Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Land of Milk and Honey

There are very few topics that cause similarly minded individuals, like those within progressive movements, to be at an impasse. The topic of Israel and Palestine is a very pertinent one. I’ve written about Israel before but I will admit my knowledge on the subject is far more limited than other bloggers that can better educate you. I will also admit that I have an openly difficult time navigating between my identity as a Jew and my usual pro-peace, anti-war stance. I often wonder whether my perspective would be different if I was not Jewish, if I had not known of friends and loved ones who’s lives were cut short by the Holocaust, if I had not felt so at home during my time in Israel, drunk off the land of milk and honey…

So it hurts, it genuinely and honestly hurts, for me to read the liberal, progressive, and feminist blogs I have grown to love and respect as they now stand firm with Palestine but remained silent when Hamas attacked Israel with over 2000 rockets in the last year (I’m looking at you Huffington Post).

I am scattered and am get testy as I attempt to post responses on various blogs. My comments get shorter and less eloquent, not doing the circumstances justice. I'll try to be concise here. Though I realize doing so might make me unpopular, I think discourse is crucial and hopefully we can all learn from one another. The current and past situations in the Middle East are not black and white. There are a lot of grey areas to consider, a lot of history, and a lot of passion and emotion.

The following are statements from posts and comments that I’ve read on other blogs over the past few weeks. I have responded to some at their place of origin, others I put aside, because they deeply hurt me or because I wanted to give the subject more thought. I would like to respond to many of these here, because like I said, doing it in various places doesn’t do the topic justice from my end.

It’s ok to eliminate Israel, or to give the land to Palestinians, because it was originally founded unethically by removing Palestinians from the land.

Well no, not exactly. Both Jews and Palestinians lived on that land. When the land became Israel, some Palestinians stayed (some did not). The ones that did stay were granted full civil rights as citizens for Israel. Many continue to live there today. The Palestinians that left, or the ones that protest the “land being taken from them” made that choice for themselves. So not only is this a false accusation but also it leaves out a crucial note that Israel was given to the Jews due to a massive religious/ethnic cleansing operation whose goal was to eliminate ALL Jews from the earth. We need to talk about solutions and many people have. From all the reading I have done over the past few days the only thing that makes sense to me is a two-state solution. However, this is something that Israel has been working towards for over 50 years but Palestinians won’t commit because they want Israel and Jews off the map. For good. How can anyone negotiate with that?

Israel has more military force. They should regulate it better and use it less because it is killing innocent children.

Like I said, I’ve always been adamantly pro-peace and anti-war. Each time I read that Israel has responded violently to an act of aggression I get a feeling of fear and sadness in the pit of my stomach. But if we are truly concerned about the innocent children that are being hurt why aren’t we just as angry at the Arabs that intentionally risk the lives of those children? Children are used as martyrs of terrorism, as shields during attacks, and indoctrinated to hate. Mickey Mouse and other cartoons are used as propaganda to teach children to hate and how to make bombs, with nails and straps, which they attach to their bodies. I ask this not to instigate but because I am searching for honest answers: what is an appropriate response to missile attacks against your land that come from Gaza? What should have been the appropriate response from Israel instead? Hamas has gotten us to the current situation we are in. Was Israel attacking the West Bank or Gaza originally? No. Hamas brought this on the Gazans, who I do feel terrible for because innocent people don’t deserve to live in this type of violence and destruction.

Israel is a bully and has never given up anything.

What?! Firstly, Israel gave up Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians. Also, in a peace agreement with Syria, Israel was considering giving up the Golan Heights which is not only one of the most beautiful parts of Israel but also would give the owner of the land the height advantage. Syria maintains close ties to Hamas and I hope to hell they don’t end up with the Golan Heights. Seriously, imho, Israel has given up too much already. Let’s not forget Israel is the size of Delaware… I completely understand that Gaza is in a really shitty current situation (that they have made for themselves but that’s another story) – they are living in a territory that depends on Israel for their survival, their food, water, power, etc, which gives Israel a lot of control. That is not a way for an independent people to live. However, every peace agreement that Israel has presented, Hamas has torn up and refused to negotiate new ones. How can any nation coexist with another who wants nothing to do with you and more than just that, wants you gone? Instead, Hamas has allied with Iran and have resorted to underground tunnels that not only smuggle in food and water but also rocket parts and ammunition. Hamas is no Hezbollah but it’s still incredibly scary what rocket parts and mortar shells can do, the destruction they can cause. The range of Hamas weapons has increased dramatically meaning they are getting help from somewhere (ie Iran). In addition to Hamas fighting a war with Israel, other countries are fighting a proxy war with Israel through Hamas. This isn’t fair to anyone, including Hamas and Palestinians who are getting the brunt of all the violence.

