No Clean Solutions
The hard math of the Israeli/Hamas/Gaza conflict: every option is a bad one
Editor’s Note: Have a question about how to achieve peace in the Middle East? Don’t ask Matt, he has no idea, either. Send all other questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You seem to be a know-it-all. Or to at least do a passing impression of one. How do we achieve peace in the Middle East?
First, thanks for completely ignoring my editor’s note. Second, it’s tempting to say something curtly commonsensical, like, for instance: stop killing each other. But of course, if only one side is willing to play by those rules, neither side will. And so we have Israeli/Palestinian relations, in which the world’s bloodiest and most protracted real estate dispute drags on, with no sign of abating.
Like many of you, I’m guessing, I sat transfixed in front of my television for the last week straight, taking in all the savagery, the barbarism, the cavalier disregard for civility, decency, and reason. And that was just the Republican House Speaker’s race. (Who would want that job, the worst job in the world? I’d rather be an IDF tunnel rat rooting out Hamas in Gaza than have to herd those hissing cats.)
But what happened in Israel a little over a week ago was an unspeakable atrocity. The murder, the rapes, the charred babies and their mothers, the young festival goers blown up by grenades while seeking refuge in bomb shelters, attractive young women and old ladies alike loaded onto motorcycles by terrorist monsters to meet God-knows-what-fate back in Gaza. Plenty of this, gleefully captured on camera. Whatever happened to covering up of our war crimes, instead of broadcasting them? Man’s capacity for cruelty to their fellow man is a story that’s as old as humankind, and yet, our sociopathy seems to be getting more brazen by the minute. Evil doesn’t even have the good sense to be ashamed of itself anymore.
All told, there were 1,300 Israelis (and counting), slaughtered in cold blood. And lest we forget – as many of our most fervent isolationists seem to be forgetting - at least 27 Americans were murdered as well. (I say that as a qualified isolationist myself. I don’t like fights we can’t win, or shouldn’t pick, but sometimes the fights pick us.) There were roughly 150 hostages taken to boot, in one of the most densely-populated small slivers of land in the world, making revenge damn near impossible to take cleanly, without killing your own, or killing tons of civilians. Health officials’ estimates on the ground, after 6,000 Israeli bombs were dropped on the Gaza Strip, log the death toll at around 2,200 people, including roughly 600 children. Israel has also cut off all electricity, water, and food supplies, warning the two million or so people who live there to flee south, so they don’t get killed in the pending ground combat. Which will likely be house-to-house, and extremely ugly. Even if Palestinian civilians can’t get out of Gaza, and their next-door neighbors to the south, our “friends” the Egyptians, won’t let them in.
And so my clean sense of righteous anger that burned so hot at the beginning of the week - not only at the terrorist governing authority of Hamas, but at the worldwide twits, such as 30 plus student organizations at Harvard, who covered for them - started taking on hues of deeper dread of the carnage that’s coming. As Hemingway, no stranger to war himself, put it in For Whom The Bell Tolls: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.”