Anyone who has ever been in the Gaza Strip knows how miserable it is there. With nearly 2 million people crowded into 141 square miles, hungry, poor and wretched, governed by a terrorist organization and hemmed in by blockades on all sides, Gaza is a hellhole.
No wonder its population is angry. They have every right to protest.
But what has been happening at the border with Israel in the past weeks is not a peaceful demonstration against these deplorable conditions. It’s a war, with the stated intention of bringing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the border fence in order to break through and enter Israel to, in the words of organizers, take back their ancestral land.
Breaching another nation’s borders in order to occupy its territory is an act of war. And the threatened nation’s military has the right — indeed, the duty — to defend its sovereignty and its people.
Add to that the reports that protesters were being urged to kill Jews, with videos circulating that showed young Palestinian men shouting their murderous intent as they approached the border, and the war takes on an even more sinister character.
Defending Israel’s territorial integrity is a solemn and serious duty, one that should not be glorified or enjoyed. This is no time to say, “They got what was coming to them.”
Hamas has declared that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire earlier this week were Hamas operatives, some of whom were engaged in active gun battles with Israeli soldiers. But certainly many if not most of the protesters were unarmed, used as pawns in a horrific battlefield game.
On one hand, Gaza is no longer Israel’s responsibility. Israel withdrew from the Strip in 2005, and it has been under Palestinian self-governance ever since. But Israel, along with Egypt, contributes to the ongoing misery of the population by blockading Gaza’s coastline. That has given Hamas “justification” to bombard Israel with rocket attacks and attempted infiltration, to which Israel has responded, sometimes with great force. Death and damage has resulted on both sides. Whose fault that is becomes immaterial when humans are suffering.
Both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships have failed to act in negotiating a solution to the conflict between their peoples. For this, both sides share blame. Every person killed at the Gaza border — Palestinian or Israeli — is a bloody reminder of their respective governments’ abdication of the sacred responsibility to protect their people and secure their future. This is a task that cannot wait, and the world community needs to step in to bring them back to the table.