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Names of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza were written in chalk on the sidewalks of downtown Brattleboro last Friday.

Voices / Viewpoint

Tragic stalemate

Israel will never be able to wipe out Hamas. Hamas will never be able to destroy Israel. And the cycle of violence spins on.

Randolph T. Holhut is The Commons’ deputy editor. This piece was adapted from a column he wrote for The American Reporter, a daily news website for which he has served as chief of correspondents for many years.


Last Friday morning, the sidewalks in downtown Brattleboro were covered with the chalk-written names and ages of Palestinian civilians who have been killed in Gaza since the Israeli military began its bombardment on July 7.

This silent protest was an attention-grabbing way of illustrating the rising death toll from the latest of Israel’s periodic bombardments and incursions into Palestinian territory to keep radical groups like Hamas under control.

The cycle of violence is a familiar one.

Hamas fighters in Gaza launch a few rockets into Israel. Because of Israel’s “Iron Dome” antimissile defense system, few cause any damage.

In return, Israel unleashes the might of one of the most powerful military forces in the world to shoot up and blow up one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. Most Gazans have no safe place to hide when the shooting starts.

* * *

According to the United Nations, more than 1,000 Gazans have died and more than 4,000 have been injured as of the start of this week. Approximately 70 percent of the casualties are civilians, although to hear some of the hawks talk, there is no such thing as a civilian in Gaza.

Since Hamas routinely uses civilian sites for storage and deployment of its weapons, you could make that argument. But you could just as easily make the argument that Hamas wouldn’t be lobbing missiles at Israel if Israel hadn’t turned Gaza into a prison camp.

Gaza has been blockaded by Israel since 2006, after its citizens cast their ballots for Hamas — and Israel and the United States refused to recognize the result. This blockade has been done in violation of U.N. protocols against collective punishment.

However, the United States keeps supporting the nation that has illegally occupied Palestine for nearly five decades.

Israel may have a right to defend itself, but it does not have the right to keep 4.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as its de facto prisoners indefinitely. But the hard-liners of the Israel lobby, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), prevent the Obama administration and Congress from pointing this out.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The resolution to this conflict has been sitting in plain sight for years: a scenario where Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders, with a shared Jerusalem as the national capital, in exchange for a Palestinian unity government strong enough to negotiate a lasting peace while recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

* * *

Unfortunately, there is now zero chance of seeing a two-state solution, and that’s by design.

The Netanyahu government is absolutely opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, and instead backs creating a “Greater Israel” that permanently incorporates Gaza and the West Bank while denying Palestinians equal rights.

And if that remains the official policy of Israel, there will continue to be armed resistance to Israel by Palestinians, and the cycle of violence will keep spinning.

Israel will never be able to wipe out Hamas, and Hamas will never be able destroy Israel.

The tragedy of this current conflict is that all that can happen is more death and destruction brought on by two foes that will not compromise and will not not seek common ground.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #265 (Wednesday, July 30, 2014). This story appeared on page C1.

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