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Gaza Strip

OK, I tried to ignore this for as long as I could but various people have asked my opinion so I really need to make a comment on the current situation on the Gaza Strip. People seem to be divided into several camps on this matter. First, there are those who totally back Israel and say all the blame is with Hamas, which they say is a terrorist organisation (more on that label later). Second there are those who see Israel as the aggressor who are attacking a relatively harmless smaller power. Then there are those who don’t know anything about the situation and probably don’t care. Finally there are those who see that there is blame on both sides. Yes, so guess which camp I am in?

Let me comment about the “terrorist” tag first. Whenever I hear this I immediately become suspicious about the motives of the person who used the word. Its so easy to call anyone who you disagree with a terrorist, especially when they belong to a repressed minority who cannot indulge in conventional methods of political persuasion, whether that might be negotiation or armed conflict. Most people admired the freedom fighters of World War II who used what were really terrorist tactics to resist the vastly superior German invasion force, but those same people totally reject the right of groups like Hamas to do the same thing. So I won’t be using the word terrorist to describe either side in this conflict.

But just because I don’t see Hamas as terrorists doesn’t mean I don’t think they are wrong. They have been firing rockets into Israel and they can hardly then criticise Israel for retaliating. That is probably what they wanted anyway because many people see the rocket attacks as an effort to cause an escalation of the conflict which Hamas hope to gain support through.

And just because Hamas is wrong doesn’t mean Israel is right. Far from it. For a start, their control over Gaza has caused a lot of resentment and set up the situation where support for the ongoing minor attacks against Israel has been increased. And a response to a threat should always be in proportion to that threat. There had been no Israeli deaths from Hamas rockets for a long time before the Israeli attack began. Why did they feel the need to launch an all out offensive at that time? Clearly there were cynical political calculations involved in the timing.

And the element which makes the whole situation much worse and which means a positive outcome in the short or even medium term is practically impossible is religion. Yes, religion and the societal effects of religion must be a major factor in the lack of tolerance each of these two groups demonstrates towards the other. Its tempting to say that if either group accepted a more tolerant religion then the problems might be a lot less. But then we look at the world’s most prominent Christian, George Bush, and we see there is really no difference.

I listened to a radio program this morning where they interviewed people about their thoughts on the 9/11 attacks on New York. One person, who was obviously a Christian, said something like: God willing we will extract a terrible revenge on the terrorists (there’s that word again, but maybe its appropriate this time) and no revenge could be too bad for them. Maybe he hadn’t read the part of the Bible which talks about understanding and forgiveness!

The history of the Middle East is so confused that there is no clear cut case for ownership of many parts of that area of the world. Maybe a Palestinian state would solve the problem but I doubt it. The hatreds driven by religious division in that area are so ingrained that I can’t see there ever being an end to the conflict. Saying one side or the other is to blame is just avoiding the fact that each is as wrong as the other.

That may sound like a cop out, but there’s no point in ignoring the parts of the story which don’t make the side you choose to support look like they are the one’s in the right. Both sides are wrong and a solution which treats both sides that way is the only one which would have any chance of success, no matter how small that chance might be.

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