Opinion’s vary sharply on both the causes and the legitimacy of Israel’s current offensive in Gaza. I think the situation is more complex than most opinions I hear. But, we all grieve particularly the loss of civilian life in both Gaza and Israel. Religion is one of several factors that complicate matters greatly. A belief in the divine gift of territory on the one side and a belief in the blessings of martyrdom on the other are part of the religious mindset that only aggravates a volatile, tragic situation. Below I have reprinted an article that appeared yesterday in the New York Times highlighting both the insanity of warfare and the danger of dogma. It isn’t meant to offer an opinion on which side is right in this conflict. Rather, I reprint this article to highlight the way that religious thinking can complicate already tragic situations.
GAZA CITY — The emergency room in Shifa Hospital is often a place of gore and despair. On Thursday, it was also a lesson in the way ordinary people are squeezed between suicidal fighters and a military behemoth.
Dr. Awni al-Jaru, 37, a surgeon at the hospital, rushed in from his home here, dressed in his scrubs. But he came not to work. His head was bleeding, and his daughter’s jaw was broken.
He said Hamas militants next to his apartment building had fired mortar and rocket rounds. Israel fired back with force, and his apartment was hit. His wife, Albina, originally from Ukraine, and his 1-year-old son were killed.
“My son has been turned into pieces,” he cried. “My wife was cut in half. I had to leave her body at home.” Because Albina was a foreigner, she could have left Gaza with her children. But, Dr. Jaru lamented, she would not leave him behind.
A car arrived with more patients. One was a 21-year-old man with shrapnel in his left leg who demanded quick treatment. He turned out to be a militant with Islamic Jihad. He was smiling a big smile.
“Hurry, I must get back so I can keep fighting,” he told the doctors.
He was told that there were more serious cases than his, that he needed to wait. But he insisted. “We are fighting the Israelis,” he said. “When we fire we run, but they hit back so fast. We run into the houses to get away.” He continued smiling.
“Why are you so happy?” this reporter asked. “Look around you.”
A girl who looked about 18 screamed as a surgeon removed shrapnel from her leg. An elderly man was soaked in blood. A baby a few weeks old and slightly wounded looked around helplessly. A man lay with parts of his brain coming out. His family wailed at his side.
“Don’t you see that these people are hurting?” the militant was asked.
“But I am from the people, too,” he said, his smile incandescent. “They lost their loved ones as martyrs. They should be happy. I want to be a martyr, too.”