Tablet Opinion

War in the Middle East is a cause for mourning

Once again, rivers of blood flow in the Holy Land while the rest of the world sits back in typical complacency — too unconcerned about an age-old struggle, too preoccupied with other news of the day or simply too afraid to speak out against the atrocities occurring there.

As tensions rise and the violence escalates in Israel and the Gaza Strip, I want to remind you of four teenage boys whose tragic deaths should have been cause for both sides in the continuing Israeli/Palestinian conflict to strive even harder for peace. Instead their deaths became a convenient excuse for people in both camps to wage a war of vengeance in which many more innocent people have died.

Remember these youngsters who, instead of being the faces of the future of two perhaps independent states existing side by side in harmony, have become the very symbols of the region’s ugly past, steeped in prejudice and hostility.

Know their names: Israelis Naftali Fraenkel (also an American citizen), 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19; and 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

The young Israelis were abducted June 12 as they hitchhiked from school, and they were brutally shot to death. Immediately after the abduction, Israeli authorities blamed the militant group Hamas and spent days rounding up hundreds of people in search of the young men, even though it is believed officials knew they already were dead and were not being held hostage.

In revenge, Israeli police say, some Jewish extremists lynched young Khdeir by burning him alive July 2, the day after the bodies of the young Israelis were found.

Hamas began hurling rockets toward Israel, most of which were intercepted by that country’s so-called “Iron Dome” defense system, and Israel began bombarding targets in Gaza, where the death toll quickly mounted. On Thursday, Israel started an all-out ground assault in Gaza, reportedly targeting Hamas leaders and a network of tunnels used by militants to enter Israel.

Since the fighting started, more than 600 Palestinians, including about 100 children, have been killed, and many thousands have been displaced. As of Tuesday, 27 Israeli soldiers had died in the battle and there have been two civilian fatalities.

Sadly, despite all the efforts over the years to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians, there always have been some on both sides who would rather have unrest. Somehow, conflict emboldens their power bases, giving them more reason to fight than to halt the violence.

Meanwhile, much of the Western world — including the United States — timidly stands by, refusing to criticize Israel for its gross overreaction, disproportional use of force and the seeming disregard for civilian causalities.

President Barack Obama is right that Israel has the right to defend itself, but what it has done to Gaza and its people is shameful and ought to be denounced by all peace-loving people.

Arab nations that have some influence over Hamas leaders must share the blame for not preventing the militant group from putting all Palestinians’ lives in danger by launching rockets into Israel and, in many cases, seeking cover and storing weapons among the civilian population. That tactic, too, must be condemned.

What is happening in Israel and Gaza is a travesty that should be cause for the whole world to mourn.

Truces and cease-fires have fallen apart and, even if achieved, will do little to ease the pain and suffering already caused by the destruction.

Instead of the world uniting around the deaths of four promising youths to bring peace to a region in turmoil, we sit around not knowing what to do as an unnecessary war sends hundreds of others to their graves.