War never achieves political goals, but just destroys the people,” he said. “War is the language of the ignorant, and it is fought by the ignorant.” The speaker was an unemployed Palestinian construction worker, living on United Nations assistance and commenting philosophically on the latest round of fighting in Gaza. I think this man is far more perceptive than the leaders of Israel and Hamas, for whom human life seems inconsequential and whose sole purpose in ordering attacks on the other is revenge.
Israelis have every right to be outraged over the kidnapping and killing of three boys by people associated with Hamas. And Palestinians have every right to be outraged over the killing and burning of a boy by Israeli settlers, evidently in retaliation. But I, as a global citizen, am outraged at the absurdly disproportional responses of both sides to these despicable acts. To believe, as Israeli and Hamas leaders evidently do believe, that conducting air strikes or sending missiles into crowded cities will resolve specific acts of violence—that punishing innocent others is proper retribution—displays appalling ignorance, besides being criminal in purpose and consequence. At least 100 civilians, all but one Palestinian and many of them children, have already died at this writing, and the lives and businesses of many more have been greatly disrupted. At what point do Israeli and Palestinian leader believe they have punished enough? Have we not learned time and again, in warfare and other settings, that violent retaliation escalates the violence and plants the seeds of future violence rather than creates the basis for settlement?
The Israelis reportedly are considering a ground invasion of Gaza. Then, if not before, Hamas will declare the start of a third intifada. Each side will maintain that it was forced into a larger conflict by the other side, and that it must finally “end things,” meaning the other side’s “terrorism.” So here is displayed how far human society has advanced. Is it too much to ask that a third party step forward to demand at least a cease-fire?