Ron Kronish

Ignoring a Humanitarian Crisis–a Major Error in Judgment

Did the leadership of the state of Israel ignore the humanitarian crisis during the last war in Gaza two years ago? And is it doing so again, inviting another round of violence?

And, is this the moral thing to do? or the prudent one? or is it a case of moral obtuseness mixed with poor strategic thinking by leaders who are showing themselves again and again as neither terribly ethical or thoughtful?

Last week, when the report of the comptroller of the state of Israel was released concerning the Gaza war of 2014, many failures were exposed by the professionals who looked into this matter in great detail and depth. The list included: a lack of preparedness against Hamas tunnels, the army’s deficient battle plans, and the fact that critical intelligence information was kept from the security cabinet of the government. But according to at least one major analysis, by Barak Ravid in HaAretz, the biggest story of the report involves not what was done by the Prime Minister of Israel and his defense and foreign chiefs at the time, and the rest of the cabinet, to prevent the war, but rather what was ignored.

Delicately and intelligently, Shapira and his staff drew a large question mark over the politician’s efforts in the year leading up to the war in the area that’s their sole responsibility– policy and strategy. According to the report, the greatest failure was the political one… The story of  the war that broke out in July 2014 begins at a cabinet meeting in April 2013. Then-Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Eitan Dango warned the ministers about Gaza’s difficult humanitarian and economic conditions that could lead to an explosion within two years. Dangot’s prophecy of doom wasn’t entirely on the mark–instead, it came true within less than a year and a half. (HaAretz, March 1, 2017)

And then two days later, Amos Harel, the highly-respected security reporter for HaAretz, revealed that the same thinking is going on again now. Our “leaders” are ignoring the humanitarian crisis again in Gaza, even though they have been warned that doing so is counter-productive and could lead to another war!

The daily hardships in Gaza are like a ticking bomb that could eventually push the Hamas government into a new clash with Israel. If that happens, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his ministers won’t be able to say that they didn’t know. (HaAretz, March 3, 2017)

What is the point of this? Where is the basic morality of our “leadership”, not to mention the intelligent strategic thinking that is supposed to guide policy-making, especially when it comes to war and peace? Is everything just political? Are all policy decisions made these days just to please the extreme right who love wars and who are demanding to smash the Hamas infrastructure, even at a “very high price”, a euphemism for a very high mortality and casualty rate among our soldiers?

Why should we care about the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian citizens of Gaza?

  • First of all, because it is the ethical thing to do. According to our Jewish Tradition, all human beings are created in the image of God, and all should have rights to live a decent life.
  • Secondly, it would be in our enlightened self-interest to do so, to prevent another war. We resort to the “war process” too often, instead of seeking ways and means to avoid it and to renew a real peace process.
  • Thirdly, it would enhance our moral standing in the world as a caring compassionate country which demonstrates genuine concern about the suffering of the other. This is something that has largely been forgotten in recent years as our “leaders” focus only on our own suffering.

The writing is on the wall. The warning bells have been sounded. Will our leaders hear the bells? Will they respond appropriately?

I would like to think that the answer is yes, but unfortunately, I am skeptical that this will be the case. For too long our “leaders” have only played the blame game, placing all responsibility for violence and war on the other side. It is time to change this now. It is time to focus on the Other, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it would be wise and prudent at this time.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,