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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. Jonathan Z

    Please tell me why you censored my comment. Feel free to cut the message in half if you think it is too long, but I made points in my comment that were not contained in any of the other messages. I do not think my comments contained inappropriate language, though I take a firm stand.

    January 11, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  2. Audrey Kadis

    I am writing simply to correct some of the problems with how the "facts" are presented; mostly to highlight the errors of ommission. Take the section on 1947. Why was there a war? The war occured because the leaders of 5 Arab countries invaded Israel with the intention of destroying it within 48 hours of its independence. It was not because of spontaneous combustion. W hy were Palestinian displaced? Many did flee, but a a large number left at the urging of the Arab leaders to advised them to move outside the battle zone with the assurances that when all the Jews were dead they could move back. Were the Palestinians the only people displaced? No, actually at least as many Jews had their property confiscated and were expelled from Arab countries during the same timeframe.
    I don't have the time to write about all the inaccuracies throughout the article, but suffice to say, the presentation is neither fair nor balanced.

    January 11, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  3. Martin Sager

    We need better PR.We need to point out the comentators that are bias and put pressure on their sponsors and networks. We need more people to take the time to let their views be heard.

    January 11, 2009 at 9:22 am |
  4. Ben from Houston

    The war in Gaza is becoming worse by the day, people are begining to protest harshly across the world. I for one, do not understand what wrongdoing Israel has done. If you push a dog into a corner it will bite you. Same concept goes for a country going to war in order to defend itself. I can't grasp the thought of so many dying for being in the path battlefront. The reports are however that Hamas militants are firing from heavily civilian populated areas. Before the Israelis declared war on Hamas the militant group was launching rockets into Israel. The war is really in self defense. Now I am very diplomatic and would love nothing more than peace. Maybe this is more of an act of desperation to eliminate the threat. I mean the people elected Hamas into government on the promise that they would decimate Israel. Can they really complain about the outcome? Can anyone really blame Israel for not wanting to aid the enemy? Hopefully they can obliterate those terrorist tunnels before more people get hurt. But what is taking them so long?

    January 11, 2009 at 12:45 am |
  5. Amee

    Let's look at the obvious here. The Jews are doing what has been done to them. They are trying to destroy a race and kicking people off of their own homeland. It's a holocaust all over again. History is yet again repeating itself! Whatever happened to the saying, "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you'?

    Let me remind you: Whether you read the Bible, Torah, or the Qur'an,
    that land was called Palestine before it was ever called Israel.

    Shame on those who support this war.

    January 11, 2009 at 12:20 am |
  6. Jinx

    Israelis occupation if Palestinian territory is illegal under international law.

    The building of a wall not only outside of recognized borders but well within Palestinian territory is ILLEGAL under international law.

    To say you are "defending yourself" from attacks targeting territories you illegally occupy is just a plan farce.

    More of the international community is waking up and Israel will finally go down in history as a genocidial nation.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  7. Liza

    The assessment of the existence of two narratives that deny legitimacy of each others narrative is as accurate as can be, from my experience. I am an Israeli who had the privilege to spend a year living with Palestinians at the Arava Institute for Environmental studies, where Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Americans and others live together on Kibbutz Ketura and study a variety of environmental topics.
    Once a week we were mandated to attend a course where we addressed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a safe, facilitated environment. We had a chance to listen to speakers from both sides and each others narratives. Gradually were able to understand, if not always accept, each others perception of what happened and how we ended up in the situation we are facing today. This program is so affective and powerful that as soon as the war broke out, graduates of the Arava Institute sent an invitation over the Alumni network to gather together to deal with the pain of the situation. Although on two sides of the conflict, we bound together at a time of war and feel this situation to be a joint problem, where people are suffering on both sides. There is hope for resolution in getting to know each other and recognizing the humanity of each other. It's hard to think of the “other” as enemies when some of your dearest friends are from the “enemy” side.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Chris

    I think the best solution to solving this problem between Israel and Hamas is for Hamas to accept the right of Israeli existence , why Israel will accept Hamas democratic right. If not i will Suggest that all woman and Children and old people should be allowed to move out of Gaza and southern Israel, as to give enough space for Hamas and Israel to fight it out . People gives more room for hatred then love and selfishness for power leads to destruction s and killings ,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  9. Jelli Bongo

    It's unfortunate Hamas are cowardly to the point of firing rockets from schools, knowing that Israel will return fire to the point of launch. Hamas has always been and will always be villains in the Middle East, and making Israel look like baby killers to gain support of other countries around the world is their main objective at this point. Israel should regain all the land back they gave up in 05 and then some, to make a good barrier of distance. If rockets and mortars weren't hitting inside of Israel, I doubt Israel would even respond with counter attacks. To all the people who think that Israel is in the wrong, you are weak minded and have been influenced by the tactics of a terrorist organization.

