Prompted by my friend Joe’s recent post of an article from The Economist on Facebook and a subsequent comment which was very much sympathetic to the Israeli point of view, I found myself writing this stricture in reply.
I think one of the biggest issues people have particularly with Israel waging war on others, is a feeling that Israel positions itself as a civilised country and is in fact an extremely wealthy advanced nation with evolved legislature (alongside $3B in military gifts each year from the USA) but that it’s conduct in defending it’s people is not appropriate or proportional, for such a nation.
While it is true Israel is surrounded on land in a way the UK was not (and arguably the rate of attack was also lower) had Britain used the same weight of response to the 50 year campaign of the IRA on mainland England for IRA bombings it would also have been out of proportion. Attacks were a very regular occurrence during my childhood, including multiple assassinations of key public figures in the years before I was born. Proportional response is a key facet in the contradictory and imperfect world of international crisis, one which I believe people struggle to see applied by Israel in the ongoing conflict between Israel and its neighbours.
While my own country, Britain, has its share of blame for it’s bloody Imperial exploits (and other wars) I’m not defending those actions and nor does that mean Israel’s current actions are defensible.
The comparisons other made by some with Syria (run by a dictator) and other similar regimes are a weak analogy, if trying to deflect condemnation on the basis that ‘Many more 1000’s are dying in other conflicts yet not so much scrutiny or interest is levied’. This is also a flawed defence for obvious reasons.
It’s also the case that the inevitable cycle of violence will never be ended while Israeli leaders don’t take the moral high ground, by being the bigger society and swallowing ego, pride, loss and retribution in return for a serious chance at peace. Isolating Hamas internationally and bringing around public opinion globally, would be infinitely easier if that was the path taken, an approach of restraint. From an -I admit- relatively uninformed position (at least compared to those who know the region intimately) surely it must be possible to focus on resolution, which necessarily using Israel’s famed secret service to target and remove Hamas leaders, or those perpetrating and leading terrorist attacks.
The last time there was any really serious momentum behind change by political means, Israel’s own people assassinated Ritzhak Rabin.
The bitter fact is that many leaders in Israel do not seem to want peace, are stuck in a cyclone of home politics, power and their own distorted perspective, one which is clearly unacceptable for a state which claims to be both just (based upon religious teachings which are supposed to abhor violence and forgive) and a victim mentality itself.
Like an abused child by its parents, Israel seems unable to escape the horrific abuses of its own people in the last Century and now wages war on a minority of terrorists while decimating the lives of the majority in the targeted society. You don’t bulldoze houses if you just want to stop rockets.
There are too many in Israel who continue to wage violent war for land, while opposing extremists on the other side continue to use bombs and rockets to terrorise, while both sides hide under their umbrellas of religion. In that regard neither side are any better than each other, or for that matter all the other religious terrorist organisations whose hypocrisy is only eclipsed by their disregard for human life.
I’m not so naive to suggest that there is a simple solution, or even that the majority of the population on either side want continued conflict. But with generations of hatred fuelled by loss on both sides of the conflict, the prognosis for the future is depressing unless the people champion leaders who want change and a different future, who value peace over historical lines on maps. Are there any such leaders on either side?
I believe it is the richest, strongest nation in the conflict, is the only side which can stop the violence, and we all know which side that is. If Israel applied the same level of professionalism, money and will, to ending the conflict as they do to defending their homeland, the war could and would end and a permanent peace could be constructed, however difficult the choices and compromises were, that would inevitably have to be made.
Ultimately, perhaps the people on both sides have more say in this than they choose to think. After-all, leaders have to be followed in order to lead.