Israel and Gaza: Does Right and Wrong Matter?

A recent report on NPR news opened with the tag line “240 Gazan’s killed, one Israeli killed.”  Another report on NPR opened thus: “Over 200 Gazan’s killed, one third of them were children.”  There is a certain emphasis here, one very similar to the coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict that is presented on national network news programs, showing in gory detail the bombing of many innocents in Gaza and making passing references to the few slain Israeli soldiers or citizens. 

I think it is truly tiresome to launch into yet another discussion of news bias, anti-Israel, etc.  All I would like to do is impose a little rationality and sanity on how this Mideast crisis is being portrayed, analyzed and spoken about.  Perhaps those who by comment or emphasis distort the true circumstances are biased or ignorant.  If the shoe fits, wear it.  But I am not so concerned about why the untruths are being spread.  I would just like to take this chance to concisely state the truth. 

Fact: From the very beginning of the recent hostilities to the present moment, Israel has only acted in self defense and, further, has bent over backwards to minimize harm to innocent Gazan citizens.

Let us briefly review how we got here.  Three Jewish teenage boys were abducted and killed.  A gruesome killing of a Palestinian youth followed.  Within days, the perpetrators of this later crime were apprehended and the Israeli Prime Minister stated that they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Israeli law.  (One wonders how hard Palestinian powers that be have been attempting to apprehend the murderers of the Israeli boys.)   As a further condemnation of this senseless killing of the Palestinian boy, hundreds of Israelis made their way to the home of his family, in order to pay their respects.  Shortly after the killing of the Palestinian, the rockets from Gaza started, an endless barrage, now more than a thousand.  These rockets have targeted not just the south but the major cities of Israel, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. 

What did Israel do?  Defend itself, nothing more.  What American would honestly do differently if facing the same situation.  But what is so striking about this self-defense is the almost unbelievable level of self-restraint and humanitarian spirit in which it has been executed.  Instead of just bombing a terrorist hiding place in Gaza, Israelis first drop leaflets, phone the homes and send out an initial warning dummy bomb to clunk on the roof and warn civilians to evacuate.  Just take a moment to reflect on the huge extent to which such humanitarian efforts undermine the Israeli military operations. 

To those who urge Israel to try harder to seek the path of peace with the Palestinians, remember that there have been two cease fires—a humanitarian one, agreed to by Israel, in order for vital supplies to be brought into Gaza and a unilateral one, in which Israel actually stopped firing for a few hours and the only Gazan response was to keep firing and make demands of freer passage into Israel.  (Was the continued firing of Gazan rockets an attempt to convince Israel that free passage of Gazans into Isreal is a safe and wise move?)  Let us remember that it was Israel that supplied electricity to Gaza, even though Hamas is 220 million dollars in arrears on its electricity bill and even though the electricity was used in the manufacture of bombs.  (Not surprisingly, much of the electrical supply has by now been disrupted by the hostilities, including misdirected Hamas bombs.  Israeli technicians have understandably declined to go to Gaza in order to fix the electricity.)   Incidentally, the latest from Gaza is that Hamas demands unlimited free electricity from Israel, as a condition for cease fire. 

So, yes, what is happening in Gaza is a humanitarian tragedy.  And yes, I too hope and pray for peace.  But before we think that body counts can create a moral high ground, let us consider a few things.  Who is really responsible for killing all of those Gazan children?  Is it Israel or is it Hamas which urges civilian men, women and children to flood onto the rooftops of targeted buildings, creating a human shield.   It is Hamas who has built their installations under hospitals, schools and civilian areas.  Who is the one who is really callous to the suffering of the Gazan people?  And before we view one more video of the deplorable conditions in Gaza, let us ask what the condition of the Gazan people might be if Hamas spent on the needs of their citizens, rather than their war machine. 

We must resist being lulled into a false understanding of the crisis by listening to body counts, headlines and empty slogans.  We must be guided by the truth and actual right and wrong.  Ask yourself, if bombs were raining into your community and you had only 15 seconds to run into the bomb shelter whenever the siren sounded, would you think it imperative to do something about it?  Does the comparative death toll have any significance in understanding how a people must respond to protect the safety of its citizens.  Fortunately, the antimissile system, Iron Shield, has averted many potentially tragic strikes on Israeli cities, but the danger remains, and how can a populace endure such unyielding attack indefinitely.  Would you act any differently to protect your own children? 

“Land for Peace” has been the refrain for so many years.  We can debate the merits of this, but I have one question about it.  Has Hamas ever truly offered peace for land?  Self rule was granted to Gaza and what happened?  An immense militarization of the region.  A two-state solution could only work after the Palestinians demonstrate a true commitment to peaceful coexistence.  Otherwise, creation of a separate state would mean simply further resources available to build an even more powerful military complex, bent on the destruction of Israel.

Let us take a little history and reality into account, as we view world events.  Otherwise, we will become pawns of those who make propaganda and their agenda more important than the bloodshed, sufferings and losses of decent people throughout the world who simply want peace.         

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