And a little something from Dave:

There are no easy answers and no easy targets. What really cooks my noodle is how many one-sided arguments sprout up when hostility resumes in that area. There is a humanitarian crisis and Israel is also defending itself. Dualism in general is a dangerous thought process that shows a lack of mental maturity and an inability to see problems as a larger, more contextual group of details. There are lots and lots of armchair sociologists/war tacticians that seem to know every answer and have the entire intimate inside knowledge of where to place blame. These people are, pardon my verbiage, full of shit. We all have our opinions. Mine is that this conflict is a larger proxy war similar to acts of communist aggression in places like Afghanistan. Iran wants to destroy Israel, but can’t, so it instead provides weaponry to Hamas through a complex series of underground tunnels. It’s a win-win scenario for Iran/Hezbollah/etc… because they can strike Israel and also claim that Israel is a cruel nation that practices genocide on the Palestinian. Meanwhile, where is the humanitarian support for Palestinians for the past 60 years? I know Israel provides lots. Israel also blockades. I’m aware of both. This issue gets only more complex the further you dig. Why can’t Iran/Syria/Lebanon/Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Jordan etc…provide land for Palestinians (check out what happens when you dig into this topic…)? There are so many questions and no easy answers. If you really want to do someone a favor (me), read carefully about this conflict. Don’t assume that someone with a PhD from Yale is right because he/she is a PhD from Yale. Don’t accept obvious bias from people. Get your news from a multitude of sources, and then begin to draw your own conclusions. Finally, realize that for most people who support Israel, that this is difficult. I see mostly two kinds of arguments: 1.) Israel is the heinous aggressor responsible for a multitude of death, famine, and disease…or 2.) I support Israel, but I have problems with how it conducts itself. There are few people that have the luxury of being entirely, 100% behind Israel. So, when I argue for Israel, I have to argue not only against the opinions of those that support argument #1, but also my own internal dialogue. No one is pro-war (except you, Dick Cheney…good riddance).


Heather said...

I'm not sure you'll let this comment stand given the feelings you've expressed here, but I'll make it anyway. I think there is always a tit for tat on these things, as in, who has the right to do what based on what happened last. But it seems like as long as people of any language, ethnicity, country or creed think in terms of "us" and "them," peace will not be had. Is the life of a child expendable because someone within their ethnic group fired a weapon? Better, is the life of that militant expendable because they themselves fired a weapon? It's not clear to me that the ethical answer is "yes." If we use prior wrong to justify the killing of others, does that really represent an anti-war/pro-peace position? As a citizen of the planet and a member of the human race, I have to question the rush to arms any time past grievances are uses to justify them. I am just as sickened by the actions of the Israeli military right now as I am of Palestinian suicide bombers because the actions always result in harm and death to fellow humans.

Ruchama said...

"The Palestinians that left, or the ones that protest the “land being taken from them” made that choice for themselves."

This isn't entirely true. Some Palestinians left, but many others were forced off the land.

Anonymous said...

I struggle with these issues, as do you, and I'm sorry to jump all over you on this, but I think I have to correct some of the statements you've made here:

1/. The Palestinians that left, or the ones that protest the “land being taken from them” made that choice for themselves

This isn't true. In 1947, there were terror attacks on non-Jews living in historical Palestine, which led to the war in 1948 (started by the Arab nations) in which the borders were pushed back by Israel. In 1948 many Palestinians had their homes destroyed and were forced to flee. that's why the towns and cities in the Occupied Territories are called "refugee camps"

2/. The ones that did stay were granted full civil rights as citizens for Israel.

