One of the most educative and entertaining things about writing, posting and syndicating a weekly online op-ed piece is reading reader's comments. Over the years, they have run the gamut from the extremely complimentary and thoughtful to the agonizingly churlish. And for reasons perhaps best left to a therapist, the ones that stick with me the longest are the latter -- the churlish. Over the past decade I have been informed that I don't know Hell's first whisper about anything. I have been old where I can go and what I should do to myself; I have been called a "Communist," "Socialist" and "self-hating Jew" more times than I can count, and have, on occasion been informed that the best thing I can do for the planet's future is to "go out and play in traffic." It helps to have a thick skin -- and a well-developed sense of humor. "Be serious about what you do," I tell my students. "Just don't take yourself too seriously."
Occasionally, I've even been scorched for a piece I did not write. Such was the case last week when, instead of publishing an essay on the crisis in Israel and Gaza, I chose to write about the plight of adjunct instructors in higher education. From the point of view of many readers, this was a gross mistake -- one which, according to more than one correspondent, ". . . proves that you, like your buddies Obama and Kerry, hate Israel and side with Hamas."
Oh really? What's been poisoning your water supply?
The lethal confrontation between Israel and Hamas has been uppermost in my mind now for nearly a month -- so much so that the sheer horror of it has even crept into my dreams . . . turning them into nightmares. Without question, I fully accept and support Israel's right to defend itself against all those rockets launched from Gaza. Thank God for the brilliance of the Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and Hamas' bad aim.
At the same time, I mourn the tremendous loss of life on both sides. I am fully cognizant of the fact -- and yes, it's a FACT -- that Israel does its best to warn civilians in Gaza of pending attacks in order to save as many innocent lives as possible. I am also fully cognizant that much of the world disputes this FACT and charges Israel with willful acts of genocide. I know that the Palestinians react to the death of Israelis ("The Zionist Entity" as they call them) with glee. I also know that these people train their children from an early age to hate all Jews and continue perpetuating blood-curdling myths that should have died centuries ago. I have read the Palestinian government website which actually tells its people to ignore Israeli warnings and instead stay put: “The ministry [is] calling all our people not to deal or pay attention to the psychological warfare carried out by the occupation through rumors that broadcast across his media and delivering publications and communications on the phones of citizens.” I do understand that this atrocious, immoral response on the part of Hamas is deliberate; through all these deaths, Hamas leaders hope to recapture a measure of the public support they have lost due to their inability to run a stable service-providing government. It is a cardinal, age-old move on history's political chessboard: when one loses the support of one's subjects or citizens, create a maximal number of innocent civilian martyrs, thus redirecting all the animus and gross dissatisfaction toward an eternal, external enemy.
Unlike many, I am terribly concerned that Israel's economic stranglehold on Gaza has made life there a horror. The chess strategy behind economic embargoes goes something like: the longer you keep a population in dire poverty, the greater the chances are that the people will rise up against the very leaders who are ultimately responsible for the embargo. Such a strategy cannot and does not work in a society where the so-called leaders are more than willing to murder or sacrifice the populace -- and then convince them that it is the source of those sanctions that is ultimately responsible for all the death and destruction.
I too am maddened by the fact that the media breathlessly and repeatedly reports the number of deaths and causalities Israeli forces have wrought in Gaza, while failing to mention that Syrian civil war deaths are more than a thousand times greater. Why, just this past weekend, more than 700 people died in Syria -- most at the hands of government forces. Additionally, continuing violence in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen, and elsewhere garners not a fraction of the coverage "lavished" on the Israeli assault on the tunnels and terrorist hiding places in Gaza. Nor too does the media adequately explain that Hamas purposefully -- and strategically -- places its rocket launchers and weapons arsenals in or next to schools, hospitals and mosques. It is far too easy to explain away this maddening incongruity by claiming that "The media is made up of a bunch of anti-Semitic, pro-Hamas SOBs." Maybe it is. But then again, maybe its because unlike Gaza, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen and elsewhere, Israel places few if any restrictions on news coverage. It is next to impossible for Western media to take pictures of heavily-armed Hamas soldiers or rocket launchers housed in quiet neighborhoods for the simple reason that all sources of news and actualities are heavily controlled.
Although both sides in the current conflict have immediate aims and goals they seek to achieve, neither side is so blind or starry-eyed as to believe it will settle or solve anything in the long run. Both sides know that this is a war no one can win. Even if Israel were to destroy every last tunnel leading from Egypt to Gaza and from Gaza into Israel -- and utterly extirpate Hamas to boot -- the tunnels would eventually be rebuilt and a new terrorist group would likely take center stage -- unless Israel would be willing to occupy Gaza until the coming of the Messiah. This they are neither willing nor interested in doing, despite what her most right-wing ideologues might wish. (n.b. Even as I write, Israel has begun pulling some IDF troops out of Gaza and informing Palestinians in Beit Lahiya and al-Atatra, in northern Gaza, that it was now safe to return to their homes.)
Despite all the rockets Hamas aims at the Jewish State on a daily basis, Israel is as about as secure as it is ever likely to be unless Hamas totally disappears, never to be replaced, and the West Bank becomes even more accommodating to Israel. To be certain, neither of these prospects is likely. Israel's economy towers over its neighbors. The Palestinians are, for the most part, weak and divided. None of Israel's neighbors pose any immediate threat of invasion, a situation in place since the 1977 neutralization of Egypt. Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel; Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is, when all is said and done, a relatively minor threat, Israel's position is difficult to improve.
Unlike many who write me on a weekly basis, I do not know what the solution to this age-old problem is. I pray for Israel's peace and security. Likewise, I pray for the all those Palestinians who have been made into pawns by their own supposed leaders. I hope that someday they wake up to the fact that Hamas cares not a fig for them. They have their own agenda, which includes neither peace nor security.
And for all those who blame Israel solely for the current war and see its roots solely in what Israel has done, I suggest they offer a workable solution . . . and see how far it gets them.
Shalom rav ahl Yisrael amkha, ta-seem l'olahm . . .
©2014 Kurt F. Stone