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The end of honor and civility are playing out in real-time as we quietly watch.

It may be time to stop using the term "humanitarian crisis" for the ongoing events in Gaza. I don't think posterity will refer to it so kindly, blandly, or solicitously. Although it may be true that the winners write the history books, there may be no easy way to describe the current state of affairs without calling it an organized, systematic, and brutal attempt to destroy the infrastructure of an entire city and eradicate its citizens in the process.

"Humanitarian crisis" just doesn't cut it, not when we're inundated daily, hourly, and minutely my photos and videos of demolished apartment buildings, shattered hospitals, leveled stores and homes, and the bodies of women and children being carried hurriedly through the streets before the next salvo kills more of them. Recent activity has diminished. It’s too late.

This is slaughter on a scale we have not seen in recent memory, although the ongoing Rohingya genocide being perpetrated by the Myanmar military has been going on sporadically for fifty years. Yet even over that prolonged length of time, the number of deaths falls short of the Palestinians killed in Gaza in five months and the Israeli citizens murdered in the initial raid.

There is very little of the humanitarian happening there. Most of us with any sense of decency probably reached the tipping point this past week when trucks supplying aid were surrounded by mobs of starving Palestinians, 100 of whom died from gunfire. The Israeli army claims it did not fire on the mob who swarmed the trucks, and it provided video proof. But the video was edited, and after one of the gaps, many dead bodies suddenly appeared in the street. Gaza claims these dead were victims of Israeli gunfire, but they might just as easily have been victims of desperate and starving Gazans with guns. Confounding the situation even further is the fact that the Israelis seem to have had a hand in arranging for the aid to be delivered. But beyond providing a modicum of relief, Israel has no clear plan on what to do with the remains of that city, and it is that kind of leadership vacuum that can only lead to further mayhem.

The fog of war has seldom been this foggy, especially since it is all being recorded, but the larger problem remains the inability of civilized nations to put an end to the slaughter of innocents. 

We can argue over motives, we can cite revenge for October 7, we can allude to the need to destroy the tunnel system under Gaza, we can argue that the policies of Netanyahu have enflamed the Palestinians who had no alternative but to support Hamas, and we can simply chalk it up to centuries of religious hatred and warfare. But none of those excuses ends the bloodshed. And although it's almost amusing to implore the Israelis and the Arabs to behave in a more Christian manner—Christianity has had its moments in the darkness also—the definition of Christian that thinkers like Emerson used, encompassing goodness, civility, compassion, and kindness, might be a noble objective.

History books are not kind to brutality, and its exploiters—Pol Pot, Stalin, and others—have become the pariahs of humankind. Even after the passage of a century, we can hardly hear the word Armenian without remembering the genocide that killed over half a million people of that ethnicity. Maybe a hundred years from now, Gaza will engender the same ignominy and shame. The future is difficult to predict anywhere, especially in the Middle East, but we can safely say this: neither side will escape this calamity with anything resembling glory.

And neither will we, the witnesses, who allowed it to continue.

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