That is not what those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel say of their circumstances. I have read accounts that tell quite clearly that they are treated as second-class citizens.

3/. "Israel gave up Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians."

Gaza and the West Bank were never Israel's to give up. They were not a part of the original UN sanctioned Israel of 1947; they weren't a part of the final borders settled after the war of 1948. What people forget is that Israel invaded Jordan, Syria and Egypt in 1967 as a pre-emptive war, and it was in that war that Israel occupied those territories.

This means that, according to the Geneva Convention, the Settlements are unequivocally illegal.

(I will note here that you are right about the situation of the Golan Heights: throughout the 1950s up until the Six Days war of 1967, Syrians would daily launch mortar attacks on the farmlands below the Golan Heights, and I agree that they present a strategic problem if handed back. It is the only area where I would agree that Israel should be allowed to keep the territory gained in 1967).


My interpretation of the situation at the moment is that there are two sides who say they want peace, but both sides mean by "peace", "a situation where we have won and the other guys have lost". Both Israel and Hamas seem to think this way. The only way Israel will have the peace they want is to exterminate the Palestinians entirely (which they do have the capacity to do); the same is true for Hamas, except that there is no way for Hamas to exterminate all the Israelis. In the current situation, however, I think there was a golden opportunity for peace, when Hamas were legitimately elected as the representatives of the Palestinian people. If, instead of shunning the Palestinians at that point, a serious and concerted effort at diplomacy had been launched instead, I believe that things would be a lot more manageable now - instead, the legitimate Palestinian government was undermined and eventually, a civil war between Hamas and Fatah broke out, which led to the situation we have today.

Lauren O said...

Thank you for this post. Disproportionate force and the killing of innocent children is inexcusable, and no one (or no one sane) thinks that the fact that those things have happened is good. But I can't get over my sympathy for Israel, who really can't negotiate with people who simply want them destroyed completely. I like the way you describe how difficult it is to support Israel but criticize its actions when they've clearly gone too far. Not that most feminist/liberal blogs have made the situation completely black-and-white, but there's a level of nuance that seems to be missing from a lot of the commentary.

D said...

SnowdropExplodes: Thanks for the additional information, but again, you seem to agree with my understanding of the fundamental flaw of this ongoing conflict. I can't believe in good faith that Israel believes only the entire destruction of all Palestinians would solve their problems. It oversimplifies the issue when we see it through that lens. It assumes that both Israel and Palestine believe that there is a fundamental good vs. evil scenario that only ends with the other being destroyed. Efforts have been made on both sides for 60 years to resolve this problem, including many many many diplomatic attempts. Also, Geneva Convention is relevant, but I'm not sure which you're referencing. If you mean Protocol 2 (Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts), then that was never signed or ratified by Israel. You are right to say that the Palestinian government was undermined, but it was done from within by infighting amongst Fatah and Hamas. Finally, notice now that many countries in the ME are quick to show anger towards Israel (Jordan/Syria/Iran/etc...) but still offer little or no help resolving the issue outside of Egypt, who is getting skewered for even trying to help.

Nora said...

1. I, too, believe that Jews deserve and need a homeland. But I do not believe in forcefully removing other people from theirs. The Palestinians did not choose to leave. There were campaigns of terror against them. Jews and Palestinians can and did live together peacefully. But I believe we can all recognize that having a group of people start a country based on their religious values and letting you stay as second-class citizens is disgusting.

2. All Palestinians do not all want Israel and Jews wiped off that map. A small small small minority do. Many Palestinians want peace.

3. Comparing how Israel is attacking Palestine to how Palestine terrorizes Israel is silly. Palestinians have nothing. Israel has the second strongest military in the world. I am not saying that terrorist bombings are acceptable. They disgust me as well.

The main reason I object to what Israel is doing (besides being nonviolent) in Gaza is because many Palestinians cannot leave. They have no means and in many cases it is illegal. Look at what happened last year, when the United States granted Fulbright scholarships to Palestinian students. Israel would not let them leave. They have no rights of Israelis, but are under the total control of Israel. I also believe that dialogue is necessary to help the situation. But first, we must have true knowledge about what's happening there, and many Americans do not.

Anonymous said...

