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Israel and Gaza: Stop the Violence Now!

"Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary." Mahatma Gandhi, 'Satyagraha Leaflet No. 13,' May 3, 1919

As hopes of peace ring through the world in preparation for a New Year, Israel is massing tanks on the border of Gaza. For three days, the Israeli military has been launching bombing raids, 350 casualties and rising. The large-scale military campaign comes in response to rockets fired from militants in Gaza who have also slain innocents on the other side of the border.

Both sides are renewing calls for bloodshed as age-old arguments resurface. "Hamas terrorist" not recognizing Israel's right to exist and "Israel the bully" not accepting its own responsibility of closing off Gaza like a prison.

Any way you look at it, this is a far-reaching crisis for Palestinian and Israeli alike. Now known as the "hundred year headache," Israelis and Palestinians have been trying to prove to each other that they can survive never ending violence, an eternal occupation, and a perpetual cycle of denial that the two cannot exist together.

Israel, with one of the strongest militaries in the world, can definitely continue to bombard Palestinians. For their part, Palestinians have shown they too can hit back hard. Nevertheless, anyone can see that an end to this conflict is past due.

Israel knows this. That is why it made the decision to withdraw from the territory of Gaza in 2005. Unfortunately, this was a unilateral withdrawal on Israeli terms and conditions. No Palestinian participation necessary. Borders - including sea access, airspace, and external movement of people, goods, and services are all controlled by Israel. The Palestinians did not see this as peace, but a one-way ticket to a controlled detention center.

The agreement as it is has produced an extraordinary humanitarian emergency for the people in Gaza. Eighty percent of the population's livelihood comes from United Nations assistance programs if and when the UN can deliver. Hamas agreed to a truce with Israel in hopes that conditions would change and surprise little did no thanks to either party.

The cease fire broke down and rockets fired. The solution? Easy, return to war and both parties come full circle directly back to suffering.

Wars are unimaginably difficult to end. If they were not, the US would be out of Iraq, Afghanistan would be on its way to development, and the Israelis and Palestinians would be living, without bombarding the other, side by side.

Unfortunately for all concerned the battle continues. Guns are poised and people are dead. Thus far, the only solutions have been sticks, sticks and sticks.

The region, and the world, needs new answers and a courageous leadership to get there. Ideas must be discovered to think beyond war.

The trauma and devastation of war is incalculable. The Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma tells us about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): "in many cases, traumatic incidents ... leave lasting symptoms of paralyzing anxiety, grief, and hopelessness, as well as flashbacks, night terrors, and intrusive memories. These extremely debilitating and disempowering symptoms often impede survivors' ability to properly manage their life." Other studies show an increase in heart disease, cancer and brutal interpersonal violence.

Israel and Palestinians surely suffer from PTSD due to all these years at war. One report authored by Yael Benyamini from Tel Aviv University specifically tells us that, "Israeli veterans with PTSD...were twice as likely to have high blood pressure, ulcers and diabetes and five times as likely to have heart disease and headaches." Another from Queen's University in Canada echoes the risk, this time for children, "a child [in Gaza] who has witnessed friends injured or killed has 13 times the risk of PTSD" Gaza's population is comprised of 47% children, 98% of them have war trauma. Imagining these people's daily struggle due to all this trauma is too difficult for words.

These populations do not need more war. It is only making matters worse. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." The challenge then becomes ones ability to work tirelessly for peace and we all must do so. Only then, can the evil be temporary and the good everlasting.