Too often, intransigence leads to disaster. As evidence, consider the nine people killed Monday when a stubborn government refused to bend to a stubborn group of activists who refused to follow proper protocol to bring an aid shipment to Gaza. Criticism of the commando raid on the supply ship has Israeli officials saying they might reconsider their blockade of Gaza. If Monday’s tragedy somehow widens the door to possible peace in the Mideast, then maybe its victims will not have died in vain.
Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip ever since it was taken over by the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and has lobbed rockets into the Jewish state. Israel inspects aid shipments, looking for weapons. But the blockade has led to malnutrition and other health problems in Gaza, according to humanitarian groups. That’s why activists were bringing medical and other supplies.
Their lead ship was boarded after they refused to allow its cargo to be inspected. The commandos were rebuffed and resorted to lethal force. The U.S. response to the raid has been carefully constructed. Vice President Biden said Israel had an absolute right to defend its security. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for a “prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent” investigation. Israel would help its credibility by including an international observer among the incident’s investigators. It also must look at ways to make the blockade less stringent while maintaining its right to search ships for weapons.
Of course, what’s really needed is a viable peace plan for the Middle East. But that requires a change in attitudes by Hamas, its political rival Fatah, and Israel. For them, violence has become so much a part of life that it too often becomes a first response.
Israeli novelist Amos Oz, writing for the British newspaper the Guardian, says force won’t kill Hamas because it isn’t just a terrorist organization; it is an idea, a “desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. … No idea has ever been defeated by force. … To defeat an idea you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.”