May 17, Thoughts on the Current Hamas-Israeli Conflict
As of today, there have been about 200 deaths in the current war between Hamas in Gaza and Israel, most of them civilians and many of them children. Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets at Israeli cities, trying to kill indiscriminately. Israel is bombing sites in Gaza, trying to avoid civilian casualties. They fail because Hamas stores arms, rockets, and bombs in schools, hospitals and apartment buildings so that any Israeli retaliation to Hamas rocket attacks will inevitably kill civilians. Israel calls up buildings before they bomb and urges people to evacuate. They still kill some civilians.
The Hamas charter (look it up on Wikipedia) does not accept the existence of Israel. The existence of the Jewish state on land that was formerly occupied by various Muslim regimes since about 700 CE, (most recently, the Ottoman Turks, then the British after World War I) is considered by Hamas to be a desecration of Islam itself. Over the years, spokesmen for Hamas have said that they accept other religions in the region as long as these other religions acknowledge the supremacy of Islam. The existence of the State of Israel is therefore, unacceptable and must be eliminated.
However, if Islam is to be supreme, one might ask, which Islam? Islam is divided into two main groups: Sunni and Shiite. The center of Sunni Islam is arguably Saudi Arabia although Egypt is the largest mostly Sunni country. The center of Shiite Islam is Iran. Then there are lots of subdivisions. Christianity and Judaism also have similar larger and smaller subgroups.
The religious divisions in Islam, as well as tribal animosities in various Arab regions have led to bloody, internecine wars with staggering death tolls, just since the year 2,000. Though precise figures are essentially impossible to document, here are some estimated numbers, widely available on the internet, to consider.
Conflict Death Toll Estimates
Iran-Iraq 500,000 soldiers 100,000 civilians
USA-Iraq 183-206,000 civilians (some estimates: 1 million)
Conflict Death Toll Estimates
USA-Afghanistan 241,000 (71,000 civilians)
Syrian Civil War 388-594,000
Israel-Hamas, May, 2021 over 200, so far.
Israel-Palestinian since 1920 24,969 Israelis, 91,105 Palestinians.
If one adds up the death tolls of Muslim on Muslim violence, just since 2,000 CE, one gets about 1,700,000 or more deaths. Total Israeli-Palestinian deaths, since 1920, are about 116,300, counting the current conflict. One should be able to see that Muslim on Muslim violence is responsible for most of the Middle East unrest and deaths in the 21st century, and indeed throughout the last 1,300 years. Even if one cynically discounts the deaths that the USA participated in, Iraq and Afghanistan, Muslim on Muslim violence is still responsible for the vast majority of deaths in the region.
Why then, do so many of our news agencies seem to take the Palestinian “side” in the Israeli-Palestinian (including Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah) conflicts? It would seem that the major problem is an inter or intra Islamic struggle for dominance over all the Middle East. Israel is a minor problem, covered by the news in a major way. All the historical evidence suggests that, were Israel to be wiped out, all these fights would still go on. Evidence further suggests that the majority of Arab countries do not care a fig for the existence of a Palestinian State. They voted not to accept the partition proposed by the UN in 1947. The Jews accepted. Israel’s neighbors tried to destroy the fledgling state of Israel in 1948 and failed. Jordan controlled the West Bank from 1948 to 1967. They could have established a Palestinian State. They did not. Arab countries tried again to destroy Israel in 1967 and 1973, the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars. Again, they failed. Hamas and Hezbollah, both receiving a lot of funding and weapons from Iran, continue attacking Israel to the present day, with the stated goal of eliminating the “Zionist entity.” Read the Hamas charter. It’s on the internet.
Fundamentalist religiosity, whether Islamic, Christian, or Jewish, tends to make its adherents see things only one way. In Israel and Palestine, fundamentalists on both sides believe it is their God-given right to have all the land “from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean.)” The Biblical authority is documented in Genesis, Chapter 12, particularly verse 7, where YHVH (God) promises the land to Abraham’s “seed.” The Islamic justification, as I understand it, is that any land that has ever been under Islamic rule should remain under Islamic rule forever. (Spain should watch out.) One should note that Arab, Muslim and Christian Palestinians, as well as the Jews, trace their descent from Abraham. The Palestinians and all Arabs claim descent from Ishmael and the Jews from Isaac. So God kept his promise to give the land to Abraham’s seed. God also commands in Leviticus 19:18, “…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, it’s up to all of us who profess the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths, to make the Middle East work. Part of the problem is that, when the Ottoman Empire was dissolved after World War I, the allies, in the Sykes-Picot agreement, established a lot of countries, some of them making no sense at all. (Iraq would not have formed as the Brits and French envisioned it.)
All three of the Abrahamic religions are human inventions, trying to understand where we come from and what it all means. Both the Bible and the Human Genome Project confirm that we are all brothers and sisters. In fact, current research shows that all humans on Earth are 99.9% the same. We really are all brothers and sisters. Let’s act like it.