When I was younger I would always pick on my little brother, Spencer. I am a few years older than him and once upon a time I was much bigger than him too. Usually my harassment would be verbal. These weren’t my proudest days, to be sure–but kids will be kids, right? Often, after getting fed up with my bullying, Spencer would lash out physically. Every time this happened, I would easily push him over and pin him down in a matter of seconds. His only respite was yelling for our mother, who would come to his rescue and reprimand me for my actions.
After coddling Spencer’s broken spirit, my mother would teach me an important lesson which eventually stuck with me for life. You’re older than your brother, she would say to me. You’re bigger and smarter than he is. “But he hit me first!” I would respond. “Then just walk away,” my mother would tell me. “What do you prove by beating up someone who is smaller than you?”
Obviously, this vignette is analogous to the recent conflagration in the Middle East–oversimplified though it may be.
On Wednesday a series of bombings across Gaza consisted what the Israelis termed “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” which began with the targeted assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. As of Thursday night more than 300 Gazan rockets have killed three Israelis, while the Israelis have killed 16 Palestinians. Most of these deaths are civilians, including a pregnant woman, the elderly, and at least two children under 12 months old.
The Israeli justification for these attacks emphasizes defense: Our country is under threat and we have the right to defend ourselves.
However, the last time I checked, if my neighbor is throwing rocks at my house, I have no right to walk into his own house and shoot him.
Undoubtedly, many will disagree with my analysis of the issue on principle. My aim, however, is not to praise the Palestinians for resisting colonialism, nor is it to insist that the Israelis stand idly by as their people live in terror of daily rocket strikes.
I simply wish to encourage peace and expose injustice.
Both sides are fighting dirty wars; civilians are overwhelmingly the victims in this conflict. That being said, the Israelis–with their U.S.-backed army, navy, and air force–obviously pose a greater threat to the Palestinians than vice-versa. Their active fighting force is more than twice as large as the Palestinians’, and the death toll on either side is even more unequal: almost seven Palestinian deaths for every one Israeli death since the turn of the century.
The Israel Defense Forces are larger, better funded, and more advanced than the Palestine Liberation Army. As one Tweeter put it, the conflict is “guns versus stones.” This inequity makes it clear who the aggressor is. National defense is one thing, but invading or bombing another nation (yes, nation) and disproportionately killing civilians and militants alike is clearly unjust.
The Israelis stand to learn a thing or two from my mother. Rather than just turning the other cheek, they are using these occasional rocket strikes–themselves just a desperate attempt to create some semblance of a two-sided conflict–as a justification for assuming a lopsided militarist stance in the region at the overwhelming expense of Palestinian civilians.
As with my conflict with my brother, Israel holds the majority of power in their conflict with Palestine. As such, no excuses should be made for the indiscriminate and unnecessary killing of civilians. Even if the Palestinians struck first, this does not justify any and all acts of aggression by the Israelis.
The global community, at both an individual and national level, must recognize the inequity and injustice of this conflict and work not only for a solution but also for the promotion of peace–regardless of who hit whom first.
William is a College sophomore from Little Rock, Ark.