Entrenched retaliation

Violence hardens both sides in Gaza conflict

Aug 18, 2014 by

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Fighting in the Gaza Strip has resulted in more than 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed since July 8. Hundreds of the dead Palestinians are children. At least six United Nations-run schools were struck by Israeli forces — attacks a U.N. spokesman termed a “serious violation of international law.”

The numbers — lost lives — should be sobering, a testament to the futility of violence. But instead, both sides use the death toll to justify their own actions and to reinforce their own narratives. To one side, the horrifically imbalanced body count defines a Zionist Israel bent on ethnic cleansing in a land they stole. To the other, a band of hate-fueled terrorists uses its women, children, hospitals and places of worship as shields while it pursues an Islamic revolution.

Without assigning initial blame for the decades-long conflict, both Israel’s and Gaza’s self-preservation is justified. Israelis living within Israel’s original borders deserve to go about their lives in peace, as do Palestinians on land they have owned for generations.

Unfortunately, actions and decisions of the past have occasionally led to outbursts of violence. Politicians on each side latched on to such incidents for their own gain, using fear not as a crutch but like bread in a famine. Each attack, each incursion, each “noble” retaliation only strengthened each side’s political standing.

As a result, escalating the conflict has cemented the power of the warring leaders — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and Hamas, a group with terrorist ties that controls the Gaza Strip. Each vows to defend its people and not negotiate with the terrorists on the other side. It actually sounds a bit like the hot air blowing out of the U.S. Congress.

While a long-term solution doesn’t seem to be in sight, steps can be taken in the direction of productive cease-fires and talks. For one thing, the United States can stop fueling the cycle of retribution. While Secretary of State John Kerry shuttled from Paris to Cairo trying to drum up a cease-fire in July, the U.S. was resupplying Israeli forces with grenades and mortar rounds. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, “The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability.”

Lasting peace won’t be possible if parties who say they want it keep their favored side stocked with ammunition that rains down on more innocents than combatants. Israel has Gaza under a siege to starve its terrorists. The U.S. and other players should use that inspiration. The U.S. and other external powers should starve the hawks on both sides of the weapons that keep their agendas in power. Until then, every rocket and every missile will only empower every enemy.


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