National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Oh, please: this is not ëdefense'

 |  From Where I Stand

As a citizen of this country, I am concerned about the way the
government has treated the Constitution and the Congress.

As a Christian, I am equally concerned about the way this country has
conducted the war against Iraq, now euphemistically called "The Global
War Against Terror."


As human beings, however, there are concerns beyond both the national
and ecclesiastical that deserve attention, as well.

Some of them, we find difficult even to understand.

In Darfur, Sudan, for instance, pastoralists and small farmers,
insurgents and Janjaweed militia -- a private army of sorts who are
government supported but not government army recruits -- are locked in
battle over water and resources. The conflict has had little
international attention.

envelope-gray-background.jpgLike what you're reading? Sign up for NCR email alerts.

The reason is relatively clear. We have little contact with the people
there. And never having really understood the situation in the first
place, eventually, we forget them entirely. "Their problem; not ours,"
we say. "Not of our making."

But Israel and Palestine are another thing entirely.

After WWII and its all-out, demonic attempt to exterminate Jewish
people for the simple reason that they were Jewish, the Allied Powers
carved out a portion of what was then Palestine as Jewish territory.

The struggle from then until now between Palestinians and Israelis has
been brutal and bitter. Palestinians refused to share what had for
centuries been their homeland. Israelis who, having managed to survive
the Nazi holocaust of the Jewish people, vowed never to be at the
mercy of governments other than their own again.

And unlike Darfur, the Israeli-Palestinian affair has tentacles that
reach out to most of the rest of the world who, by virtue of their
Jewish or Christian or Muslim roots, all call this land "Holy."

Whatever happens in Israel and Palestine, in other words, happens to
us all, to most of the globe. By religious tradition. By ethnic
heritage. By proxy.

We are very aware of the stakes here in ways we are not in Darfur. We
are not numb to the possibility that war here could mean war
everywhere.

But in that case, we have an obligation to watch the way this war is
being conducted, too. We need to be particularly attentive to the
protection of human rights in this arena, as well. After all, we are
not only bound to this part of the globe by heritage but, by virtue of
the post-war agreements we accepted in 1945, we had a hand in creating
the situation, as well.

Anyone watching the situation needs to wonder about both those things.
What is left of civil rights there is debatable. The way the war is
being conducted is not.

At this point, it is not a matter of who's right and who's wrong --
Israelis or Palestinians -- in this long-term dispute over land. There
is more than enough blame to go around here -- as there is in all
wars. Even Americans are finding out that U.S. soldiers have no
monopoly on the principles of chivalry. They torture detainees taken
at random and bomb civilians as well as so-called "military targets"
that are right in the middle of cities. And now they are being accused
of raping women, killing babies and murdering whole families in this
rampage called "war." And they do it just like everybody else.

Israel, for instance, has killed over 2,500 Palestinians, 20 percent
of them under 18 years of age. They built a wall through Jerusalem and
around Palestinian villages that has separated a people from itself.
They have bulldozed houses to make the point of who's in charge here.
But they have also submitted their own civil and military infractions
to their own courts and abided by those findings.

The Palestinians, on the other hand -- for all intents and purposes
powerless before the U.S.-supported Israeli military -- simply
resisted in place for years but, at the same time, refused to
negotiate. In fact, their non-violent economic resistance has been
their most potent defense of all, the one most clearly, even if
incompletely, heard around the world.

Eventually, however, they took to taunting Israeli soldiers with
stones and small arms fire. They blew to bits both themselves and
unarmed Jewish civilians on buses and in coffee shops and in the midst
of Jewish weddings. They began to lob missiles over the wall with no
regard for targeting at all. And when given the chance to choose a
peacemaker over a militant to lead them, they made an overwhelming
choice for those who are vowed to destroy Israel, however long it
takes.

There are without doubt justifiable complaints on both sides.

Right now, though, the political complaints are almost secondary. The
real problem is that the way the conflict is now being conducted is
not sane. It has gone beyond the bounds of reason. It has become raw
violence, brutal destruction, totally disproportionate revenge.

For the sake, we are told, of one kidnapped soldier to begin with and
now for the sake of two more at the time of this writing, Gaza is
being pounded. Civilians are being killed. Electric and water are
gone. And, in the latest show of force, Lebanon is also being
pummelled, apparently for tolerating the Hezbollah, a radical Shi'ite
group dedicated to the destruction of Israel and now lobbing its own
bombs into Israel territory.

The boys are really having a go at one another, this time. Like
drunken bullies in a street fight, it's a tussle with brass knuckles
in which only one side has the whips and the chains and the other side
refuses to say "uncle." Very macho. Not very manly.

And what is the world doing about it?

We have the SPCA, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, to stop this from happening to house pets and wild creatures.

We have rules in prize fights that require the management to end an
event before either fighter suffers brain damage. Or death.

We don't allow exotic animals -- lions, snakes, big cats -- inside
city boundaries.

And if we do all this to protect animals, people and professional
fighters from danger, why wouldn't we do something to save old men,
widows and children from becoming political carnage?

When is the referee going to call this fight?

And why is the president of the United States saying that "Israel has
a right to defend itself" when there is nothing about the present
irrational response that can in any way be called "defense." Whatever
you think about the viability of war as a moral strategy, this is not,
by any of the rules of war, defense. It is mayhem.

Is it anti-semitic to want human beings to act humanely?

Why are we allowing this to go on when we should be stopping every
cent of aid to both sides until their money for weapons runs out and
this latest matter is resolved within some kind of human context?

From where I stand, it's in our own interests to do something to stop
this. After all, we don't have an SPCA for humans. And this thing
threatens us all.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

August 1-14, 2014

08-01-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.