sanitation, electricity. (that was true, i saw it for my self). We were happy to share. The Israeli’s have done a lot of good here, new roads, watered the desert, why can’t we share in some of this?
    One only has to look at the maps over other years, the illegal settlement building, the wall, the ignoring of countless UN resolutions to see who is the aggressor.
    Israel is a fact, I’m not anti Israeli/Jew. but c’mon. This is a one sided fight. I see the Israelis as petulant, playing the eternal victim card, bullies. I also see the arab nations, standing by and doing nothing. The Palestinians have been the forgotten people for so long now. The right wing has taken over everywhere, and for our gov’t to unilaterally support the Israelis is abhorrent. We have become desensitised to suffering, and lost all empathy, and of course now with the rhetorical war on terror even more so.
    Now I see, anti antisemitism within the quite right protests, oh god, more polarisation! and hatred, which will allow the Israelis to be even more militant.

  5. July 25, 2014 8:45 pm

    Like you Alex, I feel I should really keep out of this debate because I am neither Jewish or Arab or Israeli or Palestinian. However I just wrote a post about it because I believe we as bystanders have to be wary of dehumanizing either side of this conflict. Not enough attention is given to the efforts of the countless courageous people working for peace. The media and social media have an enormous responsibility to tell the right story. Especially those of us who can sleep safely in our beds tonight should be in awe of those who are right in the middle of this conflict and still choose dialogue and non-violence. You can read about them in this post.

  6. herunveiling permalink
    July 29, 2014 4:23 am

    One life lost is one too many for any side. I can’t help but wonder, has Israel forgotten so quickly the injustice they suffered during the Second World War? Could they not recall that cruelty and compel their intelligence to seek a bloodless solution. We walked on the moon; we can surely find a solution to any conflict!

  7. August 2, 2014 7:49 pm

    Thanks for taking the words out of my thoughts if i should put it that way. I too lack any semblance of understanding for this situation. I hear people quickly blame this side or the other side. Honestly i do not care who started it or who will finish it. My only worry is, when it all ends, how many innocent, blameless lives will have been lost. So i cry for both sides and hope that whatever reason they have, they will see a better reason to stop at some point and remember the innocent.


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