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What Are Acceptable Losses?

With the ongoing hostilities in Gaza and the mounting civilian casualties vastly outnumbering combatants being killed or injured the question of what “collateral damage” is acceptable must be raised. For the handful of Israelis killed in recent weeks literally hundreds of Palestinians have been killed. The ratio is by some accounts as high as one hundred to one of Palestinians to Israelis killed. The Associated Press as of Tuesday January 6. 2009 placed the Israeli body count at eleven including seven soldiers lost in the ground attacks and one in a rocket attack. Civilian casualties for Israel stand at three. On the Palestinian side there are over six hundred confirmed dead with the vast majority being civilians. Accounts of killed Hamas members widely vary giving a very unclear picture of whether or not Israel is finding any real level of success in weakening Hamas which is their stated objective for the current offensive campaign in Gaza. So how many innocent deaths are justified in the pursuit of Hamas and who is really to blame for the conflict?

While the news media has been focused on the rockets coming out of Gaza into Israel as the source of the conflict, little coverage has been given to the events leading up to the breaking of the cease-fire. No coverage has been given to the blocked borders and the inability of Palestinians to get needed food and medicine. Did Israel force Hamas’ hand by blockading Gaza and exacerbate the situation causing Hamas to respond with rocket fire? Who is truly to blame for the current conflict? An argument can be made that the isolation of Gaza by Israeli forces was at the heart of the conflict and preceded any breaking of the cease-fire by Hamas. Given that the killing of large numbers of Palestinian civilians in Gaza by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is not unique to 2009 it could be posited that IDF has been the aggressor of greater concern in the Gaza area. In 2006 and 2007 hundreds of civilians were killed by IDF forces including two young children killed while in a classroom by bullets fired through the walls of the UN school they attended by an IDF tank.

Regardless of who is to blame for the conflict the cost to civilians has to be the primary issue in the debate about what needs to be done about the current situation. When you have thousands of innocent civilians penned in by an opposing force while bombs are being dropped on homes and schools there is no good justification for it. The Israeli forces have chosen the methods that have created this humanitarian crisis and only Israeli forces can resolve the issue. Their “pressure cooker” method of encircling and closing in on enemy combatants has allowed them to seal off Hamas forces in some areas but also has caused the deaths or injuries of hundreds of women and children that have nothing to do with their fight with Hamas.

The leaders of Egypt and France have proposed a cease-fire agreement that would bring the hostilities to an end and move toward a peaceful resolution that as of the time this article was written had met with no response from Israel. It has come time for America to get off the sidelines and make it clear to Israel that innocent civilian casualties are not acceptable on the scale that is currently happening. We need to call for an immediate cease-fire and lifting of blockades keeping needed food and medical supplies out of the hands of civilians. If UN forces are needed to keep the peace and monitor Hamas activities in Gaza that should be done but the bombing of innocent civilians to get to Hamas needs to stop now. “Acceptable losses” should never include innocent women and children and it should never be OK to kill more innocents than combatants in any war zone.

While America has also used similar tactics in the past we were wrong to do so and it is time for change on a global scale. War as it was should not be the model for current or future conflict resolution. We need to become better as a species at resolving our conflicts before we extinguish ourselves. The conflict in Gaza is a prime example of how we have done things wrong and where we need to do things better. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the perfect opportunity to find a new way to resolve the differences between two peoples. If we put all options on the table then we might find one that will actually work for long term peace.

One solution could be a reunified Israel with a power-sharing government with equal representation for Palestinians and Israelis. If the Knesset were to have truly equal representation for all peoples within Israel and a President/Prime Minister leadership allowing for equality between Jews and non-Jews within the Israeli government it would go a long way to bringing a sense of investment to the Palestinians living in Israel. By giving a voice to Palestinians in the halls of power the leadership of Israel could show that they do want to find peace and are committed to equality and democracy for all in Israel. Additionally, opening up all areas of Israel to all people so there are no more exclusively Jewish or non-Jewish areas would go a long way to the indigenous people of the region feeling that they have a place at the table and some stake in the health and well being of Israel as a nation. As long as there is separation and inequality there will be conflict. To end the conflict, there needs to be a solution to the problems at the core of the conflict. Simply killing those who oppose you will not solve the problem. It will only lead to another generation of orphaned children and widows who will grow to hate and wish to destroy those who took their loved ones from them.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer| Give your feedback on this article. | Click icon to Digg this article

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