Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Painful Violence

I have not written about the war in Gaza because it is painful. Nobody wants to see children and families killed. It is painful when things like these happen and the perception is of overreaction and exaggerated violence on the part of Israel. But Israel left Gaza in 2005 and since then all it has seen is Hamas using Gaza as a place from where to attack Israel. People say the Hamas rockets are these quaint homemade little things that hurt no one. Not so. The Qassams are stuffed with nails and metal to inflict maximum damage on contact. Thousands of them have been fired in recent years. The latest one fell 20 miles off Tel-Aviv.
It is clear that Hamas hides behind the Gaza civilians, not always with all their support. It is clear that they have been attacking Israel with rockets, not to mention suicide bombings and other forms of terror against civilians for years. It it clear that they want to destroy Israel. They don't seem interested in finding a realistic solution to the plight of their own people.
The problem, however is deeper, more painful and harder to solve than trying to destroy Hamas. The problem at the source of the conflict is what to do with the Palestinian population of the Gaza strip. Thy can't live in limbo forever. Have you seen a map? Gaza (and the West Bank) is a huge geographic and demographic problem. One that requires the end of violence from all sides, some major creative geopolitical thinking, some major show of political will and cojones and funding by everybody ...and at this point I might as well stop dreaming.
I imagine Israel is well aware of the collateral damage it inflicts, not only on the civilian population, but on its own terrible public relations with the rest of the world. So it allows 3 hour ceasefires for humanitarian aid, yet at the same time it curtails the presence of foreign journalists in Gaza. Not that it works. I wonder if Israel is also aware that this war may be continuing to fan the fires of barbarian Islamist fanatics, who are a threat to the entire world, and contributing to the further and already untenable radicalization of the Middle East. So it remains to be seen if this terrible operation is worth the potential damage.
I wish the war ends soon and innocent civilians stop suffering. I also wish for people not to be so naive as to think that the conflict is as lopsided as it seems. Major interests, not only the proverbial Goliath-like ones of the US and Israel, are at work preventing peace in the region. Many Arab states have no interest in finding a peaceful coexistence with Israel and they use the suffering of the Palestinians for their own nefarious means. Until both sides sit down and create a state for the Palestinians that is willing to live in peace and cooperation with Israel, and Israel with it (which means investing in making it work economically, socially and politically), there will be no end in sight.

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