Reading The New York Times, as I do every morning (the world’s best newspaper), I have encountered a number of articles on the current hostilities in Palestine. I couldn’t help but notice that the articles with the most rational, most compassionate, and wisest analyses were written by Jews.
This might seem surprising since Jewish people were the victims of the horrific attacks by Hamas. One might have expected nothing but rage and calls for revenge. But these writers, while no doubt wracked by profound grief and anger, managed to maintain their good sense and humanity.
For example, in “Piling Horror Upon Horror” Michelle Goldberg expresses her concern about the “murderous” language emanating from some Israeli leaders. She fears that “this rhetoric will become reality” as they blame all Palestinians for the carnage. While recognizing that “Israelis have a right to their rage” she warns about this “leading us toward somewhere even darker than where we are right now.”
Thomas L. Friedman in “Why a Gaza Invasion and ‘Once and for All’ Thinking Are Wrong for Israel” points out that Islamist/jihadist movements such as Hamas “have deep cultural, social, religious and political roots in their societies. And they have access to endless supplies of humiliated young men.”
He believes that Israel occupying Gaza (again) “could turn Israel’s humiliating tactical defeat … into a long-term moral and military strategic crisis.” It could draw the U.S. into a war, undermining other foreign policy interests, including bringing the Saudis into the Abraham Accords. And it could play into Hamas’s hands (and Iran’s) further by igniting violence on the West Bank.
On the other hand, if “Israel were to … look for more surgical means to eliminate or capture Hamas’s leadership … it would not only avoid further traumatizing its own society, as well as Palestinian civilians in Gaza; it would also give Israel and its allies time to think through how to build—with Palestinians—a legitimate alternative to Hamas.”
The best article I’ve read on the conflict is Peter Beinart’s “There Is a Jewish Hope for Palestinian Liberation. It Must Survive.” He discusses the largely peaceful achievement of freedom for South Africans by the African National Congress. One of the major reasons they cleaved to peaceful means was that they could show growing support abroad. I remember our own PM Brian Mulroney being a staunch supporter of sanctions. And eventually it worked.
In contrast, he points out that when “Palestinians resist their oppression in ethical ways—by calling for boycotts, sanctions and the application of international laws—the United States and its allies work to ensure that those efforts fail.” Canada, of course, is one of those allies—out parliamentarians shamefully voted to reject the Palestinians Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
He recognizes that The denial of Palestinian freedom sits at the heart of this conflict,” emphasizing that most Gazans are descendants of refugees. From their overcrowded cage, he says, “many Palestinians in Gaza can see the land that their parents and grandparents called home, though most may never set foot in it.”
He regrets that the growing alliance between Jews and Palestinians to liberate the Palestinians has now been “gravely damaged” but insists it must continue. He closes by saying in recent days he has felt the greatest despair he has ever known, but was nonetheless encouraged by a note of consolation he received from a Palestinian friend which closed with the words “only together.”
In contrast to these poignant yet wise words are some less than kind rants emanating from various Gentiles. From Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, “As far as I’m concerned, Israel can bounce the rubble in Gaza,” or from Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, “We’re in a religious war here. I am with Israel. Do whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place.”
Level the place indeed. And what do we do with the million children in that place. Bury them? Not surprisingly, the two senators are Republicans from the South. Nonetheless, there have been many echoes of these remarks.
These people fail to understand they are thinking and talking like Hamas. Hamas witnesses the abuse imposed on its people, so it assumes the right to exact revenge against the innocent. Cotton and Graham see their friends abused so they, too, support revenge against the innocent. Revenge upon revenge upon revenge—a vicious circle.
The circle will only be broken when one party foregoes vengeance. As the party with all the leverage, that would be Israel. Taking Thomas L. Friedman’s advice and using surgical means to kill or capture Hamas leaders would be a good start. After all, the use of intelligence, high tech and special forces to take out enemies is one of Israel’s many strengths.
There are strong advantages to a prudent approach. It would save thousands of lives, of Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers, and save much infrastructure. It would enhance Israel in the world’s eyes, even in the Arab world. It might even keep Israel’s chances of joining the Abraham Accords alive, a bonus toward peace in the Middle East.
In any case, read the above articles. They represent the best in human nature at a time when it’s needed.