Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Eye for an Eye?

The ancient Jewish tribal custom of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" was long ago discredited.  Although Jesus' suggestion of turning the other cheek has not yet found wide acceptance among nations, revenge is certainly looked down upon by most of the civilized world as an ignoble response to an inflicted harm.  The Israeli government's apparent policy of "One Million Palestinian Eyes for Every Israeli Eye" is a huge step backward for humanity.  On moral grounds alone the Israeli government's war in Gaza has no justification.  But the sad reality is that it is also a most non-strategic approach to the long-running conflict with Hamas and the Palestinian people.  Predictably, not only the Arab world, but public opinion in all civilized nations is now turning against Israel.  

Whether or not it is Israel's stated policy, the government's demonstrated attitude about Palestinians is that they are less than human, and thus should be "crushed."  Is this not strangely familiar? The Nazis' justification for eliminating the Jewish race was that Jews were less than human--"an abomination of nature" in Hitler's words.  Of course, the Israeli government is not alone in bringing shame on its people by such behavior.  The tragedy at Abu Graib demonstrated what terrible things people are capable of (even normally civilized and law-abiding Americans) when the "enemy" is no longer regarded as human.  It is unfortunate, indeed, that the subtext of the label "terrorist" is that the person is not a human being and is undeserving of any consideration, dignity, or even basic human rights.  This is a huge mistake.  

Israel should remember that terrorists aren't born as terrorists (though some people are born as criminals).  When people perceive that their rights have been abused, when they feel continual oppression and injustice, when they feel backed into a corner and have no other way to be heard or to find freedom--that is when even normal, civilized people are likely to turn to violence.  We should remember that many of the founding fathers of Israel were once "terrorists" by any modern definition, though we may now remember them as freedom fighters and heros.  And the United States of America would still be a British colony (or, at least, a part of the Commonwealth) if the American Revolution had not been fueled by the injustices and abuses that King George heaped upon the colonialists--turning them into "terrorists" in the eyes of the Crown.

Israel refuses to address Hamas with anything other than bombs, bullets, and phosphorous.  If the administration changed that policy and began treating the Palestinian people--including especially the members of Hamas--as human beings, they would not only gain the respect of world opinion, they would gain moral authority and might even achieve the peace that has eluded them for so long.  Unfortunately, the cause of peace has now been set back at least 60 years, and the long road has been made a great deal longer.  Worse, the Israeli government's zealous aggression in Gaza is making Israel LESS secure by stirring up the worst sentiments in the populations of its Arab neighbors.  What folly--and what a tragedy we are witnessing!


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