Tuesday, January 6, 2009
God Guns and Gaza
Israel has been pounding Gaza for eleven days now-- first by air and now by land as well. The images become more horrifying every day. Tuesday, the New York Times reported that 30 civilians, including women and children, were killed in an Israeli bombing raid near a United Nations School in Gaza. The UN had opened its schools in Gaza to refugees and then, according to the article, gave the coordinates to the Israelis. Next thing you know it was bombs away. Aha, but wait. Here's the Israeli side of the story. According to them, Hamas was targeting the Israeli army and shelling it from inside the school, using the civilian population as protection. It's probably true. Israel swears it is not targeting civilians, just going after Hamas to stop them from lobbing lethal missiles into Israel and killing Israeli civilians. Hamas, for its part, is out to wipe Israel off the map and makes no bones about it. Each side says it is only protecting itself and that the other is the aggressor.
The history of the present conflict is written in the blood of both Israelis and Palestinians in a painful trail that leads from the Brits who threw up their hands in 1948 and left the region, to the army of the newborn nation of Israel which defeated five Arab armies to claim its ancestral homeland the old fashioned way, by conquest. Israel has lived by the sword ever since, knowing that only its military invincibility keeps it safe. For the last year and a half, since it left Gaza and dismantled its settlements, Israel has imposed a punishing embargo in the name of national safety. The result has been a political pressure cooker and a lot of human suffering in Gaza. The situation is a lose /lose for everybody. Gaza is only one morsel of meat in a bitter stew of anger and revenge that is endlessly spiced and stirred by both sides.
At base, each group is saying to the other " you're on my land, get out" and at base each side just wants what we all want--a chance to live in dignity, raise a family, and die in peace. It shouldn't be so hard--but it is. Each side blames the other and claims innocence for itself.
Truth is always the first casualty of war, but whose truth is the real truth? In this case both sides believe they are right but when I look at all the pictures of dead babies and grieving parents, all I can think is: God help Gaza. God help Israel and God help us all.