Monday, January 5, 2009

Gaza

So what can we say about Gaza, except that it's a humanitarian heartbreak? First off, you can't have a neighbor continuously lobbing missiles into your back yard.  It's bad enough to have a neighbor who denies your right to exist, but to have one actively pursuing your destruction by acts of terrorism is intolerable.  There is an age-old right to self-defense.  Even essentially pacifist and non-violent Buddhism does not deny this right.  And did Jesus's injunction to "turn the other cheek" envision a situation of this kind?

That said, we get into the territory of the "disproportionate response."  The killing of large numbers of civilians is equally intolerable, and the heart condemns especially the violent death of children, even unintended.  The argument that the combatants, insurgents, call them what you will, choose to hide themselves and their weaponry in homes and schools, while likely true, rings hollow beside the images of suffering innocents.  The Israeli war machine seems cruel indeed when measured by the destruction that it causes.  

At this point, the who's right and who's wrong have ceased to matter.  We have reached the point where they effectively cancel each other out.  On the one hand, it seems clear that the Palestinians received the short end of the stick when the state of Israel was carved out of the land that was their home.  On the other, their leaders have persistently chosen violence and rejection over any negotiated settlement offer that has come their way.  

It seems that in this situation, the most basic of human--one might almost say animal--instincts prevail: territorialism, mutual distrust, hatred, rage.  The veneer of civilization shows itself to be thin indeed when everything that separates us from the animal world is thrust aside in favor of brute vengeance, prejudice and inflexibility.  (And there are good arguments to be made that animals are more humane than we!)  As in most human discord, the assignment of blame matters less than the resolution, and the urgent question now is how to put an end to a cycle of violence that does no one any good.  

The wisdom here suggests the practice of mutual forbearance, the suspension of all violence on both sides, and the creation of a breathing space in which both Israeli and Palestinian leaders can reappraise the true interests of the people they serve in the context of the teachings of their respective religions: the simple, shared injunction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you would surely provide common ground.  But I fear that in the current situation, this simplicity is too much to hope for.  


7 comments:

robin andrea said...

I never venture into this turmoil. I tend to take a longer view of history, the one that preceded monotheism and all the problems that came with it. These old enmities get played out century after century. All we can do is look on, war after bloody war, wondering what the hell will make it stop. I venture no guesses, so I look away and have learned to accept that war is the one true instance when I must believe that suffering is illusion.

Paul said...

Peter, thanks for this balanced overview of the situation. Both sides behave badly. The roots of hatred are deep, deep, deep. As Robin Andrea said, all we can do is look on. It is sad.

khengsiong said...

The Palestinian issue is too complex to be resolved in foreseeable future. You have not even mentioned the conflicts between Hamas and Fatah yet.

There is really nothing much we can do. It is easier to change ourselves than to change the world...

Doctor Noe said...

Peter, you have it right in the first graph -- when somebody's lobbing rockets into my back yard, I don't turn the other cheek. I do unto others. There's no other hands about it. Israel doesn't do preemptive strikes. As Fidel Castro used to say, if you want to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs.

mandt said...

"As Fidel Castro used to say, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs." And Mao said, "Revolution is not a dinner party." Israel is a terrorist state and the US a failed state. While we contemplate which came first; the chicken or the egg we will starve of greatness and lack of humanity.

TaraDharma said...

Israel is roughly the size of the state of New Jersey. Gaza has a population roughly that of Philadelphia. That these small pockets of humanity on earth can be such places of extreme suffering no longer surprises me. Look at Ireland. Look at....look at....

I just wish we could airlift those children out of there - though this is a kneejerk repsonse and I have no idea of where they could go or what kind of damage removing them would cause. I just want to save lives.

PeterAtLarge said...

Bleak, bleak, bleak.... thanks to all for pitching in!