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January 9th, 2009
05:48 PM ET

Crisis in Gaza: Why is this happening?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/09/art.horizon.gaza.jpg]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Any attempt to answer the question "why is this happening?" - this effort included - will be found wanting by supporters of both Israel and the Palestinians, who will decry omissions of history, over-simplification, lack of sufficient context and invalidation of truths they hold to be self-evident.

Nonetheless, for those not steeped in the minutiae of the conflict, a guide for the perplexed.

There are no good dates left on the calendar.

That's been my line for years about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

By now every square on the calendar can be checked off as the date when one side committed what the other considers to be an atrocity.

(For purposes of this piece, we'll use a definition of atrocity from the dictionary on my desk: "An act of vicious cruelty, esp. the killing of unarmed people.")
 
There is no black-and-white, only shades of gray.

That is my other line about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The hard-core on both sides, of course, see matters in absolute terms.

When viewed as a zero-sum game, in which what one gains is offset by what another loses, compromise is difficult, if not impossible.
 
 
 
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are two narratives at play, narratives that began thousands of years ago.

It's as if an Israeli vehicle collided with a Palestinian vehicle but the drivers steadfastly maintain radically different versions of what happened, of who did what to whom.

And there often is little respect for the viewpoint of the other.

The storyteller Noa Baum, who performs a piece she calls "A Land Twice Promised," in which she intertwines the stories of Israeli and Palestinian women, puts it this way on her website: "I believe that at the heart of this conflict are two parallel narratives of two national movements struggling to gain sovereignty over the same piece of land. This conflict is characterized by endless layers of memories of pain, injustice and victimization. At the same time there is a lack of listening and no willingness to legitimize the narrative of the other side. I believe that acknowledgement of the other's story is the first step toward creating dialogue and relationship building, which is the foundation for healing and peace – the only alternative to the spiraling vortex of violence."
 
 
 
Right now we are in that "spiraling vortex of violence."

Why is this happening?

History can be a guide, but history is in the eye of the beholder.
 
 
 
How far back do you want to go?

In the Bible, Abraham's wife Sarah was barren and he fathered a son, Ishmael, by Hagar, who was Sarah's handmaiden (and depending on the interpretation, a gift from an Egyptian Pharaoh).

Fourteen years later, the story goes, Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham another son, Isaac.

The book of Genesis tells believers that God commanded Abraham to expel Hagar and Ishmael, but promised to make a great nation of their people.

Isaac's people became the Jews; Ishmael's the Arabs and Muslims.
 
 
 
Too far back?

At the end of the 1800s, European Jews fleeing persecution began arriving in the land of Zion (ergo, Zionists) seeking to establish a Jewish homeland in "Eretz Israel," the land of Israel, the soil of their ancestors.

A people without a land for a land without people.

Except, of course, that wasn't the case.

While there had remained a relatively small Jewish presence in the land called Palestine, the newcomers returned "home" and found there a much larger number of Ishmael's descendants with a claim to the same soil.
 
 
 
Still too far back?

In 1947, as the British sought to extricate themselves from the land they took in war from the Ottoman Turks, the fledgling United Nations offered the original two-state solution.

At the time the population in the affected area was roughly two-thirds Arab, one-third Jewish.

The Jews were unhappy with their allotment (a majority of the land but much of it in the Negev Desert) but accepted the proposal.

Arab leaders unhappy with their portion rejected both the partition plan and the idea of an eventual Jewish nation in Palestine.

In 1948, Israel declared its independence, followed almost immediately by war with the Arab nations, in which Israel captured far more land than had been allotted in the U.N. plan.

What the Jews celebrate, the Palestinians call the "nakba," or catastrophe.

In the months leading up to the war, several hundred thousand Arabs fled their homes, beginning the refugee issue that persists today.

Debate continues over the degree to which they were forced out by the Jews or encouraged by their own leaders to leave, expecting to return when the Jews were defeated.

In the months and years following the war, several hundred thousand Jews left their homes in Arab nations, the majority settling in Israel.

 
 
Not recent enough?

In the 1967 "Six-Day War," Israel conquered the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza strip, the West Bank (as in the West Bank of the Jordan River), the eastern half of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

(For purposes of this piece, we'll call the Gaza Strip "Gaza," as distinct from Gaza City.)

Egypt had controlled the Gaza since 1948.

Now it became Israel's headache.

In a relatively small strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea (25 miles long and 4-7 miles wide, slightly more than twice the size of Washington, D.C.) was a rapidly growing Arab population (then approximately 280,000, now an estimated 1.5 million people), living in what politely could be referred to as squalor.

Gaza, as densely crowded a piece of real estate as you will find on this planet, has been a boiling cauldron.
 
 
 
That squalor is the enduring memory of my first visit to Gaza more than 20 years ago.

Sewage running down gutters in alleys and streets.

People crammed into makeshift housing that became permanent over time.

