“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Friday, November 03, 2006

Rock Throwing Neighbors

Let’s imagine I’m having problems with a neighbor. The neighbor has relatives living in their house. These relatives used to own my house. They abandoned it—for whatever reason. I took over the house, fixed it up, and have established legal title to it.

Now, these relatives keep going into the back yard to throw rocks at my house. The rocks break my windows. One of my children is hurt. Now, I regularly talk to the neighbors, who regularly tell me they will keep the relatives in line. And, the relatives keep going into the back yard to throw more rocks at my house.

So, I call the police. The police get other neighbors—some of them distant relatives to the family involved—to talk with the attacking relatives. The police even have a public debate about the issue. Several solutions are offered, including moving property lines, and giving the offending people some of my land. The police also tell the rock throwers their behavior is not tolerable and they can’t throw rocks anymore. The rock throwers say they understand, and they’ll stop. Then, they go straight into the back yard and throw more rocks at my house. Another child gets hurt.

Now, the distant relatives of this family, also living in the neighborhood, begin to encourage the neighbor and his house guests to throw more rocks. They say I’m being ugly, and not giving them fair treatment. Pretty soon, the kids of the distant relatives are in the backyard throwing rocks, too.

At this point, I break through the fence and beat up the rock throwers—original house guests, or other neighborhood people doesn’t matter to me. I want the rocks to stop flying at my house. And, I refuse to leave, or put the fence back up, until the police do something about the rock throwers. The police eventually come, and establish a presence in the back yards. The non-related neighbors get the offending home owner to promise to keep order. And, so, I put the fence back up and go home.

The rock throwing relatives go to a different corner of the yard, that the police aren’t allowed to patrol, and start throwing rocks again. Another neighbor, a relative of the rock throwers, let’s them go around the corner to their yard and throw rocks from there as well.

Again, I complain to the police. They tell me to be tolerant of my neighbors, and try to work with them on a solution. Time goes on, more of my windows are broken…another family member gets hurt. Eventually, I crash through the fence again—in both yards—and beat up the rock throwers, refusing to leave until the police hold the neighbors accountable or make it so that the rock throwers won’t throw any more rocks.

Only this time, the police blame me for the problem. And tell me I can’t take action to protect my property. The neighbor, and their relatives are even going to nearby neighborhoods, complaining about how mean and inconsiderate I am. The nearby neighborhoods’ residents are now calling me to say I need to treat my neighbor and his relatives better.

Meanwhile, the rocks keep flying. The windows keep getting broken. My family keeps getting hurt. And, I keep getting blamed for it.

If you haven’t guessed—and I’m sure most of you have—this is an allegory. I freely admit, it is incredibly over-simplified. What I have just described is the situation involving Israel, Lebanon, and Gaza.

It is the responsibility of governments to protect those within their borders, as best they see fit. Another responsibility of government is to keep those who live within their borders from causing problems for their neighbors.

In the 1980s peace agreements, the Lebanese government accepted the responsibility of keeping the Palestinians within their borders from attacking Israel. They have had increasingly higher degrees of failure since the last time Israel crashed across the border because the Lebanese were not keeping Palestinian terrorists in check. The Lebanese government has made no serious effort to stop the flow of arms and other war supplies to the Palestinian terrorists. And, those arms are being shipped in by other Arab/Islamic nations.

Recently, among the Palestinians, a government was actually formed. That government assumed responsibility for keeping the people in order. They have neither stopped the kidnappings or the violence, nor held the perpetrators responsible. At the same time, Israel has a responsibility for the safety of its people.

I truly do feel for the Lebanese and the Palestinian people. Their suffering is terrible. However, throughout history, when governments fail in their duty, the people are the ones who suffer. In this case, the Lebanese and Palestinian governments, failed in their responsibilities to their neighbors. These governments also failed their responsibilities to their people.

So, if the Lebanese and Palestinian governments of Israel’s neighbors were supposed to be keeping order in their own lands and didn’t, why is Israel the only one being blamed for all the bloodshed?