Last month’s events unfolded with nauseating familiarity. We have seen this time and again. One side provokes the other which leads to response which leads to retaliation which leads to violence, accusations and the beginnings of new provocations. The only difference is the number of casualties and the heat of the lulls as we all point fingers wherever we like. There is enough blame to go around.
This blame is both part of the cycle and the greatest obstacle to ending it. It’s usually earnest, frequently simplistic, occasionally bigoted and almost always one-sided. But if we set our own passions aside, we are forced to accept the validity of every finger pointed in every direction.
Yes, Hamas encouraged innocents to the front lines. Yes, the U.S. embassy move was a poke in the eye to Palestinian national ambitions. Yes, Israel must defend itself and its borders. Yes, reacting to shouts and stones with live fire is disproportionate in both appearance and result. And no amount of logic will make any of this otherwise.
So how do we account for the horror? How do we understand the cycle in order to break it? In light of such intertwined responsibility it becomes necessary to apply some simple detective work. When investigators are faced with evidence that points to multiple suspects, a single question is asked: Who benefits? Who benefits from the human tragedy in Gaza? From the fear in the neighboring Israeli towns? The answer convicts and absolves us all.
The situation in Gaza exists for the express purpose of keeping Hamas and Likud in power.
Neither party has an interest in improving the lives of Gazans. As long as the misery continues, Hamas has a boogeyman to blame for Gaza’s woes. They need not govern responsibly while the blockade stands. What little monetary aid comes through is easily justified as going to bombs, not bread. They can hold themselves up as strong protectors while the suffering curries the world’s sympathy, and rightly so, for the plight of everyday civilians.
Likud is equally vested in this indignity. As long as Hamas retains power, they have an easy scapegoat to deflect from mounting corruption charges, regressive social policies and a deepening alliance with Jewish extremists. They can hold themselves up as strong protectors while technological advances and a diverse economy keep the rest of the world appeased.
The status quo, with all the death and hate that it brings, has proven beneficial for both parties. Both currently enjoy popular support and can claim progress toward their goals. Hamas’ strategy is obvious: continue provocative action until Israel’s response grows so overwhelming that the Jewish homeland becomes as isolated as North Korea. This result is entirely probable with Dor Lieberman as minister of defense. Likud’s endgame is just as blatant, allowing Gaza to starve to death or self-destruct while absorbing the West Bank in the name of “Greater Israel.” Though the Jerusalem Post polled Israeli support for a two-state solution at 53 percent, Gaza erodes that number.
If we as Jews, as humans of good conscience, wish to ever have a peaceful, dare I say, friendly, co-existence with our neighbors, we must look at our own culpability as well as our opponents.’ Just as we hold a stake in Israel’s future, we hold a share of the blame for Palestinian misery. We need to own it. Then we can change the power structures that perpetuate the suffering in Gaza and reasonably demand the same of the Palestinians. As the more powerful of the two nations it is incumbent upon us to make the first move.
Joshua Parkes of Glendale is the author of “A Question of Ashes” and “The Miami Keys.” All opinions are his own and subject to change based on credible evidence.