DISPATCHES

The cycle of violence must be broken

By: Hank Kalet
   From Tuesday’s Washington Post, in a story datelined Hebron, West Bank:
   "Israel sent dozens of tanks, helicopter gunships and armored personnel carriers into this West Bank city before dawn today in another thrust against Palestinian militants, killing at least nine people and arresting dozens. Israel said the raid was in retaliation for a shooting Saturday at a nearby Jewish settlement in which four Israelis were killed.
   "The raid underscored Israel’s determination to continue with a military offensive in the West Bank over the objections of President Bush. The assault gave Hebron the feel of a ghost town, as Palestinian residents hid behind locked doors and the torn streets were still and empty but for clanking tanks with turrets that swiveled toward any sign of movement."
   And there is this from Sunday’s paper, datelined Adora, West Bank:
   "Armed Palestinians disguised as Israeli soldiers stormed through this isolated Jewish settlement today on a brief shooting spree, killing four Israelis, including a 5-year-old girl, then fled into the hills, residents and army officials said."
   I can’t stand to watch it anymore, to read about it anymore. It is too disheartening.
   Every day in the news another suicide bombing, another attack on Israeli civilians, another assault by the Israeli military on the Palestinians, more innocent Palestinians dead, more Israelis killed, more tears shed, more blood shed, more anger and rage and the cycle of violence racking the Middle East keeps building upon itself, threatening to spin completely out of control.

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   Here are my views of the conflict:
   • Ariel Sharon is a war criminal who led an invasion into Lebanon in 1982 that ended with the massacre of more than 1,000 Palestinian refugees at Shabra and Shatila.
   Yassir Arafat is a terrorist who has spent the better part of the last 40 years calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.
   Both lack legitimacy as leaders and both the Israelis and the Palestinians would be better served if they stepped aside.
   • The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is immoral, as is the settlement movement — the building of new Jewish towns in the occupied territories in an effort to create a Greater Israel — which is an act of aggression against Palestinians.
   The military incursion into the refugee camps is not some benign police action designed just to shut down the Palestinian terror network, but an act of state terrorism designed to squash any Palestinian political activity. (Otherwise, why not allow the United Nations to inspect the destruction in the Jenin refugee camp?)
   The suicide bombers are not martyrs or noble revolutionaries, but cold-blooded killers.
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   Israelis do not speak with one voice in support of the current military adventures of their government. Neither do American Jews.
   So far, about 430 Israeli military reservists have signed an open letter declaring that they will not serve in the Occupied Territories and that they will not continue what they call a "War of the Settlements." Most of the reservists are combat officers in the Israeli Defense Forces who say they "understand now that the price of occupation is the loss of the IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society."
   One reservist, Guy Grossman, in an interview with The Boston Globe last week, said continuation of the occupation "breeds fear on one side and despair on the other, and that is a recipe for more violence and bloodshed."
   And while Mr. Grossman and his comrades in the IDF remain in the minority of Israeli opinion, I think they offer the best hope for changing course, for ending the cycle of violence that has plagued the region.
   Violence only breeds violence. Israeli violence and cruelty lead to Palestinian suicide bombings, which, in turn, lead to more Israeli violence and so on. This cycle must be broken.
Hank Kalet is managing editor of the South Brunswick Post. He can be reached via e-mail at hkalet@pacpub.com.