Saturday, January 3, 2009

Looking for Humane, Peaceful Solutions in Gaza and Around the World

Israel and Hamas are both complicit in the current state of war. They both violated the cease-fire agreement. However, Israel is NOT using proportional force. On the one hand, 30 Israeli soldiers are reported to be injured, 2 seriously, and all are receiving medical care. On the other hand, over 460 Palestinians are reported dead and over 2,700 injured, one quarter of them civilians. Many casualties are now without adequate medical care due to the blockade and the inabililty of aide workers to enter due to the Israeli offensive.

The problem with all reports about Gaza is that they cannot be independently verified, as the Israelis are still not allowing foreign media inside Gaza. Hamas is also preventing access to any media already inside Gaza. Expecting journalists to play the childhood game of Telephone is both disingenuous and unconscionable. Journalists should neither be used nor expected to create propoganda as if they're public relations employees. Both sides should allow journalists the freedom to do their job. When independent observers are absent, there is also the danger that atrocities may be committed with impunity. The world should demand accurate, independent information be allowed to be reported. If Israel and Hamas are worried about what people think, they should both be worried about how all of this looks to the outside world.

The UN Security Council should demand an immediate cease fire to allow humanitarian aide workers into Gaza to assist the population. Diplomatic solutions should be sought to immediately lift the blockade allowing basic food and medical supplies to flow to these refugees. Diplomacy should also be utilized to seek a lasting and durable resolution to the homeless status of the Palestinians. Leaving people to live an internment of permanent refugee status is not a peaceful solution that respects their basic human rights.

Terrorism is generally defined as the use of violence, coercion or the threat of violence against civilians for political, religious or other ideological reasons. By this definition, both Hamas and Israel are terrorists. Consistant use of military force against innocent people only breeds anger, contempt and extremism. Our world needs, instead, a more concerted, humane, peaceful, and diplomatic course to mediate these long-term disputes. Gandhi showed that meeting violence with peace creates more sustainable, humane solutions. Both sides in this dispute could learn from his example, as could many other countries, including my own.

Perhaps countries should spend most of their budgets on peace education, instead of defense. I know that I, for one, am sick of seeing a disproportionate percentage of my country's budget spent on defense and war-mongering, instead of education, health care and maintenance of our infrastructure. Countries should require peace education as part of the curriculum, so that by the time children become adults, they would be well-educated in ways to solve their own conflicts peacefully, learn to control their own anger, and would be more likely to require their politicians to use mediation instead of force. As the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for."

Maybe it's our expectations for great leadership that should change. Leading people to death, killing others, and bullying others on the playground of international relations are not what I consider to be the qualities of a great leader. This type of leader should be castigated and impeached. A combination of intelligence, compromise, and use of mediation/diplomacy for peaceful conflict resolution are the hallmark qualities of an exceptional leader. You get what you expect.

EDIT 1/3/09, 11:50pm
I just found a broadcast series about life on both sides of the Gaza Strip entitled Gaza Sderot, Life in Spite of Everything. Here's a link:

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