Israel and The Gaza Strip.
It's a few days since Israel assassinated a Hamas leader with a rocket attack on his car which killed several other people too. I don't know how many people read my blog, very few imagine and I don't suppose it has any influence as yet. Those who do read it may think I've been very quiet for a self professed pacifist and peace campaigner and I have. I've been watching closely and thinking before I comment. As usual I rely heavily on international media for information and it's not always one hundred percent accurate, nor does it always tell the whole story.
However, lets take it as true that Hamas had been firing rockets into southern Israel prior to the first of the current Israeli air strikes, of which there have now been well over two hundred. In that case the thing which strikes me the most is the stupidity of both sides. If Palestinians fire missiles into Israeli civilian areas, after Israel cleared out of Gaza then they must have known Israel would retaliate. Given the history, Israel would not only retaliate but would also use a sledgehammer to squash a fly and that of course is exactly what has happened. More fool both of them.
Had Israel stopped after the one missile strike and issued a warning to desist rocket attacks or face further consequences then I doubt the Palestinians would have desisted, but they might have thought twice and Israel would have had a far stronger moral position. That's not to say that killing civilians is ever acceptable. Violence always begets more violence and escalation further escalation. Had the Austro Hungarian empire dealt with the men who assassinated the Archduke without looking to their allies and in effect escalating matters the First World War might have been delayed and in the delay negotiations might have ensued. History is full of 'what ifs' and we'll never know for sure but there are still lessons to be learned.
I heard one Israeli civilian, an immigrant from a former Russian republic advocate doing to Gaza what the Russians did to Chechnya, she was proposing razing Gaza to the ground. What then, were Israel to do that? Gaza is a narrow strip, would Israel occupy it and settle once again, if so they would simply have moved their border closer to another potential enemy, by then stuffed full with bitter refugees. They would have further alienated the entire Arab world too. You may think that's not possible, but it is; there are many moderate and good people in the Arab world, but confronted with genocide in Gaza they would be drowned out, or even be moved towards outright enmity and it would be hard to blame them. There is no such thing as an effective buffer zone for Israel.
Israeli reservists have been mobilised and a ground invasion threatened, but what is the point? Would Israel invade and then withdraw, or would they stay? Either way it's hard to see an invasion as a prelude to a lasting peace. As so often it's the so called leaders who are the problem. It's those with the strongest views who are motivated to put themselves forward as leaders, rarely are they moderates, usually they're the ones with the personal agendas and I tar Hamas leaders with the same brush as Israeli leaders.
On both sides ordinary people with common sense must make it plain that enough is enough and stop blindly following and allowing extremists to have control. Ordinary people in Gaza must say no to rocket attacks from their soil and the people of Israel must stop minority extreme parties from carrying so much power and influence, that their government over reacts, escalates and puts a lasting peace back; possibly for decades, possibly permanently, or possibly until their enemies acquire nuclear weapons and are desperate enough to use them.
King Abdullah II of Jordan has written a moving personal book about the prospects for peace in the region, it should be essential reading for anyone who has an interest in peace in this most troubled region and peace in the wider world. Israel has not learned from history, they did not learn from the Berlin wall and they have not learned from the Arab spring, they have not learned from their own tragic history. Hamas and the Palestinians are not blameless either, but in many cases it is the blameless who get killed. The people of Northern Ireland eventually cried enough, from both sides of the great divide. It's time for all Palestinian people and all Israeli people to make the same call. It will still be a long and tortuous road to negotiate lasting peace all can live with, but the people must demand their leaders jaw jaw not war war.