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Israel flexes its 'muscular' strategy

The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza has got plenty of Indians, who greatly admire such ‘muscular’ action by Israel, excited.

So what if, at last count, less than 30 Israelis have died in the same time frame which includes over 500 Palestinian deaths? Fans of ‘muscular’ action do not count deaths in quite the same way.

As some have pointed out, Palestinians do not even mourn when their own people die compared to Israelis. So, by a comparative mourning analysis based on this ‘logic’, the death of 30 Israelis is equal to over 500 Palestinians.

One viewpoint is that when you deal with terrorists, this is the only way to do it. The problem is that it is not only terrorists who are dying. Four children playing football on a beach, a hospital in Gaza — these are ordinary people. The logic now shifts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the defence ministry in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 11. Netanyahu said that he would not bow to world entreaties to stop a ferocious military campaign against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. pic/AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the defence ministry in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 11. Netanyahu said that he would not bow to world entreaties to stop a ferocious military campaign against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Pic/AFP

If the people did not support terrorists, they would not die (Therefore, all Palestinians apparently deserve to die). If you were repeatedly being bombed, would you not respond? In any battle, civilians must die. This is where you shrug philosophically and brush the numbers aside.

But nothing in the Israel-Palestine conflict is quite so simple - as much as no conflict is simple. No one can or will deny unless they are nuts that the Jews have suffered for 2,000 years. No one can or will or should deny the horror of the Holocaust.

But the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict is complicated and confusing. And unfortunately, the ‘muscular’ strategy adopted by Israel towards the people whose land Israel now occupies has been short on compassion and long on aggression.

The Palestinians, it seems, are as subhuman to Israel as the Jews seemed to be to Europe in the not so distant past. Never let it be assumed that suffering makes you more understanding of the suffering of others. Perhaps it just makes you selfish.

However, it must be said that many of Israel’s detractors are Jews who do not agree with this ‘muscular’ behaviour. The ‘Israel Defence Forces’ are very popular on social media but there are also handles like ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ which are attempting to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. It is impossible to tarnish everyone with the same brush and that holds true even for bleeding heart liberals.

But hatred depends on absolutes and dispenses with anything that is not black versus white. Everyone knows that the terrible cynicism of geopolitics and big business governs most of the world's conflicts but when we reach a humanitarian crisis, too many want to ignore the price paid and concentrate on some possible benefit which outweighs death, suffering and the human condition.

The irony, of course is most of these “muscular” benefit theorists are also staunch believers in some god or theist system or the other (I would include forms of communism here as well). And when it suits them, they will trot out some argument about peace and goodwill. But this peace and goodwill usually only applies to them and not to their perceived enemies or their opponents.

There must be several psychological theories for such behaviour and such thought processes. But from a political point of view, exploiting people who think like this can reap massive benefits. Harping on insecurities and then claiming these can be fixed only by military might is a successful play on our atavistic blood lust.

It works in its own way all over the world. Throw in nationalism and then identity whether tribal or religious or ethnic or racial and you are guaranteed political success no matter how hateful and cynical the mix.

One could, at times like this, quote Jesus Christ on turning the other cheek or Mahatma Gandhi on an eye for an eye making the whole world blind or even John Lennon imagining a better world.

But what's the point? This conflict has divided the world into too many people who think all Palestinians are personally responsible for the bombs that are falling on them and others who see Israel exclusively as a heartless marauder.

It only means that we’ve learnt nothing from our past. Which means the only person to quote is George Santayana. We are condemned to repeat our history. Again and again and again and again.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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