After thousands of rockets and mortars landing in what virtually the entire world accepts as the sovereign and unoccupied State of Israel, Israel began a large-scale bombing operation of Gaza this weekend. This new fighting, focusing on military and governmental targets is almost certainly justifiable.
To quote President-elect Obama from an earlier visit to the often bombed Israeli town of Sderot, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
But justice alone is not necessarily a sufficient reason to go to war. Having the right to do something does not always make it the right thing to do. Those of us, who appreciate the justice of this action, should also be asking if this escalation is wise. And about that, I am not so sure. Having spoken to numerous Israeli friends and relatives in the past twenty four hours, I can report that the people of Israel are of many minds about the intensified war against Hamas in Gaza.
As one friend from Tel Aviv remarked, “there is no apparent exit strategy and little reason to believe that Israel will be so destructive as to make Hamas re-think its commitment to destroying Israel. This means that sooner or later the two sides will need to speak, and sooner is better than later.” Is he wrong? It was the failure to recognize the elements of truth is my friend’s observation which dragged Israel into decades of fruitless conflict in Lebanon.
But, as many more friends and family members commented,
“The equation needed to be changed – there needs to be a sufficient level of deterrence established so that hundreds of thousands of Israelis do not spend the next decade living in bomb shelters.” They are certainly correct that no nation would tolerate the situation as it was. So what to do? How does a nation establish a reliable truce with people not only ideologically committed to their destruction, but actively perusing it?
Sitting at a distance, the readers of this blog have more options than those on the ground, on either side, in the Middle East. Of course, we can follow the usual path, mounting arguments for the rightness of our current interpretation of events and do battle in the press. Or, we can begin to ask ourselves the kinds of questions which people find hard to ask when physically threatened.
We can ask ourselves if justice is really being served in this war, and if it is, are we also acting wisely. We can ask about the appropriateness of any cause which demands the total destruction of its opponent. We can ask ourselves if we see any other possibilities than the ones being played out currently, and if not, why not? Those are the questions that are asked by people seeking peace and they are the ones we have the safety to ask, regardless of how we view current events in Gaza.