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The war in Gaza

Jan 13, 2009 The war in Gaza

With the war in Gaza continuing in its third week, it feels too awkward not to write here about the war.

A distant cousin who long ago emigrated to Israel from the United States recently took notice of the lack of comments about Gaza on a discussion website that connnects relatives descended from two ancestors going back nearly two centuries. I replied:

"On the one hand, I do find it almost surreal that yours is the first mention of the fighting on this website, while most of the recent postings have been of the usual variety. I applaud you for posting, no matter how much I do or do not agree with your stated opinions. On the other hand, discussing Gaza can bring out much disagreement and debate, and that is fine with me.

"I have many concerns — more than answers — over the current violence in Gaza, including but not limited to:

"- I am not a full pacifist, and believe in Israel’s having an effective military. I do, though, believe very much that violence begets violence.

"- I have been unable to reconcile war with my opposition to capital punishment. Killings in war involve much less due process and carefulness than the barbaric system of capital punishment.

"- Humans are fallible, and that alone removes any army from being total angels, including Israel’s. Moreover, when enough people with little life experience are sent to war, I think serious abuses will happen along the way. I feel at least the same about cops.

"- I lost a lot of faith in the Israeli Army when I learned during the intifada in the late 1980’s that Israeli soldiers were intentionally beating rock throwers after they already had been detained.

"- I lost a lot of faith in the Israeli government when I learned in the late 1980’s of the extent of censorship exercised by that government against even the display of the PLO flag, and in the occasional closure by that government of pro-PLO newspapers.

"- I am not convinced that the Israeli military is doing enough to avoid civilian deaths and injuries. I understand the argument that Hamas hides among civilians. However, my understanding is that the Israeli airstrikes go beyond targeting Hamas members to targeting their physical infrastructures, as well, which makes it all the more a challenge to avoid harming civilians.

"- Is the recent report true that Israeli weapons struck and killed a United Nations facility in which civilians had sought refuge? Were any Hamas fighters there?

"- With Gaza being so densely populated (around 1.5 million people) in such a small geographical area, where can any of the civilians take refuge from the attacks? Will Israel or Egypt let them leave?

"- What will the current fighting accomplish other than to weaken Hamas temporarily, and to increase support for Hamas among Palestinians and many other Arabs as standing up to Israel?

"- Is the recent bomb attack of Nahariya from southern Lebanon a prelude to the opening of an additional front during the fighting?

‘ "- In trying to find a solution to this mess, it is critical for everyone to try to humanize those on the ‘other’ side as much as possible, particularly the children and others who had no role in creating or sustaining the mess. It is much harder to shoot someone who is fully humanized to us.

"As I said, I have more concerns than answers. I do have some answers in mind, including finding a resolve to taking a broader view about ways to keep more weapons holstered while finding non-violent roots to weakening support for Hamas and strengthening support among Palestinians for a peaceful solution that includes them in feeling that they have hope for empowered, fulfilled, and dignified lives."

My cousin replied that any government would have responded to such bombings with an attack. I replied that it is not good enough for me to justify violent actions on how other governments would respond; we must set our sights higher than that.

Now, several days after I posted the above thoughts, the war continues. Here are some more random thoughts:

Severe burns are among the injuries suffered by injured survivors in the war.

– For many days, Egypt delayed admission of many volunteer doctors into Gaza. Today, permission was finally granted.

– The war in Gaza has sparked anti-Jewish violence in Europe. Such violence is unjustified, but illustrates how violence begets violence.

– It is a necessity, not a fantasy, for Israelis and Palestinians to interact in depth, as part of the effort to reach peace. Consider this video.

– Here is a Washington Post overview from today on the war.

Jon Katz.

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