Said Khatib /Getty Images
By A. DANIEL ROTH
TEL AVIV - I spent Thursday in Ashkelon, just a few kilometres from the border with Gaza. It's a city that has lived under the threat of rocket attack for many years. By 4 pm that day the streets were empty. Not far away, just across the border, people were running for cover, and many weren't finding it.
During my minibus ride back home to South Tel Aviv, I heard the city's first air raid siren in over 20 years. Dusk fell, and the highway was much emptier than it ought to have been. Within five minutes, my fellow passengers were yelling at one another. "All Arabs are the enemy, because they are all Hamas," one of them cried.
The educator in me took over. I tried to suggest that this was racist, and as I did I wondered whether they would kick me out of the vehicle right there on the highway, or if they would at least let me off at a junction.
In the end, they dismissed the charge of racism based on the driver's rationalization that "they're the enemy, so it can't be racist." They let me stay on board until my stop.
These kinds of debates are taking place all over Israel and Palestine, not to mention on my Facebook feed.
Soon, I was in central Tel Aviv, where hundreds of locals and activists were coming together for the second peace rally of the night.
It meant a lot to me to know that there were others who, like me, recognized that more fighting is not the way to end this war. There must be real equality - in political rights, in the value of life. This won't be over, not completely, until the occupation and the siege are ended and self-determination is a given for all the inhabitants of this land.
Standing up for peace is not an easy thing in a time of war; the jingoistic memes floating around on the internet make this loud and clear. Hate and dehumanization are the norm. The images have maps with false histories embedded in them, and there are claims that photos of dead Palestinian children and bombed-out lots aren't from this campaign.
This is all beside the point, and it only serves to make "the conversation" regress.
There is a real conflict happening here, but it certainly didn't start last week, and it isn't even close to an even match. The current escalation of violence exists within the context of occupation. I am not suggesting that this or anything else makes shooting at, hiding behind, injuring or killing civilians acceptable. I don't think anything could.
Despite being far from the worst of the fighting, the air raid sirens are now to be expected in Tel Aviv. Each time I crouch to take cover, I remind myself not to get too used to this situation. I don't want war to become normal for me, and I want it to stop being normal for others.
The likely outcome of this fighting is that things will return to some version of the precarious situation of before, with southern Israelis fearing rockets and Palestinians in Gaza living under siege, or worse.
The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) claims that the goals of Operation Pillar of Defense are to destroy the military capacity of Hamas and end the rocket attacks. Even if it succeeds in doing these things in the short term, in the long term no one will be safer.
The rockets coming from Gaza and the bombs coming from Israel are guided by people with power but no vision. These are political leaders who are only thinking about security in the next few months or years, at best. At worst, they are merely maintaining their own power by cultivating an environment of fear.
We need leaders who care more about the future than the past, and who can see that the only way out of this is to focus on the core issues. We need leaders who are bold enough to talk about the Palestinian right of return and about Jerusalem, water and borders. We need to support those who refuse to fight. We need to educate ourselves to think critically.
The mood in Tel Aviv is full of fear, anger and uncertainty; I can't even imagine what the mood is like in Gaza. Still, each of us has power in this. Hate runs deep around here, but the real enemy is the refusal to recognize the right of all people to self-determination.
An assault against that enemy could end this war at last.
A. Daniel Roth is a writer, photographer and educator living in South Tel Aviv. He was born and raised in Toronto and lived in a Hashomer Hatzair commune in New York City for many years. He was an Occupy Toronto facilitator.
By IZZELDIN ABUELAISH
How many more massacres can Palestinians stand? Surely, now it's time to face reality: military means and violence will never put an end to this conflict. The notion of occupied and occupier must finish.
The Palestinians and Israelis can succeed when they take courageous steps to move forward toward a healthy and sustainable future in which we all share.
Israel's actions endanger the life and future not only of Palestinians but also of Israelis. These actions are suicidal as well as destructive. The ultimate enemies are ignorance, arrogance, fear and greed. Let's call a halt now to this craziness. Instead of using force against civilians, why not invest energy in peace treaties?
The wound cannot heal while all the time there is a commitment to rubbing salt into it. My family in Gaza are not safe; the same can be said for all those innocent people in Israel.
The military was ordered to conduct "surgical strikes" in Gaza, said Netanyahu, but Israel would take "whatever action is necessary to defend our people."
It's news to me that Netanyahu is a surgeon. We do not know who taught him surgery. We, as doctors, practise constructive and curative surgery, not the destructive and traumatizing sort. That is the kind of surgery he needs to learn and practise, a surgery that would heal and close the wounds of the Palestinians and the Israelis.
In the midst of the escalation in violence, to be courageous would be to create and construct, and to save lives. There's no courage in using power against innocent, unarmed civilians - or civilians armed just with their faith and will to live independent lives. Nor is there courage - on either side - in manipulating the situation for limited political and individual interests.
As for peace - to slip again into the language of a doctor - if a cell is suffering, the whole body will suffer. It is the individual's peace of mind that leads to the peace of a community. It needs to become a way of life, a natural way of thinking - a huge task in a place where the opposite, endemic violence, is routine. Hence the need to fundamentally change the context, and on both sides, we need to be inclusive.
The Palestinian people are in pain. We've had enough of hearing a mother's cry of anguish, witnessing death. The woman in labour screaming, waiting for the happy moment to have her newborn baby, that is the cry for life and freedom.
The doctor's role is to help, to minimize suffering and safely deliver the children of the future. It's time for the international community to help and support Palestinians in this beautiful project. The world is plagued by violence and conflict. We need to emphasize the respect and dignity that each human being deserves regardless of gender or race. Freedom should not stop at Palestine borders.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian doctor and infertility specialist. In 2009, three of his daughters were killed by Israeli shelling. He teaches at the University of Toronto and is the author of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey On The Road To Peace And Human Dignity.