Msgr. Paul V. Garrity
Oct. 7 was the day that a Hamas terrorist called his mother from Israel and told her that he was a hero because he had just killed 10 Jews. Not long after this, three infant babies died when their incubators in Gaza lost power. Their hospital had been hit by artillery aimed at destroying Hamas’ underground infrastructure. Oct. 7 saw the killing of hundreds of innocent Jews and the kidnapping of more than 200 people. To date, thousands more residents of Gaza have lost their lives due to the terrorism of Hamas and the resolve of Israel to remove Hamas from the face of the earth. It is difficult to judge which is worse, what happened on Oct. 7 or what has happened since then.
The answer is simple. Both are horrific. Hamas is supported by other terrorist organizations in the Middle East and has stockpiled missiles and munitions to keep its war with Israel going for a long time. Israel has the firm backing of the United States and will not run out of firepower anytime soon. Eventually, Israel will prevail in obliterating the immediate threat to its security by virtue of its sheer power. It will not, however, destroy the terrorist ideology that has no room for the State of Israel in the land where Jesus once walked. Meanwhile, innocent people will continue to die as they are trivialized as collateral damage.
As the world waits for an end to the bloodshed that is mounting every day, world leaders need to achieve a consensus about how the future in the Middle East can be better than the past. Mandatory Palestine describes the current territory of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza that existed under British rule from 1920 to 1947. With the British poised to move out of Mandatory Palestine in 1947, and against the backdrop of Palestinian and Jewish nationalism, the United Nations created the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine. The committee, in turn, directed that Mandatory Palestine be divided into a Palestinian and an Israeli State. The Arab League at the time refused to acquiesce to the U.N. Resolution. When the Jewish National Council declared the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians became refugees as they left their homes in the newly created State of Israel. The first Arab – Israeli War began almost immediately. Since then, Israel has grown into a strong and powerful democracy, surrounded by unfriendly nations that would not be unhappy if Israel ceased to exist. Arab and Palestinian leadership has been missing in action.
What has never been resolved is the fate of the people who called Palestine their home, prior to 1947, and their descendants to this day. Hamas is only the latest organization purporting to represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people. As Jews from all over the world flocked to Israel in the wake of the Holocaust, helping it to become the thriving nation it is today, leadership in the Arab world and among the Palestinian people has been unable to create a permanent solution to the quagmire in which history has left them. Exacerbated by Palestinian intransigence to recognize the right of Israel to exist, the current climate in Gaza and the West Bank has proven to be a fertile ground for extremists who care little for the Palestinian people and more about wreaking havoc and death on innocent lives. If a two-state solution is the answer, as first envisioned by the United Nations, it cannot happen if one of these states is committed to the annihilation of the other.
Too much blood has been shed during the past 50 years as the world has grappled with the instability of the Middle East. The most recent, horrific bloodshed shows no sign of ending anytime soon. When it does come to some kind of end, it will only be repeated again and again unless there is a just solution to all the underlying causes. Diplomacy needs to involve Palestinians, the Arab world, the State of Israel, the United Nations, and the United States in objectively recognizing all the injustices and all the suffering that continues to take place in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel today. The forces of evil in the world are very powerful. The only thing stronger are the forces of good. The world desperately needs these forces to be marshaled before a third world war devastates our planet.
Msgr. Paul V. Garrity is a senior priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and the former pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and School in Lynn.