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The podium

Guest commentaries on Israel’s reality and deprivation in Gaza

A Palestinian man holds his daughters, Shada and Lama al-Ejla, who were injured in an Israeli tank attack, as he leaves a hospital Friday in Gaza City.

AFP/Getty Images

A Palestinian man holds his daughters, Shada and Lama al-Ejla, who were injured in an Israeli tank attack, as he leaves a hospital Friday in Gaza City.

Excerpts from Globe Opinion’s online guest commentary section at

bostonglobe.com/podium

ISRAEL’S REALITY

The hope for an early end to the Hamas-triggered war with Israel was dashed when an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposal was accepted by Israel, but was met by Hamas with a new barrage of rockets aimed at the Jewish state.

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Hamas simply does not play by the rules governing democratic societies. In that spirit, it does not try to protect civilians, but uses them for protection, as human shields for rocket launchers and other weapons systems.

This is a time for moral clarity in the international community.

If the fundamental distinction between Israel and Hamas — between the fireman and the arsonist, between the democratic society and the despotic regime — cannot be recognized, then woe unto us.

If the stark fact that Hamas seeks to inflict maximum damage on Israel, while Israel’s only aim is attaining long-term quiet on its Gaza border, then our vision has failed us.

If Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of missiles with the hope of hitting any Israeli target, be it a kindergarten or a nursing home, does not stand in stark contrast to Israel’s warnings for civilians to evacuate certain planned targets in Gaza, then something essential is missing from an understanding of the conflict.

This is a time for full-throated support of Israel, the only democratic nation in the region and our most steadfast ally.

This is also a time for Washington to reconsider its regrettable decision to recognize the so-called Palestinian Authority-Hamas “unity” government. After all, that Hamas is the very same Hamas waging this war.

DAVID HARRIS

American Jewish Committee

DEPRIVATION IN GAZA

Gaza’s present anguish did not emerge in a vacuum nor in response to a single terrible event, as the Israeli government would have us believe. Instead, it emanates from a context of ongoing occupation and repression that has transformed Gaza — the center of Palestinian nationalism and resistance to Israeli occupation — into one of the most impoverished, imprisoned areas of the world.

Gaza’s deterioration was not accidental or inadvertent. To the contrary, the devastation of Gaza’s economy (and environment) was deliberate and planned by Israel, imposed through separation and isolation and through a destructive economic blockade, which entered its eighth year last month. The blockade — which has been supported by the United States, the European Union, and Egypt in particular — virtually bans access to markets outside Gaza and confines the overwhelming majority of people to the strip. This has ended all normal trade upon which Gaza’s tiny economy depends and has disabled the private sector and its capacity to generate jobs, preventing any viable recovery of Gaza’s productive sectors.

The profound deprivation that has long defined life in Gaza is intensifying. Israel is deliberately targeting and bombing civilian infrastructure with the aim of ensuring Gaza’s continued decay. Even before Israel’s ground invasion, water and sewage treatment facilities in 18 different locations sustained damage. Damaged pipelines have resulted in the mixing of sewage and water, raising the risk of waterborne diseases, a serious public health hazard.

Israeli warplanes have destroyed homes and displaced thousands. Israeli airstrikes have also attacked a range of institutions, including hospitals, schools, banks, mosques, and office buildings.

Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians is also criminal and has achieved little for Palestinians. Instead of stopping Israel, Hamas rocket fire provides a continued rationalization for Israeli aggression on a nearly defenseless population.

Yet the terrible violence now engulfing Gaza feels somehow different, say some of my Palestinian friends. There is an unfathomable quality to the violence from which Gaza’s people, especially children, can find no refuge.

Sara Roy

Harvard University

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