Voice-of-the-JN1-300x163Last week we reflected on where – or indeed if – we had emerged from the moral maze that was 2014, having spent 12 months navigating such intricacies as illicit online surveillance, torture, force-feeding and Gaza (in no particular order). For Jews, and Israel, 2014 may forever be associated with a 50-day war that left more than 2,000 dead.

What did it make us confront? What colours did we show? And what came out of it? It didn’t start well.

With hundreds dying, we chose to be appalled at an advert asking for urgent donations to relieve the suffering of Gaza’s innocents, because one of the dozen or so charities co-sponsoring it was Islamic Relief. A follow- up joint statement on anti-Semitism between the Board and Muslim Council, aimed at pouring cold water on rising temperatures, somehow incurred further wrath.

At the JN, we thought differently, and said so on our front cover. Yet in a year of big questions, there were none bigger than those produced by the war in Gaza. We backed Israel and were proud to do so. But privately, many of us were left asking ‘why?’.

For instance, could more have been done to minimise the civilian deaths in Gaza? We also wonder why had Israeli soldiers and citizens been once again put in harm’s way? Why we were witnessing wearily-reminiscent scenes of wholesale destruction in a slither of land crammed with 1.7 million people? And what were Israeli leaders doing to stop it from happening again? Alas, those questions remain unanswered as we head into 2015. An election might help provide answers.

Gazans, most of whom are no more terrorists than you or I, remain poor, unemployed, angry and isolated. Desperate people do desperate things – something needs to change. You can’t bomb people back to the Dark Ages, then expect their enlightenment. What to do?

A new-look Israeli government could, while increasing security, also extend a hand and offer a vision of a thriving future based on trade, ties and trust. It would be a brave step, and would involve loosening a defensive stranglehold on the territory, but it would offer the people of Gaza a real alternative to oppressive Islamism. Do that, and support for Hamas would wither.

Sadly, it is highly unlikely, especially if Benjamin Netanyahu is re-elected. Most won’t think about Gaza, until the rockets re-start, when the IDF will once more choose to “mow the lawn”. Shame. It only fuels the market for resistance and hatred on both sides.

It seems there is yet more soul-searching to be done before we can enjoy an end-of-year report that doesn’t feature needless deaths on both sides.