A hospital operating without air conditioning in stifling heat and without window screens to keep out flies.

One prominent family living in palatial surroundings less than a stone's throw from abject poverty.

My favorite metaphor for Gaza was the rusting freighter then stuck and decaying some 100 yards off the coast of the Al-Shati refugee camp.
 
 
 
Over the years, the leaders of Arab and Muslim nations have used protests about the plight of the Palestinians as a convenient way to let their populace blow off steam over unrelated domestic issues.

The Palestinians have reason to feel used, if not betrayed, by some of their brethren.

Expressions of this sentiment have been heard in recent days from a frustrated population in Gaza and echoed by Hezbollah's leadership in Lebanon and the authors of opinion pieces in the Arab press.

Iran, which is Islamic but not Arab, supports both Hamas and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamic political and military organization that fought a 2006 war with Israel.

Israel's vaunted military may not be trying to compensate for its perceived "loss" in Lebanon but in Gaza surely has implemented solutions to the harsh lessons learned fighting Hezbollah.

It's that influence of Iran through Hamas and Hezbollah that makes the rulers of numerous Arab nations nervous about Islamic movements gaining an even greater foothold than they already have in their own countries.

The global affairs think tank Stratfor summarized this point: "With somewhat limited options to contain Iranian expansion in the region, the Arab states ironically are looking to Israel to ensure that Hamas remains boxed in. So, while on the surface it may seem that the entire Arab world is convulsing with anger at Israel's offensive against Hamas, a closer look reveals that the view from the Arab palace is quite different from the view on the Arab street."
 
 
 
And now we reach the year 2009.

Three years after forcing religious-based settlers to leave Gaza, Israel maintains tight control of the crossing points on land, the seas offshore and the skies above.

Israel is at war against Hamas, a Sunni Muslim organization created more than 20 years ago; its name an acronym for the Arabic words "Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia" meaning Islamic Resistance Movement.

Hamas is a political party and provides social services in Gaza.

It also has a military component.

Israel and the United States are among those who consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

Hamas has taken credit (a more boastful stance than a mere claim of responsibility) for suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

Hamas also has fired several thousand rockets and mortars into Southern Israel during the past several years.

The rockets are crude by modern military standards, though Israel says that Iran has given Hamas rockets with longer range and greater accuracy.
 
 
 
An Israeli blockade on relief supplies failed to pressure Hamas into halting rocket attacks.

But it did give Palestinians the chance to link Israel's tactics to the Holocaust by calling the blockade "the siege of the Gaza ghetto," a barely veiled reference to the Nazi siege of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.

Israel and Hamas each say the other's actions precipitated the collapse a couple of weeks ago of a temporary truce brokered by Egypt.

After declaring the "tadiyeh" no longer in effect, Hamas stepped up rocket attacks that had tapered off during those six months.

Israel decided that it no longer could tolerate 1.5 million of its citizens living in fear.

Israel struck first from the air and then on land.

Palestinians accuse Israel of "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing."

Israelis are offended by the linguistic linkage to the Holocaust and point to language such as this from Hamas' 1988 convenant: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
 

  
Israel contends that while its military tries to limit civilian casualties, Hamas fires rockets from residential neighborhoods and the grounds of schools and other institutions, using the local population as "human flak jackets," Chemi Shalev wrote in the newspaper Israel Hayom.

Did Hamas underestimate Israel's willingness to hit and hit hard or count on that response?

From an Israeli perspective, Hamas is willing to suffer mass casualties among the Palestinians if it mobilizes world opinion against Israel.

Speaking in Damascus, Hamas official Moussa abu Marzouk told a reporter from New American Media that "When Israel uses these means, it doesn't decrease support for Hamas. It accomplishes the opposite. The popularity of Hamas has increased sharply among the Palestinian people and people throughout the Muslim world."

From a Palestinian perspective, the scope of Israel's air and ground assault and the mounting toll of dead and wounded in Gaza is a disproportionate response to the firing of rockets and mortars that have killed and injured a relatively small number of Israelis.

In the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharanoth, Gilad Sharon offered no sympathy: "There are those who say that we are striking at civilians and a population in Gaza that is not to blame," he wrote, adding , "This is self-righteousness; we did not elect Hamas, the public in Gaza did, in droves.If they are suffering, they should elect someone better next time".

Writing in the Arab News, Osama al Sharif lamented: "Israel's killing machine could not be reined in, and as diplomacy stumbled, or was intentionally aborted, anger and calls for action swept through world capitals. The show of solidarity with the Palestinians, and in particular with the people of Gaza, was universal in spite of a brittle resolve of governments, especially members of the Security Council."
 
 
 
The past, the present and now, the future.

Barack Obama will be sworn in as the U.S. president on January 20.

Playing the "one President at a time" card, President-elect Obama has held his tongue thus far, but promises to have much to say once in office.

Despite reiterating his support for Israel (a contentious issue during the campaign) there is wariness in Israel about how the new President Obama will handle the intractable problem that has bedeviled his predecessors.

