The Problem of Gaza: An Endless Cycle of Violence

As thousands of Hamas rockets rained down on Israel, parallel Israeli strikes have led to the deaths of more than 130 Gazans over the span of less than a week (five Israelis have been slain by Hamas rocket fire)

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ALESSIO ROMENZI FOR TIME

Palestinians sort through the rubble of a house hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Nov. 18, 2012.

The arc of history bends toward justice, said one famous American, but maybe he wasn’t aware of Gaza. The 1.6 million inhabitants of this thin strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean find themselves caught yet again between the fusillades of two uncompromising, hard-bitten adversaries—and, once more, they are the ones paying the steepest price in blood. As thousands of Hamas rockets rained down on Israel, parallel Israeli strikes have led to the deaths of more than 130 Gazans over the span of less than a week (five Israelis have been slain by Hamas rocket fire). This is par for the course. In 2008, a similar Israeli campaign, Operation Cast Lead, killed more than 1,400 Gazans. The body count won’t be as high this time as a host of diplomatic mediators—from the Arab League’s envoys to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—struggle to settle the last binding terms of an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire. But even after the smoke clears and the rubble gets carted away, what will remain is something no forced handshake can cure.

(PHOTOS: A New Gaza War: Israel and Palestinian Militants Trade Fire)

Gaza “is a manmade ecosystem of outrage and despair,” writes Karl Vick, TIME’s Jerusalem bureau chief, in this week’s issue of the magazine. Rights activists refer to it as a prison camp, a vast human cage whose people are now hemmed in by an Israeli blockade and Egyptian neglect. Vick writes:

Gaza is a stepchild of history. It has been ruled by both Egypt and Israel and is beloved by neither, which is a problem for all. Gazans are emphatically Palestinian, a national identity forged from the trauma of losing their land to Jewish armies in 1948, the year Israel was established. Many defeated Arab landowners fled to Gaza, where 3 out of 4 residents are classified as refugees.

Their ingrained sense of dispossession was anticipated by the famed Israeli general Moshe Dayan in 1956, who Vick quotes:

“For eight years now,” said Dayan, “they have sat in the refugee camps of Gaza and have watched how, before their very eyes, we have turned their lands and villages, where they and their forefathers previously dwelled, into our home.”

(MORE: Diplomatic Efforts Yield Prospect of Tenuous Cease-Fire in Gaza)

Combine historical grievance with contemporary hardship—unemployment, food shortages and myriad other daily deprivations—and you get a climate of anger that leads to the success of radical militant groups like Hamas. Heap onto that the psychological toll of Israeli bombardments, and you arrive at a situation that is, for many, existentially intolerable.

Writing in the New Yorker, Wasseem El Sarraj, a Palestinian writer based abroad many years, recounts the experience of living with his family in a Gaza under siege, staying awake at night amid the scream and whir of rockets, missiles and drones:

The reality is that there is no escape, neither inside the house nor from the confines of Gaza. It’s my first harb (war), and it has stirred in me feelings that I had tried hard to suppress. I never wanted to see Israel as an evil force. I said to myself that that sort of thinking, that sort of emotion, would not be helpful, would not be constructive, would not be “me.” I had wanted to work with Israelis; to reconcile, I suppose. After four years of living in Gaza, this has become an untenable position for me.

On the other side of the fence, countless Israelis are facing up to their own sense of the enemy, to the wail of sirens and the invisible, merciless threat of a rocket spiraling in and devastating life as they knew it. The hate, the sense of zero-sum despair that war creates takes generations, let alone years, to dispel. Even while the Arab world quivers from seismic political change, what’s taking place in the skies over Gaza is part of an increasingly lengthy, calcified narrative of unfinished battle and uneasy peace. “This time the biggest surprise is how much it’s like all the other times,” writes Vick. And that may be the biggest tragedy of all.

MORE: The Israeli Assault on Gaza: How Surgical Are the Strikes?

13 comments
Fla4Me
Fla4Me

The two state solution is a hoax that simply buys more time for the dominant power to become ever more dominant.  One state, one vote per person.

