Monday, 5 January 2009

Blinded By Pride

Pride: a small word with large repercussions when your identity and home are at stake.

Israel ground forces moved into Gaza on Saturday, upping-the-anti on a week of air strikes in the region aimed at destabilizing Hamas. Protests erupted outside the Israeli Embassy in London, echoing calls from across the globe for an end to Israeli strikes and a looming humanitarian crisis.

Israel, hit with hundreds of rockets and mortars since the late December breakdown of a truce with Hamas, remains defiant in its response to militants. The United States backs its ally Israel and brands Hamas as the instigators of the ensuing violence.

International action falters, as the White House alleges support for a cease-fire and simultaneously blocks approval of a United Nations Security Council statement on cease-fire.

Confusion reigns in the region; heritage, politics, emotion, indecision blur the vision of the rest of the world. As a student of international relations I question the prolonged intensity of Israel’s campaign. But as a half Jewish New Yorker, I know that if militants were repeatedly, randomly firing rockets into the backyards of my family and friends, I would want to defend my borders.

But this is not a new battle; whether violent or latent, this mission has plagued the Middle East for years. Through warfare, negotiations, international pressure, truces.....this battle rages. What is at its heart? Is this a battle that can be won? I fear there is no “right” answer. But I feel a fundamental change of heart and mind is needed from both sides if justice is ever to prevail.

An Egyptian newspaper suggested that Palestinians are “pulling the wolf’s tail” when shooting rockets into Israel. I baulk at such aggression, which promises no true glory or result, but instead insights anger and large scale strife in return. For Hamas, this is a losing battle. They can’t match the arms capability of Israel and they may fall trying. Yet to a proud, stubborn fundamentalist, to fall is to become a martyr. The end game of what’s left in their wake is forgotten.

Maybe my college journalism professor was correct when suggesting that this battle will only end when one side wipes the other off the face of the earth.

The militant actions of Hamas should be condemned, but is Israel’s aggressive response is the most effective way to undermine this party? Will a heavy hand today pave the way for peaceful times tomorrow? Two wrongs do not make a right.

Would most Palestinians truly choose strife over living at harmony with Israel? I doubt it. Why then, did they elect Hamas, which refuses to recognize the state of Israel, instead of the more moderate Fatah? Hamas is an artist of psychological warfare: it galvanizes support through exploiting Palestinian grievances with Israel rather than working peacefully towards reconciliations; it builds Palestinians social care facilities alongside suicide training centers; it hides targeted officers in enclaves next to its children’s schools; it feeds sustenance with one hand and propaganda with the other.

Now, left in the wake of this exercise, many angry, proud, brainwashed Palestinians curse Israel as an unlawful aggressor. Israel may seek to defend itself from militant aggression, but these actions feed directly into this image perpetuated by Hamas. With every bomb dropped and ground offensive pursued, Palestinians may cling to an extremist ideology when there is no food, homes or infrastructure left. Much of the world will criticize Israel’s actions. Hamas will not diminish, but take further root in society, further supported by other Islamist extremists in the region.

Israel cannot be a sitting duck, at the mercy of senseless rockets and suicide bombers. But their current response may not do their cause justice. Inciting strife upon widespread Palestinians, many of whom are trying to lead ordinary lives, should not be considered collateral damage.

Here is where pride must cool; response and anticipated outcome must be reassessed. Here is where rationalism must begin. Israel should halt military action and enhance its safety through internationally backed pressure on Hamas to end its aggression. Israel must show moderate Palestinians incentive for dialogue through fair negotiation; actively working toward better, peaceful days of fewer economic and military barriers may precipitate a fundamental shift of heart in many Palestinians. Palestinians need to give these conversations a chance, and put pressure on their own to minimize aggression. It will be impossible to root out all veins of extremism but hopefully they may wither on the vine in more prosperous times.

After all, this is a region of such potential greatness. Years of strife have only slowed progress. We’re all human; can’t Israelis and Palestinians remove their blinders, put aside their differences, step away from pride, and see that? But history proves this is easier said than done.

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