    January 10, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  10. CitizenOfHumanity

    And Most importantly, you cannot kill people for what they think. Hamas has not done much destruction, infact they've killed less than 20 Israeli's in the past several years. Isreal just killed nearly 1000 in 2 weeks. Why can't you people understand that Palestinians are human beings too? Human being that deserve the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that you enjoy everyday.

    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 pm |
  11. jim Fallbrook CA

    The reason is obvious. Hamas fired rockets into Israel. No protests were made against Hamas. When Israel reacts, then all of a sudden there are protests. The problem is that you can’t negotiate with muslims. In 60 years nothing has been resolved in the Israel/l / Palestinian conflicts. Trying to negotiate with muslims is like negotiating with a brick wall. The living conditions in Gaza are the results of the muslim commmunity. Why aren't the oil rich muslim countries supporting there fellow muslim brothers?
    What makes you so sure that talks/negotiations with Palestinians will work? Never has before. Muslims only understand one thing Brute force. It is absurd to try and win hearts and minds of muslims. 85% of them are not civilized. The best way to resolve the Gaza crisis it to give it back to Egypt. Otherwise, the citizens of Gaza voted for Hamas. They basically asked for it. They will get no sympathy from me..

    January 10, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Margo Tracey

    Thank you, Anderson, for an excellent article. This is the closest I have come to understanding what is happening there. You are an excellent writer and my favorite reporter.

    January 10, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  13. bibi

    Obama had speak out when mumbai was attacked why he did not speak out about what is going on in gaza that is unfair as a president to be. He said that there is only "one president at a time" so then it does not make any sense at all, because he does not understand the concept of having one president at time. when the Americans will need help from the muslims state they will not have any because this will show them that when help were needed to help gaza there is no one speaking out . Also why no one is calling Israeli es terrorist when they are the one killing innocent people. but for muslim when they try to defend themselves and attack back their being called terrorist.

    January 10, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  14. Anderson

    I just read the number of Israeli civilian killed by these attacks and I couldn't believe it till I checked the records.
    just 12 people in 8 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Israel is rich, spoiled by the American government and arrogant country. The world knows it except the blinded adopted mother the U.S.
    You know why? becouse of all the rich, most influencial jewish Gurru in the American Media and the American government.

    January 10, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  15. Muriel Waterman

    As an American Jew with relatives in Israel, I along with the majority of my people, mourn deeply the destruction, the suffering of innocents and terrible Palestinian loss of life brought about by Israel’s attack on Gaza. Further, it must be acknowledged that Israel is not perfect, has done bad things in the past and like all nations has made many mistakes. But despite Anderson Cooper’s largely factual, historical account, I would hope that he could acknowledge the current reality: (1) Not all, but the majority of Israelis want there to be a Palestinian state, (2) Israel does not have a constitution, charter, position paper or political party within it that calls for mobilization to “obliterate” the Palestinian people. The Hamas charter calls for the “obliteration” of Israel and its people and calls for Israel “to be driven to the sea.” (3) Thus, “Proportionality” of response should not be the discussion. The discussion should be one of “Intentionality.” Is Israel asked to restrain itself again and not respond to provocation, until Iran arms Hamas and Hezbollah to the point that they can destroy Israel? (4) Hamas openly targets innocents through suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Sadly, in Gaza there is far too great a toll on innocent human life, but the cessation of rocket attacks on civilians is what Israel seeks, not the death of innocents or genocide. With Israel’s superior weaponry and military, Gaza could have already been easily destroyed. (5) Israel is at a huge disadvantage with the media, in that it will not sacrifice its women and children for public relations purposes. Further, I see Hamas rejoice when Israelis die. Have you seen Jews or Israelis dancing in the streets when innocent Palestinians die? Within all of Israel, you cannot find any monuments that celebrate Israeli military victories. We rather mourn the horrific loss of life on both sides that all these wars have wrought.