If only in the interest of getting off on a positive foot, might Israel consider concluding its current Gaza campaign before the Oval Office changes hands?
 
 
 
President George Bush has been an outspoken friend of Israel, supportive of the Palestinian National Authority and critical throughout of Hamas.

Many Israelis and Palestinians alike were disappointed by the level of U.S. activity (or inactivity, if you choose) in American efforts to resolve the conflict during most of his eight-year administration.

Having watched the failure of President Bill Clinton's heated Camp David diplomacy, the White House initially allowed that pot to simmer on a back burner.

Toward the end of his administration, President Bush spoke perhaps too optimistically about Israel and the Palestinians concluding an agreement before he left office.

"I was the first American President to call for a Palestinian state, and building support for the two-state solution has been one of the highest priorities of my Presidency. To earn the trust of Israeli leaders, we made it clear that no Palestinian state would be born of terror," he said in a speech delivered in December.

Looking the future, President Bush predicted, "The day will come when people from Cairo and Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut to Damascus and Tehran live in free and independent societies, bound together by ties of diplomacy, tourism, and trade."

"The day will come when al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas are marginalized and then wither away, as Muslims across the region realize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause," he said.
 
 
 
President Obama will be an interested spectator when Israel goes to the polls on February 10 to elect a new Knesset, its parliament.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu head the slates of the three parties expected to gain the most seats, though whichever party garners the most seats likely will have to form a coalition government that includes smaller parties.

With the Israeli military at war neither Livni nor Barak (the Israeli Prime Minister at those failed Camp David negotiations) wants to appear soft when most segments of the Israeli public back the campaign against Hamas and an election battle looms with the decidedly hawkish Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could call for elections this spring that would pit his more secular Fatah movement against the Islamist Hamas.

It was Hamas' stunning (to the United States, if not also Israel) victory in the 2006 elections that led to the current situation in which Abbas and Fatah control the West Bank while Hamas rules in Gaza.

The U.S. and Israel would like Abbas and Fatah to extend their governance to include Gaza, but there is no money to be made betting on that outcome.
 
 
 
Just as the Jews achieved their dream of a national homeland, the Palestinians yearn for a nationality to call their own.

But the past (how far back do you want to do?) years have embittered Israelis toward Palestinians and Palestinians toward Israelis.

Generations have been born and grown up and grown old knowing no other reality.

Until that cycle ends, there won't be many "good" dates on the calendar.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Crisis in Gaza • David Schechter • Israel
soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. Marat

    The peace in the Middle East is IMPOSSIBLE since one side believes that life is sacred and should be protected and enjoyed here on Earth. And another one believes that death is sacred and the only way one can enjoy life is to become a martyr so he/she can leave this "hell" on Earth . So, there is no mid-point toward which two sides can move to in order to reach some sort of agreement.

    January 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  2. shalom

    close to 1,000,000 Jews had to flee their homes across the Arab world.
    they left behind their homes,all their belonging and arrived in Israel as poor refugees.
    they were not compensated for their tragedy.so, they started a new life in Israel and what an amazing country they have build.
    on the other hand there are 22 Arab countries that could have easily absorbs the Palestinians in their countries.
    the bottom line is that the state of Israel will never be accepted in that region.

    January 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  3. ranzan

    Why the jews and the arabs hate each other, God only knows, they are cousins for history sake. Religion never unifies people, it just divides them. Case and point (Israel & the Arab World). Colonization is another part of the equation, therefore The Brits should be responsible for what is happening in Palestine. Then come the Americans, driven by greed $$ always favoring Israel over Palestine. If the Palestinians had enough clout (political & economical) things would have been totally different in that part of the world. Who are the lobbyists in washington? Are they Jews or Arabs? Go figure. One simple solution, start treating both Israel and Palestine the same way, therefore allievating the animosity.

    January 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  4. One of the smart ones

    Believe in yourself and acknowledge that religion is the center of all this evil. No religion, nothing to fight about. Sounds like Abraham was a jerk. If you take the Muslim and the Jew out of the picture, we are all just people. Grow up!

    January 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  5. Jen

    As an American I always supported Israel because I thought it was a democracy. But since learning more I see now that actually Zionism is a racist and bigoted concept. What else can explain why a Jew and a non-Jew cannot be married in Israel, but must leave the country to do so?? Is it so hard to see why Israelis are so bigoted and hateful of the Palestinians? Look at the issue of the Ethopian Jews who would like to immigrate to Israel? At every turn you see racism and bigotry.
    This is not a democracy. I am ashamed of the current administration who did not vote for condemnation at the UN vote. The whole world "gets it" but yet the US is the lone voice that condones death, destruction and violence instead of diplomacy and peace.

    January 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  6. JOHANN DOHMANN

    Why is the west bank ..called the west bank,when its east of jerusalem?

