US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Escaping the Gaza ghetto, part II

By Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Since I last posted on this blog I have been variously described here and at the Chicago Tribune (which reprinted its contents) as a friend of Hamas, both naïve and duplicitous (a neat trick), an anti-Semite, and a member of the dread tribe of modern liberalism. I consider these attempts to so label my objections to the current aerial bombardment and impending incursion in Gaza efforts to compartmentalize, reduce, and thereby obliterate these objections—ideological shorthand meant to neutralize dialogue, debate, and dissent.

In truth, I have not been an active supporter of Palestinian rights in the past. I don't really even have any Muslim Arab friends, though many friends who are Jewish are likely to be troubled by my opinions and I regret that mightily. I have empathy for the plight of Palestinians and the plight of Israelis (more on that below) and as a U.S. tax payer I have grave concerns about how my tax dollars are being invested in Israel and a legitimate right to express those concerns. I do not believe that empathy for the people of Gaza and acute concern for the humanitarian crisis engulfing them=my support for terrorism however it is expressed or appeasement of same. Beyond my moral qualms, it is also because I hope to defeat terrorism in the future that I object to the current onslaught in Gaza. If the ultimate goal is stability approaching peace and the diminishment of Islamic supremacists and terrorism, I believe that this current campaign represents poor tactical judgment and will lead to the opposite results.

I have been asked the following questions:

Do I support Hamas in its rocket campaign in southern Israel: No

Do I condemn the killing of Israelis: I do.

Would I feel the same if I lived with the threat of Hamas rockets over my head: I don't know

Do I think Hamas should unilaterally cease its rocket fire: I do.

Do I think Hamas and its tactics are a menace to the people of Gaza: I do.

Do I think Syria and other Arab states should better support the Palestinian refugee community of Gaza: I do.

I guess it was/is my feeling that it is an odd redundancy to have to declare my objection to an enterprise as criminal as lobbing rockets into civilian populations, but I did make some rhetorical attempt to make that clear in my initial post (an attempt which was enough for at least one commentator to piece together my subterranean ant-Semitism). The murder of a mother of 4 is an appalling waste of life and an appalling criminal act as were the other murders effected in the last week in Israel. I did not intend to appear glib about it.

I regret that I did not demonstrate enough empathy with the people in southern Israel, as many commentators here suggested. I would be encouraged that there is some hope for human beings in general if those same commentators could enlarge their empathy to include the women and children under the missiles and naval bombardment in Gaza, and I would even encourage empathy for the young men of Gaza who are being killed this week. It is a relentless decades long process of dehumanization on both sides that have gotten us to this point. I have read posts from visitors at the Haaretz website this week that could be taken right out of a 19th century American newspaper egging on the liquidation of America's indigenous population.

Here are some other statements I can make:

I believe that the jus in bello principle of non-combatant immunity should be enforced and that we are uniquely capable in this generation of realizing that principle.

I believe that summary execution and a policy of state sanctioned assassination, particularly when it mandates a deplorable acceptance of noncombatant mortality, should be unacceptable tactics in a civilized state.

I believe in the basic humanity of the Israeli and Palestinian people, their right to life and their states' right to exist. I believe that everything possible within the confines of civilized behavior and jus in bello principles should be done to protect and defend those rights.

I believe that some avenue of dialogue, however strained, must remain open between these two communities and the legitimate hopes and aspiration of both sides respected and enlarged. I believe this is the only path to a stable peace. I believe it is time to discuss creating a joint truth and reconciliation committee peopled by all willing actors, sidelining those who insist on preconditions and ultimatums.

I believe that the U.S. and Israel—because of their relative resource and military supremacy—are required to evolve a singular spirituality of power and an ethic of its deployment that is historically unique and politically challenging to achieve.

I believe there are three options before the state of Israel:

A difficult, pock-marked path to peace.

The status quo of tit-for-tat mayhem and occasional large scale bloodletting over the short term.

And over the longer term, say the next generation, if some peace and some reconciliation is not achieved, the detonation of the "demographic bomb" within its borders that will require the state of Israel to respond with acts that are now already rhetorically in circulation, repugnant acts of state that may not mean the physical end of the state of the Israel, but certainly its spiritual demise and the end of its moral legitimacy.

I have been attacked for not "remembering" history, for example, didn't I know that Israel pulled out of Gaza, yet the rocket attacks continued? Yes, I am aware of that history, but let's remember that the history of this mess goes back a little further than 2005-06. There are now four or five refugee generations piled up in Gaza, and a new generation is coming of age to a uniquely hopeless and wretched state of affairs.

This conflict will continue until some legitimate response to that reality is concocted. Would such a turn of events satisfy all Palestinians? Of course not, there will probably always be those seeking the "ultimate destruction" of the state of Israel, just as there will always be Israelis still arguing for the deportation—or worse—of all Arabs within the confines of Israel's recognized borders and beyond. What we are seeking is peace, not human perfection.

I have also been assailed for failing to provide an outline of my own solution to this mess. I am guilty of that certainly, but I hasten to remind that this situation has been left to fester for 60 years. It doesn't seem reasonable that my objections to the current display of inhumanity can be broadly dismissed because I am incapable of producing a neat solution within the rhetorical confines of this tiny blog. Frankly, I don't know what the right thing to do here is and I presume no one else does either otherwise the calamity of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and the security of the Israelis within Israel's borders would have been resolved long ago.

But because I cannot provide a fix does not negate the fact that what I know in my heart and my head is that this avenue of piling more violence upon violence is not a solution, but an escalation that will one day lead to a dreadful outcome. A first step might be that reconciliation body I've suggested and international peacekeeping forces along both sides of the border. Israel could untighten its grip on Gaza and rethink its gerrymandering of the West Bank. Moderate Palestinians might then gather enough courage to articulate their positions. Both sides could begin to reacquaint themselves with the basic humanity of the other such that lobbing a rocket into a school yard where you may or may not kill some Jewish children or liquidating a terrorist while killing most of his family cannot be construed as an achievement of any sort.