    In efforts to be “objective” journalists and share both sides, there is implied a moral equivalency between an albeit flawed nation and people (as all human being tend to be) that wants to live in peace, a people that respects the multiplicity of faiths in the world, a people that believes there that there is one god who is the god of all people – Muslim Christian or Jewish, versus the Hamas organization whose charter calls for the obliteration not just of Israel, but of all people who do not accept Allah. Please read their charter.

    January 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  16. Chris

    A people without land for a land without people
    One proplem before the jewish people arrived to what is now Isreal
    it was not a land wiyhout people the came to the wrong place
    When the jwes arrived to the holy land it was called Philistine
    Back then Palestine was called philistine.
    The Palestinians have every right to stay there
    And lets not forget Obama will not stand for Bush/Isreali ways
    and will not support ethnic cleansing

    January 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  17. Rob

    I have a radical idea. How about we ratify our own constitution and make Israel and Palestine the 51st and 52nd states of these United States. Then the fighting will end. American states do not wage war on one another. Just a thought.

    January 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  18. Phil Karp

    What has driven the intensity of this sixty years conflict since the original UN Mandate is the arming of Israel by Western powers, principally the United States. This availability of armaments has made the past and present Israeli governments sufficiently powerful to aggrandize land and impose overwhelming military domination.

    The military power of Israel includes some of the most lethal non-nuclear armaments made by US armament industries. A case in point is US-made cluster bombs delivered by US-made aircraft have been recently used in Lebanon and now Gaza that have killed and maimed innocent civilians.

    The present Gaza conflict is ready-made to result in many more innocent casualties. This will be another historical chapter used by Arab propagandists to inflame public opinion.

    Superior might has made right for the Israelis and might has made wrong for the Palestinians and Arabs. It's almost impossible to see a resolution of this on-going conflict without there being more of a balance of military power and, unfortunately, destruction.

    No one can predict how this will come about. But it may have to come about after a nuclear "incident" occurs against Israel. The clock may be ticking in the near future with the development of Iranian nuclear weapons. Israel will need to attack Iranian development industries before Iran goes nuclear with weapons.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  19. earle,florida

    Re: Dave Oh by the way, I forgot to mention how wonderfully your article was composed, with such heart-felt thought for both sides. Anderson is a great guy for having you run such a timely ,unbiased slice of journalism,...

    January 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  20. Alan

    Israel has become that which it fought against. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The new invasion of Gaza is a sign of desperation. Look at the risk they are taking. They are turning the world against them; worldwide demonstrations of a size never seen before. I think they see the end coming, otherwise, they would never choose to react with such violence. I don't believe Obama will give Israel the same blank check. Arab political, financial and military power has grown extensively in the last 10 years, especially in th U.S. This is Israel's last chance to try and destroy Hamas. Unfortunately for Israel, that reality is long since past; unless they want to kill everyone in Gaza. If they had openly shared political power with moderate Moslems in the 1960s, there might have been a possibility for success. I hear you moaning at that, but think of Northern Ireland. The British government finally decided to keep on talking with the Irish moderates, no matter what the radicals did. Eventually there was movement. I remember when Arafat was in charge of Gaza, and everytime there was any violence, Israel always said, "we are suspending negotiations until the violence stops". That has never worked, and never will. Now they are in a very bad position, running out of time, support and options.
    Hamas only has to do one thing in order to win in the end.......survive
    until tomorrow.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  21. Cassandra

    I think so many lives were lost then and so many are being lost
    now... all for what ???? because men aren't willing to talk it through
    until an agreements has been reached. TALKING IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN WAR

    January 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  22. Rock

    Israel was created by THEFT of land from the Palestinians by UN Resolution in 1947. The Palestinian people were not consulted, they didn't get a chance to vote on it, they have not been financially compensated for loss of land. That is THEFT in all legal codes of all nations throughout history.

