Our Sick Gaza Sideshow

The only way to undermine Hamas is through strengthening Palestinian moderates; thus, only a political settlement has the potential to put an end to this conflict, and prevent another sick Gaza sideshow.

“People carried the bodies of 10 members of the Astal family, who were killed in an airstrike early Wednesday in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Eyad Baba/Associated Press)”

What is the price of human life? Is killing ever justified? These are some of the deep philosophical questions humanity has dealt with ever since the birth of philosophy and critical thinking. The answers to these questions get even blurrier when it comes to war and conflict. Most people wouldn’t be as upset that a soldier was shot on the battlefield, but would be truly angered if an innocent civilian was killed, even if he was caught in the cross fire and his death was an accident. So what happens when a war between a superior military power and an insurgent group begins in a densely populated, poor, and enclosed area? If the insurgent group sends rockets at your cities to harm your civilians, yet you know any response will almost certainly kill innocent civilians on the other side, what do you do? This is the moral question our community continues to struggle to answer properly.

So far the War in Gaza, otherwise known as Operation Protective Edge, has taken over 1,300 Palestinian lives, the vast majority of them innocent civilians according to the United Nations, and over 6,000 more have been injured to some degree. This three-week mission to harm Hamas had a controversial start, and has led both sides to become entrenched in a much wider conflict than either had hoped. Internationally, it has gotten so serious that Secretary of State John Kerry, and even United Nations Security General Ban Ki-moon have visited the region to talk to regional actors in search of a ceasefire to end the violence. Even the flagship institution of international politics—The United Nations Security Council—has met over the past few weeks to discuss the escalating situation and call for a ceasefire. Whether one is reached or not is still to be told, however this operation has gone on long enough for us to look back at what has happened and analyze it for future use.

The Israeli and Jewish community’s response to Palestinian causalities has been the traditional denial of responsibility, blaming of Hamas, and repetition of talking points about Hamas using human shields. It is quite true that Hamas uses Palestinian residents as shields, very few people deny this; the question then becomes at what point does the moral cost of killing civilians surpass the strategic benefits of destroying Hamas infrastructure? Is bombing a crowded UN center or school where high civilian deaths and injuries will result, worth the destruction of a few crude rockets? Do we, as a community, really want to be okay with mass civilian deaths if they could have been avoided? Many members of the Jewish community have shrugged off Palestinian deaths, or get upset that I’m not more concerned with the rockets flying all over Israeli towns and villages; yet they fail to understand that when Israel commits a war crime in Gaza, it indicts us all. If the Jewish state bombs a school or UN center, we are targeting civilians as well and that’s a war crime. If our community simply remains silent about these incidents, we are complicit. And when we are eager to justify these deaths or shrug them off, then we are not a light upon nations, but war criminals.

This may be a shocking revelation, but the Jewish state’s actions reflect the Jewish community to millions of people around the world. Every war crime and human rights violation against the Palestinian people breeds anti-Semitism across the globe. Whether it’s Palestinian activists tweeting “#HitlerWasRight” or protests attacking synagogues and Jewish businesses in Paris, we are putting ourselves in danger and diminishing our status amongst the peoples of the world. And what do we do this for?

Some kind of sick sideshow?

All the conflict in Gaza does, and all it has ever done, is satisfy extremists on both sides who use it to justify their hatred of the other and attack the peace process. Many Israel advocates love the conflict with Hamas, since Hamas is the poster boy of Palestinian extremism, and they attempt to frame all Palestinians in this light. Hamas is a justifier of occupation, and allows the Jewish community to claim that a peace deal is too dangerous. On the other hand, many in the Palestinian community and the far left love wars in Gaza. They find it the perfect way to demonize Israel, and surround themselves with examples of Israeli war crimes and the drastically rising death toll. For them, every Palestinian death helps their goal of justifying the destruction of the State of Israel. Though Assad’s massacre of the Syrian people doesn’t seem to justify a call for destruction of Syria, over a hundredth of the number of causalities has turned into calls for the end of Israel.

Everyone involved knows that Operation Protective Edge will do nothing to seriously change the situation. Serious relief of the blockade of Gaza is politically implausible of Israel, and a disarming of Hamas is also clearly unrealistic. All this war has done is increase the Israeli right’s poll numbers for the time being, increased Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians and left hundreds of families broken up by death. All actors know what the end game will be. Another ceasefire, another period of calm, then another escalation, and finally another 1,000 Palestinian civilians unnecessarily dead. Unintended results? Increasing diplomatic isolation for Israel and an escalation of the end of the already dying two state solution. Every actor seriously involved knows the only way out is through a political settlement in the West Bank, and other steps that prove to Palestinians an end of the occupation can come through political and diplomatic means, not solely violence. The only way to undermine Hamas is through strengthening Palestinian moderates, which will alienate Hamas within its own community. Only a political settlement has the potential to put an end to this conflict, and prevent another sick Gaza sideshow.

About the Author
Joshua is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University who majored in World Politics with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. Joshua has been active in Israel advocacy for years, including seminars with AIPAC, the Israeli Consulate to the Midwest, and J Street U.
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