    January 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  7. dave

    you forgot/missed the "Balfour Declaration" which sets the framework that affects the rool causes of this war.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  8. Justme

    The time has come for the security of the masses. Israel, Palestinians, The Middle East, The Muslim world, the Arab states, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic movements and many more are a threat to the free world. The rest of the World’s nations should consider eradicating this two thousand year old threat with a barrage of nukes.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  9. Suzan

    It amazes me how some people try to justify what Israel is doing, and dare to talk about morality!! Israel = Occupation, where is the morality in Occupation??!! Did the Jews think about morality when they occupied Palestine??!! The Israeli’s have been occupying Palestine for the past 60 years, and the list of what they have done to the Palestinians is never ending!! Nations have the right to resist occupation Palestinians have the right to resist the Israeli occupation.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  10. Moshe Greenberger

    Anderson –

    Great overview of the history of the conflict, which I think does the public great service in understanding what is going on.

    However – I think that you have left out one crucial and rather recent event:

    In 2005, Israel retreated from Gaza. From every last inch of it. No Israeli civilian presence, and no Israeli military presence was left. Control was passed to the (democratically elected) Palestinian authority, which at the time was not controlled by Hamas, but rather by the secular Fatah Party. The retreat was to the internationally recognized boundary between Israel and Gaza.

    The Palestinians in Gaza were not locked up, starved, or anything of the sort at the time. The border crossings were open to trade with Israel, the sea was not blockaded, and Palestinians were able to obtain work permits in Israel. The Palestinians had the opportunity to develop their economy and livelihoods.

    However, in spite of the retreat, rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel continued. In 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza by force, and has vowed to continue the conflict with Israel until the latter "ceases to exist". Not a two state solution, not the even the UN partition plan of 1947. Total annihilation.

    Although those aspirations are ridiculous an unattainable, they still take a toll on Israeli civilian life, placing about 1.5 Israeli citizens (about 20% of the population) in range of daily rocket fire, for over 8 years.

    We can argue over whether the Israeli reaction is proportionate to the amount of damage it has suffered. But, there cannot be any argument as to the basic right of Israel to self defense in this case: Hamas has been firing thousands of rockets into Israel, unprovoked. The only outstanding question here is why did they wait so many years to retaliate?

    January 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  11. LandofIslam

    Maybe Israel is justified in living in this land and maybe not. However, I can't help but look at the bigger picture. The Islamic narative is almost exactly the same in every Muslim conflict. It is the same narative that created Pakistan out of India. It is the same narative in Kosovo, Philipines, Kashmir, Thailand, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysha, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and so on. One is also starting to see this narative being played out in Europe where Western values are slowly being replaced by Sharia. England and the Netherland and even France are good examples of this. The Gaza conflict is just a small part of a very larger conflict. IT IS THE SAME CONFLICT INFLICTING THE WORLD. And Islam keeps repeating this narative to us over and over again in their Mosques and newspapers and op-eds and conversations. But we refuse to listen... I believe there will be only a one state solution. A one world solution. Living under Sharia.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  12. Haytham

    Israel is committing war crimes in the Gaza strip and the whole world is watching. how do you explain the fact that they are not allowing reporters into Gaza? You would be a fool to believe what is being reported from the borders of Gaza. They give you the information they want. It reminds me of Sadam Hussain's propaganda.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  13. Turk

    These attacks have been effecting everyone, yet everyone has kept their mouths closed. I don't understand why. Can't you see people have been dying. Innocent people have been killed, wounded, or missing. Little kids are loosing their parents. You think this is right? Why doesn't anyone open their mouths? So far only two countries have opened their mouths to say something, France and Turkey. It's like what Sami Yusuf wrote in his one song try not to cry, how can it be has the whole world turn blind or is it because it's only effecting my kind. You sit there meanwhile those civilians keep getting killed for no apparent reason.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  14. sherif hasaneen

    i think israel is going to distroy its troops and Hamas is moving quickly towards another arabic victory

    January 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  15. hezi

    One thing has to be clear to everyone – hamas does not want israels existance – israel wants to talk things over, hamas does not want to listen – thats a lttle absorde to me – the good guys are considerd bad – the bad are considerd good – and when the "bad " guys want to seat and talk, the "good" want war – think about that for a sec.
    I think that until hamas will declair there recognition of an israeli state, this cycle of violance will never end.

