Earlier this week a rocket was shot from Gaza into Israel. Shot with the sole purpose of harming civilians. Harming them physically and traumatizing them emotionally. These are circumstances no civilians should live under. This daily terror is a reality the spectating world hardly realizes and certainly fails to empathize with.
Israel responded to this attack with airstrikes on a few dozen targets in Gaza. Not so different from what I imagine other nations would do if they were attacked by rocket fire. There is also no denying that Israel does the utmost to minimize civilian harm while simultaneously causing maximal strategic infrastructural damage. In Israel’s last Gaza operation they dropped an estimated 5000 bombs on Gaza (one of the most densely populated cities in the world) which resulted in the death of only an estimated 2000 people. Now, I say “only” not to downplay the devastating amount of life lost but to shed light on the fact that Israel’s goal is not to kill civilians but to damage infrastructure. Killing so few people with so much force is a military feat likely no other nation has accomplished till today. That being said, there is a way to cause even less civilian harm, a way that will build the foundation for peace for the future generations
To state it simply, these retaliations against Hamas are a failed policy that must end immediately. In order to understand why these retaliations are bad, it’s important to understand where this strategy comes from. Besides the obvious fact that this may act as a deterrent, retaliation plays well into the human ego. Striking back is one of our most primal instincts and when governments do so it makes it’s citizens feel safe and protected. Regardless of whether it’s an effective method or not, it keeps people happy and keeps politicians in power. Especially for a nation that was built on the motto “Never Again”.
But for “Never Again” to hold true, and for us to achieve lasting peace, force simply won’t cut it. What exactly do we accomplish from our retaliations on Hamas? If we look at our last few conflicts with them, it is clear that we have lost in almost every measurable way. Soldiers and civilians are killed, our economy plummets, Hamas gains international and local support while their leaders get richer, we become more and more isolated, and both our populations become radicalized. Why would Hamas ever change their ways when their current strategy is so beneficial to them? Keep in mind the leaders of Hamas don’t live in Gaza; they live comfortable lives in Qatar while collecting billions off our retaliations. They are playing us for fools and we keep going for it.
So what do we do?
First and most importantly, we need to believe in our potential as a nation and to understand that through our collective efforts there is nothing we cannot accomplish. No obstacle is too challenging and no conflict is too great for us to resolve. As a wise man once said “If you will it, it is no dream.” Our nation was built on a dream and so will our ability to achieve peace. This is the mentality we need to inspire moving forward from this point on.
Next, we must understand that the key towards toppling Hamas and achieving peace with the Palestinians lies in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian youth. Around 60% of Gazans are under the age of 18. Their only crime was being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, hardly a crime at all. They are victimized on a daily basis by their government who teaches them to hate. Instead of reinforcing this hateful education and aiding in their radicalization with our failed retaliation policy we must find ways to reverse educate them and help them to see us as their friends, not their foes. Hamas is not loved amongst the people of Gaza, but every time we attack them they forget their dislike for their own government and rally behind them as the only ones willing to protect them from our aggression. There is not a single young Gazan that does not suffer from PTSD, not a single Gazan that hasn’t lost a friend or a loved one from our retaliation policy. We are damaging the minds and hearts of the very generation we are counting on for peace thus diminishing any chance for a peace partner in the next generation to come. It’s for that reason that I state “a retaliation against Hamas is a retaliation against the children of Israel”.
The key is to pressure and isolate Hamas from both sides, from inside their own borders as well as from the rest of the Arab world. The animosity towards Hamas from the Arab world is growing more and more every day but is being restrained by the collective hate against Israel. This is something that can surely be altered by ending all policies not absolutely necessary for our survival and safety which are seen as aggressive to the outside world. Also, by investing in and drastically improving our ability to communicate with Arab nations both on a governmental level and a societal one. If you’re wondering which policies are seen as aggressive yet not necessary to our survival, there are many. Home demolitions, settlement building, airstrikes, and soldiers abusing their power just to name a few. Meanwhile, we need to work hard to give all Arab nations economic incentives to partner with us. This too is something being impacted upon by our failed policies and our inability to communicate with them effectively.
When it comes to creating internal pressure on Hamas, this will take the collective effort of people from both sides of the conflict. Instead of dropping leaflets on the people of Gaza telling them to leave their homes we need to drop leaflets telling them how much we care for them and are hoping for peace. We must show them a reality they will never learn in school and show them their potential as a nation if they work with us and not against us. This leaflet education can only work, though, if it matches the reality on the ground. This will require Israelis, in masses, to be active and express their genuine yearning for peace and mutual respect to the Palestinian people, something that can easily be accomplished today through social media and various other peace-building initiatives. We, as a nation, need to start viewing the “other side” as our brothers and sisters and to rally for their freedom as if it were ours.
When Hamas begins to feel the pressure from both sides they will have two options. Change their ways and accept our right to exist, or face a revolution from within. Both would be victories for us as well as for our brothers and sisters on the “other side”.
Now, here I am, just one man with a few ideas. Can you imagine the solutions we can come up with as a nation, a nation that has brought so much innovation to the globe? I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are more than capable of innovating the world of conflict resolution, de-radicalization, and peace-building. Peace will not come from our governments alone and it will not come from sitting by idly. It will come from a collective effort and the brilliance of millions of people from all sides coming together to bring about the reality we so desperately seek. The power is in our hands and the time to act is now.