William Schwartz

Last week, I walked into my living room and found my father watching a strikingly graphic program on TV. Deciding to watch a little more, I saw soldiers in full combat gear running across streets riddled with shrapnel and rubble. There were bullets spraying, artillery firing, people screaming and blood flowing. Seconds later I saw a crowd of weary-looking and disheveled militants holding Kalashnikovs and RPGs in the air chanting the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great.” Ultimately intrigued, I asked my father, “Is this Gaza?” He said, “No. I’m watching a movie. The army is attacking these militants in a refugee camp.”

A movie?! It is indeed a sad day when the differences between the spurious productions of Hollywood are unidentifiable from the raw unadulterated existence of reality. This particular scene took place in a post-apocalyptic, anarchical society where pandemonium is both normal and frequent. Millions of people were forced to live in areas unsuitable for swine and were subjugated by aggressive military units. It took about a minute for me to realize that these horrific, yet very real events were occurring at that exact time and still are to this day.

I often ask myself why Israel is carrying out these attacks. Don’t Israelis know that while they are trying to cripple and destroy Hamas they are simultaneously breeding scores of Palestinians who know nothing but Israeli aggression and subjugation? Israel’s efforts to thwart Hamas’ military actions have only angered and enraged many Palestinians who will now unite due to their shared hatred of those responsible for their relatives’ deaths. However, thousands of rockets lobbed into cities like Sderot and Ashkelon by Hamas militants can and should only be met with swift Israeli retribution. Regardless of their accuracy and lethality, a discharged rocket from one land into another is an act of war and Israeli civilians have tolerated Hamas’ childish military tactics long enough.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli government are not innocent, however. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak committed the textbook Israeli action of “strategic escalation” in efforts to lure Hamas into a forced conflict. Under a previously agreed-upon ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, Israeli forces committed a raid killing six Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip claiming they were attacking a known Hamas supply tunnel. Coincidently enough, the media did not seem to care much about this event because the raid was committed Nov. 4-Election Day in the United States. Due to Israel’s actions, Hamas subsequently fired rockets into southern Israel violating the ceasefire.

Even before and after these violations, Israel had been claiming peaceful Palestinian lives by refusing to lift a blockade that restricts the supply of water, food, aid, electricity and medical supplies to Gazans-262 Gazans died in hospitals due to lack of proper medical care. Still, as the civilian death toll climbs at an insurmountable rate, the Israeli government-with its definitive military superiority-continues to arm themselves with false rhetoric. Israeli officials lament for the deaths of civilians but claim it is “collateral damage.” No term or phrase can justify the killing of innocent civilians who make up nearly half of the combined death toll in Gaza. Poor military judgments, like targeting medics, hospitals, UN schools and compounds must be halted immediately. These areas are meant to be safe havens for civilians who were recommended to leave their homes by the IDF in case of attacks.

As for the Palestinian people, this should act as an overdue wake-up call that Hamas has failed in protecting Gaza and its people. Palestinians elected this political party as their leadership and Hamas cannot defend their constituents. In fact, their “defense” consists of hiding behind and among the civilians they claim to “defend.” Hamas militants fighting Israelis from their own homes and hiding behind “human shields” is a deplorable act of cowardice. Additionally, Hamas’ tactics cause increased casualties as the IDF cannot determine if any civilians are inside a building that is to be bombed. It is my hope that Palestinians in Gaza will realize that Hamas is no longer the Robin Hood of Gaza that Palestinians once thought they were. Rather, they are a radical, out-of-control organization hell-bent on achieving impractical goals. Unfortunately, the time has come to collect and innocent civilians are paying the ultimate price of life.

This never-ending conflict is turning into a war of attrition where Hamas is trying to outlast the advances of the Israeli military. However, the fighting is weighing heavily on the Palestinian civilians who have much to lose-their homes, their land and their families. Palestinians must emancipate themselves from Hamas’ fractured rule and seek peace with Israel. In the meantime, however, the fighting must be stopped, if only for a short time to allow for significant amounts of humanitarian aid in Gaza. With the death toll nearing 1,100, one must wonder if this will continue through Jan. 20 and the start of a new American presidency. President-elect Barack Obama’s few words on the situation tell me that he, along with his foreign policy team, are formulating a plan to address the grave problems in Gaza-that and they’re just waiting for the tenants in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to vacate the premises. As Israel shows no sign of slowing and the escalation in Gaza rages to terrible lengths, I urge everyone to watch the situation closely and keep the innocent civilians in your minds. An old proverb says it’s always darkest before the dawn. Well, it’s pretty dark if you ask me and with rising casualties on both sides, and deeper Israeli incursions into Gazan cities, all I want is sun.