    The UN had no legal justification to "partition" Palestine in 1947, because it wasn't their's to give to anyone. So the Jewish occupation of partitioned Palestine, calling it Israel, is THEFT.

    For Israel to cry "self defense" as the rationale for the current invasion and destruction of Gaza is a legal, logic, and moral absurdity. There is no concept in any legal system of any country, ever, for a thief to defend a theft (creation of Israel) from the victim (the Palestinians) by calling it self-defense.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  23. dj

    Wars suck and people get displaced and they move on. Israel isn't going anywhere and the other arab countries just use the Palestinians to distract their populations about how f-ed up their lives are. They will continue to keep their people uneducated and treat women like second class citizens, and they'll end up back in tents as soon as we come up with other energy sources. And they'll continue to boame Israel and the US for their problems.

    If San Diego was rocketed by Baja California, we would level it.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  24. Shafiq

    As Vatican condem by saying Gaza is a big concentration camp. I say that it is a grave concentration camp since all Gazans have no place to go other than die by the isreals bombardment.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  25. Mitch

    Much has been written above regarding the rights of Israel to be a Jewish State, its rights as a soverign, the Palestinians, etc. Much of the critical language of Israel, if applied elsewhere, suggests the following:

    The United States should immediately transfer all land to its Native American inhabitants, most of which were the victims of ethnic cleansing. The same argument applies to Australia, New Zealand and Canada to name a few. What is the statute of limitations on historical fact?

    Any country threatened with its existence must immediately and henceforth allow its enemies to re-arm at will. When these enemies attack using its own people as human flak-jackets, the threatened country must not respond to these attacks for fear of killing these civilians. Using this guide, all of Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East would have been dominated by Nazi Germany as early as 1943 and its people would have been subjected to mass exterminations and slavery.

    That a tragedy is occuring in Gaza today is fact. Any country on the receiving end of continued deadly attacks has the right, duty and the obligation to defend itself under moral and international law.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  26. Chuen Tick Teo

    Perhaps, because I am not an American I find it hard to fathom how an overwhelming number in the American Congress are supporting Israel in its one-sided hammering of Hamas.
    Yes, from the current Bush administration -that is a given!
    But I had thought the American Congress was more reflective of the American people and the ideals of justice and fair-play.
    Not, that it matters – Israel has shown it is a law unto itself.
    For me who can afford to comment on the conflict from the comfort of my home, I can only say a prayer for all those innocent folks whose lives thrown into havoc.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  27. syed

    One state solution is the long term solution. Just like South Africa. But even that does not mean that Zionist (read Zionist NOT Jews) did not stole the land with partnership and connivence of British and Saudi's (read history).

    History has to kept straight, however, it should not be used as an excuse to be enemies but be kept straight, nevertheless. Settlement in South Africa does not mean that the whites had not brutalized blacks. Civil liberties in USA now does not mean that the past was very good. Same way settlement of Plastenian land (now Isreal) would not mean that Isreal had not brutalized and humiliated the local population there for last 90 yrs especially last 60 yrs. Learn lessons from history positively and move on.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  28. Walt

    Excellent overview! Of all the comments elicited, however, exactly none have touched upon the main reason this problem will remain intractable: Too many people, too little soil.
    A few years ago, a story hit the news about the Israelis killing a "moderate" Hamas leader. I don't know why they called him moderate, perhaps he only moderately killed people. His thumbnail biography ended with the note that he left eleven orphans. E-bloody-leven!
    A few days ago, another story mentioned the Israelis killing another Hamas leader, who refused to leave his house after the Israelis dropped leaflets warning that the area was to be bombed. Among the fatalities was the Hamas leader and most of his family, including his four wives. Four.
    Do we see a pattern emerging here? At the time of the first Israeli war, the number of displaced Palestinians amounted to a few hundred thousand. Now it is at 1.5 million and climbing rapidly. If every Israeli were to disappear tomorrow– as dreamed by Hamas– how long would it take for the new, "restored" Palestine to become just another overpopulated, impoverished, and invincibly corrupt Middle Eastern dictatorship/theocracy?
    I wish I could propose a solution for this conflict. Unfortunately, I can't. When religion dominates the conversation, rational discussion ends.

