I’ve been trying to think about what to say about the war between Israel and Gaza for nearly a month, and I’ve come up empty. But I think I have something, at last.
Before I go any further, let me summarize it: on October 7, 2023, Hamas – the governing party of Gaza – sent a number of militants over the border into Israel, and they killed 1400 Israelis (including both Jews and Arabs), filming horrific acts of the murder of entire families (parents, grandparents, children, babies) and rape, including desecration of the dead, and active celebration of the slaughter.
It constitutes a large number of war crimes, at nearly all levels, and most certainly constitutes a cassus belli, a phrase that means “a legitimate cause for war.” Israel then declared war on Gaza, and bombed a number of military sites in Gaza (including places Gaza claims are not military sites, like schools and homes, despite using those sites for military purposes, which is itself a war crime.)
It hurts to read all of it. I don’t want people to be at war. I don’t want anyone celebrating the deaths of others, including those who actively call for my death.
And I haven’t really been able to coalesce a coherent set of thoughts about any of it, but I finally started making some progress a couple of days ago.
It started with reading something someone posted to defend Gaza, I think: it was that “hurt people hurt people,” meaning that Gaza’s actions were sourced in Gaza’s people’s collective trauma.
I understand that on a few levels. Not many, though, because their trauma is largely self-inflicted, and blaming Israel seems like a convenient excuse more than anything else; according to Hamas’ charter, articles 7 and 13, Hamas wants nothing less than the genocide of all Jews (article 7) and the destruction of Israel as a state (article 13).
There’s no compromise they’re willing to make when it comes to genocide of Jews or destruction of Israel, so it feels a little silly to even try – yet Israel has tried. In 2005, Israel withdrew, completely, from Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza is self-determining. Gaza “buys” medicine, food, water, and power from Israel – yet Israel doesn’t collect what it should on that, as part of an acceptable loss for the purpose of a peace that has never been realized, as Hamas keeps launching rockets indiscriminately at Israel.
Indiscriminate targeting is a war crime: targeting military emplacements is not, but Hamas doesn’t care; as its goal is total destruction of every Jew, they just shrug and say, “For our purposes it’s all military, we guess,” and the world nods wisely and agrees for some stupid reason. You might say it’s hatred of Jews, but… just because it seems targeted at Jews and the only country that actively harbors them, well, that seems a little pointed, no?
The thing that struck me about “hurt people hurt people,” though, is that it’s… not one-way. There’s a reason Israel exists, after all: it’s the literal harbor state for Jews. It’s the only harbor state for my people. Israel was created when Jews finally recognized that there was no assimilation complete enough such that we Jews would be allowed to survive as equals among Gentile nations.
Was the creation of Israel burdened with pain? You bet. There’s a long set of stories associated with the creation of Israel. I do not believe there is a purity, or innocence, in that creation. For multiple reasons, there was a displacement, although it was nowhere near as total as the PLO would have you believe; there was no Palestinian national identity, and what we know as the Palestinians today was formed largely as a way to resist Israel’s mere existence.
That existence was due to “hurt people” – the Jews, largely of Europe and Western Asia – hurting, coming off of a pogrom that killed upwards of six million, who had nowhere else to go. So they chose their ancestral homeland, what with every other option being discarded (Australia and Madagascar were requested and rejected). If the Jewish option was living among their murderers and those who accepted murder of Jews… they chose to go “home.”
And were attacked for it. If you look at the wars Israel has been engaged in since its creation, every one since that creation has been instigated by the Arab countries surrounding it. Israel has still survived.
Many of those wars were in defiance of ceasefires and treaties between Israel and it attackers. Israel has still survived.
Israel’s gone above and beyond, in my opinion, to pursue peace and, often, preserve the same people who howl for Jewish blood. When Israel took the Sinai from Egypt – thanks to a victory in war, the typical way such land is acquired – they gave it back for the purpose of peace. They accepted a two-state solution with the West Bank and Gaza … for the purpose of peace, and left both territories, only to have both the West Bank and Gaza reignite tensions, although not quite as horrifically as we saw in October of 2023.
As I’ve said, I don’t think there’s “innocence” in the conflict. The initial comment that got me thinking was that “hurt people hurt people,” and it was meant to excuse Hamas’ incursion (“Hey, Gaza doesn’t like being isolated by Israel just because they howl for Israeli blood every day, you know!”) and it struck me how essentially unbalanced that sentiment was:
After all, Israel was created from two thousand years of my peoples’ agony, and that, too, creates a burden.
I pray constantly that the people in the region could decide that loving their children was more important than the deaths of their enemies. I pray also that their leaders could pursue peace earnestly – when you look at Israel’s current leaders, you see that they benefit from the conflict, and I hate that. And there’re many matrices of responses to observations about the conflict that have both justifications and completely rational rebuttals.
But at no point can I condone anything Hamas did in any of this, even if I find myself somewhat able to understand the rationale. The application is evil, and there can be no peace until Hamas is no longer effective and no longer indoctrinating Palestinians.
We’ll only have peace after Jesus comes, or after Arab and Jew can see each other as humans, and not parasites, a situation Israel was trying to create back in September when it granted ten thousand work permits to Gazans (which have since been cancelled, given the rapacious attack by Gazans on Israeli citizens at Hamas’ request.)