Is there enough empathy in Israel and in Gaza to save them both?

A Palestinian walks away from his house, destroyed by an Israeli strike, in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah. AP/Lefteris Pitarakis
A Palestinian walks away from his house, destroyed by an Israeli strike, in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah. AP/Lefteris Pitarakis

I’m no expert by a long shot, but no one of clear thinking that I’m aware of is suggesting that tunnels and rocket attacks are justified. As Sam Harris pointed out recently, only one side – Hamas – has a stated goal of the total destruction of the other side.

A *stated* goal.

Given the situation and realities of the imbalance of power, I can’t see how Israel’s actions are justified or defensible, either, not when they have walled off Gaza and the West Bank, and not when Hamas rockets land in empty fields or are blown out of the sky by the Iron Dome. The inequity and severity of Israel’s response is, IMHO, why they can’t legitimately claim any real moral high ground.

As a country, we’ve clearly picked a side. We cannot deny our role as funders and suppliers of armaments to Israel. Any surprise or expressed confusion, therefore, that the enemies of Israel also consider us to be their enemies is disingenuous. Like Israel, we seem to expect the oppressed to be the ones who must act first to somehow bring an end to their oppression.

That’s why I think Chris Hedges has it right in his latest TruthDig piece, Let My People Go.

Peace in the Promised Land will come when those who love mercy and do justice build a sustained mass movement—as we did against the apartheid regime in South Africa—week after week, month after month, year after year until the captives are set free. Peace in the Promised Land will come when we force, through boycotts, divestments and sanctions, the powerful to end the blockade of Gaza and deny the instruments of death to Israel. But it is up to us. We are all that stands between the Palestinians and obliteration.

And, no, I do not believe for one, solitary second that every Palestinian wants to destroy Israel. At least, not yet. We, like Israel, would be well-served to stop deluding ourselves into believing that killing more and more of a subjugated and imprisoned population will accomplish much except to ensure the rise of the next few generations of what we now like to call terrorists.

There is no shortage of incredibly hard, complex, and sensitive questions to consider.

Questions like, “If it were any other set of actors, would we not be calling this genocide?”

Has President Obama not already begun using this very language in defending his decision to attack ISIS?

Israel hasn’t said that they want to destroy a Palestinian state (which doesn’t exist except behind the walls they’ve built around Gaza and the West Bank), but at what point do their policies and their actions toward Palestinians fit that description? When is it appropriate to call it genocide?

Most importantly, I think, is will either side ever be able to get past their religious beliefs, their bloody and intertwined histories, and the past atrocities committed by both sides so they can get to the place where there’s enough empathy to find a peaceful solution?

Then there’s this question. What would I do – what would you do – had we been born to parents living in Gaza or the West Bank?

 

Sources:

Why I Don’t Criticize Isreal, Sam Harris, July 27, 2014

Let My People Go, Chris Hedges, August 10, 2014

Obama authorizes airstrikes in Iraq to stop genocide, David Jackson and Jim Michaels, USA Today, August 8, 2014

 

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