The larger part of my reluctance, however, is that my position sometimes puts me at odds with some of my friends who have a greater, and a deeply felt, personal stake in Israel.
Nevertheless, I do not consider myself on one side or the other. I think I have some understanding of both points of view, having heard impassioned, persuasive arguments for both sides. Each side picks a point in history that favors its claims, and blame is assigned to the other based on that. I doubt any solution is going to come, as long as either side takes the position that the blame is entirely on the other side and that the solution is simply that "they" must do this -- or that -- before negotiations can begin.
Almost without regard for the historical reality, however, I usually tend to feel more supportive of the current underdog, especially when there are such disparities of power and resources and control of their own daily lives.
This sympathy found expression in a moving summation of the current situation by Chris Hayes last night on his MBNBC "All In With Chris Hayes.' In discussing the Hamas-Israeli battle raging in Gaza, Chris began by acknowledging the asymmetry of each side's stated intention and noting that deliberate killing of civilians is a war crime under the international conventions of warfare.
"Hamas says it is explicitly targeting civilians, and the Israeli defense force says it is not. And that distinction has real import.". . .That is a powerful statement, and I agree with Chris. There are many Israelis who also agree. Of course they don't want to live under the constant fear of rockets from Gaza, but they see that Israel has also been cruel to the Palestinians. Not just in retaliatory airstrikes and invasions and destruction of homes, but in the ongoing, daily deprivations and obstructions imposed. And, yes, the Palestinians have fought back, throwing rocks -- and now, from Hamas, rockets fired into Israel's civilian areas. Both sides definitely have grievances and both have suffered losses.
"But intention, when it comes to violence and war, is not the end of the story. Effect matters as well. And to look at the effect of the missiles and the rocket fire exchanges between Hamas and Israel is to see yet another glaring asymmetry. So far, no Israelis have been killed in the latest round of violence, thanks in part to Israel's sophisticated missile defense system; while on the other side, 89 Palestinians have lost their lives, according to Gaza Administrative Health, including 15 women and 24 children. [by Friday morning this had risen to 100 and by Saturday morning to 120.] That includes one family in their home . . . and at least eight Palestinians gathered on the beach to watch yesterday's World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands.
"Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth, with 1.8 million people crammed into an area . . . . In that environment, no amount of precision will stop 110 airstrikes in one day from wreaking terrible havoc on civilians. The imbalance in casualties that we're seeing right now has been replicated in every single round of armed conflict between Israel and Palestine for the last 14 years. . . .
"It's easy to forget that the numbers represent human beings, fellow human beings, real people with names. These people who are dead today are as real as the Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered and the Palestinian teen murdered last week. The mothers and fathers and the kin and friends and cousins they leave behind mourn just as intensely as the families of the young victims we all saw displayed on the news.
"As a matter of both ethical principle and public perception around the world, at a certain point, the effect of violence and its magnitude begins to swallow whatever moral intention is behind it. Enough women and children and soccer watchers on the beach are marched to their graves -- and people stop caring what you meant to do."
Israel's supporters say Hamas must acknowledge Israel's right to exist. The Palestinians say Israel must stop the settlements. Each has its irreducible demand. No solution will come from attempts to impose one demand without accommodating the other. Israel has been just as recalcitrant in expanding its settlements as Hamas has been in its calls for Israel's destruction and its rockets.