Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel and Gaza

Having just recently written about resisting the temptation toward blog overreach, I now find myself compelled to attempt posting way above my weight class. What prompts this sudden reversal is an article by Richard Vandewater appearing on the front page of Catholic Exchange. Vandewater is a priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. If I read his concluding paragraphs correctly, Fr. Vandewater considers the state of Israel to be a criminal entity for it’s oppression of the Palestinian people. The United States, in supporting Israel, is violating the laws of God and humanity.

Before I start digging into his arguments, I must defend my reasons for doing so. Why am I bothering to comment on international affairs half a world away?

In the United States, we live in what can be described as a republic or a representative democracy. We elect our legislators and executives in free elections. Even political appointees are appointed and approved by elected officials who are supposed to be answerable to the will of the public. As a citizen of the republic, I vote in elections and can lobby the government to make policy (foreign and domestic) in agreement with my beliefs. If somebody tells me that my government has an immoral policy, I have a responsibility to make my displeasure known. Having read an article in which my government is criticized for supporting a criminal (i.e., immoral) policy, I must take it seriously and at least give it some thought. Since this is a blog of the thoughts and reflections of an ordinary Catholic (me), I’m choosing to share those thoughts.

First off are the reported comments of the president of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, that Gaza “looks more and more like a big concentration camp.” A concentration camp is like a prison, only the inmates aren’t criminals. I think the cardinal is trying to suggest that the population of Gaza is being held prisoner, but by whom? Israel tightly secures its border with Gaza because of the frequency of suicide bombers. Even then, the border is not closed altogether. If Gaza is like a concentration camp, it is like one in which the prisoners can come and go, provided they are willing to wait in line and follow directions.

The cardinal “accused the combatants of thinking only of their own interests.” This should not be a surprise to anyone. Israel looks after Israel’s interests, which consist of ensuring the security of her people, that they might not have rockets fired at them. Israel’s interest is to stop the rockets. What are the interests of Hamas? Israel’s action was precipitated by weeks of Hamas firing rockets into Israel. What was Hamas hoping to accomplish? The unguided rockets were fired at Israeli population centers. They surely couldn’t hope to inflict any real damage on Israel, other than to kill a few civilians and terrify the populace. How did they expect the Israeli Defense Forces to react? In terms of the interests involved, I am sympathetic to those of Israel and left wondering why anyone would suggest that Israel should just accept the rocket fire.

In a follow-up interview, the cardinal “lamented the deaths of so many Palestinian civilians and children and Israel’s destruction of nonmilitary targets like the U.N. school.” Nobody suggests that civilian deaths are anything other than a tragic affect of urban warfare. However, the Israelis are not targeting non-combatant civilians, and are making every effort to minimize such casualties while completing their military objectives. Some would suggest that if a rocket launcher is located in a civilian area, that it cannot be targeted. Unfortunately, it’s still going to be fired. If a mortar team sets up in a school yard, then guess where the return fire is going? Hamas knows this, and is intentionally putting residents of Gaza at risk. In the absence of the rockets or the mortars, the apartments and the school are never targeted. Such losses could have been avoided only by letting Hamas get away with using human shields for cover. If some launchers are untargeted because of where they are placed, guess where all of the launchers will eventually be placed. I simply do not believe the cardinal’s assertion that Israel has “technology that can let them identify an ant on the ground,” although I suppose that even I could do that if I get close enough.

Pope Benedict XVI, appropriately, laments the damage and suffering that the violence has brought. The terrible thing about violence is that it escalates. Israel doesn’t realistically have the option of turning the other cheek (a Christian concept). If Israel does nothing or tries to negotiate, Hamas is emboldened and more Israelis die. What would happen if Hamas were to renounce violence? Peace. Hamas doesn’t want peace.

Vandewater then quotes Congressman Dennis Kucinich, of all people!

Today U.S. tax dollars, U.S. jets and U.S. helicopters provided to Israel are enabling the slaughter in Gaza. The Administration enables Israel to press forward with the attack against defenseless civilians, blocks efforts promoting a ceasefire at the U.N. and refuses to make Israel comply with conditions that arms shipments not be used for aggression. Israel is going to receive $30 billion in a ten-year period for military assistance, without having to abide by any humanitarian principles, international laws or standards of basic human decency. Wake up America.

Where to begin? Kucinich seems to believe that the Israelis are attacking and slaughtering innocent civilians. Where does Hamas fit into Kucinich’s world? When the Israelis call ahead to inform families that there building will be fired upon and they should leave, that hardly seems like an affective way to target a population for slaughter. Abstaining from a UN vote is hardly the same as blocking efforts to promote a ceasefire. If we wanted to block efforts, we could use our Security Council veto. As far as aggression is concerned, it was Hamas who provoked Israel by firing rockets at Israeli settlements. What humanitarian principles, international laws, or standard of basic human decency does Hamas abide by? Wake up Congressman Kucinich.

The Palestinian people have suffered for a long time and continue to suffer, but I don’t accept that Israel and the policies of the United States are the cause of their suffering. The U.S. has spent much diplomatic effort over the years trying to broker peace. Unfortunately, when Yassir Arafat was offered everything that he said the Palestinians wanted, he refused. Peace will come to Palestine when the Palestinians reject groups like Hamas and start seeking peace.


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Having just recently written about resisting the temptation toward blog overreach, I now find myself compelled to attempt posting way above my weight class.

C'mon, David was above his weight class when battling Goliath. Truth matters more than weight class.

By now, Israel and Hamas are BOTH criminal entities.

BOTH are oppressing Christian Palestinians, who were the original "Jews for Jesus", "Samarians for Jesus" and "Galilaeans for Jesus" and partly remained so even after Muslim conquest. Even today, Christians are 30% of Palestinians.

Same as with Jordanians, basically, but these rather Edom; Moab and Ammon.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

How did they expect the Israeli Defense Forces to react?

Hamas probably expacted Israel to react in ways which unduly penalised non-Hamas Palestinians, so that more Palestinians should flcok to Hamas.

Exactly as Ho Chi Minh did when obliging hitherto neutral villagers to furnish suicide bombers.

US troops sometimes fell into the trap of firing at all and any "gooks" and gave Ho Chi Minh what he wanted. But they had fever and were exhausted. Israel furnishes Hamas with the wanted reaction anyway.

A line up to get in and out from Gaza may very well mean that the line up is too slow to make Gazans able to provide necessities from outside.

When last year it was shown that Israelis were provoked to firing onto a hospital because Hamas was firing rockets onto Israel from five to ten yards outside where the patients were lying, I reflected that if Mossad was able to kidnap people from Argentina to get revenge on Nazi criminals, why is Mossad not fighting under cover in Gaza to eliminate the guys who launch rockets from a hospital? Why prefer retaliation by rockets and by making Gaza close to a concentration camp?

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Peace will come to Palestine when the Palestinians reject groups like Hamas and start seeking peace.

NOT likely to happen on very large scales until Israelis stop retaliating methods that are severely uncomfortable if not always mortal to non-combatants.

Look at the guy saved by a miracle worked by Kadoori:

New blog on the kid : grafted, not graffed, Levi Price

In the addendum to this post I link to an article about the behaviour of an Israeli soldier: