I live in Israel and basically agree with what letter writer Bruce Knauff says regarding the Israeli offensive against Gaza ("Conflict over Gaza is one-sided," July 16). However, I also feel that the issues at stake here are far more complex than the rather simplistic tone he takes.

If we relate to ordinary Palestinian citizens and the taking of Palestinian land by settlers and general aggression of settlers against Palestinians (often women and children), the fear and trauma inspired in children and families when IDF soldiers do routine searches of homes — all the ills that are part of an occupation — it seems horrendous. Sitting in a safe office in Baltimore you have no idea of what they suffer on a daily basis — and neither do many, many Israelis. In terms of ordinary people, I can understand violent action against an occupying force. I may not like it, but I understand it.

I am against violence of any kind, but I don't know how I would react if I lived in Gaza and not in Herzeliya. The trauma Palestinian families are enduring right now will probably mark them for life. Those who are left alive. That's on the level of ordinary citizens in Palestine. On the level of ordinary citizens in Israel, southern Israeli towns have suffered from continuous bombardments of rockets from Palestine for years. People are suffering from trauma there, too, particularly children who are the main victims of our mutual violence. However, it is by no means an equal fight, and it exists within a greater context than terrorism and rockets and extreme Israeli reaction.

So, for as all to survive what needs to happen is a complete reshuffling of leaders, values, attitudes, actions and laws on both sides. But we are not talking about ordinary people who want peace and quiet, to raise their families, take the dog for walks, go on picnics, work and get on with life. We are talking about leadership on both sides mirroring each other in their passion for power, nationalistic principles, fear of survival and who exploit and manipulate their nations each in different ways.

The Hamas leaders have absolutely no compassion, respect or accountability with regard to their own people, and their actions in the last war against Gaza showed this and even more cruelly this time. They do not shower Southern Israeli towns with rockets on behalf of Palestinians against Israeli occupation. They use Palestinians as human bait to provoke Israel into retaliation and then scream crimes against humanity. This is not a case of "Hamas surely has gotten out of line and the Palestinian leadership must rein in its extremists." How do you suggest the Palestinians rein in their extremists? And "gotten out of line" doesn't begin to describe their actions. We are not talking about a difficult teenager asking to be grounded.

And if the Israeli government does not rein in its extremists — settlers and rabbis who brainwash young men into thinking that revenge and murder are OK when done for the homeland — we are and will be in serious trouble. We have to stop taking Palestinian land and support a Palestinian state so they can get on with building their lives.

The next leaders waiting to happen in Israel are Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennet so I'm not holding my breath. At least Palestine has Mahmoud Abbas, who's a good man — if anyone would just let him get on with doing his job. Naturally, this is only my personal take on it all, for every human being has another perspective. But as I see it, neither side at this point can see clearly, both operate out of fear of survival, both see only themselves.

To create change, both sides have to want it. The people want it. The leadership doesn't.

Noel Canin

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