AshleyBurke
AshleyBurke

Funny, but not really, how no one seems to care that for years and years Hamas has been sending rockets over to Israel. The world's media conveniently turns a blind eye to the violence aimed at Israel, and empathizes with the perpetrators of that violence when they get what's coming to them! What about Israel? What about the Jews? Haven't they been targeted enough? They've been driven from almost every place they go, including Israel to begin with. Israel is a country of Jewish refugees. No one cares about that. The world media is mostly anti-Jewish. If Hamas was called the Third Reich, would they still sympathize with them? It's the same evil behind both. And it's that same evil that has gained the sympathy from most of the media worldwide.

MarcSchroeder
MarcSchroeder like.author.displayName 1 Like

@AshleyBurke  If your land was taken and you were a refugee in Gaza walled in just like a Jew in Warsaw in 1940, what would you do? Learn to like it? Of course not. The Palestinians are always going to fight for what was taken from them. The state of Israel was a mistake. Unless it is corrected and the Palestinians are allowed to return to their land, the world is going to have to put up with endless war and with the breeding habits of the Muslims? Sooner or later it will not end well for both the Israelis, and those allied with them. Unless of course nuclear war ends it for all residents of this planet. As an American, I would suggest the Israelis relocate to a unpopulated area of America and become American citizens. This is for their own good and peace on Earth. This endless war has gone on long enough, time to correct the mistake that is Israel.

samuel.stevenson
samuel.stevenson

@MarcSchroeder @AshleyBurke Congratulations, you showed yourself to be bigoted both towards Muslims and jews very concisely. Breeding habits of Muslims? You make them sound like animals, talk about dehumanization. "Correcting the mistake that is Israel"? Yeah, good luck with that, too bad it sounds a little too much like a Final Solution to most Jews for that to ever fly, you racist POS. Israel is here to stay, it was established legitimately through the UN and populated by Jews through perfectly legal immigration, and has endured many attempts to wipe it out. The Arabs could have simply shared the land, but instead declared war against the Jews (yes, the JEWS, not just the Israelis) and have never rescinded. So pardon Israel for not coddling the same genocidal extremists sixty years later.

kandw101
kandw101

Too many M uslims pine for a time that ended centuries ago and have not moved into the 21st century. There are hard liners in all religions that talk violence but don't act on it, unfortunately I slam has too many followers that act on and excite others to extremist violence. When a religion controls EVERY aspect of your life EVERY day of your life it breeds violent extremist who would kill any of us in a heartbeat!     IMO  

ruraynor
ruraynor like.author.displayName 1 Like

@kandw101 And the Jews don't 'pine for a time that ended centuries ago'? They constantly argue that the land is theirs based on a very old book saying it is their promised land. The Palestinians had land that they had lived on for centuries torn up in front of them, with all the best fertile parts 'given' to the Jewish people: given by the British who were occupying it at the time. This was wrong and never should have happened.

ShamsAci
ShamsAci

Conquering other nations' / country's lads and haves now are highly considered outdated fashion / hobby / adventure and condemnable yet those who do so are understood enemies of humanity.  Counter effect of conquiring attitude ultimately is fatal for both the conquirers and conquired ones as well. 

Hope UNO and other allied International Communities would take serious and sincere notice of such offensive war games played at any part of the world.

May Palestine's Gaza and its people be blessed! 

      - A.R.Shams's Reflection - Press and Online Publications.arshamssreflectio...

BRBhatta
BRBhatta

People will have to pay the price of their choice...choosing an ideology that worships death, what can you do?  How can you make peace with an enemy that does not value life?

JohnLavery
JohnLavery like.author.displayName 1 Like

People who live in glass hamas shouldn't throw stones!

smehgol
smehgol like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The Jewish state has the world's fourth most powerful military which malevolently besieges and imposes the apartheid occupation ofPalestine. The Jewish state kills to further its paranoid pursuit of invulnerability, territorial conquest and supremacist empire in, and beyond, the Mideast. The Palestinians, with no chance of prevailing, are driven by decades of Israeli imposed deprivation and desperation. During similar “Operation Cast Lead” the Jews enjoyed a kill ratio near one hundred to one.

TizzAlNabi
TizzAlNabi like.author.displayName 1 Like

Frankly I've never understood this "cycle of violence" thing. The last Israeli left Gaza in 2006. Israel still supplies Gaza with food, electricity and medical care. In addition Gaza shares a border with Egypt. There is no cycle here. Hamas is committed to destroying Israel (read their charter) while Israel just wants to be left in peace.