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The Futility of Violence in the Middle East

With violence again begetting violence in the Middle East, Arabs and Israelis must think carefully about what their policies and actions are likely to accomplish. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, wars have a long history of achieving little, beyond satisfying an self-destructive desire for vengeance.

AMMAN – The October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s remorseless military response have once again revived a seemingly unending cycle of violence in the Middle East. As matters stand, there are no serious efforts underway to break the cycle, and the prospect of finally resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more distant than ever. All those who desire peace must speak truth to both Israelis and militant Islamic fundamentalists.

Growing up, most of us were taught that knowing and carefully considering one’s own past is a mark of character. Today, however, we are dealing with parties that refuse to account properly for past experiences, or to plan for their futures.

Hamas’s operation on October 7 was a more advanced version of its previous attacks in 2008, 2014, and 2021. Its professed goal was to respond to the provocative occupation practices around Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, and to liberate Palestinian prisoners. But these attacks have never changed anything on the ground in Gaza; rather, they have consistently caused more deaths on both sides – though usually five times as many Palestinians as Israelis. Then there is the inevitable destruction of infrastructure, the predictable tightening of the blockade, and the continuing crackdown on Palestinians (such as those being arrested at Al-Aqsa in growing numbers).