US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The Gaza crossing

By Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Fearing a Gaza bloodbath worse than what has already been experienced with more than 500 killed, including as many as 70 children, the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services are urging a ceasefire in Gaza and asking American Catholics to press their political leadership on this matter.(And I really have to wonder why it is France's Sarkozy and not Condi Rice or another high level U.S. diplomat taking the lead on negotiation an end to this incursion.)

When last I posted on this crisis, I mentioned that I feared a "dreadful outcome" over the long term. A friend asked what could be worse than what we were already seeing in Gaza and Southern Israel today. This is how I replied:

The current incursion is certainly dreadful, yes, but what I am hinting at references a lot of the loose talk a la "kill them all," "deport them all," "Arab scum don't deserve to live," etc., or the fact that for every action there is a reaction, such that while Palestinians still await some kind of compensation for or return to the 1947-48 status they knew or at the least some kind of meaningful dialogue toward the same, we have moved from the assassination of RFK—allegedly in response to the refugee crisis then "merely" 20 years old—to plane hijackings to airport murder assaults to bombings of public places all over the world to suicide bombers to 9/11 to rockets to ? 

Each stage is accompanied by an IDF US-backed campaign of military brute force aimed at "finally" securing a peace and Israel's right to exist. Such campaigns achieve some goals, lead to some moderation, but also harden an increasingly violent and desperate corps who are becoming capable of anything.

The reliance on military force or (as in our case with Afghanistan and the creation of the mujahadeen) scheming create their own historical whirlwind which cannot be contained or controlled, such that without them Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas wouldn't exist today. Even if the IDF is able to silence the rockets of 2009 in other words, as long as the historical grievance remains unspoken to (these days many seem incapable of remembering what it is the refugee generations in Gaza, West Bank, and Lebanon are even agitating or committing acts of terror for), even as you suppress one form of violence aimed at attracting global attention, something worse will soon be in the works. And that in its own turn leads to an even more forceful IDF response leading to another action from a new generation of militants leading to ?

I really fear that an endgame to this conflict begins when, say, some terrorist entity, perhaps not even Hamas, perhaps a new one being born or at least nurtured on the bloody streets of Gaza today, gets their hands on a biological or chemical agent, or worse, gets nuclear-capable and then lobs something of that order into Israel. I think the Israel response may make today's escapades look like kindergarten.

That's why I think time is fleeting to secure a real, lasting peace. Some progress must be made toward delegitimizing the hardliners who seek the ultimate victory over the "Zionist entity" instead of delegitimizing the moderates who seek some kind of compromise and a practical resolution that might not get Palestinians back into villages their grandparents remember, but at least back onto some path that resembles an actual future. There has been some progress toward that. We shouldn't forget that despite the horror portrayed on TV today.

You can't contain this conflict via military might alone. You can't protect your citizens just with an overpowering military. The U.S. has the best equipped military in the world (rivaled only by Israel's) and all it took to kill 3,000 people and demolish a good bit of NY's physical and financial infrastructure was about $250K, a handful of planners, and 20 guys willing to kill themselves

I'm not trying to defend Hamas, as some posters here have charged, just the people who live around them. In other words, Hamas is essentially a terrorist org, as such willing to commit murder to achieve its political goals. As I've written, I believe in the principle of noncombatant immunity and that "total war" is fundamentally immoral. I can't support Hamas, its ends or its means.

It's a little hard to figure out how to dislodge a terrorist entity when it becomes ensconced as a quasi-govt authority. I'm not sure how to proceed with Hamas in charge, frankly, in terms of diplomacy and dialogue. I just wish we could have been a little more creative about that challenge than dropping 1 ton high explosives on them. Piling one barbarism upon another will only lead to worse down the road.

But here is what I also meant when I referred in the last post to scheming and trying to control events that create their own uncontrollable whirlwind: Just as the U.S. helped launch the Mujahadeen to antagonize the Soviet Union (, a group which morphed into Al Qaeda and has now succeeded in goading us into destroying ourselves through military-imperial overreach, the Mossad apparently had its own role to play with stoking Hamas as a counterbalance to the PLO.

It is because of the deplorable outcomes that result in the long term from our militaristic and force-based strategies that I am slowly becoming a pacifist, not because (or not exclusively because) of my moral qualms about the use of force.

Military power must be matched with a meeting of the civilizations, not a clash of the civilizations that so many people, particularly the rash of commentators at my blog, seem to be promoting now (adding to the list of historical self-fulfilling prophecies). Advocating for the former does not assure a peaceful and stable future. It is loaded with risk and uncertainty, but it's not too hard to predict where the latter will take us, more of the same or much, much worse. Even a victory there may look very much like defeat.

More on Gaza from an Irish pundit.

Haaretz calls for a "lull," not a ceasefire.

More from Haaretz: "White flag, black flag "