(1) yes, the jews deserved a homeland after the holocaust. that homeland should have been in germany, not palestine. (2) some assholes firing rockets, uneffectively, i might add, does not justify a state bringing the full fury of its massive arsenal of weapons upon the people who happen to live near where said assholes were firing rockets. (3) you should never equate what one asshole says (in this case, ahmadinejad) with what an entire nation of people believe. first off, ahmadinejad is largely a figure-head with little power. secondly, he never said that he wanted to wipe israel off the map, that is poor translation which has been promoted by the media. what he said was that 'he hopes israel will vanish from the pages of time.' this is an extremely passive thing to say, as opposed to the active 'wipe israel off the map.' (4) fuck hamas and fuck the israeli government/army/police force. hopefully they will kill themselves off with rockets and US made helicopters and the like, and then the people in israel and palestine will live in peace without government or religion to tear them apart.

Anonymous said...

My response to most Palestinians?

BAW SOME MORE. Suck it up. They lost a war and then they lost being a soverign nation. Call up the American Indians or various African people and baww about how hard it is to have your homeland "stolen" and be treated as "second class citizens". Stony silence will greet you.

And, frankly, the media makes it worse by calling these people Palestinians. There are no Palestinians, there are no Ottomans, there are no members of the Confederacy. Kindly stop referring to people by nations that don't exist, kthnx.

countrygirlcityliving said...

amen sister. while i'm not the historian that many of your contemporaries claim to be, i am behind you entirely in this battle and will stand behind israel 100&.

Ruvym said...

Wow, lots of ignorant people out there. I'm actually fascinated by how some of these posts spin realities, are sparse with the details and pick up only on the ones they want to discuss. Whatever, I guess that's human nature, but it's just really frustrating to read.

I would like to add a couple of points to this discussion without specifically answering anyone or trying to refute any one comment:

1. The partition of the Palestinian Mandate into a Jewish and an Arab state was a legal, enforceable decision under international law. Whether or not you agree with the whole thing is besides the point - it happened. At the time, Jews accepted the SHIT of the crop, we're talking like Tel Aviv and the desert. "Hear ya go, enjoy." And they took it, and if back then people could just "get along" like we want them to, then we would have Israel and we'd have Palestine. But they didn't get along, a war ensued, and Israel won that war and won more land because of it. That's just the way it was. Since that day in 1948 Israel has faced an existential threat from ALL of its neighboring countries. We're not talking like people don't like Israel, we're talking whole groups, people, countries that want Israel wiped out, all Jews thrown out (or killed!), because they don't like the very IDEA of a Jewish state in the middle of the Middle East. This is a purely ideological point that most people in the region have not abandoned, and it all goes back to the 1948 partition which they refuse to accept as reality. Don't be fooled by claims of "all we want to see is Israel return to 1967 borders" or whatever other crap people spew. It's not about giving back land, it's about Israel's existence. Hamas doesn't want an Israel. Period. And Israel is supposed to be negotiating with them? About what? And it really doesn't look good that Hamas is the "elected" representative of the Palestinian people. Sure, you can argue that they also provided social services and a lot of people voted for them for that reason, but they believe in what they believe in and so you have to live with garbage you bought. I'm sad for the people of Gaza who have to innocently suffer because of these monsters, but the same way that we wouldn't stand silent as psychos bombed New York City from Jersey City, Israel can't stand silent while 1/8th of their population lives in constant fear that an errant rocket is going to land on their house, or their school, or their car. It's an unacceptable situation, regardless of how rinky-dink a lot of these rockets are. If they're so harmless lets see you stand still in the middle of an abandoned Sderot when the sirens go off. Try it, I want to see if you can hold your fluids.

2. I'm thinking about another famous British partition post WWII. Maybe you've heard of India and Pakistan. Great example actually. Same sort of thing where we have two different ethnic/religious groups and each get a homeland. But shit, some Muslims are stuck in India and some Indians are stuck in Pakistan, and unfortunately that means that a lot of people end up losing their homes and their businesses and their lives because of the ensuing chaos of "moving to the right side." No one likes to admit it, but that's just the sort of thing that happens sometimes. And then you survive and you start over and you try to make due. You don't hear a concerted world outcry that Muslims who left India are entitled to return to their homelands, and vice-versa. You don't hear a concerted world outcry that Indians are entitled to reparations for all the property they lost when they left Pakistan, and vice-versa. What makes that situation so different? Nothing really. But somehow the world has twisted it and the situation with Israel is its own magical thing that transcends all other conflicts in the world. This is a pure media creation that warps reality.

