For a year and a bit, the Palestinian side behaved with remarkable restraint; maintaining a unilateral cease-fire. The Israeli government however, did not.
But Israel's offensive did not start last week. The three-month-old Israeli government is responsible for the killing eighty or more Palestinians, some of whom were children, in attacks aimed at carrying out illegal extrajudicial assassinations and other punishments.
What broke the dam of violence was an Israeli naval shelling of a beach in Gaza, killing two and wounded many more.
Hamas shot back, firing their ineffective home-made Kasam rockets into Israel. They also captured one Israeli soldier, and this has become a major item in the propaganda war; overlooking the fact, of course, that Israel has thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including a good portion of the elected legislative council. I don't recall our PM mentioning this when he called on Hamas to release their prisoners. And by the way, Israel has refused all offers to negotiate a prisoner exchange.
Then Israel retaliated, throwing their modern land and air war machine at the desolate and impoverished Gaza strip. There's no point trying to put a pretty face on it, this Israeli action breaches several of the international laws of war. Israel has hit power and water plants. The destruction of civilian infrastructure is war-crime. So is collective punishment.
Now Lebanon is getting pounded as well. How many casualties will there be before this madness ends?
The sad irony is that none of this is in Israel's own best interests. The only way forward for the Jewish state, it's only real hope for long-term survival is to make peace with it's neighbours. Unfortunately, the Israeli peace movement, which at one time looked like gaining strength, is increasingly marginalized. The hawks feel emboldened, I think, because of the current regime in Washington. And we all know about that lot.
The deeper roots of this whole mess are twisted and complex, more complex I think than partisans of either side want to admit. The UN partition plan of 1947 was really the only sensible solution then, but neither side wanted to accept it. Any sensible person can see that the only long-term solution now is to go back to something like it; Israel ought to abide by international law and get out of the occupied territories completely. Jerusalem ought to be made an international city, like Danzig between the wars.
But unfortunately, I don't think sensible people are running the world right now.
The current danger is the conflict escalating to bring in other states; Israel has already made over-flights of Syrian territory and Iran has stated that it will retaliate if Syria is attacked. This could conceivably bring in the USA on one side and Russia and maybe even China on the other.
You know what? This samsara really sucks.