    January 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  29. stackan

    It seems to me that Israel has only retaliated, not struck first. It boggles my mind that anyone could condemn a country for trying to defend it's borders. We here in America were the victims of terror once; and went to war. Israel gets terrorized almost daily – and everybody urges 'restraint'! Israel gets attacked by Arab nations that freely admit their goal is 'to drive Israel into the sea'- wins several wars, gains land, then gives it back to get peace. Now that's not enough. The Palestinians are but pawns in a larger Arab effort to annihilate Israel. This conflict with Hamas is a calculated effort to get Israel to retaliate, and kill civilians- which is why Hamas hides in civilian areas. They are willing to sacrifice civilians to try and influence world opinion. But Israel has no choice – if they do not respond, Hamas will escalate.
    The truth of the matter is, Israel wants peace, and would live with Arab neighbors. Arabs, however, will not live with an Israeli neighbor and will not stop until Israel ceases to exist.

    January 10, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  30. Selbourne

    From the moment Hamas won a fair election in the Gaza strip, Israel and the United States have sought to undermine Hamas. Israel has maintained a tight blockade that prevented economic improvement in the Gaza strip and caused great hardship on the people who lived there. Every now and then Israel would assassinate some member of the Hamas leadership claiming he had committed some crime against Israel. In response Hamas discharged crude rockets that injured few Israelis.
    You can see how terrible the situation was before the Israeli invasion, that in spite of their losses in the current fighting, Hamas sees nothing to be gained by going back to the old situation. They want an end to the blockade to be part of any settlement. "You take my life when you take the means whereby I live."

    January 10, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  31. Houssam

    By the way, I have to give it to CNN on the balanced coverage and analysis.

    January 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  32. Lawrence Gudger

    This really is not a difficult issue for Americans if you will look at our history and Israel's. Israel was given the land by God in the Bible – which is the foundation for US laws and constitution by our founding fathers. We have been traditionally a Christian nation supporting the Jewish people until recent history – we have a lot of ties because of our Christian heritage. We want God to bless our nation but we don't want him in our schools or courtrooms like we used to ... and look what is happening to our nation now. Even Jay Leno said, "[with all these disasters going on] are we sure this is a good time to take out "One Nation under God" from our pledge of allegiance?" We need to give favor to Israel because God says so. End of discussion. Every time the US has worked to help take land from Israel, something bad has happened to our nation – go back and look at the facts. If we work against Israel, God works against us. Plain and simple. The Palestinian’ are a terrorist nation – they train their children to hate from a young age. That attitude will not change. Read the website of Walid Shoebat, former PLO terrorist who was also interviewed by CNN and Fox News. This isn't rocket science. The Palestinians are in unison with Iran in wanting to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. Where are the outraged human rights leaders in all this? Israel has the right to defend itself against continued acts of terrorism in a land that is theirs by divine will. Responsible journalism will stop giving any sympathy to terrorist nations by photo shoots of bloodied people. That only serves to strengthen Palestinian resolve and justifies their continued and determined effort to eliminate Israel as a nation. It also works against US efforts against terrorism. Any nation who works to take land away from Israel or support their enemies’ efforts against them has God to answer to – the same God who we ask to bless us. We would do well as a nation to support Israel because they are "the Apple of God's eye". I very strongly believe that God has so blessed us as a nation with that responsibility. Israel has gone out of their way to work with Gaza when they should have invaded and removed the Hamas long ago. We would have done the same as Americans. If someone was continually terrorizing you, you would take definite action to stop it!

    January 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  33. keith

    everyone,
    its not all politics and religion. its about power, and keeping your followers distracted while you pocket millions. Hamas and thier friends dont want an end. they want to continue. it is healthy for thier bank accounts.

    January 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  34. L. Miller

    At this point it is no longer a question of who is right and who is wrong. Both sides have a story, both sides have been wronged. . . The time has come for both sides to realize that the killing needs to stop. What has been done has been done. There are only more atrocities to come if things continue going the way they are going.

    Put the weapons down and live in peace. We are all human beings.

    Informative post. Appreciate the additional info provided by Moshe.

