Monday, August 4, 2014


  Subject to new updates, at least 1,400 Palestinians have been killed in the latest battles with Israel.  According to international agencies, from one third to one half of those killed are children and over 80% of the dead are civilians.  Israel has lost 53 soldiers, which are too many, and 3 civilians so far.  (also too many)  Gaza has lost its only power plant which not only produces power for homes and lighting and air conditioning, it also is needed to run pumps which produce drinking water for Gazans.  The Palestinians are thus left in the dark, sweltering and without potable water.  Israeli infrastructure is secure with no damage from thousands of rockets which have been launched.  Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defense system is said to shoot down over 80% of the rockets which represent the most serious threats to person and property.  Thus, while Israelis face stress, psychological trauma, fear and the rare chance someone might be killed, Palestinians face imminent death, privation, and the destruction of most of their societal infrastructure.  Without debating right or wrong, the above facts point to a serious moral problem.  The threat to Israel and Israelis is not in any way proportionate to their military response.

     The Roman Catholic Church, and to an extent most Christian denominations, has promulgated over hundreds of years what has become known as the "just war" theory.  It is a moral approach to the question of whether any war can be morally justified.  While I find the theory lacking, and while the Church has rarely put any moral force behind it's decisions on just wars, it can be a starting point to examine armed conflict between states and people.  (the Church condemned the Iraq war because it violated the "just war" theory, but refused to sanction or condemn Catholic members of Congress who voted to use force...a reluctance it has never had for members who vote to protect a woman's right to choose.) 

     One of the key criteria in judging the just cause of any war is the concept of proportionality.  Is the alleged grievance caused by one nation, justification for the response of another?  (it was on this criteria the Church, along with most mainline Protestant churches in this country, condemned the Iraq war.  The United State's response was disproportionate to the provocation represented by Saddam Hussein.)

     It is clear to me; Israel's ongoing aggression in Gaza is morally disproportionate to the threat represented by the rocket attacks by Hamas.  Hamas rockets are incapable, due to their own shortcomings and the Iron Dome system, of causing the death and destruction which Israel has brought down upon Gaza.  Even the tunnels, which Israel says Hamas uses to smuggle weapons into Gaza as well as use to sneak attackers into Israel, have not resulted in significant property damage or loss of Israeli lives.

     1,400 dead vs. 3 could not be any clearer.  While Gaza loses its power plant, hospitals, schools and even open-air market places, Israel loses very little.  There is no moral equivalent between the damage and carnage Israeli forces are raining down on Gaza vs. the damage being done by Hamas to Israel and its citizens.

     Despite all the rhetoric from the Palestinian side, Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not have a moral right to use self-defense as an excuse to try to force the Palestinians to abandon their political support for Hamas.  The truly immoral and disproportionate aspect of Israel's actions is they continue to attack civilians and children who could not and cannot stop the launching of the rockets even if they agreed with Israel's position.  Justifying innocent deaths by accusing Hamas of using human shields doesn't get Israel off the moral hook.  Knowing that, and attacking anyway, puts the onus on the Israelis even with the immoral actions of Hamas.  As their homes and towns are laid to rubble, the people in Gaza are not in a position to do anything affecting Hamas' strategy or military decisions.

     Even though Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denies it, the only explanation for the destruction in Gaza is an attempt by Israel to cause regime change.  Israel appears to believe that by punishing the population of Gaza...killing them...destroying parts of cities and towns...shelling beaches filled with children...the people will remove Hamas from governing Gaza and replace it with something more acceptable to the Israelis.  This is the same mentality which President Bush was guilty of in Afghanistan and Iraq and you see how well that has worked out.

     Netanyahu is on the record as opposing a two state solution.  His cabinet is full of advisors who refuse to ever accept such a possibility.  Even as 16,000 more reservists are called up to pursue a ground war, Netanyahu's government reveals plans to expand illegal settlements on the West Bank and Jerusalem. (settlements which the United Nations, United States and Europe all agree are illegal and steal land from the Palestinians)  To think Palestinians will reject Hamas in the face of a continual Israeli occupation is to ignore reality.

     Israel does have the right to defend itself.  It has the right to close or destroy tunnels which allow for Hamas to attack within the country.  Israel has a right to exist and to live without fear of attack.  Israel has the right to respond to provocation, but the response must be proportional to the provocation.

    The United States has been an enabler for Israel since its inception.  We arm them and ignore their development of nuclear weapons while threatening war with other nations who attempt to get a nuke of their own.  We have refused to sanction Israel for disproportionate responses in the past.  We turn a blind eye as more and more Palestinian land is stolen by Israelis and settlements built.  Israel knows it can get away with virtually anything, particularly in an election year.  The current humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not matched by an equal humanitarian crisis in Israel and the U.S. is silent on the disparity.  Israel sees no downside to their current offensive.

     I don't have an ounce of Solomonic wisdom in me and don't know how to split this baby to bring about peace.  I do know it has to involve a two state has to involve an end to settlements and giving back the has to recognize Israel's right to exist in peace with secure has to represent hope for both sides.  I do know the only thing Israel is doing now is sewing the seeds of future wars and deep-seated hatred along with more destruction and the current offensive is immoral.

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