The current Israel–Gaza conflict is typically human: one side wins, one side loses, everybody hurts. Israeli forces are certainly not blameless (no one is); there are always a few soldiers that do reprehensible things to their enemies. However, the real guilt for the present violence lies at the doorstep of Gaza terrorists and those who support them.
If we assume, for the sake of argument, that Israel treats the inhabitants of Gaza deplorably, there is still no justification for terrorist acts. The use of unguided rockets and other explosive devices against Israeli civilians reveals unmitigated hatred on the part of extremists in Gaza. On the other hand, the IDF does not randomly drop bombs on the Gaza strip – they focus on specific strategic targets. Both methods result in civilian deaths, but the latter method points to a laudable level of self-control.
History often brings perspective, Israel is no exception. The state of Israel has been under attack since its rebirth in 1948. A rebirth that was not, contrary to what many people believe, an exercise in post World War II idealism, seeped in British colonialism. Verifiable Jewish roots in the geographical area Israel now occupies precede the Roman Empire, Christianity, and Islam. Recently, in fact, an ancient synagogue under excavation produced a marvel: a mosaic that may represent a Jewish high priest meeting Alexander the Great (356 BCE–323 BCE). Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, therefore Israelis have a right to defend their country against terrorism.
The current conflict in the Gaza strip is troubling, but it is important to ask ourselves how we would expect our elected leaders to act under similar circumstances. If deadly rockets were being hurled towards our neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, many Americans (and westerners in general) would expect their government to defend them first, then consider peace negotiations. Israel’s leaders have prioritized their goals in precisely this fashion.
Update: statistical analysis suggests that civilian deaths in Gaza are not, as the UN Human Rights Council has claimed, random – fighting-age men are over represented, while women and children are underrepresented.