Decent souls around the world: We live with anguish and disgust the horror unfolding in Gaza over the past three weeks. What to do? What do we do? The thoughtful suffer powerlessly. Meanwhile, the headlines pile up. Just yesterday, July 30th: “Amid confusion, 17 killed by shelling at Market in Gaza.” “UN school in Gaza hit by mortar fire killing up to 19 who sought shelter.” Death toll by today July 31st is up to 1,200, mostly innocent civilians.
And the voices. The cacophony of voices—multiplying to infinity: TV and radio shows, blogs and Facebook posts, tweets, instant news, images, witnesses’ accounts… Everyone has a word to say. And that IS GOOD—politics is humanity, is all of us or it’s nothing. So it’s good: there should be no mental inhibition when fellow human beings are suffering this badly. Yet I am not confident: Is all this talking and all this analyzing going to make a difference? Is it going to make leaders at each side of the conflict put an end to it? No, it will not.
So my word is just about the never-ending spectacle, about the powerlessness, about the state of mental freeze I am in, like many others, I am sure. In horror. Paralyzed. Powerless. Kids killed, in cold blood. Families decimated. People terrorized, at both sides of the border. Propaganda and demagogy cranking up in all sorts of forums. I am in dismay.
God, it hurts. It hurts to be a silent witness to the massacre of innocents—peons of a vast, political and ideological battle. It hurts to see all these people die for nothing, on both sides of the conflict (although the asymmetry of forces is heavily tipping the balance of death to the Palestinian side.) It hurts to see Israel destroying its global reputation as a seeker of regional peace and stability.
Then the questions, the paradoxes. Does Israel have the right to defend itself? Of course. Is killing innocent civilians self-defense? Dubious. Is Hamas’ use of human shields as widespread as Israel argues? It seems like it. If it’s true, how can Hamas put their own people thus in harm’s way? Israel goes the extra-mile to make civilians know where the next attack is going to hit. Yet, where to flee? It’s senselessness: there is no safe heaven in the Gaza strip.
More: Could not Israel have dealt with the tunnel-threat in any other way before, as fellow Israelis are asking now? Why attacking Hamas, when Hamas was at its lowest popularity rate in years at the Gaza strip? Is not Israel helping rebuild Hamas’ popularity with its bloody military operation? Are not all Palestinians guilty for not getting rid of Hamas democratically? Why Hamas didn’t invest time and resources to build bunkers, shelters –not just the tunnels?
I support Israel’s right to live in peace and defend its people. Yet something inside me tells me –and many others—that there is something morally wrong with what Israel is doing. I equally support the Palestinians’ human rights and their chance to live in peace. A friend posted in Facebook a link to the Tikkun Magazine with a brilliant headline: “Empathizing with Gaza does not make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.”
To Israel I would ask to consider the suffering of the anvil. The anvil is there to be mercilessly hit—for it cannot move. Only the hammer can stop the hitting: just the human hand holding the relentless hammer.
The tragedy: there is no end in sight to this aberrant process—what Israel’s military calls in disdain “mowing the lawn” (i.e., checking Hamas’ vitality by overpowering military means every two or three years). This is Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill over and over, in Palestine.
Weeks like these past two (ISIS, Boko Haram, Syria, Ukraine, Gaza…) make the powerless witness feel like the world is at the verge of its end, like this is a world in crisis, exploding in sprouts of hatred and bloodshed, showcasing the churning of the eternal wheel of violence and intolerance. Am I a pessimistic, a cynic? Not really: just a realist. What comes to mind is that Kantian quote that Isaiah Berlin liked to use: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”