No more war? When?

By Frank Wessling

Even from a distance of 7,000 miles, the awful pictures of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip have been heartbreaking. A father sobbing over the deaths of his children. The bloodied bodies of babies wrapped for burial. Terrible burn wounds from phosphorous explosions.

It is this and more that supports the plea of humanity expressed by Pope Paul VI at the United Nations in 1965: “No more war! Never again war!”

Yet war continues.

What led to those terrible scenes in the Gaza Strip during the January assault by Israel is part of a story so tangled in history, myth, religion, fear and deceit as to appear hopeless. The Economist magazine sees it as part of the “100-year War” of our time between Arab and Jewish nationalism. It is among the greatest difficulties facing President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

We must hope and pray that they have the ability to bring the rest of the world together in a united plea to at least stop the violence between Israel and the people who surround it, both Arabs and the people of Iran. If they can’t yet learn to live in peace, at least live in truce. And help them with a few beginning compromises toward living together.

If Israel can’t feel secure, let’s bring a more effective United Nations presence into the region. If Palestinians can’t feel at home in their land, let’s begin with at least giving them a physical connection between the West Bank territory and Gaza. A land bridge across the lower part of Israel could be a trade for some of the West Bank territory now settled by Israelis.

Wiser heads in both Israel and the Arab countries know that war is not the answer. They don’t know precisely how a long-term answer will look, but they see no future without some hard choices by both sides. The Muslim-dominated Middle East must stop both its violent talk and action against Israel and find a way to accept the Jewish state. Israel must give up its reach for all of the biblical lands and, more importantly, behave like a brother to its neighbors rather than a rich bully.

So we pray.

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