I am working on Part 3 of my Ramadan:An Outsider’s Perspective series of posts, but had to take a moment to address current events in Israel and Palestine.
If you haven’t noticed yet the news from the Middle East on most web-based new services is chock full of reports of Palestinian attacks in Southern Israel that left 7 dead and others wounded. These attacks targeted civilians on a tour bus, a military vehicle, and a private car. First I have to say in no uncertain terms that any attack targeting civilians is deplorable, heinous, and is inexcusable. This kind of activity does nothing to further Palestinian political causes and is a detriment to any attempt at a peace process. And it is a war crime, plain and simple.
That said … so are the 13 air attacks by Israel against Gaza in July and August of 2011 up to this date. The latest two days ago on August 16th killed one and wounded 7 – some civilians as well. These amount to a collective punishment on a civilian population and is akin to the US gov’t repeatedly bombing LA in an effort to curb gang violence. One attack this August included the shelling of the Al-Zaytouna neighborhood where I lived when I visited Gaza back in the 90s. I don’t know about now, but back then this was just a residential neighborhood with no obvious military presence.
Of course these bombing runs on the part of Israel are well-known to be in response for Palestinian mortar attacks on Southern Israel from within Gaza. This is something like attacking flies with a bazooka. The most famous retribution on Israel’s part for these mortar attacks was Operation Cast Lead in January of 2009. In the 5- year period before this Israeli military operation 1000s of mortars had been launched into Southern Israel, remarkably only resulting in 19 deaths. In retaliation for those deaths over 5 years Israel launched a month-long bombardment of Gaza that claimed nearly 1400 lives including over 700 civilians and over 300 children. (source for all of these stats B’Tselem: the Israeli Center for Human Rights)
Just like in kindergarten 2 wrongs do not make a right. Nor do 100s or 1000s of wrongs by both sides over the last 5 decades and more.
Like I said – the attacks in Israel today were deplorable. But they do not exist in a vacuum – if Palestinians are responsible for them. This of course seems likely. But all the news so far is from Israeli government sources that would not likely say otherwise, nor are they likely to provide any evidence or follow-up investigation if past incidents are any indication. Israeli Gov’t sources say that the attackers came from Gaza, into Sinai, and into Israel. Apparently they have “very, very specific information” that indicates this. What that info is we will never know. The attack was apparently followed by skirmishing across the Israeli-Egyptian border. This appears to have been with armed militants that Israel reports are part of Hamas. However, both Hamas and Egypt deny any involvement in the attacks. So far we just have Israel’s say-so on who was behind the attacks.
Eqypt has recently sent 1000s of troops into the Sinai to strengthen security there due to rumors of al-Qaeda stirrings in the Sinai. I have written elsewhere about al-Qaeda co-opting the Palestinian struggle for its own ignoble purposes. It would not surprise me if this attack today was their handiwork and not that of any true Palestinian group. Unfortunately ordinary Gazans will bear the brunt of today’s attack. I am certain Israel will retaliate with airstrikes and it is likely that more civilians will die in this grotesque game of an eye-for-an-eye being played out on the world stage.
How much innocent blood must be spilled before both sides can lay down their “right” to revenge and agree that for future generations that enough is enough?
(My heart goes out to the families of innocent victims on both sides of the conflict. I cannot for a moment begin to understand the pain and agony of your loss, but my prayer is that in the midst of that pain a path for a better tomorrow can somehow, miraculously, be realized.)