War in Gaza: Palestinians Die. Israelis Die. Only Hamas Wins

The risk of major confrontation is looming once more. But there's still time, and still choices - especially for Israel, which holds the power, and therefore the initiative - to spare everyone’s children

A picture of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Nassir al-Mosabeh, killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, on his school desk in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. September 30, 2018.

In the closing days of the 2012 war in Gaza, a recent immigrant to Israel told me that the war had radicalized her and made her feel more Israeli. I asked her whether she meant that she felt more strongly that Israel was endangered, or that Israel was right.  

She thought for a while and said, "Neither one. I felt like part of the family, and I understood that every time they fire a rocket, they are firing it at me.  Every rocket is personal." Being family, she added, meant "I felt the deaths. Those boys were our boys."

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I bit back my response, because Israelis and Gazans are not fond of being compared. 

Six years late, here is my response: Gazans say the same thing.

They feel exactly the same way. They go to the funerals of their soldiers and civilians and they grieve as personally, because those children were everyone’s children.

Let me offer a few facts: neutral, decontextualized and therefore, hopefully, not in dispute.

1. Conditions in Gaza have gone from dire to calamitous. The World Bank last week described it as an economic "free fall" and a humanitarian "collapse." No one would sit still and raise their children in such conditions.

2. Ceasefire talks appear to have stalled.

3. Protests and violence are increasing along the fence, in step with Gaza’s deterioration.

4. For these and other reasons, the risk of major confrontation is looming once more.

A Palestinian protester throws a stone towards Israeli forces during clashes on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip. October 1, 2018.

If that happens, more of everyone’s children are going to be killed. But: 

5. With the prospect of each war, commentators discuss the unknown cost and uncertain result of trying to remove Hamas by force.

6. Presently, commentators also cite Hamas’s loss of popular support.

7. The Israeli military has repeatedly recommended that Israel should improve the conditions in which Gazans subsist.

What a positive, powerful idea.

Israel holds the power, and therefore the initiative. Israel could take the advice of its own generals, and ease the blockade of Gaza. In so doing, Israel would demonstrate that there can yet be a future, based not on violence and the funerals of more people who felt like family.

No one has to like Hamas. I’m not fond of them, either. However, Hamas is not Gaza, and Gaza is not Hamas. Distinguish their interests.  

The blockade gives Hamas a free hand, and escalation affirms them as the interlocutor of violence. De-escalation would speak past them. Peace would put them out of business.

One step at a time. Easing the blockade would begin by acknowledging the rights and the interests of Gazans, as people and as parents. That step speaks a different language.

There is still time, and there are still choices, to spare everyone’s children.

Bakesh shalom, v’radfayhu – seek peace, and pursue it.

Marilyn Garson lived and worked in Gaza 2011 – 2015. She writes from New Zealand. Her blog is Transforming Gaza. Twitter: @skinonbothsides