Sunday, January 4, 2009

So War Is Bad But...

If you read news coverage of the current war in the Gaza Strip there will be plenty of pictures of injured people (usually children), and statements about how there is a terrible humanitarian crisis there that is worsening. Almost every news article that I have read had a statement from a UN Humanitarian Aid agency saying that they can't get supplies in to help the Palestinians. This comes with plenty of commentary about how people will start starving unless they can get aid in. When ever I read these statements and commentary I think, "It's a war. Do they expect the armies to politely pause the war every day for a few hours so that people can walk to the local market and get food, go to work, play in the park or plaza and fix the water faucet in their house that doesn't work?"

It's as if the media expect them to carry on with their lives as if nothing is happening or as if there is only an event going on like a major sporting event that temporarily disrupts daily life. True people still have to eat, even in a war, but as opposed to how the media presents it, the greatest travesty of war is not the fact that people don't have an uninterrupted supply of food and basic necessities. The greatest travesty is those that are killed and those that have their lives destroyed by the war. The media to some extent does try to present this, but they get bogged down in their concern over the "humanitarian crisis" rather than the events that lead to the creation of the crisis.

So having said that let us consider the principle contenders in this conflict and what they say about it. So let me say that I think that war is generally a very bad idea, but as it is happening somewhere else and not here where I live, I have the luxury of critiquing it and giving commentary from the comfort of my home. As I have to view the events through the filter of the media it may be difficult for me to tell who to believe and who is at fault (or if everyone is at fault). Because generally the media may take one side of the story and they may feed off their own redundant reporting to make what is happening worse (or better) than it actually is. One way to see how to judge the principle contenders is to look at what they are saying and how they are responding to what is happening.

As I was reading the BBC they occasionally have quotes from the people involved, such as the Israeli president and the leaders of Hamas. I found that if I just read the news articles about what was happening I would not know who was right in this conflict and who is to blame. If anything I might tend to sympathize with the Palestinian position. But when I read the statements from each side a different picture emerged. Lets compare their public statements:

ISRAELI PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES: "We don't intend neither to occupy Gaza nor to crush Hamas, but to crush terror. And Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it. We shall not accept the idea that Hamas will continue to fire and we shall declare a cease-fire. It does not make any sense."

Translation: "We're mad and we are going to do something about it. The idea that we should have a cease-fire just when we are getting going is crazy. We are committed and will go all the way."

ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER EHUD BARAK: "We have carefully weighed all our options. We are not war hungry, but we should not allow a situation where our towns, villages and civilians are constantly targeted. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined. We are peace-seekers. We have restrained ourselves for a long time, but now is the time to do what needs to be done."

Translation: "We don't like what they are doing and we will do something until they stop. When they stop we stop."

Contrast this with:

HAMAS OFFICIAL ISMAIL RADWAN: "Gaza will not be a picnic. Gaza will be a graveyard for you."

HAMAS MILITARY WING IZZEDINE AL-QASSAM: "Be prepared for a unique surprise, you will be either killed or kidnapped and will suffer mental illness from the horrors we will show you."

That doesn't sound very nice. When I read these statements I thought of a police officer called into investigate a domestic dispute (kind of like the things they show on Cops). When he arrives the two parties are fighting and he has to figure out what is going on and who to arrest or if anyone even needs to be arrested. After listening to both people argue for a moment the police officer takes one of them into custody. Usually its the one that's still spewing death threats and profanity when the policeman arrives.

So as for my personal sentiments of the situation, I do feel bad that people are getting hurt and that there are problems, but Hamas is making it very difficult for me to sympathize with their position. They may have a case that supports their claims, but at the same time they are not acting in a way that makes their argument very persuasive. The image that comes to my mind is that of a protester who after throwing a rocks and other things at the police, cries "Police Brutality!" when they get wrestled to the ground.

No comments: