In the original Star Trek series there was an episode in the first season titled, “A Taste of Armageddon”. In this episode, the Enterprise and its crew stumble into a very unusual war being waged between two neighboring planets. Soon after Kirk and the landing party arrive on one of the planets, Eminiar VII, they are informed that the starship has been “destroyed” by a weapon launched by the enemy planet of Vendikar. The ship was not actually destroyed, but the crew members would be required to report to disintegration machines within 24 hours.
Spock quickly deduces that Eminiar VII and Vendikar, at war for 500 years, have developed a system, run by interconnected war game computers, whereby battles are simulated and casualties tallied. The system was developed to allow both societies to continue to function and thrive without the ravages of an actual war. Citizens on each planet, bred to hate those on the neighboring planet and fully accepting the logic of this mode of war, dutifully report to a designated disintegration machine when notified that they are a casualty of a simulated attack.
Obviously Captain Kirk had no intention of allowing his crew to be murdered. In violation of the “Prime Directive”, forbidding interference with less developed alien cultures, Kirk and Spock destroy Eminiar VII’s war game computer with a well placed phaser blast, gambling that the threat of engaging in a real war would get the two sides talking. As Kirk puts it in classic Star Trek style when confronted by the leader of Eminiar VII…
I’ve given you back the horrors of war. The Vendikans now assume that you’ve broken your agreement and that you’re preparing to wage real war with real weapons. They’ll want to do the same. Only the next attack they launch will do a lot more than count up numbers in a computer. They’ll destroy cities, devastate your planet. You of course will want to retaliate. If I were you, I’d start making bombs. Yes, Councilman, you have a real war on your hands. You can either wage it with real weapons, or you might consider an alternative. Put an end to it. Make peace.
While Israel and Hamas don’t exactly fight computer simulated wars, the advent of Iron Dome has allowed them to take a step in that direction. Israel’s brilliantly designed and highly effective rocket defense system allows it to greatly minimize the effects of rockets fired from Gaza. As we’ve seen over the past few days with a tragic amount of death, injury and damage, Iron Dome is far from perfect, however it has minimized the effect of Gaza’s weapons by an order of magnitude, allowing Israel to function with some level of normalcy despite being barraged by hundreds of rockets.
The analogy falls short when discussing Gaza. The day-to-day lives of the Gazan people are hardly a picnic and they are certainly not living in anything close to the first world society that Israelis do. The physical damage that Israel can, and does inflict on Gaza is not symmetric and certainly not close to the idealized computer simulated war of Star Trek. That said, however, thanks to Iron Dome, even the Gazans have been spared the catastrophe that a full force invasion by one of the world’s strongest armies would wreak upon them in response to rockets that weren’t mostly swatted out of the sky.
As with Eminiar VII and Vendikar, technology has allowed Israel and Gaza to maintain a status quo that could go on indefinitely. There are actors on both sides that seem to have a vested interest in keeping things just as they are. There are others who advocate that Israel go in and “wipe them out” regardless of the cost in human lives on both sides. But even that would likely just punt the ball down the field and return us to the untenable status quo that existed prior to 2005.
I don’t think anyone wants to see advanced aliens beam down and use their laser weapons to destroy the Iron Dome batteries, so maybe we could somehow skip to the part where we figure out how to live peacefully together. Gaza, along with the Palestinians on the West Bank, has the potential to become a Singapore on the Mediterranean. Bold moves are needed to break out of this stalemate for the benefit of all those living in this small plot of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. I wish I knew what those moves were. I don’t. But I do know that I really don’t want this to continue for another 400 years.