Even those who take a close interest in the Middle East will admit, I think, that nothing is ever quite as clear-cut as one would like. The present conflict between Hamas and Israel is a case in point. Here in the West every report of further shelling or rocket attack leaves many of us more and more confused. Why should people want to exterminate one another? How can sleeping children be a legitimate target? How can random missile attacks advance a cause? I know, from past experience, that my refusal to back either Gaza or Israel will lead to many angry attacks and furious ‘explanations’ of the reasons why I should think the same as the writer. I can only reply that sitting on a fence is sometimes more fitting than clambering on a bandwaggon. It gives one a vantage point, enabling one to see and hear something of what is going on; and it is so uncomfortable that one is constantly reminded that situations are very flexible and can change in an instant.
The failure of yesterday’s ceasefire agreement after merely an hour or so has dashed the hopes of millions. The measure of the failure can be seen in the number of people killed in the subsequent hostilities. Looking further afield, the war in Syria continues to destroy lives; the activities of Isis are tearing Iraq apart. Surely so much human blood wantonly spilled must cry to heaven for vengeance, but we are very much mistaken if we think we are meant to be the instruments of that vengeance. Instead, we might say from the ashes of dead hope, let the phoenix of prayer arise. Our duty now is to pray and work for peace — an unthankful task, perhaps, but ultimately the only one that can really change things for the better.