    Thanx and have a great weekend.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  16. Jelli Bongo

    So true Vanman! Peace is the only answer! Understanding is the problem, and with misunderstanding breeds negativity and chaos by those who insist to be loyal to an idea outside the true meaning of life. Opinions are healthy, but forced perception of any idea has lead to death which is the opposite of the goals of any being whose aim is to make it to an afterlife with a clear conscience. Man is not perfect, and will never be, but the most important goal of this lifetime is tolerance and good will to all things which exist.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  17. Naushaba

    This entire universe and everything between the heavens and the earth including mankind was created for a purpose-to abide and worship the creator. When we truly understand this is there some hope for peace in the world.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  18. karl

    Good overview article and some very good comments here. The fact that they want Israel to not exist makes it very difficult to reach across the border for peace initiatives. I also believe Palestinians are sorely lacking in a vocal advocate who can speak on their behalf to the world. Israel's heavy handed approach with the Palestinians is wrong but neither party is completely innocent here. I completely agree with Icia Cohen and Remo's points. No one should live in fear on either side. Both have the right to live and peace and harmony and with a hopeful future. Here is the proposed solution:
    1. I would like to see Hamas remove the line from their charter about the destruction of Israel. If their foreign policy remained "to restore the original 1948 boundaries of Israel in order to end the occupation by Israeli forces of Arab territory" it would be a huge statement that they would be willing to compromise with their neighbor.
    2. US should have a more balanced foreign policy towards the region than the current – "Israel has the right to do whatever it wants to do". There are clearly atrocities being committed by Israel against the Palestinians and if there is no diplomatic outlet, a population will become radicalized and use arbitrary force if necessary. If US took a more diplomatic middle ground approach, this would reduce the power of Hamas since there would be a diplomatic alternative.
    3. Israel (+US) must respect the democratically elected Hamas if they agree to Israel's right to exist.
    4. Arab's must learn to accept Israel will exist. They must accept this rather than constantly plotting and supporting a further attempt at expulsion.

    January 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  19. marilyn k

    I am totally pro-Israel and want this all to stop NOW. I want the rockets to stop firing into Israel and I want the bombing of Gaza to stop. I want everyone to turn their swords into plowshares and the Palestinians to have a rich and happy life. But in the meantime–which could be longer than my lifetime–why are none of our so-called leaders even at least suggesting an evacuation of the children and elderly into some 'friendly' country. Of course, we know it won't happen because the abject bullies and cowards of Hamas need skirts to hide among. But why is nobody at least suggesting it?

    January 10, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  20. joe

    Dear AC,

    That was a very well written article with the appropriate amount of history included. First off, I am Jewish and I am 100% supportive of Israel in this matter. Imagine, for a moment, if Mexico was firing literally...literally...1000 missiles a year into America or Canada was firing Missiles into the northern states. Do you think for 1 second the people of America would tolerate this? What Israel is doing now is NO different than what any country would do. This attack on Hamas in Gaza was expected for many days by virtually anyone who follows Mid East politics and the ONLY reason they are there is because hundreds of missiles were being fired. The fact that they aren't hitting any targets from a military standpoint is irrelevant.....the threat and potential to do harm is very real so it must be taken care of. My question to all the people in Gaza would be this..."What exactly did you think was going to happen when Hamas was elected in?" Their core philosophy is hatred and directly states Israel must be destroyed. As far as the UN goes, it could possibly be the most worthless program ever. I found it very unfortunate to recommend war crime charges be investigated for Israeli leaders, yet, not ONE thing was mentioned about Hamas leaders who fire randomly and hope they kill whoever they can. What would the UN say if Israel were to just fire shells into Gaza hoping to kill people?

    January 10, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  21. Alan Rabinowitz

    It is easy for Americans to sit at home and criticize Israel for warring against Palestine.
    What if the situation was closer to home?
    If Mexico started lobbing hundreds of rockets a day across the border into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
    After years of the US trying for a cease fire, the Mexican people elect a governnent that loudly claimed that it was dedicated to destroying America, and increased the rocket fire.
    Your intelligence agencies find that the rocket fire is not from military bases, but cowardly firing from schools and hospitals, using the young and infirm as shields.
    The US asks the other nations of the world to assist in the negotiations, with no result.
    What would the American people call for?
    What choice has Israel been given?

    January 10, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  22. Becky

    What is so sad to me is that as an American citizen, I am so un-informed. I've always known our government was involved in all this, and we basically hear only what American media wants us to hear. I hate that Americans, as individuals, are judged so harshly by the world because of government decisions that we have little control over. We are never told the WHOLE story. Sometimes I feel like the media is so worried about being politically correct that they water down all our information. I like these sites where I can get true opinions and people aren't afraid to say what they feel.
    I do think it is true that the American government looks to what will benefit America before choosing sides in a conflict. If they put that same amount of energy/money/time into resolution as they do into aiding a particular country maybe things would be different. It would be easy for me, sitting in my safe, comfortable home in the United States to say what I think is right in this situation, but I do not have that right.
    I do know that it never works to use a religious book to state your point. By saying that "God gave them that land" is rediculous to a good part of the worlds population who are not Christians and who do not believe that the bible is anything but a book written by humans.
    Conflict only leads to more conflict...I will pray for peace.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  23. A.R.

