Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Middle East Conflict: Happily never after

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's analogy in defense of Israel's actions in Gaza says anyone who had a crazy person pounding on their apartment door threatening to come in and kill them would want the New York Police Department to respond with all its might and resources - not merely by sending one officer.

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart retorted it would depend on if you had forced the person to live in your hallway and forced him to go through checkpoints in order to go to work, to the supermarket, to visit family and to worship.

Israel's military actions in Gaza are very much like the NYPD sending all its men and firepower to respond to one crazy man. The Palestinian death toll stands close to 800 people today - nearly half confirmed to be civilians. Overkill is the word that comes to my mind.

Politics, religion, and history meld in the Middle East resulting in irreconcilable differences. Palestinians are not likely to forget that their independence, way of life and the very ownership of their land was disrupted by the United Nations to make room for the world's Jews to live together after World War II. Nor will they ever accept Israeli control of their movements and of Jerusalem. Israel will never come to the decision that the land was not given to the Jews by God. The conflict will continue. The course of the conflict, however, can be altered.

Israel has come to look like the big bully in the dispute, particularly as it has the unabashed backing of the United States. The state has no incentive to be either just or merciful. And it choosing to be neither. Red Cross/Red Crescent and United Nations representatives report that articles of the Geneva Convention are being violated in this latest assault on Gaza. There are no safe havens for Palestinian civilians; every building is subject to bombing from Israeli fire. Inadequate amounts of food, water and other aid are being allowed into the region. United Nations aid workers temporarily halted oeprations after one of its drivers was killed by Israeli fire. An Israeli mortar shell also killed 43 people in a United Nations school.

Casualties like these are inevitable with heavy warfare in as densely a populated area as Gaza. The only way to stop the deaths is for Israel to stop the fighting. Other attempts at curtailing the deaths and injuries are ineffective at best, disingenuous at worst. Israel has made phone calls and distributed leaflets urging residents of Gaza to evacuate for their own safety. The phone calls and leaflets did not, however, assure safe passage for evacuees or offer havens to which residents could could escape.

Human Rights Watch criticizes Israel for not paying enough attention to distinction and proportionality - distinction between combatants and civilians, and whether an attack will have a disproportionate effect on civilians in the area. In Sunday's New York Times Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said this is 'the first conflict he could remember when civilians could not flee the war zone. Gaza's borders are shut both to Israel and to Egypt, and civilians, he said, " are like fish in a barrel."' Mr. Abrahams and Human Rights Watch also criticize Hamas for infractions such as hiding weapons in mosques.

I do not know (and would welcome an education) how the United States came to take sides so explicitly in a conflict so rested on untenable religious beliefs. What is without debate is that radicalism is born and nurtured in oppression and isolation. Israel's heavy handedness, in this war effort and in its ongoing dealings with the Palestinian people, and the United States' blind support will only cause the number of crazy people in the hallway to multiply.

1 comment:

  1. forget the hallway. If you keep throwing rocks over my fence, curtailing my ability to enjoy my own home, Ill be the good patient neighbor and speak to you about it. You then tell me it's a band of hooligans that live under a rock on your property thats causing this mess. I tell you to take care of it, but you don't. My kids cant play in the yard and my wife can't tend her garden. I then take matters into my own hand and I invade your property to look under the rock myself. I will, without fail root out this bad seed even at the expense of your comfort because I had none. The palestinian people need to stand up for themselves and root out the bad seed among them because they are the reason you have to go through checkpoints to go see family, go to the supermarkets and places of worship. Israel was created after a world at war. To the palestinians I say,get over it. Make something of yourselves build and grow, ignore Israel and get on with advancing your people. If not, I'm sure,a bigger, badder bull dog will come and clean that hallway once and for all.