“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. ”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
I’ve been avoiding writing this one for awhile tho the topic has been on my mind almost obsessively. It’s somewhat easier to deal with controversy when other people are involved with it. Yet there is a time for silence and a time to speak and this is past time. I have done my best to be as well informed on what is going on in Palestine as possible. I have listened to arguments from both sides and been party to all the shouting and reactions whenever someone brings up the topic. One of the most enlightening conversations I’ve been party to was a thread on Facebook which mainly involved citizens of both Israel and Palestine talking to each other. None of them were reactionary. None of them agreed with their governments 100% and they were scared. About the only rhetoric in that thread was from people who lived outside the area giving the same old historical arguments about who had a greater right and to what. It was equally enlightening and equally horrifying to read accounts from a friend who works with the UN and has seen in this week first hand the destruction of both people and property that has been going on. So a few thoughts and yes I do have a bias. It is against waste, dehumanization and stupidity.
From a narrative viewpoint both sides have claim to the area. Part of this is the result of WWII and the end of the Ottoman Empire. England thought it would solve several problems at once by deeding land that nominally belonged to them to the Zionists to create Israel. The fact that there were already people living on the land and calling it home was if not ignored, given only cursory acknowledgement. Some were bought out, some forces out and some burned out. A new land was formed. However it happened citizens of this new land have now lived there for 70 years and they now call it home.
It is true that Israel has not occupied Gaza for the last several years. Instead they have barricaded it and they decide what and who goes in and out. This includes food, building and medical supplies and people. In the name of caution raised to the level of paranoia they have made it all but impossible for the people who live there to build a workable homeland. This has cause incredible resentment.
Palestine right now is under the leadership of Hamas, an organization dedicated to regaining all the land they perceive as being taken from them at any cost necessary. From what I have read the majority of the people living there would choose other leadership if they could.
Israel in the last several days have started to destroy what infrastructure that Gaza has with both bombing and then surface attacks. They have killed several hundred people, the majority of them civilians including many women and children. Israel claims that this is because Hamas uses civilians as human shields, putting weapon depots in homes where families reside. Every time I hear this I have to wonder what it says about a mindset that does not see this as a deterrent and who’s solution is to kill children so that they can get at the strategic sites.
Israel has notified people to leave their homes so that they can be bombed. There is literally no place for these people to go. They are not letting them through the barricades and bombs are falling everywhere.
On both sides there is immense dehumanization of the other. People in the Israeli government have referred to Palestinians as ‘beasts on two legs’. There is such incredible rhetoric on the sides of people outside the country on both sides. Religious and racial epithets flow freely. The worst part about it is how this has become war as a spectator sport with the supporters of both sides cheering on their respective parties and urging the destruction of the other side. It has become bread and circuses for the masses with no empathy for the human loss on both sides.
I could go on and on. I have friends in both countries whom I speak to and respect. I have to believe that there is a solution and that sanity will prevail. If not, I fear for the existence of both countries and for the world as a whole. This could get bad for everyone really quickly. I grieve for the cost especially to the Palestinians for they are the ones who are being decimated and they deserve so much better. I pray for empathy and wisdom for the leaders involved and for solace and an end to this. I pray that Israel who despite what their rhetoric says is Goliath and not David in this case, will put an end to its paranoid expansionism, stop the blockade and enable peace. I pray that Hamas will do what is best for its people and that an accord can be reached. I pray that people outside of the conflict will stop yelling at each other and rooting for destruction and give people a chance at peace. That includes the governments who are funding either one side or both in the hopes that they can use the conflict to their advantage
I know that I have only touched on some of what is involved here. There are so many layers to this situation and it would take much more space than I have here to discuss it. I haven’t said much about religions here because at best they are a red herring. You can find material in the texts of both religions that either support the extermination of outsiders or that talk about the importance of love and peace. I know which of these is my most fervent hope.
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