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The Problem With Playing the Blame Game in Gaza

11/08/2014 11:48 BST | Updated 07/10/2014 10:59 BST

As the conflict in Gaza continues, it has become apparent that the Western world has a propensity to attempt to view war through the simplistic prism of 'good' and 'evil'. This is by no means a surprising trend. As children, we learn about conflicts such as World War 1, World War 2, and Vietnam, where the West - in her own eyes, at least - fought against a variety of evils, including, but not limited to, fascism, genocide, and communism. Simultaneously, we are fed books and stories of a similar nature, such as Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, where the heroic protagonist (Harry or Frodo) battles an unquestionably evil antagonist (Voldemort or Sauron).

In spite of what we are taught at a young age by literature and by history, viewing conflict through this prism of 'good' and 'evil' is largely insufficient. Gaza, of course, is a perfect example. Since the latest outbreak of fighting, journalists, world leaders, social media users, entire countries, and the United Nations have voiced opinions on the conflict, involving themselves, unwittingly, in the PR campaigns of Palestine, Hamas, and Israel. The question that sits at the front of every mind that has given thought to the crisis is one of right and wrong, as we seek to condemn and blame one side, whilst reconciling ourselves with the actions of the other.

Amidst this sea of condemnation, the question of what is 'good' and what is 'evil' assumes centrality. The aim of supporters of the Palestinian and Israeli causes is largely to portray the opposite side of the conflict as 'evil'. One would assume that if this were the aim, the word 'evil' would be frequently appearing, but it has scarcely been sighted. In its place appear two words - genocide and terrorism - that have become closely associated with the notion of 'evil' in the psyche of the Western population in the past century. Israel has been accused of committing genocide in Gaza. Opposing voices argue Israel is acting in self-defense, and readily remind us that Hamas is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization. Both sides of this PR battle have ended up firing accusations just as readily as the soldiers on the ground are firing rockets. The problem this PR game creates is that while the political messages of both sides are heard in equal measure, neither side will be under enough pressure to force a back down.

It has now been around a month since the latest round of fighting began. For much of that time, the PR campaigns of the two sides have cancelled each other out. Pressure mounted upon Israel last week, when both the US and the UN condemned Israeli attacks on UN shelters in Gaza. The question now is whether the condemnation of these key international players will intensify to an extent sufficient enough to force Israel's hand. Given how long it has taken us to get to this stage, nothing is certain, and it remains a possibility that Gaza will stay in limbo for weeks and months to come.

While we wait for an end to the bloodshed, we should consider where we would be if the discussion on this crisis had been different. The seemingly ingrained human tendency to look for a tale of 'good' and 'evil', and to simplify conflict in our minds, has led us to forget what is important. While the world has argued about degrees of 'evil', and about which side is 'more evil', women, children and men alike have perished. In future, I hope we condemn the war itself, and act to stop it, before we worry about who is to blame.