Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Israel-Gaza Conflict: Matt's response to a reader's questions

The following is my response to an Anonymous reader's questions, which was probably too big to fit in the comment section. Feel free to use this post thread for the peaceful, thoughtful discussion of the conflict.

Original comment:

Anonymous said...

The media would have us believe that Hamas isnt firing rockets into Israel because Israel is firing rockets in Gaza. They're doing it because, as they state very clearly numerous documented times, they want to wipe Israel out and won't stop until they have. How much truth do you think there is to that? (no sarcasm intended in this post at all) If it is true, then if Israel did stop retaliating, Hamas would just keep going until there was noone left in Israel. Thoughts Matt? Hamas means "violence" in Hebrew. Their mission is easy to find online even from non-Israeli sources, yet Israel has never said it wants to wipe out Palestinians...perhaps the removal to the strip was to protect themselves from all the suicide bombers? Isn't that why there is a strongly held border?

Matt's response:

I'll try to address the questions point by point:

There are two sides to the Hamas agenda. The first side is based on hatred of Israel, of Jews, of the Jewish faith and even Christians and Christianity. The other side of the agenda involves reclaiming land taken away from Palestinians, and to escape the embargo and achieve some sort of freedom. One side is obviously more legitimate than the other. Same with Israel. Some want to punish everyone and anyone who isn't Israeli or a Jew, and others simply want to live in peace. Once again, one side carries more legitimacy.

That said, "Israelis" and "Palestinians" are both nebulous terms. Artificial geography and politics has now constructed two camps into which everyone now conveniently, although erroneously, falls. The vast, vast, majority of Jews in Israel are not originally Israeli by geography, and came from other parts of the world once the nation was created. "Israel" and "Jew" are not synonymous, despite this connection today. By the same token, Palestinians are mostly Jordanian, Egyptian, and so on.

"Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map." Hamas has indeed said this many times, as has Iran. But again, refer to point (i). Some would like to "wipe Israel off the map" to exterminate them, while others want to "wipe Israel off the map" literally, as in replace "Israel" with "Palestine". Does Israel have a right to exist and defend itself if attacked? Certainly. Does Gaza have the right to exist and live in freedom? Definitely. Is it right that Israel is constantly harangued with various weapons? Not one bit. Is it alright that Arabs were forcibly removed from their lands and prevented from reentry? Not at all. And therein lies the eternity of this conflict.

The "Hamas means violence in Hebrew" angle is probably the strangest of all to me, and I've read it many times. In the Bible the word appears as "hamasim", and in Hebrew dictionaries "hamas" is indeed listed as a Hebrew word for violence. But that's the entire point, it's in Hebrew, and the logic doesn't make any sense. Why would an Islamic resistance group choose a Hebrew word for its name? Well, they wouldn't, and the only connection is that Arabic and Hebrew, being neighbouring languages, share words whose meanings don't always align.

What Hamas actually means, in Arabic from which it was chosen, is an acronym: Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya, meaning simply, "Islamic Resistance Movement." Indeed, in Arabic the word "hamas" means strength, zeal, devotion to God, and so on. This isn't a defense of Hamas by any means, but rather cautioning those trying to project their dislike of another group using really far-out methods. It's a huge stretch for sure, and the stuff of propaganda, not objectivity.

Alternate history time: New Zealand, and Maori and Whites have lived there side by side throughout history, peacefully in fact. A global war has just come to an end, and concentration camps full of Maori survivors empty into an uncertain new world. The United Nations decides to give the Maori a new homeland based upon their ancestral territory, and chooses the North Island of New Zealand, the richest island, and renames it Maoriland.

To make room, the Maori remove Whites from their property and expels them to the South Island, now known as New Zealand, and confiscates / nationalizes anything already existing in Auckland and other cities. Having lost everything, and being told by the world that they can no longer have their North Island, New Zealanders, with the help of other white nations including Australia, the United States and Canada, launch a military offensive to retake the North Island and put an end to Maoriland, which fails. The Maori seize upon this opportunity and invite Maori from all over the world to settle on the North Island, and the population doubles, triples.

To prevent any further aggression, Maoriland builds a large army, and engages in an embargo of New Zealand. To prevent the construction of military facilities, concrete supplies are limited. To maintain control of the infrastructure, Maoriland completely provides all internet and electricity and water to the south island. Baby food and medicines are also completely rationed and used as levers when needed. Every once in a while it sends boats to the south with food so that the people won't starve, which would look bad.

Conditions in New Zealand, the south island, grow progressively worse. Unemployment at 50% or higher. All travel in and out of the island is restricted. The United Nations no longer recognizes New Zealand as a nation, and considers it merely as an enclave of the North.

Unfortunately, the Maori feel it is their religious right to control both islands, and they're also running out of room for their own people, so they begin to send over boats of settlers, who start building Maori towns on the South Island. Powerful Maori in the world's richest countries pay lobby groups to have the media turn the other way. Desperate and without any means, New Zealanders in their anger begin lashing out by constructing rockets with anything they can find lying around, and fire them at Auckland, mostly haphazardly and without any damage done. Those who can't afford to build a rocket simply strap explosives to themselves, get on a bus in Auckland and detonate their bodies.

Time passes. Hatred festers. No longer just about land, New Zealanders begin calling for the extermination of the Maori people. The Maori consider whites useless trash, barbarians locked in the seventh century, and frequently launch air raids over Nelson and Christchurch, now sprawling ghettos, and occasionally send down soldiers to invade and pacify.

And so it goes on, ad infinitum, with New Zealand shelling Maoriland, and Maoriland bombing New Zealand in response, in approximately 5-10 year cycles, with no initiatives for peace seen anywhere in the horizon.

When people only look at the present situation, and fail to take in the entire situation of the Middle East, it often looks like the Gazans are hairy knuckled neanderthals who know nothing else other than violence. Would Israel be safe if it laid down its weapons at this point? Absolutely not. Will Gazans be free and/or get their land back if they did the same? Not a chance.

And the wheels keep on turning. Many don't agree with this, but history is something that happens, and our opinions are just that, opinions. Israel now exists, and that can never be undone, at least by men. Israel also has Arab and Muslim neighbours, a fact it can never undo. Hamas must give up the past and look toward the present and future and the opportunities to be found there in, and stop unrealistically demanding things it can never have and deriving political profits from such wants. Israel needs to give up on the religious propaganda that they're the "chosen people" who are allowed to bomb other countries and restrict their freedom however it pleases them.

God does not take sides. He merely confiscates the souls of those delinquent in their righteousness. Any nation that starts misbehaving will be punished, a truth fully illustrated in all of the scriptures, and the children of Israel are no exception.

None of us who do wrong are safe.