    January 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  35. REASON

    Israel has been and is occupying Gaza and the West Bank. In 1967 the UN passed a resolution declaring Israel needs to get out of there. They have not complied. Then they build settlements. Hamas shoots rockets at there settlements that are in there territory. Then American news outlets say the Israelis are the victims. Then the Israelis bomb the caged (Israel built a huge wall around Gaza) Palestinians in Gaza in the hopes of stopping Hamas rocketeers. Muslim extremists attack America because of weapons and money that America gives to Israel. Americans say that Muslims are terrorists that hate out freedoms and Israel is defending themselves. Israel plans to annex Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians die and the American media is too afraid to report the genocide.

    January 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  36. Fayyaz Walji

    Both sides need to smarten up or be left with nothing. If this continues eventually both sides will be left with nothing but a land of dead bodies. Leaders of the world put your egos and beliefs aside and think about the people you so call lead.

    Each side has its valid arguments for this peice of desert. But does all this matter when this peice of desert will be nothing but that when everyone is dead?

    January 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  37. sonja

    Israel has no constitution; despite the fact that Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, providing special rights and privileges to anyone in the world who is Jewish and seeks to live there, over and above longtime Arab residents. This, despite the fact that Israel bars any candidate from holding office who thinks the country should be a secular, democratic state with equal rights for all. This, despite the fact that non-Jews are restricted in terms of how much land they can own, and in which places they can own land at all, thanks to laws granting preferential treatment to Jewish residents. This, despite that fact that even the Israeli Supreme Court has acknowledged the use of torture against suspected “terrorists” and other “enemies” of the Jewish state.

    January 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  38. Peter

    I am grateful for the background and perspective offered by Mr. Schechter, despite its limitations, as it shows that the conflict is much more complex than some would like to believe. Nevertheless, this complexity should not prevent us from asking questions, thinking, and forming opinions about recent events. My own questions include the following:

    First, what are the objectives of Israel's current military action in Gaza? If the goal is to stop the missile attacks by destroying Hamas, then one can't help but ask: hasn't history shown that Israel's use of overwhelming military force against the Palestinians merely breathes life into the most extreme elements of Palestinian society? In the longer term, won't Israel's military action actually help Hamas and similar organizations? Surely Israel must know this - if so, is stopping the missiles really the objective here?

    If the objective (or at least some part of the objective) is to improve the Israeli Labor party's or Kadima's public image in anticipation of the upcoming elections, or to bolster the reputation of the IDF following its lackluster performance in Lebanon in 2006, is it far fetched to refer to the military action as something that approximates terrorism - the use of violence against a civilian population to achieve political ends - at least if one rejects the usual "collateral damage" euphemism and accepts the notion (recognized in American criminal law, for example) that reckless killing constitutes murder?

    To my mind, these objectives seem either unrealistic or immoral. Maybe there are objectives of which I am not aware, but I can only form an opinion based on the information that I can realistically access.

    My point is this: nothing appears to justify Israel's killing and wounding of hundreds of Palestinian civilians (including hundreds of innocent children) in the current Gaza offensive - even if one goes so far as to accept the destruction of Hamas as a legitimate goal and dismisses some of the blame cast on Israel (including claims that Israel’s blockade was starving Gazans to death, that Israel first violated the cease fire by launching a missile strike on Gaza on the night of the U.S. presidential election, that Israel is continuing to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, etc.).

    So should Israel merely turn the other cheek while Hamas launches missiles at Sderot? No, but its response cannot involve reckless murder of civilians, plain and simple. This may limit Israel's military options, but it is consistent with principles of international law. Unfortunately, Israel, much like the United States, is fond of applying the law selectively, when doing so suits its interests (or, more precisely, the interests of its politicians).

    January 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  39. Logan Alesso, CA

    Why is the media ignoring the west bank where palestinians are living in peace (now that Hamas is not attacking them). They chose to tolerate Israel and accept that Israel has a right to exist and they live in peace with Israel.

    Hamas wants war with Israel. How arrogant are we to want to stop it. Lets let the attacker see the consequences for their actions.

    I love history. Looking at history proves to us that no war has ever ended at an empasse. For the sake of the entire world, LET IT END.

    Thanks Anderson for everything you do.

    January 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  40. Frank

    Until each side loves their children more than they hate each other......

