Comment: A change of debate, a change for Gaza and Israel

22 November 2012

This week has seen a re-escalation of violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza, seemingly prompted by the killing of Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, the Head of Hamas’ military wing, by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. It has been reported that in six days 105 people have died in the Gaza strip as a result of IDF bombardment, whilst three Israelis have been killed by rockets coming the other way. On Monday alone over 100 rockets were fired into Israel. Frantic talk of ceasefires and ground operations are surrounding the current situation, but it is still unclear what direction events will take.

The current violence is part of a brutal and controversial history, and it is difficult to see an end. Both sides are now so entrenched in their own ‘extremities’ that neither seems likely to budge. This problem does not just exist at the top, in the minds of those who are orchestrating the conflict, but in those involved throughout the world, however remotely. As a member of the Jewish community, I have had a lot of exposure to different opinions surrounding the issue, and though some are measured and moderate, others most certainly are not.

I know that by expressing this perspective I may appear to be taking sides, but that is not the case. I can only talk about the side that I have seen myself, and unfortunately this has thrown up some worrying opinions. For example, some time ago the BBC, an organisation repeatedly seen as anti-Israel, published an article detailing the murder of an Israeli family by a Palestinian, but drew a connection with the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank that is considered illegal under international law. This provoked outrage amongst some of my peer group, deeming that the link is completely out of proportion and unfair, despite the probable validity of the association. Morever, during the current events, the focus is almost entirely on the rockets hitting Israel and the right to self-defence, ignoring the important question of a reasonable response and the issue of what is actually happening within Gaza.

These blinkered viewpoints prompt similarly narrow-minded perspectives in opposition, and vice versa. Some see the blame as falling entirely upon Israel and constantly reaffirm the democratic legitimacy of Hamas, regardless of their status as a terrorist organisation in the eyes of the EU and USA, and not to mention the perpetual rocket fire into Israel. This conflict is so ideologically loaded that any new development or comment immediately serves to solidify what the party already believed. The conflict will not cease while this trend continues. Given the current political situation in Egypt, which characteristically, though possibly rightly, raised concerns amongst my peers. It seems set to carry on.

A move in the right direction would be to amend the way the conflict is treated at an educational level. If understanding and moderation are emphasised from the start, then perhaps the extremity of opinions might slowly erode, and genuine compromises might be on the table. Viewpoints could be shifted from the bottom up. However, this would merely be a step. Anyone claiming to have a workable permanent solution to the conflict at this stage probably lacks a proper appreciation of the complexity and messiness of the entire situation.

UPDATE: Before TCS went to print, Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi claimed to have secured a ceasefire and that Israeli air strikes would end around a week after the exchanges started.