More then 500 Gazans killed now. 111 children. Ambulances targeted. Families taking refuge in UN school wiped out. The Israelis' indignantly accuse Hamas of taking refuge among civilians and say they must attack these buildings in order to root them out. Where else are they supposed to go in this tiny state? And who are they "rooting out" - sons and fathers and brothers of the families inside? Whoever could imagine that bombing a whole apartment building to punish a single man is a justifiable, reasonable moral idea? And where is it even remotely safe for anyone in Gaza right now? Two images stay with me, a 10 year old girl, her beautiful dark eyes wide with utter terror, looking from side to side at the horrors surrounding her in a hospital waiting room, her lips shaking so much she cannot speak. And another, the face of a very young unconscious boy, tender as a flower, the curve of a tiny ear, the long lashes resting on his cheek. A neighbor had brought him into hospital when his family was blown up, left him there without a friend, or even a name to wake to, or any memory but fire and pain when those soft brown eyes, too soon, open again.
"We had to give an answer," Israeli's say. "We had to stop the shelling." And surely they have given an answer. And surely the result will be more of what they have experienced in the past decades of hellish interactions: a bitter, despairing, wounded, captive people living among them. "We are doing everything we can to avoid civilian casualties." one Israeli official says stonefaced. "Israel knows nothing about any civilian casualties." says another. "I would like to kill them all," a man in the street is quoted as saying. "Well, actually, most Israelis don't think much about the welfare of Palestinians," an experienced observer remarks. "Its deeply regrettable, but we simply have to do it," say many more. And their plan? To take out all the rocket launchers and the "militants" firing them and, one gathers, and then leave behind the smoking bloody ruins of Gaza with again little or no thought at all for the welfare of those who remain. Let the UN fix it.
And Hamas? What level of insanity lead them to believe that firing hundreds of rockets would lead to the end of Israel's blockade? What rage-induced blindness leads them to continue firing in the face of the invasion?
A sign of insanity, if I paraphrase correctly, is continuining to expect a different result from something that has repeatedly not worked in the past. Surely both Hamas and Israelis are suffering from the same grinding painful obsession - that by hurting the other so much, the other will stop hurting them.
Imagine, just imagine, an hour when everyone that quivering country stopped hating or fearing. When leaders on both side opened themselves to concern for the well-being not just of their own population, but of the others, their close neighbors and distant cousins, who live so near, who truly, share so much. When plans were made to enhance the lives of both. When Palestinians were given something to live for, and encountered Israelis as friends and co-workers on government sponsored projects together. When those who continued to fire rockets, or make insulting statements, or harrass others were treated simply as criminals and arrested by the combined efforts of both governments. Hard to get there from here no doubt. But surely a direction worth trying with as much energy as the insanity now unfolding?