Israel, Gaza and Hamas

A few days ago, at work, I got into a conversation with a young local policeman. I had met him on my first might working there, back around the 1st of August. He is a really nice guy and comes in whenever he's working to heat up his food using our microwave oven.

He said, "Jay, you seem like a pretty smart guy. What do you think is going to happen in December? Anything?" Obviously he meant December 21, the date that the Mayan calendar comes to an end.

I admitted that yes, I am fairly intelligent and well-read, and as such I had known about the Mayan calendar long before it became ingrained in popular culture; I used to wonder about it. It was a couple of decades in the future at that point, and sure - it seemed possible to me, that long ago, that there could be a major war or something like that that killed a significant portion of the population and threw us into relatively "barbarian" living conditions. But as the time has gotten closer and closer (only 32 days at of this writing) it seems highly unlikely that anything of significance is going to occur.

Then he asked about Israel. He didn't mention Gaza, but I knew that was what he meant.

I admitted that, due to the recent upheaval in my life with the loss of Lisa, I hadn't been paying a lot of attention to the news, but I had heard about some rockets coming out of the Gaza Strip thanks to Hamas. But I felt that I owed him the benefit of my opinion.

"Israel is strong," I said, "very, very strong. They are in no real danger as a nation. Individual citizens, of course, probably need to worry. The rockets are coming in on civilian areas and they lack any sophisticated aiming technology." I discussed how the Israelis created safe rooms to protect themselves from Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles during the first Gulf War (the cop in question was probably an infant or toddler in 1991) and the potential gas attacks that they expected to have to endure. I told him of Israel's nuclear capability - he seemed genuinely surprised by this - and spoke about Iran's hostility and whether they were a real and present danger to Israel.

Then I continued with what amounted to a history lesson, going back to the founding of the state of Israel by U.N. mandate in 1948. I didn't know how much he already knew, so I told him how there were wars every few years for a long time. I mentioned how my Dad served in a diesel submarine in the 1950's and had spent some time posted off the coast of Israel in a steaming-hot sub, "watching the Russians watch us back" as I recall him saying, during those tense times. Feel free to correct me in the comments, Dad.

Since that night, I've been paying attention to the news a bit more. Hamas seems to have started this latest conflict by sending poorly-targeted rockets into civilian areas. Israel is responding with much better-targeted attacks, though civilians are getting killed, but - as President Obama is saying - Israel has every right to respond to Hamas' attacks.

Don't get me wrong; it is my opinion that Israel needs to work a hell of a lot harder at providing the Palestinians with an independent, secure and (ideally) contiguous homeland.

I won't get into whether or not the creation of Israel in 1948 (which meant the complete dissolution of Palestine) was the right thing to do, or whether it was just a reaction to the atrocities of World War II. That is a question for another day.

But poorly targeted rocket attacks on their own sovereign citizens deserves a robust response. A land war is not ideal, but damn it all, their people - not their military installations - are under attack. Israel does have a right to defend their citizens from any and all foreign attackers.

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