Israel-Hamas War: Dead children ask, tell me why?

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A Palestinian girl receives medical treatment of her wounds caused by an Israeli airstrike in the town of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on Thursday. (Photo: AP)

I can’t vouch for it because I wasn’t there. But yet I’m sure that the one common question that would have crossed minds of both Israeli and Palestinian children writhing in agony as life ebbed out of their tender bodies was- why have they done this to me? In a way it’s good that I wasn’t there, because I wouldn’t have been able to answer their simple question and despite the fact that we are absolutely clear in our minds as to both who the villain is and who’s the victim, I’m sure none of us can.

This paradoxical situation owes its existence to the proclivity of human mind to quickly take up strong positions based on preconceived ideas and then look for reasons to justify the same. So, those on Israel’s side, justify Tel Aviv’s extraordinarily severe military response by drawing attention to the unprovoked ‘invasion’ by Hamas, its merciless killing of Israeli civilians including the aged, young, infants and even babies, as well as the taking of hostages.

According to those supporting Israel’s actions, due the gory bloodbath of innocents and their forcible abduction as well as desecration of the dead, Hamas deserves no mercy, . They also contend that since Hamas fighters take refuge in and launch rocket attacks against Israel from densely populated areas, Tel Aviv has the right to attack such sites. Hence, onus of any collateral damage in terms civilian casualties and destruction of residential buildings and public facilities rests entirely with Hamas.

In short, those defending Israel’s response maintain that, [1] By initiating unprovoked violence, it’s Hamas that upset status quo and precipitated the current crisis and so Palestinians have no right to play the ‘victim’ card [2] Hamas has ‘invited’ trouble by killing innocent Israelis including aged people, women, children and babies; hence Palestinians would have to bear the consequences [4] Being forced into a war, Israel’s ‘eye for an eye’ policy is justified by the ‘All’s fair in love and war’ dictum, and [5] Israel has all the rights to defend itself by whatever means it deems fit!

On the other hand, those who support the Hamas have an equally convincing argument to support their viewpoint. They contend that Palestinians have been a victim of brazen apartheid and the target of institutionalised persecution by Israel for the last seven and a half decades due to which the Gaza strip is a veritable ‘open air jail’. With Israel disregarding implementation of various international resolutions and accords that address genuine aspirations of Palestinians, this group feels that since Hamas represents aspiration of Palestinians, it has the moral right of using force to compel Israel to end its high handed approach.

Those sympathising with Palestine also maintain that since Israel has forcibly driven out Palestinians from their land and denied them their fundamental rights, use of violence by Hamas against these ‘oppressors’ is fully justified. Furthermore, with no alternative available to redress their grievances, Palestinians have little choice but to fight for their rights since Tel Aviv only understands the language of violence. Most importantly, they defend the violence committed by Hamas as the natural and inescapable response to prolonged subjugation.

The Pro-Palestine lobby’s justification of violence committed by Hamas is simple. It strongly maintains that [1] Oppression by Israel justifies retaliatory aggression by Hamas  [2] Elimination of Jews has religious sanction and is hence kosher and obligatory [3] Killing of aged people, women and children is a ‘tit for tat’ response to Tel Aviv’s barbarity [4] Hamas fighters are voluntarily embracing ‘martyrdom’ for the sake of their people and as such Palestinians should honour their sacrifice by willingly accepting losses of life, limb or property caused due to retaliatory action by Israeli Defence Forces [IDF] to Hamas instigated violence. 

With both sides having multiple reasons for supporting violence being wrecked on each other by Israel and Hamas [however skewed or perverse they may be], Israelis and Palestinian men, women and youth who unfortunately fall victim to such carnage know very well why they have been targeted. However, what about Israeli toddlers living peacefully in a kibbutz killed by Hamas gunmen or Palestinian babies crushed to death under debris of buildings in Gaza bombed by Israeli Air Force?

While we will all definitely express anguish and grief on the killing of children, even if they belong to the side we oppose. Yet, we will nevertheless shamelessly defend such gruesome acts committed by the side we support by citing instances of similar atrocities committed by the opponent. And we are so conscious of the fact that we’re knowingly defending the indefensible that we invent reasons to justify our stand by selectively drawing inferences from anything and everything, ranging from theology to geography, history and even philosophy.

Consequently, by vociferously supporting senseless violence by a particular people against another, we miss the wood for the trees and end up [intentionally or unwittingly] mainstreaming community violence. That’s why while we can keep waxing eloquent on the right of a particular side to perpetrate violence, we lack the courage to stare a dead child in the face because we are afraid that its glazed eyes and twisted lips may suddenly come alive and innocently pose the disturbing question, “tell me why?”

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