This is a difficult subject. There is a lot of angry history here, and some deeply horrific actions – from both sides of this equation, I might add – that have hardened hearts, and created an unending spiral of brutal, retaliatory violence. For hundreds of years (indeed, longer) there have been occupations, invasions, and some terrible misdeeds, committed by various factions and nations. There is a lot of religious turmoil wrapped up in the violence in the region, and also a lot of political and humanitarian strife.
Does Israel have a right to exist? Yes, I believe it does, even if the circumstances that led to Israel’s creation as a nation can be considered dubious. There can be no denying that the persecution suffered by Jewish communities, just prior to the establishment of Israel, were horrific, and Israel as a country has provided those communities with somewhere safe and secure to live. It is also important to separate those communities from the actions and policies of the Israeli government, just as it is equally important to separate the actions of Hamas from the Palestinian people.
My good friend Bruce Gerencser recently wrote about this. He explained why the Israeli government has a lot to answer for. Since the creation of Israel, the borders of the country have expanded, at the expense of Palestinian land and homes, without remorse, and without pause. International agencies, and even Israeli human rights groups, have condemned the Israeli government for its systemic dismantling of Palestinian settlements, and illegal occupation of land. These on-going actions are a breeding ground for generational animosity, and do nothing to establish a lasting peace in the region.
This is not to excuse the actions of Hamas. To attack villages and unarmed civilians, kidnap them, and murder them, especially children, is senseless. It is beyond awful. Hamas has rarely been interested in peace, and has often preferred to kill and maim Israelis. Their latest attack on Israeli towns has not been about achieving military or political goals, and they have invited a terrible response upon the Palestinian people. That response is also horrible (just as the world condemns Russia for missile attacks on Ukrainian civilians, it turns a blind eye to Israeli air-strikes on Palestinian cities), and the cutting off of water and electrician to a region of some two million people will do nothing to ease the hatred and calm things down.
Is there a solution? I don’t know. I know what I would like to see happen, but whether or not the leaders on either side of the equation would be willing to step back from war is another question. I believe Israel should stop illegally seizing land, and agree to abide by international law. Hamas should cease all paramilitary activity, and turn over anyone responsible for authorising and leading the attacks on Israeli towns to the authorities. I doubt any of this will happen, but it would be a gesture of goodwill from both parties, and without goodwill, the violence will not stop. It will take bravery to break the cycle.