3. After the partition, after the War of Independence, after the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, you add all those together and you get the "Palestinian refugee problem." You know what happened to these refugees? Many of them are still living in the same camps that they moved to in 1948 or whenever. Host societies, host Muslim, Arab societies, refuse to integrate them into the populations. They are kept as second class citizens with no hope of citizenship status. And why? No logical reason other than for purposes of keeping them believing in the idea that one day they will return victorious to reclaim all of Palestine for themselves, and it will be devoid of Jews. For 60 years they have been fed this nonsense and kept down for purposes of Arab pride that never could move past the partition and the creation of Israel. These are innocent people kept in purgatory to perpetuate myths and ideologies and philosophies that most of them don't give a rats ass about anyway. And meanwhile I'm hearing how the Arabs in Israel are somehow second class citizens? Look, I'm not saying there isn't discrimination or segregation or inequality that exists, because there is. What I am saying is that this is stuff that a democratic society like Israel has to work through in order to ensure that their loyal citizens are equal in all aspects of society and the law. But ask the vast majority of these Israeli Arabs whether they'd like to move to any one of the neighboring Arab countries or move to Gaza under Hamas or even to the West Bank and I promise you most won't want to go. That speaks for itself.

4. Wow I've gotten a little ahead of myself here. OK maybe this will be the final point. People complain (and perhaps rightfully so) about the time of the partition and the War of Independence and the way a lot of Arabs either were thrown off their lands, forced to leave, or left on their own accord (with promises of triumphant returns within a week's time, upon the crushing of the Zionist enemy!). That's terrible to think that people lost their homes and their property and had to move to a foreign place. But this is not an unusual or odd thing that happened. Throughout history lines have shifted and people have left homes because of war or famine or oppression or foresight. It's something that has happened, continues to happen, and will continue to happen. But the question becomes - at what point do you move on and try to live with the new reality on the ground? After WWII, with the creation of the State of Israel, HUNDRED OF THOUSANDS of Jews in neighboring Arab countries were forced to leave because of oppression. They left everything behind in order to survive, in order to make a better life for themselves and their family. They moved to Israel, to Europe, to America. Everything they left behind was lost, swallowed up in the sand. And today, does anyone beg for its return? Does anyone beg to have their father's farm in Iran turned back to the rightful owner? Does anyone even believe, for a moment, to reclaim a nationalized family business in Syria or Jordan? No. These Jews left, and they resettled, and they became citizens of the countries that took them in. This was history, they lived through it, and they went on with their lives. Sad and traumatized, but with dignity. This is the way of the world and this is the story of the exile and refugee, except, of course, when it comes to the Palestinians. You tell me why their story is somehow different? Why so many of them still sit in those decrepit camps I mentioned? Why they seem to be the only group in the world that is somehow kept from progressing with life and the forging of new ties? These are the sorts of questions that people don't ask because it's easier just to look at things in the moment, without context, and make a snap judgment about them. To see children bloodied and mothers crying and to blame Israel for all that has come to these people. Too few people ask the right questions and too few people hold the true perpetrators accountable.

And this, more than anything else, is why there is no peace.

Anonymous said...

good post you go girl!

Anonymous said...

great post! I was just having a discussion about this a few days ago and expressed very similar thoughts. It is nice to see that I am not alone.

Ithaca Skinhead said...

An Isreali immigrant gave me the *true* story:

Gaza is a buncha refugees. No one wants to take them in. Especially not Isreal. So Isreal confines them to the Gaza strip and barely let's any food in. The strip is surrounded by military bases and all the guns are pointed at Gaza.

Gaza, about the size of Manhatten, has over twice the population. They're crammed in there like sardines and in very bad conditions.

Yeah, no shit they're firing home-made rockets at Isreal. They're pissed and want some food.