So the latest struggle surrounding Israel came to a tense and fragile close with the cease-fire a couple weeks back. And what has each party accomplished? Has Hamas eliminated Israel or forced Israel to acquiesce to Hamas’ demands? Has Israel vanquished their foe, killing or incarcerating the leaders of Hamas and forcing the organization to surrender their arms?
Of course not. Israel’s political elites were probably able to use the exercise to score the political points they wanted for their election. With Palestinian resentment over the conflict will largely turn towards against those whose troops destroyed their homes and killed their families, Hamas will surely be able to reap a bountiful harvest of recruits to maintain their ranks. Other than that, we’re back at the status quo—minus thirteen Israelis and one-thousand, three-hundred Palestinians. Several thousands more were uprooted by the violence, and who knows how much property was demolished.
In other words, neither side won, but humanity lost.
As usual, many in the blogosphere have leapt to the defense of their favored side. Here in the U.S, particularly among the LDS, that side is typically Israel. Hamas broke the cease-fire, so they claim; it is Hamas which is indiscriminately targeted civilians with their rockets, while Israel took extraordinary precautions to try to avoid civilian casualties. However, the defense of Israel wore thin when evidence surfaced that Israel was using white phosphorus as a weapon, and as people such as Israeli expatriate Avi Shlaim noted that Israel was the real culprit in breaking the cease fire.
The important thing to remember is that there was a ceasefire brokered by Egypt in July of last year, and that ceasefire succeeded…Before the ceasefire came into effect in July of 2008, the monthly number of rockets fired—Kassam rockets, homemade Kassam rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip on Israeli settlements and towns in southern Israel was 179. In the first four months of the ceasefire, the number dropped dramatically to three rockets a month, almost zero…
…The new story said that Hamas broke the ceasefire. This is a lie. Hamas observed the ceasefire as best as it could and enforced it very effectively. The ceasefire was a stunning success for the first four months. It was broken not by Hamas, but by the IDF. It was broken by the IDF on the 4th of November, when it launched a raid into Gaza and killed six Hamas men…
…ever since Hamas captured power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, Israel had imposed a blockade of the Strip. Israel stopped food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip. One of the terms of the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the blockade of Gaza, yet Israel failed to lift the blockade, and that is one issue that is also overlooked or ignored by official Israeli spokesmen. So Israel was doubly guilty of sabotaging the ceasefire, A, by launching a military attack, and B, by maintaining its very cruel siege of the people of Gaza (“Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza Attack, Preventing Peace,” Democracy Now).
Some may interpret my criticism of Israel’s government as implicit support for Hamas. To do so would be missing the point. At worst, Hamas is intrinsically anathema to the state of Israel and is more concerned with maintaining its power than with the plight of the people in Gaza. At best, even if Shlaim and Rabbi Michael Lerner are correct that Hamas is pragmatically willing to accept a long-term cease-fire and de facto peaceful coexistence with Israel, Hamas has repeatedly proven itself perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent civilians—both Gazan and Israeli—in pursuit of their goals.
Both sides, Hamas and Israel’s mainstream political elite, are slaves to this siege mentality. Both refuse to back down. Both are apparently committed to the path of violence and brutality. As long as we excuse the actions of either side as the lesser evil and accept their false premises that violence is the only language which the other will understand, all we will accomplish is the perpetuation of this cycle of destruction. If there is any hope of a long-term peace and reconciliation in the land of Palestine, it will come through supporting those who are determined to chart a new course. Groups such as Gush Shalom, which support a more just and peaceful resolution to the conflict, and the courageous Shministim who stand as the future leaders of a new and more honorable Israel, hold the promise of such bold navigators. Certainly there must be Palestinians who share that vision of cooperation and peace, people who can be nurtured into leadership roles on the other side of the divide.
Ron Madson of The Mormon Worker proposed an idea which is almost unheard of in our martial world today:
I would seek to destroy the Palestinians in the very way Christ taught us how to destroy our enemies. I would do what Gush Shalom proposes and then more: I would flood Palestine with food, economic relief/opportunities, water (no longer cut of their water supplies in any way). I would return good for evil aggressively and unrelentingly. I would meet with their leaders—including terrorists (they call themselves defenders, but no matter) and I would beg for forgiveness for all wrongs that Israeli has done in any way. I would council with them and when they ask for such and such I would consider ways to practically double their request. I would find ways to give the Palestinians the dignity and respect that any human being deserves. I would destroy their war
narrative (“What Would You Do If you were the Israeli PM?“).
A radical idea? Certainly. Given track record of the conventional “solutions,” perhaps it is time for a radical strategy based on hope and charity. Only then might we see the seeds of a new world, a more beautiful one, in the Middle East.