A Candid Conversation
The battle in Gaza is being fought not only
on the ground, but also in our psyches. It’s hard
to even distinguish whether our opinions are based on facts
or propaganda. Does Israel have a right to protect its citizens
from thousands of rocket attacks, or is Israel’s response
“disproportionate” in killing so many Gazan
This battle is being waged
among the citizens of the world, in your circles as well as mine. It spills
over into fundamental and angry disagreements among Jews themselves. To the
point that each side utterly dismisses the other, declaring that “they simply
don’t get it.”
How the logic of intelligent
people can be so contradictory requires a study of its own. Some relate it
to propaganda. Others to assimilation and ignorance. And yet others associate
it to a deterioration of foundational values and spiritual vision, which feeds
confusion and allows people to “substitute darkness for light” (in the words
of the prophet).
Which is what makes writing
about the topic so difficult. There is no way to discuss this issue without
infuriating someone. What makes it even more delicate is that we are presently
in midst of a war, where lives are being lost and blood being shed. To write
about this from a distance, pontificating one way or another, can appear –
or actually be – callous and insensitive.
At the same time, not
to write about these events that are dominating headlines and affecting us
all, seems equally detached.
Therefore, with trepidation
but strong resolve, and with apologies all around, I feel that the only way
to even attempt tackling the issues in some objective fashion (if that is
at all possible) is by moving away from an ideological voice and putting on
a “journalistic” hat. Due to the complexity of the issues at hand and the
strong positions that people have from one extreme to the other, utilizing
a journalistic approach can perhaps help navigate the minefield of this conflict.
I don’t know if that will help, but I will try, and I apologize ahead of time
if it offends anyone. What will probably happen as a result of this "absurd"
idea is to alienate everyone.
Oh well, if that’s the case, I guess we’ll have to chalk it up to yet another
casualty of war…
Please know that despite
appearances, I am not insensitive nor neutral; it is just an experiment at
a method that will hopefully allow more people to be included in the conversation,
instead of just preaching to the converted. More importantly, by listening
to the different arguments, even ones that initially may make your blood boil,
we can all become wiser in addressing the issues not just out of gut instinct
(which has its virtues), but in a more intelligent and comprehensive – and
sophisticated – fashion.
So here is a conversation
between two of my friends, from opposite sides of the aisle. In a surprisingly
cordial tone these two individuals were at least able to have a dialogue.
Full disclosure: I brought them together. They are both friends of mine and
trust me, despite some of our fundamental disagreements. And I asked them
to speak freely and helped moderate the conversation, preventing it from escalating
into a full-blown argument, in which both sides silence and dismiss the other.
I clearly have my own position. But as I mentioned I have donned my journalistic
hat for the moment, in the hope that we all can become wiser for it.
At their request, we shall
call my two friends Jeff and Evelyn.
Jeff presents the pro-Israel
voice, which persuasively argues that the issue is very clear-cut and straightforward.
Hamas is a terrorist organization whose charter calls for the destruction
of Israel. For eight years Hamas has been launching rockets and terrorizing
over a million innocent civilian lives in southern Israel. Israel, as any
sovereign country, is simply acting in self-defense, doing what every country’s
primary responsibility is: to protect its citizens. In the words of President-Elect
Barack Obama: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two
daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect
Israel to do the same thing.”
Evelyn takes the opposite
position, proclaiming herself pro-Palestinian, while maintaining her Jewish
identity and general support of Israel. In other words she distinguishes herself
from those Palestinians that call for the destruction of Israel. Her counter
argument is that Israel is the aggressor and is attacking innocent civilians
in Gaza. She adds that even if some response is necessary, it cannot be a
“disproportionate response.” Israel is a powerful military force, and must
control its firepower when attacking a far weaker entity. Evelyn also essentially
blames Israel for the crisis, by keeping the Gazans trapped in a small territory,
cutting off their vital resources and creating miserable conditions that produce
deep anger and frustration amongst Gaza citizens, forcing many of them to
embrace desperate and radical measures.
Here is part one of their
Jeff: If the terrible
Hitler, after he had exterminated millions of innocent lives, surrounded himself
with 1.5 million civilians, and the only way to get to him was to kill many
of the civilians, would we be justified in doing so?
Evelyn: Well, what if
by killing the civilians you in turn created another few thousand Hitlers?
Jeff: If they could turn
into Hitlers then maybe the best thing to do is to kill them all now.
Evelyn: May I submit a
second, less bloody option. Make peace with the civilians and have them turn
in the Hitler in their midst.
