It has been especially ironic in Canada and other Commonwealth countries that pay homage to the wartime efforts of their military personnel, past and present, on November 11 that this special week just passed, Veterans’ Week, has been bracketed by the escalation of hostilities in the Middle East, particularly in Israel and the Gaza Strip. (This is the tiny piece of land lying between Israel and Egypt and occupying what would have otherwise been Israel’s Southwest corner of its Mediterranean Sea coastline.)
Hamas, an aggressive Sunni Muslim political organization has governed only Gaza since its split with the more moderate Palestinian Organization that holds sway in East Jerusalem and the territory along part of the west bank of the Jordon River.
But just as we were considering the downside of war and the corresponding importance of peace in the context of Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Week ceremonies, Hamas’ military arm greatly escalated its missile strikes into Israel from Gaza, prompting Israel to retaliate as it has done with Gaza extremists several times before.
It has increasingly seemed, even through the latter decades of the Cold War involving North Americans, Britains and Western Europeans and their allies on one side and the Communist bloc on the other that if there were ever to be a Third World War it would likely have its origins in the Middle East.
That is why any military or even political tensions in that part of the world are awarded the coverage and analysis that they receive for historically, culturally and philosophically, the region is of enormous importance.
So here we are, with Veterans’ Week just ended, seeing Israel calling up as many as 30,000 army reservists (with access to more than double that many trained military personnel) and sabre rattling about another invasion of Gaza, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory.
While such a ground attack may or may not happen, it is still disturbing to consider the possibility of Canada being drawn into an all-out Middle Eastern war.
Prime Minister Harper quickly went on the record saying that Israel was an ally and that Israel had every legal right to wage a defensive action to defend its citizens and its territory.
No-one would dispute the rightness of these statements.
But presumably in Israel and, hopefully, also in the Gaza Strip when these Mid-East nations’ and territories’ versions of Remembrance Day is marked, there is at least the overtone of the futility of war and the corresponding wish for peace built into their ceremonies.
As we count down the months until our nation’s active involvement in Afghanistan is ended, virtually no Canadian could imagine being actively involved in a Middle East war even though most citizens of our country are sympathetic to the Jewish state’s right to exist in light of the horrifying experiences of the Jewish community of eastern and central Europe during the Second World War.
But precisely because of the Jewish experience at the hands of the Nazis in Europe, the fledgling United Nations gave a vote of sympathy in 1948 to a Zionist state that would occupy at least a portion of the Old Testament land of the Israelites with the city of Jerusalem at its epicentre.
The corresponding displacement of the resident Palestinian community has remained the source of conflict, such as we’re currently witnessing in the Gaza Strip, ever since.
It appears that our world is destined to be punctuated by a series of conflicts, many of them based on legitimate grievances that remain unresolved after generations and decades.
But still we honestly, most of us, yearn and pray for peace, just as we did publicly just over a week ago.
Someone arriving in our world from another planet might find this seeming discrepancy in the face of reason difficult to understand.
And so it is.
But at least the majority of us are notionally predisposed to peace rather than war and this is far more something that we have learned through the accumulated experiences of our species since we realized we were capable of reasoned thought and behavior.
May we continue to evolve in this way.