I cannot condone the actions of either side. However, I find Israel's behaviour to be troubling in the extreme. The casualty figures are so grossly disproportionate that only the most rabidly bloodthirsty far right extremist could find them acceptable. I find Just War Theory to be pretty laughable, a concept bordering on a contradiction, but in this case, I do hope its practitioners are consistent and acknowledge that Israel's current behaviour is indefensible under Just War Theory as well as my own more leftie theories. Over the ENTIRE YEAR, Qassam rockets fired from within the Gaza Strip have killed nineteen Israelis. Four of these fatalities have come during the last four days. In contrast, during the last four days, Israel's attacks have cost the lives of over three hundred Gazans. A casualty ratio of higher than 15:1 is morally reprehensible, and shows a totally disproportionate use of force by Israel.
The attempts of Israel to shift the blame onto Hamas for the gross casualty ratio are quite frankly disingenuous. According to the Israeli line, it's Hamas's fault because it chooses to base itself in populated centres. Excuse me? In case Israel hasn't noticed, the Gaza Strip is a tiny slither of land housing millions of people; it is one of the most densely populated territories on the face of the planet. Hamas don't exactly have ranges of mountains away from the civilian populace to base themselves in. And in any case, this sort of logic is essentially saying "please base yourselves somewhere where it is easier for us to hunt down and kill you", as if any side would be willing to do that. For the sake of consistency, Hamas should demand that Israel move all of its governance and military infrastructure to lowly populated countryside. Israel's indignation at such a demand would be hilarious, and hypocritical.
This should be a trying time for any supporter of Israel. No fancy theory, no self-righteous assertion of good intentions, and no supposed attempts by the military to launch precision attacks can justify cases such as the deaths of five daughters of one family. That is the kind of information that often disappears behind the political posturing - the real toll on civilians, on non-combatants who are innocent victims of geography and of cold, calculated politics that views their lives as expendable. Like I said, the actions of Hamas cannot be condoned either; it deserves considerable blame and its contributions to upping the stakes are inexcusable, but it has not acted with what could almost be considered rash abandon.
Israel needs to back the fuck down. Ehud Olmert says he wants to change the rules of the game, as well he should, but of course, his implied rule changes are not the rule changes necessary. The problem of Gaza is the ongoing problem of democracy promotion - Israel and the West are great crusaders of democracy, so long as they get the result they want. Democracy is valourised, glorified, just about sanctified, and placed on a pedestal; it is seen as the cure to what ails your country, to violence and to instability. Then when it goes and produces a result these political evangelists don't want, they behave in the most anti-democratic of manners by marginalising Hamas and clamping down on those naughty, naughty Gazans. Maybe if Israel would get over itself for a minute, acknowledge the democratically elected representatives of Gaza, and change the rules of the game to privilege diplomacy, negotiation, simply talking to each other, and putting the general populace ahead of political pissing contests, we might actually get somewhere. A similar demand could be placed on Hamas, given their unwillingness to recognise Israel and the lack of give-and-take compromise on their behalf. But at least they haven't behaved with quite the same level of staggering hypocrisy and selfishness as Israel and its allies.
The rules need to be changed - and both sides need to actually abide by them. Otherwise this stupidity will just keep going and ordinary civilians will keep dying in their hundreds. The lessons of history surely indicate that might is not right, violence begets violence, and the current aggressive, uncompromising stances of both sides will only lead to more misery.
Listen to history, for god's sake. Then we might get somewhere.