News about wars and deaths make the headlines everyday: the conflict in Gaza Strip and Israel, the atrocities committed by Boko Haram, the deaths in Ukraine, the ongoing war in Syria. The list of grievances around the world is extensive and exhausting. It seems to be an unavoidable symptom and some may even view war as a necessary tactic for survival. Yet war often comes when people develop an “us and them” mentality and when “the other” is viewed as an enemy. War is further perpetuated when sides view themselves as right and the other as wrong. When it comes to the conflict in Gaza and Israel, there are mounting tensions and personal grievances that have been committed by the other side that seem impossible to let go. The fighting becomes justified based upon feelings of hatred toward the other. However, as seen by the number of rising deaths in Gaza Strip, war is the enemy of humanity.
There are several psychological reasons behind the act of war. Steve Taylor, a senior psychology lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, writes that war is strongly related to group identity. The desire to belong to a community is innate within every individual. This often translates to people identifying themselves with a certain group. Pride arises with being “Asian,” “American,” “Christian,” “Muslim,” “Israeli,” “Palestinian,” or anything of the like. However, strong affiliation with a group often causes that group to exclude others, inevitably creating a sense of enmity with them.
Another issue of group identity is what psychologists call “moral exclusion.” Moral exclusion occurs when groups believe that moral standards are applied only to their group. They are therefore unable to see that the same rights belong to others and may even withdraw these rights from others. Thus, killing others is seen as justified since others have “less rights” than they do.
This same concept of group identity and moral exclusion can be applied in helping to understand the war in the Gaza Strip. The strong sense of national pride that Israelis have causes them to believe their attacks are justified, even though the amount of citizens killed in the Gaza Strip is alarming. Hamas is also brutal in their actions, firing 2,000 missiles at Israel and citizen territory to avenge their blood, although their attacks have been less successful. In the Israeli and Hamas perspective, war seems to be the only option. Fighting, however, actually increases enmity and causes each to forget to the humanity of the other.
As the war in Gaza and Israel rages on, both sides refuse to compromise with the enemy because they feel justified in their own right. Hamas is demanding that the economic blockade be lifted off their borders and their prisoners returned before committing to peace. Israel will not end their ground operation until they have destroyed more of Hamas’ bombs and the tunnels that are used to invade Israel. They see these rockets and tunnels as an immediate threat to their safety. The strong group identity and the desire to claim rights for their own causes brokering a truce extremely complicated.
The death toll is climbing higher with every moment both sides fail to cooperate. As of Friday there have been more than 840 Palestinians killed due to the Israeli army’s attempts to root out the tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel built by Hamas. An estimated 35 Israeli soldiers have also died so far in this 18-day war. Hamas continues to fire an escalating number of rockets aimed at Israel, as Israel continues their ground operation in Gaza.
Hopes for a ceasefire were dismantled as the proposal presented by Secretary of State John Kerry was rejected by Israel this Friday. The plan called for an immediate stop to the fighting for at least five days and further long-term negotiations to maintain peace within the two groups. However, last week Israel did accept the ceasefire terms presented by Egypt but felt the agreement was violated because Hamas kept firing missiles despite Israel’s acceptance of the temporary truce.
Both Israel and Hamas are clutching tightly to their own sides and grievances while innocent civilians are paying the price for their actions. Although both will not give concessions and believe that more violence will eventually cause the other to bend, a continuance of war is actually the enemy of humanity in the Gaza Strip and in Israel. The increased fighting will only cause more damage, more lives lost, and in the end, more deep-seated anger between the two groups. War perpetuates hatred and hatred breeds war. The deaths and the fighting will not truly cease until both sides look past themselves and realize the others’ right to humanity.
Opinion By Joyce Chu