A sense of irony is almost essential to help one cope with the endless violence and revenge murders that have become so commonplace in the Middle East.
The latest, perpetrated by Israel, took out a Hamas leader, Salah Shehada, his wife and his daughter, in his apartment building, and a dozen others, many of them children.
“This is a crime,” said Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who knows something about the subject. “No normal-minded, conscientious, and feeling person could imagine such a massacre.”
Oh, come on. What about the bus explosion at Immanuel this month (seven killed, 14 wounded), or the billiard club in a Tel Aviv suburb in May (15 killed, 60 injured), or the Jerusalem supermarket in March, when a suicide bomber took out two Israelis and wounded 30. Hamas took some or all of the credit for the July and May attacks.
The killing of Mr. Shehada, who picked the path of vengeful violence, came in response. Live by the blast, die by the blast.
Now Hamas is pledging revenge, and other Palestinian groups vow to reply in kind, as if that kind of response wasn't just what Israel was dishing out. Each side's vision of life is tied to an escalation of death. It's crazy.
Neither side can claim righteousness. There are no good guys here. Each party is afflicted with macho, in-the-box thinking. It bows to the belief that doling out brutality in increasingly greater measures is the path to peace.
Their petulant violence has failed miserably, leading those of us with a sense of irony wondering whether peace is really what either side wants, or whether their passion for one another's blood has become an addiction.
The United States will be criticized again for its support of Israel, despite President George W. Bush's condemnation of the Shehada killing. But here's another irony: An Associated Press photo shows a Palestinian man carrying an infant killed in the attack. Beside him - a compatriot wearing a “Nike” ballcap. They hate America but love our stuff.
Perhaps what each side needs is an infusion of the purest form of non-sectarian Christianity, the kind that says “love thine enemy, do good to those who hate you.” No need for conversions, just the honest search for a better way. Revenge serves no purpose. To paraphrase folk singer Joan Baez, while nonviolence may be a flop, violence has shown itself a bigger one.