    January 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  41. zack

    The problem has always been black and white. if you leave a land
    and return after 2 thousand years, no law in the world allows you
    to repossess land already settled over this period. Euorpeans with
    their history of appropriation of other peoples land and resources
    and with total control over the media may succeed in re-writing
    history especially with their own people, but that doesnt take away
    pure facts that israel is a stolen nation and there has been nothing
    but trouble since its inception.

    January 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  42. Nathan

    Israel is not calling for the destruction of the Palestinians, nor of the Arab nations. Their goal is not to eradicate the Palestinians, or they could have easily accomplished this years ago.

    If one of the U.S. neighboring countries allowed their citizens to fire rockets into the U.S. That country would soon be an "occupied country".

    Russia would not suffer any country to shoot rockets into it. Can you imagine what would happen if a country tried!

    What the Arabs need to understand is, if they ever get enough force to actually threaten the security of Israel, .... Israel will use nuclear force.

    If the Palestinians ever got military control of Israel they would try to slaughter every Jewish person. That will never happen.

    January 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  43. AyeGor

    Unfortunately – history doesn't give us a lot of examples of conflicts resolved diplomatically. Most were resolved militarily after which long lasting piece prevailed. Think WWII and history of just about every nation from England to Japan.
    Maybe this will be the first one, but I highly doubt it.

    January 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  44. Marilyn

    Thank you for this article which provides historical information. So often these days I listen to news reports, or read an article on an event, but don't have any idea what started it, why did this happen, or the history behind it. This is not only on the Middle-East, but other world events as well. Journalism shouldn't be just reporting events, but providing the average person with some background knowledge on the subject. In particular, news reports on the Middle-East, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all those surrounding countries, i.e. what is Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah?!?! Unless one takes the time to research and try to understand these "other language words", they mean nothing. Even though the subject of this article is not pretty, this article was refreshing. Thanks.

    January 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  45. John Alesso (Author: The American Freedom Formula)

    Shooting rockets into Israel is a clear sign that Hamas wanted these hostilities. Sure they would have preferred killing more innocent Israelis before this happened, but what did they expect?

    "Measured response" is the battle cry of the ignorant. In the long run "measured response" (only responding by killing a comparable number of your attackers) kills many more people by allowing terrorists to grow in numbers (without fear of damning their cause) and removing incentive to resolve problems permanently.

    It's time for Israel and Hamas to either make peace or finish this... let's see how this plays out... Let's see if firing rockets into Israel was as good an idea as Iran led these children to believe.

    Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what the cause. If terrorism is an ethnicity, then cleanse it.

    Stay safe AC

    January 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  46. ig

    Great article. Rarely are fair and objective historical overviews offered regarding this conflict.

    Imagine if all of your neighbors constantly through rocks at your house, a house which you purchased fairly, (see the background history of the formation of the state of Israel, particularly the huge purchase of land from Arab land-owners by Dutch Jews), what would you do?

    Why are there still Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon? Shouldn't the governments of these countries have offered these 'brothers' asylum by now? Or are the Arab nations happy to USE this entire population as a lever acting on the global opinion on the middle east?

    January 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  47. All in the name of the one that does not exist

    When will people realize that there is no god, no allah, no jesus, no nothing that we can see, hear or touch? Stop doing things in the names of those who does not exist upon this world and do not walk among us all, live and let die peacefully!

    January 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  48. Steve Nelson

    It was great background information, and presented in a very non-biased manner. I don't agree with either side, but I don't understand how anyone can be so outraged with the fact Israel is reacting with such unrestraint. If I've got a big rock in my hand and someone starts pelting me with smaller ones, I'm not going to put my big rock down and go looking for smaller ones. These people choose to be at war with each other for whatever political/religious reasons, and the US is obviously having little success at brokering a deal to make them stop. We cannot change the way these people feel about each other. This is not going to end until one side wins, and the sooner this happens the better. It's a tragedy lives will be lost in the process, but this war is a tragedy.

    January 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  49. Leo Jed

    By the way this article is worth reading. Just imagine this is happening to you or your family

    January 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  50. Winston

    The best article I have ever read on this sad situation. It's a tragedy that appears will never end. There are points to be made for both sides, however we are beyond that. If two of your neighbors were fighting, what would you do? It's a pity that the U.N. is almost worthless. My heart goes out to the innocent that are suffering.

    January 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
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