Bombing of Gaza a stain on humanity
In my last piece on the Israel-Hamas war I asked the question: How many must die to quench Israel’s thirst for vengeance?
The astute reader will note that the question did not ask how many Gazans or Israelis must die, but it was open-ended enough to accommodate the number of lives which could be lost on both sides of the divide. The unrelenting Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza has levelled buildings, killed thousands of Gazans, and forced the tiny population of about 2.3 million people into a ‘haven’ in the south that has also come under Israeli bombardment.
At the time of writing it is estimated that over 7,700 Gazans have been killed, inclusive of over 4,000 children. Admittedly, there are those who doubt the accuracy of the figures. What cannot be doubted, however, is the extent to which buildings and other properties have been levelled in Gaza. The devastation that one sees in pictures coming from the war zone tells the story of the real-time calamity that is playing out in Gaza.
It seems clear to me that if the above-mentioned figures are not correct, they cannot be far from the truth. Despite their pinpoint precision, bombs and missiles cannot account for the people in buildings when they hit their targets, neither can they for the horrific collateral damage that occurs when they are sent after a Hamas operant near a hospital, a school, or community centre.
And as the Israelis have noted, they are yet to unleash the full wrath of the Israeli army on Gaza. There have been limited, strategic, and surgical incursions on the ground, but the full assault, which could happen anytime now, is yet to occur. When that time comes, as I predicted earlier, it will result in the most unmitigated humanitarian disaster of such tragic proportions that will it make the present loss of lives pale in the distance.
I believe that, in what it has done so far, Israel has made a clear statement of its intentions to satisfy its rage against Hamas for its horrific assault on its territory. Of course, the country believes that it has just started in its bid to assuage its need for revenge. The question that the global community must ask in response to this stated desire is: How many more lives must be lost, especially those of children, to satisfy a bloodlust for vengeance?
However much we may empathise with Israel’s justification for its response, there can be no moral justification for the humanitarian disaster that is playing out in Gaza. The people are literally being starved into submission as limited supply of food, medicine, and other staples are merely trickling into the territory.
And there are further geopolitical concerns that the conflict might erupt into a regional if not a global one. In physics, Isaac Newton’s third law reminds us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So another question the global community has to ask is: To what extent will it allow itself to be drawn into a greater conflagration that may result in a world conflict? Already, the ground is being set in the Middle East for such a conflict. Iran and its proxies; Hamas; and Hezbollah, with its willing allies in Syria, have been stoking the fire, forcing the American armada assembled in the region to respond.
The person who can benefit most from this distraction is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, despite his limited resources as a consequence of his ill-fated war on Ukraine, will not hesitate to stir whatever trouble he can to advance war in the Middle East. If he was not being constrained by the brave Ukrainians, he would have stepped up greater activity in the region.
China has its own domestic troubles at home, having to steady a faltering post-COVID-19 economy. This is perhaps why Xi Jinping has not yet attacked Taiwan. But with the cover of an all-out Middle east war, who knows?
Whatever the postures, in the end it really boils down to how many lives will have to be lost in this war to satisfy the agenda of those who stand to benefit most from its prolongation. It is clear that the principle of proportionality has been torn up and thrown through the window. In his enfeebled voice, US President Joe Biden pleas for restraint and the mitigation of the loss of lives in Gaza. But who is hearing him when, in the another breath, Israel is emboldened by the assurance that the US will never let it down?
On a related matter, last Friday the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a non-binding resolution calling for cessation of hostilities on humanitarian grounds. Understandably, the US voted against the resolution. Twelve Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries voted yes, along with many European and African countries, but Jamaica was missing in action.
The lame excuse given in a Twitter post by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith is that “deliberations” were still taking place among the Jamaican contingent and these were not concluded by the time of the UNGA vote. What deliberations, Minister Johnson Smith? This was a clear vote, so why the prevarications?
I believe the Government was caught in a place of indecision as to whether it should support the vote and go against Israel (and the US) or go against the vote and appear to be opposed to the search for a humanitarian statement that would be in support of the poor, suffering Gazans. Either way, it was regrettable that the country failed to turn up for this crucial, historical vote.
Finally, I do not know of another region in the world that calls upon the name of God more than the Middle East, the cradle of the world’s three most prominent religions â€” Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. From my comparative study, I know enough about these religions to have a keen sense of the God, the monotheistic God, that they claim to worship and in whose name do their dastardly deeds.
Historically, all three have fanatical and fundamentalist elements in their midst who would not hesitate to kill in the name of God. It is not that God requires it, but their own human agenda does. It is not so much the will of God that drives them, for that will is summed up in all three in the credal formulation to love one’s neighbour and to treat the stranger with hospitality and respect.
So what has gone wrong is the willingness of the adherents of all three religions to subscribe to their own lust for power to the detriment of their neighbours. When this happens, as may very well happen in this latest iteration of hatred in the Middle East, Armageddon beckons.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.