When I was a young boy, my mother told me that two wrongs can’t make a right. My mother was brilliant. Consider the ongoing brutal conflict between Israel and Hamas that is killing thousands of people. Too many are kids.
It is a historical fact that blame cannot be solely attributed to one party. It is also essential to recognize that primary fault lies in repetitive bad decisions made by those in charge. Tragically, in both cases, the desires of the majority are not well represented.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2006, demonstrates little interest in peace. Their current strategy seems to be to keep the conflict alive, including kidnapping, murder and rocket attacks directed at nonmilitary targets. Most Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are not members of Hamas. Gazans have not been free to vote the organization out of power and replace them with leadership able to seek a different path.
Hamas terrorist tactics are reprehensible, but for those who have long studied the conflict, they come as little surprise. Terrorist acts are the weapon of the weak. Decades of occupation followed by blockade, oppression and humiliation had a hand in creating today’s bloody butcher’s bill. Hamas’ attacks on unarmed Israeli citizens provided the provocation for what has become massive retaliation.
As a matter of international law, incidentally killing civilians has never been a war crime. But the purposeful targeting of civilians for death is. This is a distinction with a difference. Intent matters. I once lived in Israel and spent considerable time in Gaza and the West Bank. Most people residing in these places would have traded land for peace long ago.
Diehard leadership in Jerusalem and Gaza has stymied peace efforts time and again. The predictable result is always the same — more death, more destruction, more suffering. Jewish zealots continue their march across the West Bank creating illegal settlements as they go, expropriating lands formerly occupied by Palestinians. Israeli aircraft strikes and artillery bombardment that damage Gazan schools, hospitals and homes — unintentional or not — fan the flames.
The U.N. secretary-general is right — current events in Gaza “did not happen in a vacuum.” Take note that criticizing the government of Israel does not equal antisemitism, although many pretend it to be so — a falsehood that only serves to kill hope.
Fault lies with both ruling governments. Their continuing refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue perpetuates the cycle of violence. And nothing justifies the slaughter of children.
It is crucial for each party to take responsibility, prioritize diplomacy over confrontation and work together toward a just resolution that ensures the security and dignity of both populations. Only through genuine reconciliation and compromise can a lasting solution be achieved.
Tragically, many in power are so blinded by hatred that they can no longer perceive the humanity in what they view as “the other.” Rage, the slow boil or heat-of-the-moment variety, cares nothing for proportionality and the edicts of law or rationality.
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To better understand the genuine roots of this struggle, there is no better read than “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” written by an Oxford-educated Israeli Jewish historian, professor Ilan Pappe of the United Kingdom’s Exeter University. The truths that he exposes are powerful.
Governments that can make war can make peace, too. The latter requires greater bravery than the former. Thus far, courage of this sort has proven all too rare. The majorities in Israel and Gaza must find better leadership. Bottom line: So long as extremists remain in control on both sides of this long-running conflict, a just sustainable peace will remain elusive.
Robert Bruce Adolph, a retired Army senior Special Forces officer, is the former chief of the Middle East and North Africa within the U.N. Department of Safety and Security, and once head of security for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency — Palestine. He holds graduate degrees in both Middle East Studies and Military Strategy and has served in the region for 14 years. Today, Adolph is a successful international speaker and commentator, as well as author of the book “Surviving the United Nations.” Learn more at robertbruceadolph.com.