I am 74 years old and have seen my share of violence involving Israel and its various “enemies” in the Middle East, with its subsequent death, and brutality. The murderous attack by Hamas is very likely one of the worst and I condemn it in the most vigorous terms.
The resulting rage being expressed by American supporters of innocent Palestinians trapped in Gaza and by American supporters of Israel is the most destructive repercussion America has seen in the long, ugly history of the neighborhood. The shame is that both are correct.
The core principle among both groups of Americans is their concern and devotion to the humanity of each. The innocent Palestinians trapped in Gaza are just as innocent of the murderous attack as the 1,300 Israelis slaughtered on Oct. 7. Hamas has ruled Gaza for 16 years and that rule closely resembles that of the Taliban. They provide essential services but they also exercise absolute control over the Palestinians there. To blame every Palestinian for what Hamas has done is like blaming all Afghans for what the Taliban dictates. Once we forget that there are innocent Palestinians, we have forgotten their humanity.
By the same token, we cannot abjure Israel of the brutality displayed in its response. The killing of 126 Palestinians who just happened to be in the wrong building with a principal leader of Hamas has no moral justification. Again, it is not the blame of all Israelis. Many Israelis have protested to demand Netanyahu show more concern for the lives of the hostages. And contrary to Netanyahu’s thinking, bombing will never make a terrorist surrender. Martyrdom is a destination for a terrorist. Netanyahu can bomb them, if he wishes, but the 126 innocents who died in that building gave birth to 126 families of new terrorists.
We have known for decades that a two-state solution is the only solution. Ironically, Netanyahu came into office at about the same time as Hamas. His opposition to this solution and his absolute refusal to address the flood of settlers who are expelling Palestinians from Palestinian land on the West Bank has contributed substantively to the tension between Palestinians and Israelis. So, for 16 years, we have witnessed two primary actors bring us to this point.
Netanyahu cannot under any circumstances be exonerated from the situation we see today. Netanyahu and Hamas have both displayed a useless, counterproductive attitude toward the problem. Netanyahu, who is under investigation for corruption, for 16 years could have been a peace-maker rather than resisting the sole, recognized solution. In his last election, Netanyahu bound himself to the most right-wing partisans in Israel, proving he was more interested in maintaining power than in making a sincere, necessary effort to end this constant death for death and brutality for brutality.
I must wonder whether this horror would have happened in the first place had Netanyahu attempted to follow the course of Menachem Begin rather than the path of constant fear and war. No, I am not exonerating Hamas at all. But nothing happens in a vacuum and sadly Israel is not in a vacuum.
Robert Haslag lives in Nixa.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Haslag: Two sets of innocents overlooked in Israel-Hamas conflict