War is Hell!
War is glorious for “…those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded… War is hell.” — William Tecumseh Sherman
Anyone who takes pleasure in war lacks a soul. That said, I sit reading accounts and watching CNN reports on the conflict now transpiring in Gaza with a sense of dread. It sickens me any time I consider the implications of war. I think it is easy for people to forget that in any armed conflict innocent people are killed. This is no more true today than at any other time in history.
It seems easy to focus our disgust on Israel. After all, they are winning and in turn inflicting the greatest casualties. As I read through various blogs expressing their outrage or read over the BBC’s timeline of the current situation, I found it difficult to understand how the current conflict began. One seems led to believe Israel simply began firing missiles into Gaza City on December 27th without provocation.
“It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.” — Robert E. Lee
On December 19, 2008 the six months truce brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas officially ended. However, a day earlier, on December 18, Hamas declared the truce over and began attacking Israel along the Gaza border. On December 24th they escalated their antagonism of Israel by firing missiles at the Jewish state. The missile attacks have continued daily since then. It was not until December 27th that Israel launches its devastating counter-attack.
The question that crossed my mind was, do Israel’s critics actually believe Israel should have ignored the attacks? Would any nation on this planet allow its citizens to come under armed attack and simply remain calm and pursue a purely diplomatic solution? Ofcoarse not!
Arab advocates for Hamas contend that Israel broke the truce repeatedly during that period between June 19 and December 18. I accept that the incidents occurred but were these incidents one-sided attacks by Israel or Israeli responses? Shihab al-Natsheh was a terrorist, not a political leader and the August 2nd conflict was not started by the IDF but by the pro-Fatah terrorists. In each case Israel is defending itself from terrorists.
I am deeply touched by the images of wounded, dying, and dead children in Gaza. However, I have not seen similar images of the Jewish victims of Hamas rocket attacks. Partly because Hamas does not possess the ability to control their missiles well enough to hit a target and partly because the bias is always for the loser. It is unfortunate that IDF missiles struck populated areas, but Hamas is not innocent in this regard, some of their rockets hit a kindergarten in Israel. It is also significant to recognize that it is a common strategy for terrorists to shield their positions with women and children. This is an abhorrent practice that is rarely recognized in either the press or those outraged blogs.
I sincerely hope this conflict ends soon, but I am equally hopeful that Hamas is completely destroyed before that happens. Unfortunately, Israel is not building good-will during this venture and for every innocent victim, a family of new enemies is created. Even worse, history contains a long record of conflict and the hatred of that region is as alive and strong as any other living entity on the planet.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana
Assigning blame or declaring the innocence of either side usually ignores the long and complicated history of the players. I would like to conclude with a few paragraphs summarizing some of the history and religion of the region. (If history bores you, you are dismissed.) For the Jewish state of Israel there is a deep sense of ownership of the land. They believe God gave them the land of Israel through his promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:14 and later defined in Numbers 34:1-15. They dominated the land from around the 13th century B.C. (I prefer to use traditional dating as opposed to “BCE/CE” which I see as an attempt to deny the Christian basis of our common calendar.) They remained in the land until forcibly removed by the Romans in the second century.
The Roman Emperor, Hadrian, intent on punishing the Jews for the 132-135 A.D. revolt, expelled the Jews from the land. He also renamed Israel to Palestine and Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina in an attempt to erase Jewish claims to the land and nationalistic desire. Following the fall of Rome, the area came under Byzantine rule until the Muslims arrived in 634 A.D. Interestingly, the Byzantines retained the Roman prohibition against Jews in Palestine.
Although the ban on Jewish return was lifted under Islamic rule, by the time the Crusaders arrived in 1099 A.D. there were very few Jewish residents, probably less than a thousand, (Heynick, 2002.) By 1187 A.D. the Crusaders were out and Palestine was firmly back in Muslim hands, where it remained until the Ottomans unfortunately decided to ally themselves with Germany in the First World War. When the Central Powers were defeated the Ottoman Empire was partitioned. The area we now know as Israel, Northern Iraq, Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank defined the British Mandate of Palestine. (Over the years the size and shape of this area morphed some as treaties changed.)
The partitioning of the Ottoman Empire was seen by Arabs as an insult. Their keen sense of history provides many Arabs a long memory for such offenses. When World War II began it was not surprising that once again the Arabs sided with Germany. It seems a fair conclusion that antisemitism may have played a role in this as well, especially since the Jewish population in Palestine continued to grow between 1920 and 1939.
The British, trying to maintain peace in Palestine prohibited Jewish immigration and took such drastic measures enforcing that prohibition during the war that world opinion turned against them. This intensified in 1946 when the British began to intern Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany in camps on Cyprus. All of this turned American opinion in favor of Israel and the culmination was the UN partition plan of 1947.
The Arab world recoiled at the suggestion that there was any place in Palestine for the Jewish refugees. An armed conflict ensued and the result was the establishment of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. This year is significant not only as the date of Israel’s reestablishment but it is also the true genesis of the Palestinian problem we are still enduring.
During the war, 539,000 Arabs left Israel at the behest of the Arab armies that were attacking the Jews. Meanwhile, 850,000 Jews were thrown out of Arab nations and their property stolen. Israel absorbed the refugees as brothers but the Arab refugees from Israel were not similarly received.
In spite of the fact that Arab lands were sparsely populated, Arabs refused to accept refugees from Israel. (This is the only documented time since WWII that refugees have been refused.) However, there was a reason for their rejection. The Arab nations rejected their “brothers” to force their return to Israel. The hope being that these returning Arabs would expel the Jews from the land. This was a true conspiracy designed to promote conflict.
So who can we blame for this current situation? My conclusion is to blame the Arab nations that conspired to create an environment for conflict. These same nations continue to fuel the conflict today through religious propaganda and the constant supply of arms to Palestinian terrorist.
“Israel must be wiped off the map.” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian President
Yes, I brought up the religion topic. Earlier I pointed out Jewish religious claims on Israel and I would like expand on the religious aspects. In Jewish scripture, Jerusalem is specifically referenced as the Jewish capital. Jerusalem is referenced hundreds of times throughout the texts. In the Koran, Jerusalem is never even mentioned. This forms the basis for the Jewish claim to Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the Islamic Koran helps fuel the conflict for the combatants. First, as they see it, Islam commands Jihad or war against unbelievers. Koran Sura [8.65] “O Prophet! urge the believers to war… [2.190] …fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you…[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter… [4.74] Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward. [4.75] …fight in the way of Allah… [4.76] Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Satan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Satan… [4.77] …when fighting is prescribed for them… [4.78] …Why hast Thou ordained fighting for us? Wherefore didst Thou not grant us a delay to a near end? Say: The provision of this world is short, and the hereafter is better for him who guards (against evil); and you shall not be wronged the husk of a date stone.”
So who are the “friends of Satan?” All non-Muslims. The mandate to make war against non-Muslims seems quite clear to the Jihadists and this makes them very dangerous. Especially when coupled with verses like these, Sura [5.51] “O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people. [5.64] And the Jews say: The hand of Allah is tied up! Their hands shall be shackled and they shall be cursed for what they say. [5.78] Those who disbelieved from among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and Isa…”
In conclusion, we have religion, politics, historical slights, and limited geography all playing into this conflict. I simply don’t see an end to this until all parties can divorce their minds from history and dogma and sit down for a logical brokered solution. Unfortunately, I don’t see that coming in this century. A more likely solution will be found on the battlefield of Armageddon. In the end, war is hell.