    One last comment that Hamas is playing the sympathy factor.What about all the suicide bombings in Israel?
    Has anyone seen the damage in israel.Report the facts on both sides as israelis are suffering too.
    Maybe if they behave like normal citizens(i refer to the Palestinians),this conflict wouldnt have happened.
    What have they contributed to society except to terrorize and bomb and burn flags of israel and the U.S.They should grow up,to me this is an immature display,at least make a genuine efort to make peace.Build a better society there instead of using the money from Iran to build bombs and rockets and use it to make a better life .

    January 10, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  24. Emma

    I recommend a book: THE LEMON TREE by Sandy Tolan. A very clear, highly readable, picture of this awful situation.

    And as to why the US supports Israel's strongarm...can't figure it out.

    I think Iran is definitely the world's new boogeyman.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  25. Mike

    Excellent piece of reporting Dave. More reports of 'truthiness' should readily available like this. It is sad to know that ever since the Palestinian people freeely elected (moderated by the UN!) Hamas to be the majority in the legislative branch of the Palestinain National Council, the people have been marginalized and punished by the US and Isreal as a result. Gaza has been under an embargo unilaterally imposed by the Isrealis which deny basic human needs such as food, clothing, and raw materials for trade. Electicity is controlled by the Isrealis. Sewage is controlled by the Isrealis. Why? If Isreal says they want a free Palestine, then they need to act like they really want it. Hamas, like it or not, is part of the fabric of the people in these occupied regions. They provide hospitals and soup kitchens, they administer shelters and provide a better quality of life that Fatah could not. Who do you think will spearhead the rebuilding of Gaza once the Isrealis stop there assault?

    January 10, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  26. David Bersson

    I believe that the conflict with the Palestinians would have been over long ago if they were not so consciously paranoid of being accused of Nazi tactics. This is also an unconscious tendency in their various strategic war maneuvers that hinder a final conclusion to the this ongoing war.
    Of course, after the Nazi cruelties again the Jews the Jews would not want to be accused of similar tactics; and this makes them hold back; hence the near gentle retaliations to the Palestinians.
    Until the Jews get over this psychological mental block concerning the essence of war tactics; they will not do what needs to be done; and completely conquer the heathen Palestinians; either wiping them completely out, or driving them out of the area. It is time that the Jews looked at their savagery in the face and faced the fact that they must kill to survive; and to alter the course of the Middle Eastern
    tendency toward the spread of terrorist Islamic philosophies. The Hamas circus must end before it spreads; and the Palestinians have made a mockery of the Democratic voting system by electing
    terrorists to lead them into the future. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt in my eyes that the elimination of the so called Palestinian State is essential for the survival of Israel.

    Mercy let be off; damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!

    January 10, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  27. A.R.

    Where is the outcry for Israel when rockets and suicide bombers attack Israel.
    Iran has said they will wipe israel off the map.
    Why then are there protests if israel is simply defending their citizens as would any country on the face of the earth.8 years of this is enough.
    Terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah hide among civilian populations and are firing katusha rockets into israel which is an act of war.Is there anyone among the civilian populations that want Hamas to go away and have peace an a normal life?
    I would hope so, because there is a great potential for Israel and the Palestinian people if they make peace and its up to the people of Gaza to choose not to live under hamas(a terrorist organization) and be deprived of a normal life.Someone there should make a wise choice.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  28. danny from vancouver

    Gaza citizens have to be liberated from Hamas.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  29. Nate

    The question we all want answered is why this disproportionate US bias toward Israel - abstaining and blocking UN resolutions, never criticizing an Israeli action without criticizing 20 Palestinian actions first, always disgustingly saying "our best friend Israel" even as bombs drop on schools and people are being ostracized, murdered, and driven into oblivion. I was just in this Israel that people claim is 20% arab. Did you know that there are talks of making arab residents of jerusalem get a different colored license plate than jews - even though they all are residents of the city? How is this any different than what the Nazis did?

    If this was happening anywhere else in the world, the US would take a more righteous stance. So, again, the question is - Why Israel?

    And don't tell me it's for oil or our own security. The world is much more insecure because of this conflict. Arabs and Muslims all over the world would embrace the West if this bias was not shoved down their throats every day.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  30. David Bersson

    I believe that the conflict with the Palestinians would have been over long ago if they were not so consciously paranoid of being accused of Nazi tactics. This is also an unconscious tendency in their various strategic war maneuvers that hinder a final conclusion to the this ongoing war.
    Of course, after the Nazi cruelties again the Jews the Jews would not want to be accused of similar tactics; and this makes them hold back; hence the near gentle retaliations to the Palestinians.
    Until the Jews get over this psychological mental block concerning the essence of war tactics; they will not do what needs to be done; and completely conquer the heathen Palestinians; either wiping them completely out, or driving them out of the area. It is time that the Jews looked at their savagery in the face and faced the fact that they must kill to survive; and to alter the course of the Middle Eastern
    tendency toward the spread of terrorist Islamic philosophies. The Hamas circus must end before it spreads; and the Palestinians have made a mockery of the Democratic voting system by electing
    terrorists to lead them into the future. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt in my eyes that the elimination of the so called Palestinian State is essential for the survival of Israel.
    Mercy let be off, damn them who pity, kill & torture.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  31. Rose

    I too thank you for posting this background info. I grew up listening about all of the fighting and really never understood why and when it started. I still don't understand why and I definitely do not have any thoughts as to whom is more right or wrong. Personally I feel they're both wrong. But thanks again Anderson.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  32. Vanman

    I am enjoying the views of all involved in this discussion.

