Reports from Israel indicate that a ceasefire in the conflict with Gaza may come soon. We hope and pray that the fighting will stop, but we know that sometimes war gets out of the control even of the leaders who direct the battles. One stray missile or bomb could escalate the situation.
This latest round of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has followed past patterns but has also been disturbing for some of the newer developments. This time it is not just Hamas shooting rockets into Israel and the Israel Defense Forces responding with air raids. There have also been riots and street violence in mixed Arab-Israeli cities and a rise in anti-Semitism at pro-Palestinian demonstrations here in America.
In the past, the conflict has mostly been confined to Hamas and the IDF. Now, individuals have taken on the role of combatants, with horrific and chaotic results. What does this new development mean for the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations? Some believe that the Palestinian people have become united in new ways by the conflict, but I am skeptical.
The past divisions between Gazans, West Bank residents, Jerusalemites, Fatah supporters, Hamas supporters, Palestinians living in Israel and those abroad make it difficult for everyone to come together around a single strategy. During other periods of violence, observers noted similar spontaneous outbreaks of unplanned protest and violence that did not ultimately lead to unity. The reality is that these division are substantial and make agreement extremely difficult.
Israel is also divided, but while the country still has not formed a stable coalition, there is one government that makes decisions on behalf of the nation. In the end we are likely to see a ceasefire as each side claims victory. Hamas will declare that it has hit Israel hard, and Israel will declare it has degraded Hamas’ military ability. Each side will then go back to preparing for the next conflict.
Hope probably does not lie in political leadership. Instead, it can be found in the individuals, who are capable of terrible violence, but also profound gestures of peace. This week, during rioting in the Jewish-Arab city of Lod, and Jewish man was struck by rocks driving home and later died. He was an organ donor, and while some of his organs went to Jewish Israelis, one of his kidneys ended up in an Arab-Israeli woman; the surgery was performed by an Arab doctor.
After receiving the kidney, the woman said, “There is no such thing as Arabs and Jews. Rather, we’re just people, and we need to live together.” She is right; we are all human beings. There is no difference between our flesh and bone, and yet instead of focusing on these broad areas of similarity, we tend to highlight the differences. I hope that this example can inspire others. May the tragedies born of this senseless violence lead to new avenues for peace.