Over the holiday weekend, Israeli planes attacked several sites in the Gaza Strip. The air strikes have killed more than 300 Palestinians (so far), and the attacks are continuing.
This is just the latest in a generations-long problem in the region. Sixty-one years ago, in 1947, amidst the aftermath of the Holocaust, the United Nations decided that Jews should have their own homeland. Rather than giving up land in Europe or Eastern Europe, the UN decided to settle the Jews in what the Torah claims is the Jews' homeland: the area in and around Jerusalem.
The problem was that there were already people living on that land: the Palestinians. And there were, literally, millions of them. That problem was solved by forcing the Palestinians to move into two separate regions: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which allowed the Jews to move in and create the quasi-democratic state of Israel. I say quasi because, although the Palestinians are allowed to vote in their own elections, their governments are effectively hamstrung by Israel’s authority over roads, airspace, water, and external security. The Palestinians have no voice within Israel’s government. In addition, Zionist settlers continually build settlements that encroach on Palestinian land, and the Israeli government is always reluctant to stop them.
The Palestinian pseudo-government, which is currently run by the political party Hamas, is almost never effective because Israel controls access to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and uses its leverage to attempt to influence internal Palestinian politics. Hamas has been labeled as a terrorist organization, and its security compounds were the targets of the past weekend’s air strikes.
The Palestinians are literally fenced in, not allowed to travel freely, and are often denied basic necessities including food, medicine, and education. Israel denies these basic services in the hopes that the Palestinian people, once their will is broken, will elect political leaders that are willing to cooperate. This has yet to happen, and in fact the opposite has occurred: Hamas, a more radical political party, won parliamentary elections in 2006 over the more moderate Fatah party.
Palestinian militants, ostensibly controlled by the Hamas security forces, occasionally send salvos of rockets towards towns in Israel. In response, Israeli bulldozers will raze a few houses and shut off the supply of humanitarian aid.
A supporter of Israel might ask, "Well have you ever been suicide bombed? Have you ever been attacked with rockets? These Palestinians are dangerous!" But that is ignoring the fact that the Palestinians view the Israeli state as having stolen the Palestinians' homeland 60 years ago. The struggle against Israel is not, for many Palestinians, a struggle against Judaism or the West: it's a struggle for political freedom and sovereignty. They resent the West only because it is complicit in Israel's aggression.
The Palestinians do sometimes resort to terrorism to further their political goals, and they are correctly condemned for it. But does the provocation justify the response? Palestinians have no leverage politically or militarily. They are second-class citizens governed against their will by a distant minority. Desperation can very well lead to madness.
Israel claims that its Palestinian foe is an existential threat and must be dealt with harshly by, amongst other tactics, bombing its governing party's headquarters with warplanes. But really, how dangerous can a people be when all that they can do to resist Israeli aggression is to throw stones at tanks.
Israel claims that its struggle against the Palestinians is a life or death conflict. But surely there must be a better solution than to allow an entire generation of young people to grow up in what amounts to a lawless refugee camp. What better terrorist recruiting environment could there be?
Stop with the warplanes and start allowing the Palestinians to assert their humanity. Give them food; give them medicine; give them education; give them democracy.