If you are tuned in enough to be reading this blog, you are tuned in enough to know that "Operation Cast Lead," Israel’s military response to ongoing rocket attacks from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, has begun. The operation started earlier today, Saturday, December 27, and continues as this is being written Saturday night. Why is it called Operation Cast Lead, you might be wondering? Tonight is the 7th night of Chanuka; one of the Chanuka traditions is to play with a dreidel, a kind of spinning top. The reference is to a poem by H.N. Bialik that refers to a cast lead dreidel. You can read the poem by clicking here (thanks to David G. for providing the poem). For the text in the original Hebrew, click here (thanks to Rabbi Dan…).
CNN reports that at least 205 Palestinians have already been killed. I have heard that every police station in Gaza was hit, and at least 100 bombs have already been dropped.
I started this entry with the above picture, because CNN starts their report, which you can read by clicking here, with a photo of an injured Palestinian child. CNN coverage often seems to try to provide sympathy for the Palestinians. But the Palestinian child would not have been injured if Hamas had not first launched attacks such as the one that injured the girl in the photo above.
Baka Diary, in a post called "Recognizing Reality" brings a list of the provocation that led to the Israeli counter-attack.
It is, indeed, a distressing situation, and I’m sure that while there were a lot of terrorists among the people killed in Gaza there were also civilian casualties. That saddens me. But I find myself thinking back to an exchange I shared with my friend Mo-ha-med, (The Traveller Within) about whether the situation in Gaza was a human rights violation, or just a human rights tragedy. He argued that Israel’s treatment of Gaza was a human rights violation; I was not so convinced of that then, and I remain unconvinced — certainly what is happening in Gaza is a human rights tragedy. However, the democratically elected government of the Gaza Strip (well, mostly democratically elected; they were elected, but then pulled off a coup to solidify their position) has declared war on Israel (what else do you call it when someone shoots hundreds of rockets at your territory?). Civilians get hurt in wars. It is tragic, but not necessarily a human rights violation when that happens, at least no more than any war, no matter how fairly fought, is a violation of someone’s human right to live in peace.
Watching the Israeli news on TV earlier this evening, there were several citizens who live within rocket range of Gaza who said, more or less, "it’s about time." Silwan Shalom, a member of the Knesset, and a member of the opposition Likud party gave a good interview in which he said that this was no time to play politics — and he did not make any kind of snide remarks about the government, which is currently a Kadima-Labor coalition. Even though the interview was in Hebrew, he used the expression (in English) "enough is enough."
And I think that captures the feeling of many Israelis today. After hundreds of rockets landing in Sderot and surrounding areas, something had to be done. Hamas really forced Israel to respond. It would have been totally unacceptable for the government to sit around and allow continued attacks on Israel without a response.
We had a Chanuka party this evening, and several of our friends were on the phone to friends whose kids are in the Army and have been called in from wherever they may have been and are now on their way to the area around Gaza. A couple of our employees have been called up. I now realize the big difference that living here makes during war time. It’s not my personal situation so much — I’ve been in Israel before during war time, and as long as you are not right on the front you wouldn’t know there was a war going on. The thing that is different about living here is you know people who are either personally in the IDF and in harm’s way, or you know that the children of friends are out there on the front line. All of a sudden war becomes a lot more personal–and that makes it a lot more scary.
In a post about the current situation in Gaza (Palestine and the Fallacy of the Human Sunk Costs Theory), Traveller Within posits that the Israeli approach will not work, because the logic of wanting to avoid further pain won’t work with the Palestinians because they have nothing to lose. He says "Because here, another theory will be at play – an old bit of wisdom really: “Fear he who has nothing to lose”. Battered, starved, bombed, widowed, orphaned: the Palestinians are dangerous close to that."
The problem, however, is what is Israel to do? We already withdrew from Gaza. The Palestinians claim that all of Gaza has been turned into a big prison. Maybe so; but Hamas has the key. Stop attacking Israel, stop trying to smuggle in weapons with which to attack Israel, and life could be completely normal. But Hamas seems more interested in continuing "the struggle" than in having a normal life. Until Hamas decides they would rather build than destroy, I fear there will be more violence and more loss of life on both sides.
I certainly hate the violence, and would join the call of international leaders for an immediate cease-fire. But it needs to be a real cease-fire. One rocket is a violation of the ceasefire. No matter who shoots it.
Chanuka is a time for dedication and renewal. Those of us who consider ourselves "activists for peace" are always disheartened when there is an increase in violence. It makes our goal seem further away than ever. But we should not let that deter us.
May God strengthen the resolve of all peace-loving people to continue to work for an equitable resolution of this conflict; may the Creator of us all help us find a way to end this madness and violence…and sooner rather than later!