Monday 26 November 2012

Hatred and Ceasefires

In the hours following the terror attack on a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, I had the same thoughts that I recall thinking during the course of the suicide bombing campaign in the Second Intifada.  I was desperately trying to envisage what sort of person it could be who would leave an explosive on a bus knowing that it would kill and maim innocent men, women and children.  I have also wondered in the past what sort of person would kill themselves in a restaurant or other public place, just because they have the opportunity to kill innocent men, women and children around them.  I cannot imagine the person who would undertake such a ghastly act, and why they would think that this is justified in any way.  I felt the same when I saw missiles being launched towards civilian areas, with the express hope and intention that they will hit apartment blocks or shopping centres full of innocent people trying to go about their daily lives.  And yet, there are such people in this world.  Many of them are neighbours of Israel who believe that they have full justification to massacre civilians.

When discussing this with one of my colleagues, the answer seemed quite obvious to him.  His take on the matter is quite straight-forward.  He simply said, "you have to understand how deep the hatred goes".  Perhaps he is right and we do need try to understand how deep the hatred goes, as difficult as this seems.  The problem is that I simply cannot understand hatred of this magnitude.  I have met people who do have a genuine and justifiable reason to hate deeply.  These are people who still have numbers that were branded onto their arms, and who were subject to the most depraved behaviour known to mankind.  They were herded and kept like cattle, and were forced to witness the deaths of close friends and family members at the hands of some of the most evil people ever known.  Deep hatred would be fully justified under these circumstances.  Strangely, many of these victims do not feel the hatred that may be expected of them.  Somehow, it is not in them to bear a grudge and feel hate in this way.  It seems to me that the type of hatred that we see coming from Gaza is hate that has been taught and cultivated over many years, and passed by one generation to another.  Even if we assume that this has arisen as a result of maltreatment, this has certainly not been at the hands of Israelis.  Even when Israel controlled Gaza, the treatment of the Palestinian population was in accordance with security requirements.  Israel certainly did not maltreat Palestinians in a way that cultivate the hate that is in evidence, and that could ever justify the deliberate murder of women and children.

So where does the hatred come from, and why is it so strong?  Although some say it goes back many centuries, there is a noticeable increase in the hatred since the State of Israel was declared in 1948.  Perhaps this was the moment that the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist sentiments could be directed towards a physical entity, rather than a bunch of individuals.  It also represents the moment that the Arab leaders promised their people that Israel would be wiped off the map, and that the Jews would be driven into the sea.  To date, this promise has not been fulfilled despite their best efforts.  This also gives a basis for hatred, even though it is misdirected in many cases.  It may also be the case that Arab leaders ensure that the dissatisfaction of their citizens is channelled in the form of hate towards Israel, rather than directed towards the leaders who are the real cause of the suffering of their people.

The guns have now gone silent following another outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.  It was noticeable how the war was fought between the different parties.  Israel did all that she could to avoid civilian casualties.  Some targets were not fired upon when there was a risk that civilians would become involved.  The strikes that were made, were undertaken with pinpoint accuracy to avoid civilian casualties.  Hamas took a completely different approach.  Their objective was to place at risk the lives of as many civilians as possible.  Their rocket fire was always aimed at areas of high civilian population.  Hamas was happy to risk the lives of its own population by creating human shields out of people.  Rockets were fired from apartments where women and children live.  The leadership hid itself and some of its ammunition stores under a hospital.  All of this would ensure that Israel, with its humane attitude, would not aim its fire at these areas.  In the event that fire was directed towards these targets, it would make a great news story for the waiting press pack.  Not only is it difficult to wage a war against such people, it is also virtually impossible to make peace with them.

Operation "Pillar of Defense" has ended, and the rocket fire has finally ceased.  If it was not for the wonderful and heroic "Iron Dome" system, Israeli civilians may have been subject to 400 more rockets landing in their towns and cities.  This is to add to the thousands of rockets that have been fired incessantly over the past ten years, and more.  What is perhaps most astonishing about this situation, is the reaction of the international community.  It is incredulous that Israel is continuously criticised for being the aggressor, and that foreign countries try to dictate to Israel that any response to attacks on its citizens should be "proportionate".  What could be regarded as disproportionate, when a missile is fired towards the centre of a town or city with the aim of killing and maiming civilians?

Perhaps the international community should also try to understand the form of hatred that is being bred towards Israel in places like Gaza, and elsewhere in the region.  There should be an attempt to appreciate that this is hatred that is being taught by parents and in schools, rather than hatred based on rationality.  As such, it appears difficult, and perhaps even impossible to counter.  It is against the background of this hatred that ceasefires are agreed, and peace treaties negotiated.  It seems fairly clear that, while this hatred continues to be bred amongst the younger population and passed from father to son, ceasefires and peace arrangements will only ever be temporary.  Unfortunately, under these circumstances, a permanent peace can never exist.

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