The present ceasefire in Gaza solves nothing, writes
Palestinians celebrate what they claim is a victory over
Israel after an eight-day conflict, during a rally in Gaza
City last Thursday. Photo by Reuters.
It would be churlish not to rejoice at the cessation of
hostilities in Gaza. It would be idiotic, though, to imagine
it solves anything. We are relieved that the casualty wards
have less to do; we run to the statistics, and are glad that
the death toll has stopped climbing. But what of the life
Children growing up knowing nothing but fear and hate and
anxiety. A friend phoned us from a kibbutz in Northern Israel
Her favourite uncle and his family had just fled their family
home in the south.
Could not take any more. Few if any in Gaza, of course, have
A truce, after all, simply allows both sides to regroup, and
prepare for the next confrontation. How many truces were
there in the Thirty Years War?
It is as if Hamas and Israel have a death pact. They are the
mirror image of one another in many respects. Neither
recognises the right of the other to exist. Both expect
redemption from honing up their military technology, though
Israel is infinitely resource richer in that regard.
I'm recently back from a research trip looking at
Everywhere the remnants of the castle walls, or city walls,
or village walls, or even fortified church walls. Useless, of
course, as artillery got smarter. Today, the defensive wall
which snakes through the West Bank increasingly destroys any
hope of a two-state solution, not to mention crippling trade
and communication. Gaza itself a shut off enclave.
But the key factor, politically, is the walls of hate,
enhanced notably by the events of the last few weeks, fired
by religious and ideological exceptionalism. Hate in this
dimension, fortunately, is something few of us here have
experienced directly. But many of us will have walked into a
room and met it quite palpably. Words, rational arguments
bounce off such walls. All the smart technology of the world
is so much junk.
Our natural association with Hamas is the IRA, here in the
So the US dismisses it as a terrorist organisation. I had the
privilege of working for years with the Peace Movement in
Northern Ireland, which moved in and out and across the walls
there, real and metaphorical. Like Hamas, the IRA was not the
easiest to relate to. It took decades to recognise that the
state terrorism it was up against was part of the problem:
the thugs in suits.
Political scientists here and world-wide recognise that until
a viable political option is offered Hamas and the
Palestinian authority in the West Bank, such as was
eventually offered the IRA by Mr Major and Mr Blair, the
carnage and the hate will go on.
One-eyed in Gaza! We, at a distance from such horrors, need
to do more than throw up our hands in appalled sympathy with
the victims. We need to plead, not least with the US, for a
two-eyed perspective. We need to start pressing for
alternatives to walls, real and metaphorical. Otherwise the
death pact will maintain its grip, or the geopolitical
constellation will explode in as yet inconceivable ferocity.
• Peter Matheson is a Presbyterian minister and church