Update: After posting this, I saw Shalom Rav has a post up on Jewschool that tackles similar questions and frustrations over the “who started it” narrative, and a search for a new moral calculus, which I appreciate. (And on another note, I (and others) have been taking a much needed break from blogging. The Gaza attacks have brought some back sooner than later, while, in the interim, obviously there’s been a lot that hasn’t been discussed. But we’re a contemplative bunch, so I’m sure we’ll come back around to some of it.)

Ezra Klein has excellent posts up on the Gaza assaults, addressing themes including need, fear, and also the who started it narratives:

The Israeli Narrative: After the temporary ceasefire ended 10 days ago, Hamas began launching rockets into Southern Israel. This echoed not only Hamas’s actions before the ceasefire, but Hezbollah’s actions in the weeks leading to the 2006 war. The rockets may have proven harmless, but they posed a continuing threat and were, under any standard, an act of war by the sovereign government of a neighboring territory. Israel’s attack on Gaza was a response to this provocation.

The Palestinian Narrative: For the past year or so, following Hamas’s victory in the Gaza elections, Israel has sealed the border to Gaza, cutting off both humanitarian aid and commercial traffic. In June, a coalition of eight international non-profits released a report demonstrating that conditions in Gaza were worse than at any point since 1967. 80 percent of the residents were now on food aid, more than 40 percent were unemployed, water and sewage systems were in collapse, and hospitals were suffering power shortages of up to 12 hours a day. The situation has only worsened. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has been unable to get needed medical supplies into Gaza for more than a year because of Israel’s blockade on border crossings. It is this enforced poverty and immiseration that Hamas’s rocket fire was a response to.

The point is simple: You can argue, as Israel is arguing, that their air strikes are a response to Hamas’s missiles. But to the Palestinians, Hamas’s missiles were a response to the blockade (under international law, a blockade is indeed an act of war). Israel, of course, would argue that the blockade was a response to Hamas’s past attacks. And Hamas would argue that past attacks were a response to Israel’s unceasing oppression of the Palestinian people. And Israel would argue that…

The provocations and cassus belli travel as far back as anyone might care to trace. And whether you believe Israel, the Palestinians, or the international partitioners originally at fault, starting the clock on December 10th, when the ceasefire expired and Hamas’s missiles crashed into the fields around Sderot, is merely an Israeli press strategy. This is the latest tactic in an ongoing struggle over land and freedom and security and money and politics and religion and elections and oppression. It did not begin with the rockets, and it will not end with this attack.

Dan Fleshler also tackles how the PR strategy is being promoted by the Israeli government, and Charles pointedly debunks popular notions propagated in the media with “Ten Myths about Israel and the Palestinians.”

Israel is only acting to protect its citizens from rockets and terrorism

False. Israel has interests, and they include more than just “security.” For example, they seek to position themselves better for future negotiations where they can keep settlements, prevent full Palestinian sovereignty and get a better deal regarding Jerusalem and the refugee question. These are not “security” questions, they are ideologically motivated national interests.

There is no one to talk to

False. Just as Israel waited for many years before finally talking to the PLO, we are in a situation where Hamas is willing to negotiate, but Israel is refusing.

Palestinians harm civilians on purpose, but Israel only aims at terrorists

Israel has killed many civilians via aerial bombardment. This is terror on a mass scale. The idea that when Israel commits violence it is somehow morally distinct from Hamas violence is false. Israel aims to defeat the Palestinian resistance, be it violent or nonviolent, centered in organizations like Hamas or popular actions like in Bil’in. The various human rights groups have documented ongoing Israeli violations committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians since the occupation began, more than 40 years ago.

Israel has left Gaza

Israel withdrew troops from Gaza but kept control over the coastline and land crossings. Israel has had Gaza under full or partial siege since the Palestinian Authority was established there. Only when there is Palestinian state with full sovereignty can we talk about Gaza being free from occupation. And until the occupation ends, resistance will continue.

If the Palestinians stopped violent attacks, then Israel would resume negotiations and support the creation of a Palestinian state

There have been many periods of calm since 1993. Israel has rejected peace because the terms were not to its liking. Military conflict is the result of both sides jockeying for better terms. At the end of the day, nothing is stopping Israel from ending the occupation. All they have to do is announce that all elements of the Israeli state are leaving the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem by such and such date, and leave. Of course, if they want things like the right to keep some settlement blocs, or to have the occupation of East Jerusalem recognized as legal, then they need a Palestinian negotiating partner.

Full piece