The limits of arms

  • January 8, 2009
{mosimage}We can only hope that Israel gains a modicum of respite from the erratic missiles that provoked its invasion of Gaza. At least it will have earned something from its massive display of military might against Hamas.

No one should still be carrying a candle for Hamas, an organization whose fundamental aim to destroy Israel undercuts its own claim to moral leadership among the Palestinians. Terrorism is terrorism, and it should be fought wherever it festers. Nor should anyone be under any delusion, however, that Israel’s continual recourse to military means to solve its neighbour problems offers any long-term solutions. It didn’t work against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006 and it won’t now. Even though the Palestinian-to-Israeli death ratio is 100-to-one, Gaza will continue to give birth to new sons and daughters who will live for nothing more than to die in the cause of the ongoing conflict.

Even battle-hardened and war-weary Israelis acknowledge the inevitability of future battles. In part, it is because Israel is surrounded by enemies — Arab nations that refuse to recognize the country’s right to exist, whose children are too often taught from an early age to hate Jews.

But the source of the conflict also has deep roots in the conditions of impoverishment and oppression created by Israel’s own response to the threats to its existence. In early January, even as Pope Benedict XVI was urging Israeli and Palestinian authorities to negotiate an end to the current hostilities, the Vatican was offering another compelling insight into the longer-term issues. In an interview published in the Jan. 1 L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, pointed out the futility of military action.

“For decades, human dignity has been trampled in the Gaza Strip; hatred and homicidal fundamentalism find fodder” in social and economic injustice, he told the Vatican’s official newspaper.

“The current excessive imbalance between military spending and development aid — (which) exists everywhere, including the Gaza Strip — shows a deep distrust in the power of dialogue, a deep distrust in the human being,” he added.

Gaza remains a tinderbox. With 1.4 million people packed into an area half the size of the Greater Toronto Area, its people suffer from 40-per-cent unemployment. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the population live in poverty. Most of its civic functions such as medical care, education and energy — and many jobs — are effectively controlled by Israel. On such circumstances does terrorism feed.

Martino also points out that “the source of every conflict, not to mention the degradation of the environment and the social and economic injustices. . . is contempt for, neglect of, or only partial agreement with the principle of respect for human dignity.”

It is, of course, easier said than done. But the future of the Middle East depends upon just such a recognition of human dignity by all involved.

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