I try not to write about the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is, too put it mildly, a hornet’s nest. Feelings run understandably very high when one starts talking about Israel so other than once or twice in the last three years of blogging, I have shied away from the topic. The recent spat of violence and death in Gaza, and reactions to it, have motivated me to tackle this again. If I trip on the way, I apologize, I am just giving my two cents, and so long as you can be civil about it, please share your thoughts as well.
Let us start with the obvious: Israel is not going anywhere. Most of those calling out the actions of its leaders know that. There are a few out there though, that would like to see it wiped from the map. Let us be clear about the reality of that situation, because barring direct attempts by the world’s super powers that is not happening, nor should it. So if you are entertaining thoughts of this being some sort of screed supporting your anti-Israel rhetoric, grow up and go someplace else, we have no room for you here.
Then let us move on to the next most obvious bit of information. Palestinians killed by Israel have outnumbered Israelis killed by Palestine 14 to 1 over the last five years. That is one hell of a disparity in casualties. Israel is more than capable of defending itself, and should do so. When Hundreds are killed in what can only be described as a retaliatory strike you start to lose moral high ground. When you make comments about Hamas using civilians as human shields you also lose it almost as fast as they do. If you know where the rockets are to fire your own at civilian infested neighborhoods, then you can just as easily send in your well-trained ground troops to take those rockets out with minimal civilian losses. If Israel was using this tactic, I would mourn the innocent dead but applaud the humane and smart use of force.
It gets messier than that though, especially when discussing it here. It is easy to make comments, for both sides of the argument. Do not confuse this for making a false equivalent statement regarding the conflict itself. The onus comes down on Israel to stop bombing the hell out of a neighbor that has little ability to strike at you. Do they try, yes, but they fail miserably, for the most part. No the equivalency is in the lack of understanding between those not caught in the conflict right here stateside.
For many in our country, and not just in the Jewish community, so do not try to put it on our friends of that faith, there is a knee jerk reaction to defend any and all actions by the Israeli state. They hear about an Israeli death and to them the best response is to return violence with violence. It is not Israel’s fault, they tell you, that Hamas is hiding behind civilians. For them 14 Palestinian dead for 1 Israeli is a fair exchange. At least that is the impression that I get.
What so many on the pro-Palestine side (as opposed to the anti-Israel one) fail to understand is the historical context beyond the last sixty years. Oh, they can rightfully point out the bloody history of the settlement of Israel, the massacres of Palestinians by their new-old neighbors. It is important to remember that. Somehow, throughout all of this, however, they fail to remember the history right before the establishment of Israel, and certainly the thousand or so years before that.
For whatever reason Jews have been the world’s, especially the western world’s, kicking boy for quite some time. It definitely goes back as far as the beginning of Christian dominance of faith in the West, and maybe further (though I would point out that in many of the occupations, the occupiers valued the natives contributions to culture and community: see Rome and Persia.) They are shell-shocked and that includes right here in the US. I wish we could say that we are past that, but Jews still eat shit right here on a regular basis. I am just a generation removed from my high school years and I remember what some of my Jewish friends had to go through, so yeah, it is fair to call them an oppressed group still. Why people who are excellent allies in so many other ways cannot see this is a little sad.
We also tend to forget that many of our Jewish neighbors right here in the US have family in Israel, or at least have friends that have family there. Many of the settlers came from right here in the US. There are a great many US expats in Israel which means a direct connection for US citizens to people who, yes, are targets for violence. It is perfectly acceptable, indeed even mandatory, to point out the disparities in capabilities and casualties, but many of us that do so will never have to worry about a loved one living within the range of a rocket. That cuts both ways by the way. For those of you defending Israel’s actions for this reason, you should know there are Palestinian Americans defending Israel’s right to exist who live in fear for their families because of Israeli missiles.
So no, there is not an equal relationship in the crisis in Gaza, but there is one in the crisis of dialogue in the world beyond it. There is an equal relationship in the crisis of empathy and compassion for your neighbors HERE. So many so willing to cry “check your privilege” on so many other issues but unwilling to check their own in this debate, and yes that is on both sides of it. One can defend Israel’s right to exist without diminishing the hurt and fear of the Palestinians in Gaza or their family here, and one can call out the at best short-sighted and at worst deliberately cruel actions of Israel’s leaders without diminishing the experience of our Jewish neighbors. The situation there may or may not have a resolution, but the one here does, and it begins with opening our ears and taking control of our tongues.