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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  • Dan Stutzman

    This is an area that I believe us Mennonites need to re-evaluate history and see what has and is happening in the middle east. First there is nothing illegal about Israel processing the land they do. In 2005 Israel home owners were told to pack up and leave and the complete are given to the Palestinians. Google pictures of the Gaza strip anytime before 2005 and then after ask yourself which time span do think it was the best. Imagine the you are surrounded by nations who’s only way they see peace is that Israel is completely destroyed. Ask yourself how many rockets are launched into your country before something needs to happen. Look at the children programs that are on the air and what they are teaching. I believe the hardest item Mennonites face is the inability to see evil and what to do about it. You editorial is another story of not looking completely at the whole picture calling the duck a duck.

    • Berry Friesen

      Dan, the people from our mission agencies have been doing exactly what you suggest (“re-evaluate history and see what has and is happening in the Middle East”) and don’t agree with you.

      They say Israel used terrorism to clear the land of the people who had lived there for generations. They say Israel continually makes war on Gaza by its blockade (which is under international law an act of war) and by using the collective punishment of imprisonment (another violation of international law) against the citizens of Gaza because they voted for Hamas to lead them. They say (like Tim did in his editorial) that politicians on both sides use the violence and hostility for personal gain (either in power or wealth) and do not seek peace. They say Hamas’ rockets would be legitimate weapons of self-defense if only they had guidance systems attached, like the made-in-the-USA- rockets Israel uses to attack Gaza.

      So your complaint is not that we Mennonites haven’t been doing our homework, it is that our homework gave us different answers than the mainstream media are feeding us. Your views of the situation in Palestine have been conformed to the world’s view, and you want Mennonites to fall in line. Why should we do that? See Romans 12:2.

      I would add that credible news sources report Netanyahu wanted this war and used the killing of the three Israeli teenagers as a pretext to provoke it. The government of Gaza had nothing to do with those murders and Netanyahu knew that within hours of the killings.

      • Dan Stutzman

        There must be two Gaza or two Israel. Israel tries to survive in a region that wants them wiped on the planet. I find it amazing that when looking at the news from Gaza (not the news in the U.S.) it’s the news from hamas and what they are saying when the world is not paying attention. You know it really isn’t worth debating anymore. I will never be able to convince you what I have learned. I do remember reading a book that God gave land to Israel for them to live. But I guess that Israel no longer is around. Just a fake Israel

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