Let me level with you: when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, I am staggeringly ignorant. It’s messy, complicated; filled with nuance I don’t understand and history I haven’t learned. I guess I probably know more than your average person on the street, on account of having read a bunch of news articles and wikipedia pages, but I’m no expert—just some guy with professedly liberal leanings trying to make sense of a senseless situation.
I begin with that preface because Israel is an explosive topic about which people often have strong opinions, and I suspect that a decent percentage of them don’t particularly know much more than I do. Fortunately, as a blogger I have just enough ego to think that someone might care what I think, and since the latest outburst of violence in Gaza has Israel in the news, it seems worthwhile to chime in. Here goes:
I think that killing civilians is a bad thing.
In fact, let me go one step further: killing civilians is a very bad thing. It’s actually kind of evil. I mean, it’s been happening since people have been killing each other in general, but that doesn’t change my impression that murdering unarmed, defenseless people is generally not a nice thing to do. I don’t have a reasoned philosophical justification to offer for that belief; I’m just taking it as axiomatic.
Sadly, the killing of unarmed civilians is basically the defining feature of the conflict in Israel. In Gaza there’s Hamas, who have a habit of launching rocket-propelled explosives into Israeli cities. Their goal is to kill Israeli citizens. That is a bad thing. Hamas is basically full of not nice people. Furthermore, their vision of society is one that I find generally repellent. I don’t like Hamas very much.
But that’s just half the story. The people who Hamas represents, their lives are not very pleasant. The reasons for that are too complicated to relate (see paragraph 1), but most of it has to do with Israeli policy, which has created endemic poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness among the Palestinian people. In other words, exactly the conditions you’d want if you were an extremist looking for recruits to kill civilians–say, civilians belonging to the government most directly responsible for making your life miserable.
Also, while Gaza is impoverished, Israel is actually pretty wealthy and powerful. I know that some people like to play up the existential danger Israel faces, but the fact is none of its neighbors seem eager to mess with it. If Israel were a dog, it would be an undersized pitbull that was abused as a puppy–a little insecure and a little vicious, especially when its right-wing is in charge (spoiler alert: it is now). But Israel has a developed economy and a lean, mean modern military. When Israel uses that military against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the results, killing-civilians-wise, are not pretty.
Israel claims not to target civilians, just weapons caches and bases used by organizations like Hamas, which has a habit of stashing said weapons in or near civilian homes. Unfortunately the problem with homes is that people tend to live in them. Thus, organizations like Hamas entice Israel to kill Palestinian civilians and Israel, the angry pitbull, is happy to oblige. And oblige and oblige. The result? Angry Palestinians eager to hurt Israelis, and vice versa. Rinse and repeat. So both sides kill innocent people, and both share moral culpability for that .
But let’s not pretend that the blame falls equally. Israel, by virtue of its aforementioned military prowess, kills far, far more civilians than Hamas ever has. It’s not even close: Hamas can only dream of killing as many civilians intentionally as Israel does accidentally. Israel is not the good guy. From where I sit, nobody really is.
And that’s basically where I, a relatively uninformed guy, stand on this whole conflict. For me it’s not about history or ideology, but about the capacity and willingness to inflict suffering on other people. If human life has any value, then the majority of that burden has to fall on Israel. Unfortunately, I don’t pretend to have any solutions. Just a hope that somehow, at some future time, maybe the killing might end for a while.