Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gaza, a reflection

Like many people in the UK and elsewhere I've read in newspapers and on line, watched on TV and listened to the radio reports as the latest battles between Israel and the Palestinians trapped in Gaza have unfolded.  I've not said very much, mainly because words fail me in the face of so much inhumanity and suffering.  I'm not a great poet or artist, able to articulate the emotions that swirl around at such times but that doesn't stop me thinking or praying for those involved.
The historic reasons for the conflict go back many decades and I've come to the conclusion that understanding them doesn't help resolve the situation that exists at this time.  Maybe the British government and the UN and the Jews and Arabs who lived in the Middle East 50 or 60 years ago could have done things differently, but they didn't and we have the history that developed from those decisions.
Successive governments in Europe and the USA perhaps could and should have done more to encourage good relations between the countries whose boundaries they helped to create, but they didn't and now the clock can't be turned back.
For sure, the situation cannot continue as it is.  To imprison a couple of million people in an area of land, cutting many of them off from their place of work, taking many of their olive trees and the land on which they grew food for their families, making it extremely difficult for them to carry on their normal lives causes pressures which eventually reach explosion point.  Restricting imports, restricting jobs etc doesn't lead to good relationships with the neighbours.
Hamas seems to have little regard for the welfare of the ordinary Palestinians who struggle to eke out an existence in an area whose natural resources are insufficient for the number of people crammed in there. Their leaders surely cannot believe that they have the power or the ability to remove Israel from the map, so I cannot imagine what goes through their minds when they fire off yet another rocket into Israel to kill or injure civilians.  To do it from areas where their own people are crowded together in cramped living conditions, knowing that the Israeli military response will be disproportionately harmful to Palestinian civilians, is just unbelievably cruel.
But the Israeli government,supported it seems by a majority of Israeli citizens, sees these responses as legitimate.  Somehow they seem able to believe that men, women and chilren whose only wish is to have peace, food on the table, shelter and friends around them, are terrorists who can justifiably be killed in order to defend Israel.  Almost 40 Israelis have died in the last few weeks and in return almost 900 Palestinians have died.  Where's the proportionality?  Where's the justice?  How can that be defence?
In most conflicts for the last hundred years or more, it seems that an end to fighting came about not because one side won outright, but because brave people held talks behind the scenes and eventually got to the point where official talks could start in the public eye.  I pray that there are brave people doing that right now in the middle east.  Israeli people need to be able to go about their work and play in safety, without fear of bombs or missiles.  But so do Palestinian people.  Both sides need to be able to grow crops, build industries, educate their young, take care of the sick, in safety.  Both peoples need to be able to trust their neighbours.  How to reach that point?  No doubt by taking very tiny steps at a time, and by having brave men and women who will lead the way.
Meanwhile we in the UK do not help matters by claiming or implying that the fault is all on one side or the other.  As in all conflicts and especially those with roots as old as this one, there are many shades of grey on both sides.  Cruelty is apparent in the disregard for human life on the part of the Israeli government and of Hamas.  A ceasefire is the first requirement, and then opportunity for humanitarian aid to the thousands of people suffering appallingly.
A hundred years ago this week Europe started out on what became known as the First World War.  It took over four years to reach ceasefire and another thirty plus to reach real peace between the main protaganists. How much longer for Israel and Palestine?

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