    I am positive it is not the right of any people to condemn the beliefs of anyone else no matter how close they live in proximity to a mythical land in which they believe they hold claim too. Religion aside, I feel Muslims/Arabs and Jews could live peacefully as neighbors if it was not for the extremists who vandalize and terrorize the world. The entire Middle East and the world for that matter would see a greater way of life if it were not for the radicals who force their opinions down peoples throats by use of violence. This is true going all the way back to when people first grouped together in necessity for survival. There is always a better outcome when people share and help out one another to get through this short lifetime.

    To fight your neighbor based on your beliefs should be considered the greatest sin, and I hope that if there is a heaven or hell, anyone who casts that first stone spends a period of time in the hotzone until there mind is set straight and understand that injuring or killing any person for any reason is wrong. Practice your beliefs in your minds and in your own homes, and if you feel it is your duty to your god to use force to get your point across that only your opinion counts and all else must obey to your beliefs, I hope you enjoy a much warmer climate.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  33. Anita

    I think too much time has passed to keep talking about history.
    People must be tired of the killing, broken families, and scared youth.
    The fact is that Israel ís and Palestina ís. They have to find a way to live next to eachother.

    What worries me though...56% of the population of Gaza is under the age of 18. Childeren who are witness to the damage of this attack. What will become of those childeren? Will they be the future peacemakers or will they will be the new "freedomfighters"?

    January 10, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  34. Kyle

    While I pray for a lasting peace, I am sceptical. While a big obstacle is the entrenched sense of conflict (on both sides), I also believe that some nations and movements have cynically fanned the flames of conflict and (most distastfull) thwarted budding peace efforts. I think of how close to a "deal" they were with Clinton ten years ago (It sounded like they could have resolved SOO many issues – land, statehood, travel/work visa, money, etc.), but certain groups pressured Arafat to make outright ownership of old Jeruselum as a non-negotiable. I think some nations and leaders do NOT want the issue resolved (they love the conflict for their own purposes).

    January 10, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  35. Silvia Teresa Osorio

    Because they want more puding and this time around I won't give them that!!! There is no room for instant gratification unless we want a spoiled world.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  36. Christine

    I admit I am a simple American outsider. I am neither Israeli or Palestinian, and have no direct involvement with their conflict. But whenever I read about what's going on over there, it always seems to spring up an image of two young brothers, sitting in the back seat of the car, poking and hitting each other, and screaming "He started it!". As a parent, I would discipline them both equally. And I think if I were President of the United States, I would act similarly to the Israelis and Palestinians. I would be equally harsh to both sides. Neither side deserves sympathy. They both have committed atrocities that deserve punishment. I would refuse to provide financial, economic, or military support for either side, until they learn to "behave themselves", tell each other their sorry, and learn to play nice. I would also tell them to look up the definition of forgiveness and put it to practice, because that is the only way they will ever have lasting peace. It is only through forgiveness that you can put all past hurt behind you and move on. Nothing else will get you there, and the cycle will continue to escalate until that lesson is learned and put to practice.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  37. Bader

    I don’t understand why is the international committee is not taken any action to stop the attacks. A U.N resolution is defiantly not enough as the Israelis have been occupying the Palestinian lands since 1948 despite the U.N many resolutions.
    Moreover, look into the history of most of the recent U.N resolutions that condemns the Israelis action and you will note that the US has never signed a single one and in most of the cases have used its Veto right to stop any action against the interest of Israel!!!
    We need an international force than can keep the peace in the Palestinian land and the Israelis should go back to their lands as per the 1948 resolution.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  38. Jamie D

    This is happening because a country that is largely supported by foreign aid is using military equipment that was bought by that foreign aid, to attack disproportionately another country. However, I am not seeing stories about soldiers attacking soldiers. Instead we have read daily news about how are tax payer dollars are being used to empower a country that largely cannot stand on it's own. It is like the mouthy friend you bring to the bar. You are going to stand up for him ot a bloody nose? So if you friend gets stabbed, and then the attacker puts his blade to you, you stand there surprised – 'what did I ever do to you Mr. Bin Laden'? Perhaps it's time you talked with your friend you buy drinks for all the time, and ask them to start taking some friendly advice, instead of one day getting us all killed.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  39. Adesanya Munirudeen

    Thanks for posting this background info. Well, the issue is not about 'WAR' nor Israeli or Gaza, but God is using it to recall the world's attention back to him that look the world is going to an end but most people do not know.
    Mean why, I think UN and some other organization should call on people from which countries, states to come together and pray cos when the going get stop it is only fools and the mad once would be going.

