A lesson in History and War

War has long roots in history, but I propose to look back only to the Third Reich. It’s a salutary exercise to read Hitler’s list of demands of the German nation, which at that time was reeling under the draconian war reparations treaty of Versailles, a treaty that we, if it were imposed on us, would consider crushing, inhuman, impossible ever to satisfy. Clearly, something had to be done, and the German people were ready for it.

Hitler’s list wasn’t all negative. There are certainly some items that would resonate with us today as perfectly sensible. It was however a product of its times – a time of empire, of implacable economic war of nation against nation, with Germany, defeated in WW1, very much the underdog with no means to get out from under.

Hitler’s rhetoric must have seemed like a breath of fresh air to the Germans.
I would have thought that somebody would have foreseen this – maybe some did. We might well ask how Hitler was permitted to get away with his putsch, and to go on to rearm the nation – where did he get his funding?

I am struck by parallels today in Palestine. For around 70 years many Palestinians have been progressively bottled up in overcrowded Gaza, dependent on Israel for water, power, trade, and employment, which can all be turned off at will and have been.

This situation too was an eventual product of empire, of the Balfour Declaration, and of British stewardship of Palestine after the defeat of the Ottoman Turks. Post WW2, this led to the founding of the State of Israel, expulsion of the Palestinians from their homelands, and wars with Arab nations. The ensuing stalemate has festered and endured despite UN resolutions.

Whatever Hamas told the Palestinians this time around, maybe they, like the Germans, were simply ready to hear any message that gave them hope of reclaiming their lost lives. And once again, we have to ask – how did Hamas obtain their weapons?

Truth is always the first casualty of war. Despite lurid media reports, the assumption that everyone in Gaza must be a terrorist is facile (a high percentage are reportedly children), yet politicians the world around who should know better have been quick to make pious but impracticable statements supporting “decisive” action against “the terrorists” whilst somehow “safeguarding the innocent”. Inevitably this will lead to many more dead and injured combatants’ non-combatants and terrorists alike.
The situation cries out for wise leadership, but more of the same leadership that has maintained this flashpoint for so many years seems wholly inappropriate.

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