An attempt to clarify a position on Israel-Palestine, by my friend orgdotnews (Ethan). He manged to speak the words of my own heart, which is just one of the many reasons we are such close friends. This is exactly how I feel.
“It’s so difficult to get reliable, unbiased information based on real facts on the ground. I’m not in Israel or Gaza, and I don’t really know what’s actually happening. Al-Jazeera tells me one thing, Ha’Aretz, something different, while my Zionist friends on Facebook post photos from the IDF that show Hamas rocket launchers being used in the middle of a market, which somehow justifies Israel shooting missiles at that very market. Israel claims there are no intentional civilian casualties, but how do you avoid that when you’re living in New York City firing missiles at the middle of Newark? Hamas claims every casualty is a small and crippled child, or peaceful protesters attempting to create a human shield against Israeli missiles.
Both sides need to stop firing at each other immediately. I’m now imagining someone trying to respond to that statement, and I’m simply saying “No.” No excuses, no reasons, no justifications. Stop.
Both sides need to immediately stop the collective punishment of the citizens of Gaza. Hamas needs to stop using civilians both as literal human shields and as continuing propaganda against the Israeli blockade. Israel needs to figure out a way to end the blockade of Gaza, realize that the Palestinian government includes Hamas, whether we like it or not, and start to work with the Palestinians to heal wounds and talk peace. Political reconciliation cannot happen without serious economic aid and compensation for the Palestinians who have been living in terror and misery for far too long.
Israel needs to tear down the separation wall with the West Bank, stop creating extremist, illegal Jewish enclaves in Palestinian territories, negotiate an end to the occupation of Palestinian land, and provide compensation for Palestinian refugees. Israel needs to work with the Palestinians to build a stable, viable Palestinian state, with a working economy, free access to trade routes, and access to public services and the modern trappings of a free and democratic society.
The Palestinians need to stop teaching their children that Jews are the devil, venerating suicide bombers and murderers, and creating a weaponized society of fear and hatred. I don’t want to see any more Palestinian “Sesame Street” characters singing antisemitic songs. I don’t want to hear about any more imams preaching the virtues of putting on a suicide vest. I don’t want to hear any more talk of driving Israel into the sea. Both people live in the land, and both people are going to have to figure out how the hell to share it.
If none of the four things above can be accomplished, then something else needs to be done, and soon. If Israel cannot exist as a peaceful, democratic, Jewish state, at peace with its neighbors, then Israel cannot exist. We cannot have a state that claims to represent Jewish values if it oppresses and terrorizes a population within and next to its borders. To be blunt: any state that behaves the way Israel is currently behaving may not be deserving of the moniker “Jewish state.” At the same time, if the Palestinians cannot bring themselves out of their state of terror and hate long enough to start a real peace process, then maybe they don’t deserve a state either.
Yet, imposing borders from outside doesn’t work. We see that now with what’s happening in Iraq and Syria. Colonial powers created those borders early in the 20th century by arbitrarily drawing lines on a map. And, as we’ve discovered, only oppressive dictators can hold those lines. Now that the dictators are gone or in trouble, the true lines of division are starting to show, and they have nothing to do with the colonial borders. The result: war, terror, horrible extremism. We also saw this in Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War. Only Tito was able to hold together that mishmash of ethnic and national identities. Once he was gone, the whole thing fell apart, and we got “ethnic cleansing” and brutal war.
What’s my point? My point is that I have no idea what the long-term solution is here. I’m just trying to parse what I see happening. As a Jew, I think I have a responsibility to say something when it comes to Israel, but I honestly just don’t know what that should be. I know I don’t call myself a Zionist anymore, but I can’t clearly articulate why that is. I’m hesitant to call Israel an apartheid state, because that seems like a big, loaded word specific to a time and place unconnected to the current conflict.
Basically, I’m just not at all sure where I stand anymore, but I know this: I stand for peace.”
My friend Leah is there at the moment, studying for 6 weeks as part of her masters/law degree. She wrote, “Having coffee at a shop, bomb sirens. Three loud booms. An exploded rocket in the sky. Twenty seconds later, everything is back to normal and I’m having coffee again. I wonder if hypertension is a problem here.”
I think, as people are who aren’t there, we have the huge luxury of disconnect. It’s easy enough to say “quit lobbing bombs” when you’re not fearing for your LIFE on a daily basis.
The whole thing makes me so sad, because I really want to visit and indeed I feel very strongly that I MUST visit, but I’m terrified to do so. It seems like there’s no good time, frankly.