The Israel-Hamas War

Victorious Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said it best. “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” 

As we listen to news accounts and view video footage of the current war in Israel and Gaza, and as we consider the opening attack on October 7th by Hamas-led Palestinian militants on Israel and the counterattack by the IDF (Israel Defense Force), as we hear accusations of atrocities and inhumane policies, what can be our guide as to whether certain attacks and counterattacks are ethical? Do we look to the United Nations? The United States government? The rules of war according to the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention? The Bible? The Koran? What is our ethical and moral guide to the righteousness and justness of a war?

Depending on our personal experiences as soldiers, relatives of those who have faced combat, or merely citizens of a country, how do we interpret the actions of both sides in a war? Is there a disinterested viewpoint regarding atrocities and humanitarian efforts? The world has sharply different attitudes and viewpoints toward Israel and the Palestinian state. 

Israel views itself as isolated and surrounded by those who want to destroy her right to exist. Her Arab neighbors in the Gaza Strip point to past injustices and conflicts as justification for their attacks. In Israel, both males and females must perform military service. Hamas operates amid the Gazan population, hiding their weapons and headquarters in schools and hospitals, using the population as a human shield. 

The present conflict began with a surprise attack, the brutal slaying of civilians, and the taking of hostages, including women, children, and the elderly. Israeli counterattacks on Gaza have resulted in massive casualties among the population. Now demands are rising worldwide for a ceasefire or lull in the fighting for humanitarian purposes. Public opinion runs the gamut from complete support for Israel to total sympathy for the Palestinians. Moral injury is rampant, and many feel that they have been betrayed. Whatever leaders do, moral principles of respect for life, especially innocent life, are disregarded or broken in the interests of necessity and expediency. There seems to be no clear way through this morass of evil. How can we discern what actions are right?

People cry for peace, but there is no peace. As former Israeli premier Golda Meir said, “You cannot negotiate peace with somebody who has come to kill you.” Current Israeli president Isaac Herzog says that this current conflict is not just Israel vs. Hamas, but rather is between those who practice the norms of humanity and those who practice barbarism. To my readers, what is your belief about these statements?

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