Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Mess at Gaza

The wise old Sigmund Freud said among other witticisms that nothing is all that it seems. The Hamas/Israel tragedy, for example, fairly screams  “complication.”

To Israel, it is an obvious “given” that they are  a duly, lawfully constituted nation with an indisputable right to a peaceful existence equal to the United States, England or Pakistan. Consequent to that right is a further one which is not only a right but a duty. That consequent right and duty is the protection of the lives, properties and liberties of its citizens, even, if by severe military force. This is, to them, non-negotiable.
To Hamas, however, Israel has stolen Arab land. Israel is an occupier. The land  must be returned.   Unless this happens there can be no peace. This is, to them, non-negotiable.  
In any event, a necessary point must be noted. All rights have real limitations. The response against an unprovoked attack has to be measured and cannot morally go beyond the minimum damage, collateral or otherwise.           
The defending nation will claim that that such force is necessary for legitimate  protection. This factor similarly operates in the difficult area of the “just war” analysis. What is the criterion whereby one can justly argue that the force used is beyond the restraint of the common moral position?

When non-combatant civilians, including children, women and senior citizens are killed or seriously injured in large numbers, when their lives are totally uprooted, when their homes are devastated, it would appear, even though in war there is often unavoidable collateral damage, that the force used was beyond “measured.” 

However, on the other hand, if the attacking  force, in this instance  classified by many as “terrorist” hides its rockets in  schools, hospitals, mosques, residences as  behind a  “human shield”, Israel is placed in the intolerable position of simply enduring the cascade of rockets  from these protected places with no defense but their own  “dome” system, awesome but not perfect. This means that civilian  Israeli lives are not only endangered but open to widespread death.   Hence, the “other side” morality of the Israelis. Yet, Hamas publicly denies any kind of   human shield activity claiming that the charge is manufactured for American propaganda. What does one do with such a dilemma? Whom does one believe?

Of course,  the placing of armaments in such nonmilitary places is highly unethical and would suggest,  if true,  that the Hamas cares  little for human lives, even of their own people. There has been some grotesque reporting that   civilians are advised NOT to leave a building designated for attack so that the incident can be used as an anti-Israeli propaganda tool. 

While Israelis claim that they notify Palestinian residents before the destruction of a certain building which houses rocketry, by leaflets, radio, internet, the question then arises:  Where do the endangered local Palestinians go? Get out, they are told, to place of safety the existence of which is nebulous.

Some truth is to be found everywhere. But is one side all right and the other all wrong? To listen to the debate, depending on which side speaks, one could believe that there are not two sides to this story. As frustrating as it is, more talking and listening are required. There have been so many “peace” talks in the past that one becomes some what cynical of the whole  situation. We have seen the warm cozy handshakes in the past with “sincere” hopes of a peaceful side by side arrangement. Again and again the agreement is broken and hate, not peace, emerges.

The reality of life teaches that rarely does one get all that one wants. Legitimate compromise does not diminish nations.  Intractability does.   When nations write into their charters that Israel is to be eliminated from the face of the earth, it forces that Nation into a defensive national posture with heavy emphasis on a powerful military, ready to fight in a moment for survival.

When Israel constructs a world for Palestinian Arabs who whereby are (in their view) deprived of a just share in the world’s goods, when they are subjected to what they see as an unfair, harmful and unjustified embargo, when  they suffer perceived disrespect and discrimination, they rise in protest. When, however, that protest is co-opted by fanatics such as Hamas, the legitimacy of the protest is sullied when otherwise the protest might have some credibility. Further, Israel contends that the embargo is necessary to inhibit the flow of arms from hostile nations willing to underwrite the attacks on Israel.

In a world of intractability, hopes for peace are scant if not impossible. The catastrophic possible outcome is that there is no solution except unconditional war. The war will be ever present until one side is totally crushed and eliminated. This is a horrendous possibility. This carries the frightening possibility of an expanded, world wide conflict which would make past wars seem puny by comparison.  This is why efforts for a resolution must be pursued. As useless as it may seem, the talking must continue. And the listening.

And the praying. The Pope must be involved and the President and the Queen and all people of good will. And the essential question must be answered:  Do the two sides really want a resolution of the tension?  How serious is the concrete desire for peace?

Some media say: If Israel lays down its arms, the next day Israel ceases to exist. If  Palestinians lay down their arms, the next day we have peace. Is this so? In spite of what I write, I am sure if I lived in Tel Aviv, I would be with the majority who seek survival. I would be all for  aggressive  but defensive action. The first law of  human nature is probably self survival. The Manhattan liberal may proclaim lofty platitudes but as the old Indian adage goes:  Don’t judge until you walk in the other’s moccasins. Sermonizing is counterproductive. So is “Second guessing.” Israel is a strong ally. Our leaders should refrain from criticism of Israel as they fight for their very existence.  But on the other hand, if I am Muslim and Palestinian,  I see my people diminished and brutalized, I go with the other side since I feel there is no way to justice and peace in the present arrangement.  So I fight and sacrifice and protest!!

It will take the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Ghandi and the help of God/Allah to craft a fair and lasting agreement.  I wish them well.  I am content that they do not ask me for an answer!