29 December 2008

who is in the right when war is the answer?

i am, admittedly, new to the world of foreign policy. it has only been since the award of my fellowship that i've begun to pay as much attention to the world section of the ny times as i have been the op-ed and politics pages. and while there is clearly nothing new to the ongoing battle between israel and the rest of the middle east, i have no idea who is in the right.

it is very clear to me that the ny times is on the side of the israelis, as is most of america. i too find myself in that camp, only because i read, hear, and pay attention to what's being reported around me. i see the word hamas and terrorism springs to mind. when i think of israel, whether it's right or wrong, i think of holocaust retribution, a fresh start after a devastating loss, a new beginning for a people whose entire existence has been fraught with surviving attempts at mass extermination. i can't help but feel that the jewish people deserve their holy land.

and it's not like that land of milk and honey was really all that before israel declared itself a nation in 1948 (i'm not 100% on the facts here, but i think the league of nations created a nation or perhaps confirmed the existence of the british mandate of palestine, after the first world war, with the intent of providing a nation for the jewish people. then in 1947 that stretch of land known as palestine was split in half by the united nations, half to the jews, half to the arabs, and the jews of israel half had to go to war with the surrounding arab nations in order to officially demand its independence. i don't think palestine was officially recognized as its own nation until the late 1980's?). either way, it's been a land embattled in war since the beginning of time. i wouldn't want to live there.


okay, so treaty after treaty, followed by wars, outbreaks of violence, terrorist activities, crimes against humanity, et al, by both sides, there exists this 5-ish mile strip of land that separates israel from the mediterannean sea. gaza. gaza was governed by egypt till 1967, when israel kicked its ass and took over the strip of land by military occupation. notwithstanding a few israeli settlements, the people who live there are not israelis. they are arabs, and they don't like israelis. in the '90's, there were a series of negotiations in an effort to transfer government authority over to the palestinians, and by 2005 israel was out of gaza. sort of.

israel still maintains control over airspace, anything in transit, immigration to and from, visitor travel, and issues related to taxation of israeli goods and services. this makes it feel to palestinians that israel hasn't really left their land. even today, it is israel who allows or denies humanitarian aid into the gaza strip.

gaza is in limbo. it is a "territory", owned by no one, governed by fighting palestinians and economically pinned by israel.

in 2006, there were palestinian elections to determine who would rule the gaza strip. the terrorist group hamas won. no real surprise there. the arabs living in the gaza strip don't like the perceived israeli occupation, and they elected (i'm not saying this was a good move) the intolerant, no nonsense, militaristic, "let's just kick their asses" hamas terrorist group to lead. the results of the election led to a lot of internal fighting between hamas and the other palestinian faction (the more moderate group), fatah. economic sanctions were instituted by the western world, even most of the arab world refused to accept hamas leadership, many palestinians fled the gaza strip, and hamas blames it all on israel.

since 2007, when hamas effectively ran out any other palestinian gov't and took the reigns over the gaza strip, they have been poking at israel. they have shot more than 10,000 rockets into towns in southern israel, have in all likelihood been using government funds to purchase military weapons instead of investing in farms, education, and infrastructure, and have waged an ongoing attack against israel.

israelis, though they aren't necessarily being killed by these ongoing rocket and mortar attacks, are suffering psychologically, individually and as a nation. at some point it seems that they have a right to step it up and remind hamas-controlled-gaza that they won't want to mess with the big dogs.

the thing is, how far do they go? when does it stop? the ny times is reporting that nearly 400 palestinians have been killed, many of which are innocent civilians. on the one hand, you wanna tell israel, "ok, enough's enough, you've made your point. back off, and open the roads for humanitarian aid to get back into gaza." and on the other hand, when is it ever okay to take 400 lives for the sake of making a point?

really, who is to blame? i don't know. i still don't know. maybe there isn't a right and a wrong. maybe it's just meant for the madness to go on and on and on. in writing this, i'd hoped to find someone to blame, and someone to make it stop. but i'm right back where i started, with only questions and no answers...


1 comment:

  1. As a Jewish American, it is my job and passion to side with the Israelis. However, I can see the other side and feel that at times we have been in the wrong. However, I feel that in this current situation, we are not wrong. We gave them ample opportunity to stop firing rockets on a daily basis. Israel was ready to sign another cease-fire, but the Palestinians kept poking and poking. As for how much is too much? That is tough to say. As soon as they are ready to talk then I assume Israel will be ready to listen. That seems to be the basis of the current situation. We need to get them to talk. Then it is enough.