I've just come across an article in the Guardian, written by a certain Peter Beaumont, which goes on in some detail about what the aftermath of Israel's Operation Cast Lead has been for some families in Gaza. The details are harrowing, and I think it's worthwhile that such things be more widely known, if only to ensure that no one ever starts to fall under the illusion that war is something else than a hellish, murderous undertaking, never something to plunge into lightly.
Having said this much, I do have a major problem with articles like Beaumont's, which is this: while they spare no effort to bring the suffering of innocents to life for readers in as graphical a manner as possible, all too often they fail to give nearly enough context to realize something of essential importance, which is that, far from Israel's government having simply decided to start to rain bombs down on Palestinian women and children for the sheer malice of it, Israel was actually pushed to go to war by a months-long, sustained campaign of provocation initiated by Hamas, Gaza's incumbent government, and one freely chosen (as Hamas apologists usually spare no effort to remind us) by the very same Palestinians whose sufferings we are supposed to feel so moved by, and it is not as if the Palestinians didn't know precisely what they'd be getting when they voted. Robbed of such vital context, any reporting on Palestinian suffering necessarily devolves into tear-jerking agitprop.
Had the Palestinians in Gaza chosen to support a party other than one committed to war with Israel, there simply wouldn't have been a war, nor would there be an Israeli blockade of Gaza's borders to give cause for complaint about Israeli indifference to humanitarian relief - indeed, in with a healthy Gazan economy doing bustling trade with Israel and Egypt, there would have been no need for humanitarian relief in the first place. Gaza's inhabitants could have chosen to make something of all the infrastructure left behind in the abandoned Israeli settlements and factories, but rather than using this newfound autonomy to build up something for themselves and their children, the Gazan populace threw their energies into attempting to destroy Israel instead. Can anyone therefore plead surprise at the fate which has now befallen them? Why are we therefore supposed to empathize more with the Palestinians than we did with, say, all the defenseless German mothers and daughters raped and slaughtered by the oncoming Red Army in 1945? Surely they too were just as human as a Shifa Salman?
Seeing pictures of burnt out shells of houses with body parts scattered about, or a child's head lying in rubble with flies buzzing about its eyes, one has to be inhuman not to feel a sense of remorse at the wasteful brutality of warfare, and a desire for a future in which war is firmly a thing of long gone, darker ages, but the great irony is that as long as least one side in a conflict feels it can mobilize such noble human sentiments as propaganda on behalf of its cause, powerful incentives will remain to engage in reckless behavior which will guarantee that we will see many more ugly images of mayhem. It is a great pity that the leaders of movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah care far more about the killing of Israel's children than they do about the lives and welfare of their own - and a disgrace that so many "journalists" allow themselves to be passive vehicles for the propagation of such tendencies.