I have been holding my pen back from commenting on the latest round of fighting in Israel and Palestine -- the exchange of weapons between Israeli military and Palestinian forces in Gaza. I have done this in part because I don't know what more can be said.
The dream of peace in the Middle East has been and likely will continue to be an elusive one. For those of us who seek peace in this region that is holy to at least three faith traditions, the latest violent exchanges between the Israeli's and Hamas in Gaza not only breaks our hearts but tears once again at the very fabric of the process of bringing peace to the region.
Should Hamas be condemned for launching rockets at Israel? Yes. Is the Israeli response over the top, excessive, and ultimately counterproductive? Yes, it is counterproductive for Israel and for its American ally. For more than 60 years two sides have fought over disputed territory, that was carved out of the vestiges of the Ottoman Empire by the British. The results of that decision continue to be felt to this day. We've had solutions on the table, but not ones that everyone can agree upon. We talk about a Two-State Solution, but is that a realistic one? Can these two sides after so many years of bitter struggle find a way of living peacefully together? Most importantly, can they agree to share vital resources, especially water, equitably? I'm not so sure anymore. The Israeli's have continued to expand settlements into the West Bank, carving out more and more territory from what is supposed to be the Palestinian State. But, if a Two State Solution isn't possible, what is the future look like? If Israel seeks to be a Jewish state, but its populace has become a majority Muslim (it's Christian populace having largely fled), will this not ultimately emerge into an apartheid state (if we're not already there)?
As we wrestle this ongoing dilemma, we watch as the casualties on the Palestinian side once again are exponentially greater than on the Israeli side. In part that's due to the fire power of the Israeli military. But is this the way forward. It's clear that this latest round of fighting has done two things -- it has strengthened Hamas as the defender of Palestinian rights and marginalized the more accommodationist Palestinian Authority, which has nominal control over the West Bank.
Even if the fighting stops in the coming days, and Israel forgoes another ground war, I doubt this will be the end of the fighting. That is, unless there is the will to come together and truly change the dynamics of the situation things won't change. I'm not hopeful that this will occur, but there is always the possibility. And that is my prayer, but for this prayer to be realized we must acknowledge that no people can live peacefully under occupation, that occupation breeds resentment, and often violence. Until the occupation ends, the struggle will not end.
For more on this see the site of Churches for Middle East Peace.