Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Proportionate responses

The news of Israel’s massive airborne attacks on the Gaza Strip implicitly suggested that the response was “disproportionate”, that the Israelis were being brutal and pre-emptive in their actions.

Here in New Zealand, veteran activist John Minto led protests outside the US Consulate in Auckland. Later, protesters marched up Queen Street to Aotea Square where they burned a US flag. The US gets the focus and blame because of its ardent support for Israel.

Truth and reality are always far more complicated than either the news media or activists on any side of any issue are able to comprehend, and nowhere is that more true or certain than in the Middle East generally, or the current situation in particular. In an editorial, the Chicago Tribune said:

It makes you wonder what would have happened if there had been such international outrage back in June, when the first rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip disrupted a cease-fire that was just days old… What would have happened if there had been such outrage when the rocket attacks from Gaza began to escalate a few weeks ago? Or if there had been outrage when Hamas formally declared on Dec. 18 that it was ending the six-month truce with Israel?

They have a point. I can’t remember hearing or reading a single word about any of that in the news, and it certainly wasn’t emblazoned all over the evening TV news. So, the Tribune goes on to ask,

Has this been a "disproportionate" response, as Israel's critics contend? What would be a "proportionate" response? Military strikes that bloody the citizens of Gaza, that leave the citizens of Israel still at risk, and that perpetuate a simmering war?

I don’t pretend to know the answer, or even if the Israeli response was as disproportionate as it may seem. The one thing that is clear is that the people who are suffering are not the leaders but the ordinary people of both sides—Israeli and Palestinian alike—who are caught up in the bitter hatred between their leaders.

It’s not helpful for the outside world to blame the US or Israel or Hamas—and all three come in for blame from someone. Anyone with a brain can see that there are no saints in this. How can we expect the people there to find peace when so many of us are quick to back one side without even trying to understand the other? If we can’t or won’t find a middle ground, how can we expect them to?

If we want to see this conflict end, maybe we should start with a more proportionate response among ourselves. We probably all agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must end, that a permanent peace with justice must be found. I wish that both sides would pull back and enter into a truce so that—yet again—the work of diplomats can begin. Again. One day, they may even succeed. But if we are to help the peacemakers, we must reflect the values of peace and respect—even when the “other side” doesn’t deserve it.

The ordinary people on both sides are waiting for us get it right, too.


d said...

I'm honesly sick of the whole thing. This disagreement/war/whatever you want to call it has been going on for ages. I say we just bomb the entire region and be done with it. If they can't learn to share, no one ges to live there.

Just one more reason to dislike religion...

Blogterium said...

Well d, Iran and the Hamas are working on it.
I think, every nation has the right to protect its citizens against terrorists. And that´s what Israel does.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Yeah, I'm not sure that any solution is possible, but I also agree that Israel has a right to defend itself.