The Autobots vs. Decepticons

By Chuck Fisher
Staff Writer

I like the Transformers. You know, the animated Japanese robots that can transform from 1968 Cameros to sixty foot tall, gun toting, mechanisms of destruction! Aside from the robotic coolness, the underlying story of the Transformers involves a seemingly endless struggle between the good guys, the Autobots, and the bad guys, the Decepticons. These two races of robots battle for control of their home world Cybertron and do some of the fighting on planet Earth. I like this war because I, like every fifth grader in America and Japan, always know who to root for: the Autobots! The Autobots always fight with honor and dignity and value human life while the Decepticons disregard human life and only fight for their own selfish interests. This clear cut distinction between good and evil is something that rarely exists in our modern world and is an obvious example of “art not imitating life.” The conflict in the recent weeks between Israel and Gaza exemplifies this point. I DON’T KNOW WHO TO ROOT FOR!!! I see the Decepticons on both sides!

Like the Autobots and Decepticons, Israel and Hamas are locked in pitched mortal combat. In 2006, the terrorist group Hamas won elections in the Palestinian territories and took a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament. A brief civil war followed between Hamas and the moderate Fatah movement which saw Fatah’s defeat and excision from power in Gaza.

In early 2008, Israel launched an air and ground campaign against Gaza to stop rocket attacks that were targeting southern Israeli towns and inflicting civilian casualties. Direct fighting ended in mid spring 2008 and a six month ceasefire was negotiated by the Egyptians which began on June 19. This ceasefire was to last until December 19 when it was hoped to be extended. Stipulations for the ceasefire included: Hamas stopping all rocket attacks on Israel and Israel fully opening the Gazan borders which it had sealed following Hamas’s rise to power in the territory. Neither side fulfilled these obligations.

Although rocket launches sharply decreased they still continued and although Israel partially opened the Gazan borders they were still only opened part way. Israel and Hamas blamed each other for their own noncompliance and tensions started to rise. On November 4, 2008 Israel attacked several tunnels being dug out of Gaza killing six Palestinians. Hamas claimed the tunnels were for self defense while Israel said they were for meant for kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Hamas rocket attacks began picking up in intensity.

The ceasefire was not extended past December 19 and as the rocket attacks escalated the Israelis amassed troops along the Gazan border and began a bombing campaign against Hamas targets. Israeli troops invaded on January 3, 2009 and began fighting in the densely populated territory. Temporary ceasefires were permitted so that humanitarian aid could reach civilians but aside from this, the fighting continued until January 17th when Israel called a ceasefire and began removing its forces with the final troops exiting Gaza on January 21st.

In the wake of this conflict, my sense of “rooting” for the good guys has fallen apart. Hamas and Israel pledge to protect and respect human life, a very Autobot-like thing to do. However launching rockets at Israeli civilians and air striking buildings in densely populated Gazan neighborhoods puts human life in danger and is something the evil Megatron would do.

The Decepticons on the Israeli and Hamas side (the UN won’t officially use the word “Decepticon” when describing the warring combatants despite letters I have sent to their Headquarters asking for them to do so) have been committing acts that essentially amount to war crimes.

Hamas launched its attacks from civilian areas hoping to use the civilians as human shields but Decepticons in Israel struck these areas anyway killing civilians. Israeli Decepticons also bombed police stations, mosques, government buildings, and residences of Hamas leaders. However, in an Autobot-like gesture, before many of the attacks Israel dropped leaflets or dummy bombs on the target in a tactic called “knocking on the roof” to warn the occupants to flee.

Israel also used white phosphorus when attacking Gaza which burns with incredible intensity and is very difficult to extinguish. White phosphorus artillery shells are believed to have exploded over several civilian areas including a refugee camp and a school. These weapons cause severe burns and are outlawed by international law for use against civilians, but Israel countered by claiming white phosphorus was only used for creating smoke screens, which is legal under international law.

The fighting in Gaza amounts to war crimes and terrorism. Where are the Autobots? Where are the heroes? Both sides cry out that they are the righteous space robots but how can you call yourself righteous when your laser blaster cannons are killing innocence? America has funded and armed Israel for decades and the Arab world has done the same for Hamas making us and many other nations culpable for these crimes.

So what should be done? Well if I really knew I’d be rich enough to build my own fleet of space robots. What I do know is that the answer is not a simple one and it won’t be an easy one either. Asking for peace and respect in this region is like asking for tofu at McDonald’s. America has a responsibility to the Gazans as much as the Arab world has a responsibility to Israel. After all, Hamas rockets and Israeli white phosphorus isn’t being manufactured where it’s being used. Unless negotiations are initiated on the international level by cool and objective heads, the Megatrons of the world will get the last laugh.

Clear cut good and evil only exists in the land of sixty foot tall mechanical warriors. However this is no excuse for not striving for that ideal. The Autobots and Decepticons will clash in the future, but may be if everyone strived to be on the side of the Autobots then we’d realize how pointless the fight for Cybertron really is.