Jeff: But what if the
civilians were part of creating Hitler in the first place? What if their sentiments
against the Jews allowed for a Hitler to rise and come to power and lead his
county in a war against the Jews?
Evelyn: Then you have
to wonder why these civilians feel that way. Why are they so angry against
Jeff: Are you telling
me that it’s the fault of the Jews
that the Germans and now the Arabs hate them? The Germans did indeed have
many “excuses” and “explanation” how the Jews were contaminating their pure
Aryan blood, corrupting their financial systems, the cause for all their ruin
and humiliation. But we know today that its all boils down to plain anti-Semitism,
masked in one form or another. Even if one could find some faults among the
Jews – which in itself would be a vulgar indulgence considering the context
– does this in any way justify the methodical gassing of men, women and over
1.5 million innocent children?!
Evelyn: With all due sensitivity
to the Holocaust, I don’t think you can compare that to the current situation
in the war between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians have lived
in this region for hundreds of years. The reason so many of the 1.5 million
of them are crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip is
not due to their choice. They belong to families that came from towns and
villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba, that were driven to Gaza
by the Israeli Army in 1948. So you can imagine that they harbor much anger
and resentment. Many of them may not be ready to aggressively attack Israel
and Jews, and many may not even support such attacks, but they sure are profoundly
bitter, living in squalid quarters, in ghettos, with all the flow of their
resources (water, energy, electricity) being controlled by Israel.
So though, Hamas is definitely
making life more miserable for the citizens of Gaza with their blatant attacks
against Israel, they are being doubly punished by Israel’s retaliation, even
if it may be justified.
Jeff: So what exactly
are you suggesting Israel do? Ignore the attacks of Hitler against its citizens,
because Hitler is hiding among civilians? Even if they are not to blame, can
Israel afford to allow their sworn enemy to impudently continue attacking
its people? Especially considering Jewish history, including the silence of
the world during the tragic Holocaust, can Israel rely on other nations to
fight and protect it from its enemies?
And, for the record, did
the Israeli Army drive them into Gaza in 1948? Or did five Arab armies attack
the fledgling Israel back then and as a result of their loss in a war they
initiated, many were forced to flee their homes, as is the case in any war.
Additionally, let’s explore
the innocence of the Gazan civilians. If a majority of a people elect and
then choose to accept the rule of a tyrant, do they carry responsibility?
Were 100 million Germans culpable in the genocide of the Jews by allowing
the climate for its perpetration, or is only Hitler and his immediate subordinates
guilty? After all, Hitler, Goebbels, Eichman and so many others may have
never shot a Jew. But the entire nation – and many others – were a breeding
aground for the Holocaust. And in that sense, they are all guilty.
Evelyn: I am sensitive
to the Holocaust. One of my parents was a survivor. But I think that it is
being exploited to engender sympathy for Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians
who were not to blame for the Holocaust.
Jeff: You are not hearing
what I am saying, Evelyn. I am not pulling the Holocaust “card” nor am I blaming
the Palestinians for it (though the Mufti of Jerusalem had a far too cozy
relationship with Hitler). I am drawing a parallel of culpability: Even if
you were to argue that the majority of the Muslim/Arab world were not anti-Jewish
and anti-Israel, the fact remains that from their midst have risen forces
that call for the destruction of Israel. And we cannot simply allow them to
point fingers at other they have allowed into power, and allow to attack Israel.
Evelyn: So, are you suggesting
that despite their legitimate grievances, Palestinian civilians have to continue
suffering and be killed because they are part of the Hamas problem?
Jeff: I too am sensitive
to the plight of the Palestinians, and do not justify actions that have made
their life so difficult. But two things must be now considered. Even if things
in 1948 were done wrong, does that mean that today Israel should not protect
innocent lives? The first and primary responsibility of any state is to protect
its citizens. We must deal with the current sate of affairs and facts of the
ground, and cannot turn the clock back to 1948. Secondly, if you want to go
back to the root of things, we need to further explore the roots of Arab rage
against Israel and the Jews.
Can we say that the majority
of the Arab/Muslim world are not anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, but simply have
legitimate grievances, and were they remedied they would live in total peace
with Israel and the Jewish people? Hatred for Jews and attacks against them
precede the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The Germans had
their “excuses” to despise the Jews and the Muslims have their “excuses.”
How are you so sure that the root of the hatred is so different?
Evelyn: Ok, so let us
go back to those roots. But we also have to address the roots of Israeli aggression
against the Palestinians.
two – continued next week.