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Opinion: Israel-Palestine: Tit-for-tat?

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Last week on the editorial page, we wrote about a ‘tit-for-tat’ mentality in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, a ‘cycle’ of actions and reactions that often seems designed to keep the conflict alive rather than to end it. Although we were careful to distinguish between the brutal, terrorist murder of a settler family on the West Bank and Israel’s announcement in response that it would build 500 new homes for settlers, we did say that ‘the Israeli government should be in the business of calming tensions, not stoking them, and of removing obstacles to peace rather than constructing them.’

Many readers -- supporters of Israel, for the most part -- were outraged. They felt that we were suggesting a moral equivalency between the horrific murders and Israel’s (in our opinion) counterproductive response. We heard from the Prime Minister’s office and the Israeli ambassador to the United States, among others.

It was certainly not our intention to suggest any such equivalence. But as for the idea that a cycle exists, one only has to read this week’s news. On Saturday, citing ‘ongoing Israeli crimes,’ Hamas ended a two–year ceasefire and began shooting rockets across the Gaza border. The next day, Israeli F-16s carried out eight air strikes in response. Instead of backing down, militants on Tuesday fired more rockets from a citrus grove near Gaza City. Israelis, not surprisingly, fired back -- but they missed their target and unintentionally killed three young men playing soccer and a 60-year-old man leaving his house. The following day -- Wednesday -- a bomb was detonated outside the main bus station in Jerusalem -- the first bombing in that city in four years. One woman was killed and 24 other people were injured. Later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond ‘aggressively,’ according to the Guardian newspaper.

You can argue forever about who is right and who is wrong. Or how far back to go to determine who started the hostilities. Or how much worse it is or isn’t to kill civilians on purpose than it is to kill them as collateral damage. Those are questions for philosophers to wrestle with. But to deny that there’s a cycle of violence seems pointless.

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--Nicholas Goldberg

Top photo: Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on a security compound in the Gaza Strip March 16. Credit: Ismail Zaydah / Reuters


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