Palestine and Israel need an impossible dream

The Palestinian death toll had reached 1,360 by the end of July, mostly civilians, women and children. Hundreds more had been injured. Fifty-eight Israelis had been killed, 56 soldiers and two civilians.

Sixteen Palestinians died when an Israeli shell hit a United Nations (UN) school where 3,000 refugees were sheltering. UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said, “All available evidence says that it was an Israeli strike.”

A UN spokesperson said, “A day of shame for Israel.” But the Israeli air strikes continue and 86,000 troops will be deployed against Hamas personnel firing rockets into Israel, although most of them are intercepted before they hit their targets.

It is easy to oversimplify the situation, the violence has its roots in the shiploads of Jewish immigrants and refugees arriving in Palestine in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.

They fought the occupying British in a guerrilla war and did use terror. The British withdrew and the Israelis took-over Palestine driving out those whose land it rightfully was and founding the state of Israel with a claim to biblical right.

The original Palestinians became refugees in Lebanon and Gaza. They were driven onto the West Bank where today, which the Palestinian authority rules. A land of exile they say but under the control of Israel.

The rest of the people are contained in the Gaza strip and isolated in an area which was occupied by the Israelis until 2005. They still block all borders. Egypt controls the southern border. The Palestinians are demanding an independent state, side by side with Israel, but a peace agreement cannot be reached.

In the Gaza strip, a militant group of Sunni Islamic resistance fighters named Hamas violently opposed Israel and has been in violent conflict with it since the 1990s. They are marked as a terrorist group, but recently made a political pact with the Palestine West Bank.

After the recent abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the torture and burning alive of a Palestine boy, the latest conflict broke out when Hamas began firing rockets.

The one thing that Israel has in abundance is fire power, deadly, mostly accurate, powerfully devastating and murderous. The alleged deliberate shelling and bombing of homes and houses, schools, hospitals and shelters in a massive bombardment is a possible war crime, according to a UN body. Israel denies targeting civilians.

Can the invasion of Gaza and massive killing be justified? It is an exercise in self-defence, the Israelis say. The Hamas organisation says it has the right to self-defence.

Hamas is the sworn enemy of Israel and the most pernicious thorn in its foot. It is out-gunned, out-shot and out-bombed. It does not have a good reputation, it is an organisation that denies the right of Israel to exist, although it says it is open to a long term peace deal.

It has been condemned as a terrorist organisation and has delivered murder and mayhem on the Israelis over the past years. It too may have committed war crimes by concealing its rockets in civilian areas.

Its unguided and wild firing of rockets into Israel has killed few Israelites and destroyed hardly any buildings. The Iron Dome anti-rocket protection shield over Israel gives it a high degree of protection.

The alleged Israeli retaliation by massive force and indiscriminate violence is disproportionate, many say.

Hamas fighters and the Palestinian civilians are trapped and blockaded into a narrow strip of land, cornered with their backs to the sea from where they are being shelled.

It is far from being a fair fight.

The lifting of this blockade is one of the main Hamas demands and why it will not easily agree to a cease-fire or surrender. It has concealed its rockets in civilian areas simply because there is nowhere else to hide them. But that cannot be justified either.

War like this is totally devastating and achieves nothing but greater human suffering. This is a war of hatred and loathing.

Killing thousands of civilians to destroy homemade rockets that have little effective destructive power is not morally right. Israel needs a better, more intelligent and wiser solution. Violence will not solve this, it only creates more victims and prompts revenge.

Why cannot justice be done and peace made? The Palestinians have historical rights and, just as Israel wants its right to exist and to be recognised, so does Palestine want to be a free state.

It seems an impossible dream, but we pray and hope that the killing on both sides will stop and a lasting peace will, one day be reached.

λ Father Shay Cullen

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