The Washington Post ran a front-page story Saturday about the deteriorating situation in Gaza, as the stand-off between Israel and Hamas and the subsequent cordoning-off of that densely-populated territory continues. It was a heartbreaking tale of children whose world is slowly growing silent as the batteries of their hearing aids fade, of dialysis treatment being rationed, of craftsmen becoming jobless for lack of materials to work with, and for everyone, an evermore desperate search for the most basic necessities of life -- food, medicine, and fuel.
It often seems we read every self-serving statement of the politicians responsible for this state of affairs, who always manage to live comfortably, and for whom truth is at best an afterthought. But we too rarely read about the ordinary people who pay the price. In a sad way, I was grateful.
Then I went to the comments section of the article, and that's where the fireworks started.
"Brownshirt Nazis," screamed one side.
"Wife beaters," screamed the other.
Uh-oh, I thought, this is not going well.
Dozens, then hundreds, of comments rolled in, and it was a struggle to find even one that seemed rational, or even attempted to stand in the shoes of the other.
It seemed the majority of commenters took the Israeli side.
"All of the violence in the post-WWII Middle East is seated in the Arab world's refusal to accept the right of existence for Israel," wrote one.
That seemed a bit like saying all the violence in World War II was seated in Britain and Russia's refusal to accept the right of Germany to conquer Europe. Plus it ignored the fact that some time ago, the Arab League offered to do just that -- recognize Israel in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders. That offer, I understand, is still on the table.
Another wrote that Hamas uses this suffering to build its own support, but then failed to ask himself the obvious question of why Israel plays into their hands.
Yet another said if the Palestinians would only stop the violence, the beaches of Gaza would make a good location for five-star hotels and a fine tourist destination. Ah, to wait on tables and make the beds of the world's jet-setters -- there's a future worth living for.
Another repeatedly referred to the Palestinians as "Philistines," and amazingly, one actually had the nerve to advocate "push(ing) the ignorant Palestinians into the sea." Such irony.
But there was plenty of ignorance and hate to go around. One writer recalled how he had many Jewish friends in his youth, but now he wished them all nothing but ill because of the actions of the Israeli government. A friend, indeed.
But the article made clear what was the root of all this madness. On average this year, Palestinian militants have fired six rather ineffective rockets per day at nearby Israeli towns, and two Israeli citizens have been killed. Two. All year. For this, over a million Palestinians must suffer.
I make no defense of terrorism against civilians. There is none. I don't even want a soldier to die. And I refuse to weigh the bodies of the dead to see how hangs the balance. The problem is, no matter who is using the term, the definition of "terrorism" always seems one-sided.