The latest events from the Middle East are heartbreaking.

That hundreds of people have died in Gaza as a result of the bombing from the Israeli government is one more dark reminder of the aphorism “non-violence doesn’t always work–but  violence never does.” Do the Israeli powers that be really believe they can create security with massive acts of violence? Can’t the Israeli government see that it engages in the very behavior it abhors?

Likewise, taking over the Gaza government, Hamas has behaved in an abysmal manner. Hamas has behaved violently toward its internal political opponent, Fatah. It is clear that Hamas places a higher priority on remaining in power than protecting the dignity and life of the Palestinian people. It is also clear that Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel. This much is true–Hamas seeks dark power over bright justice.  Hamas does not seek justice for the Palestinian people, only retribution.

The Israeli government plays the same game when it rationalizes the use of violence as an unfortunate but necessary means to protect national security (with apologies for the loss of innocent lives).  The bombing attacks on Gaza are the most recent example.  Shlomo Brom, a former senior Israeli military official, said it was the deadliest force ever used in decades of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. “Since Hamas took over Gaza (in June 2007), it has become a war between two states, and in war between states, more force is used,” he said.

Force must be used, he said.  How many times must the people of the world be on the receiving end of “necessary force”?

Is there another way? Hamas hurls rockets and sends suicide bombers into Israel.  The Israeli government uses deadly force against Gazans.  This cycle of violence is apparently the only definition of force that either side understands.

How about the use of moral force?  It’s true that moral force requires greater courage, tenacity and the willingness to take risks. Take the example of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat who in 1977 took a 28 minute flight to Israel.  Sadat called it a “sacred mission.”  This bold act represented creative use of moral force and it caught everyone off guard. When Sadat said that the “wall created between us and Israel must be knocked down,” this was an act inspired by moral courage.

The world is sorely in need of a Sadat-like initiative based not on military but moral force.

Moral force recognizes that the means and ends cannot be separated.

No one put it better than Martin Luther King who said, “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.”

Martin Luther King showed us that the way to peace is through nonviolence, and he reminded us that there is a relationship between means and ends.

Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel, and the Israeli government seeks the destruction of Hamas. Both are blind to the relationship between means and ends.

Where will it end? When will it end?

It will only end when we see that there is something within each human being that connects us to every other human being.

In practical terms there is not much difference between the policies of the Israeli government and Hamas. Truth be told, both fail so see the relationship between ends and means. Both draw their dark energy by feeding on the unhealed wounds of the past.  Both mistake retribution and revenge for justice.

But, as A. J. Muste put it, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.”

It’s time to disabuse ourselves of the notion that violence will ever lead to peace.  How many examples do we need?

It is time to get rid of the illusion that our world will be a place of peace and security if only we crush our enemies.

It is time to grow up.

Making peace in the world is about all about making peace in our relationships. What we see in the Middle East is a human problem and human problems have human solutions.

Here is one example. The Interfaith Encounter Association in Jerusalem is dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study.  IEA sees differences as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.  The IEA understands the relationship between means and ends.  The IEA understands that the conflict between human beings is a result of being unable to see you in me and me in you. Rather than burning up money in weapons the Israeli government should be pouring money and resources into IEA and other grass roots organizations that have the capacity to actually make a difference. .

It’s true. It takes two to tango.

But how might it change the Israeli/Palestinian dance if the Israeli government were to see the conflict with Palestinians not as an obstacle but an opportunity? What if the Israeli government “bombed” the Palestinian people with understanding, compassion and good will?

What difference would that make? What if the Israeli government differentiated between the notorious actions of Hamas and the rights and dignity of the Palestinian peoples?

If the Israeli government really understood that the life and dignity of its citizens as being inextricably bound to the life and dignity of the Palestinian peoples—would this change anything?

As Martin Luther King put it, “We are all interconnected and interrelated, what effects one of us directly, effects all of us indirectly. We are bound up together in a garment of mutuality.”

Israelis and Palestinians represent different patches in the quilt of our humanity.

Maybe the way to change the outcome is to change the premise.

There will never be peace in the Middle East until and unless we recognize this fundamental human truth.

It’s time both for sides to take the third side and begin bombing each other with understanding, compassion and nonviolence.  This downward spiral is only headed into the abyss.

As Martin Luther King put it,

One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. Therefore I suggest that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict. We keep saying we will get around to doing what needs to be done. We keep thinking that we will get around to it tomorrow. But we are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We still have a chance to choose between chaos and community.

This is always the question:  do we choose chaos or community?