    ADESANYA MUNIRUDEEN
    Nigeria, Ogun State

    January 10, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  40. dean

    Religion is the poison preventing progress, and it is why things are at the point they are now. It was the main motivation for the Jewish settlers to occupy Gaza and the West Bank. And it is the fuel of Muslim suicide bombers. As long as we have Jewish "god gave us this land" settlers and Muslim "kill an infidel and earn points towards 72 virgins" jihadis, there will be no progress. Religion is like a cancer on humanity, and it flourishes in the middle – east like nowhere else on earth with predictable results.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  41. REY G

    At least now the media is showing the truth.Hamas was elected by the people but Mr. Bush didn't like it so he has givenn the green light to Israel to destroyed the Palestinians. Shame on the world to allowed women and children to be killed.As long as the Israelis and the Palestinians keep on thinking that they are the only ones with the right to that piece of land , there will be no pease.
    Both should stop this attacks and the U.N should take control of gaza and provide their people with decent human conditions .
    Hamas should accept the existence of Israel and a two state solution.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:06 am |
  42. PA

    Mr. Schechter thank you for your time and an interesting read. However, I don't think I'll ever understand this situation totally so much history and so many people to keep track of.

    Safice to say, it's a sad state of affairs for all involved. I don't know that's there a right or a wrong for any group only misery and death. Only those who are experiencing this violence know their truth. But, it certainly looks as if Hamas definitely not helping the situation in the Mid East or elsewhere. I will continue to pray for the people of Gaza and all others in the midst of attack with no place for refuge.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:02 am |
  43. omid

    it seems HAMAS should protect themselves and their people ....

    January 10, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  44. Griselda

    Danielle I do agree with you.This war has been on for generations.But I will continue to Pray for the Peace of ISRAEL just as the Word of God told us to.ISRAEL IS REAL AND IT IS A REAL COUNTRY. It is very vital to know who is our real enemy.Our struggle is not against flesh and blood BUT against the devil himself.This war is about JESUS VS SATAN.SHALOM!

    January 10, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  45. Chris

    Everybody involved and most of those watching are simply too emotional. Instead of everybody in the region trying to live as peaceful equals they are hung up on the bad things the other side(s) did. I hate to go Rodney King but, "Why can't we all just get along?" It is time to grow up, show some courage and maturity and treat others as you would like to be treated.
    The outside global solution to the situation is to cease all foreign monetary and military aid of to all participants in the conflict until it is shown they can live in peace. Additionally don't do business with either side, don't send money, don't send aid other than food and medicine. Those things simply serve as fuel.

    January 10, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  46. Omar

    it is simply senseless to justify this war, and death of children, Women, and the destruction of civil utlities.
    shamless war for those who support it too.

    January 10, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  47. Robert Hooks

    Thanks for this. I hope people read it. Much more relevant than whether Brad Pitt cheated.

    January 10, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  48. Cynthia

    I apppreciate the historical presenstation. Unbiased and basic. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of how far back this conflict goes. and how it has evolved over the years. The biblical basis is interesting.

    I, for one, believe there are many roads to God. We're all heading to the same place, just coming from different directions. I pray for peace...doesn't nature serve us up enough death and destruction? Why do we continue to shovel more on ourselves?

    January 10, 2009 at 9:24 am |
  49. Jason

    Looking for right or wrong, evil or good in any of this is pointless. Remove the over-emotional tone for a minute and examine the facts: two nations of people are fighting over the same piece of land. This plan will not be solved by countries not directly involved in the crisis. That being said, Hamas doesn't want the attacks to end because it brings attention to their cause. Israel won’t stop the attacks because they're sick of being rocketed. The UN proved repeatedly with North Korea, Iran, and Iraq that the resolution process is rhetorical and has no teeth. Nobody involved wants this problem to go away, and there will be no end to this conflict as long as Palestine is not an autonomous state.

    January 10, 2009 at 9:23 am |
  50. NI

    While growing up in Canada in the 1970's we went to school and learned about Isreal without much more then a mention of Arab culture. I've found the the Western world and leadership is one-sided in this. Even Hollywood has done the same by introducing Isreali culture in movies and a 'Halocaust' every 3 to 5 years to keep the memories fresh. If you want to level the playing field then both cultures should be treated equally.

    Does it make sence for Isreal to have total control over another nation for over 40 years where they set limits, blockages, jobs and control enough of the economy so that the people feel like animals. Even caged animals will fight back at some point. I suppose that the Isreal's and American's as well as the British have a policy to just keep hitting with superior technology until the will of the other party is killed.

    When was the last time Arab or Muslim people portrayed in the same light? Surely you will agree that a minority are terrorists. Why the one sidedness in the media, the political scene?

    January 10, 2009 at 9:20 am |
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