For years, it has been fashionable to see Israel as a big bully picking on the poor, defenseless Palestinians. This line of reasoning has the Israelis brutalizing civilians for the fun of it, while the Palestinians just want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I understand this mindset. Those pictures are awfully dramatic, and no one likes to see dead children. Including Israelis, I might add, who have been dropping leaflets in advance so civilians will know where they are going to bomb. I think it is ridiculous to discuss a proportionate response. If the Canadian government supported the bombing of the U.S. and the Canadian people were hiding the bombers in their midst, no one in the U.S. would be all that concerned about a proportionate response. Israel is not just picking on the weak for the hell of it; the Israelis are legitimately threatened.
Of course, there are people on the other side of the fence in whose eyes Israel can do no wrong. This line of reasoning has the uber-civilized Israelis patiently tolerating the savages in their midst who irrationally lob bombs over the border.
I understand this mindset. As an American Jew, I get awfully nervous about criticizing the Israelis. People may say the Holocaust has nothing to do with this, but it does. The bare fact is that – in living memory – a government mobilized to effect worldwide Jewish extermination, and most other nations did not want to take in the fleeing Jews. To Jews, Israel is insurance that the next time (and it is a question of when, not if) there will be someplace to go. The Israelis are on the front lines, protecting a refuge I may need someday, and so I find it hard to criticize.
But, the fact remains that the Palestinians are being blockaded. They cannot get the goods they need. On the other hand, Israel is trying to keep them from getting arms. On the other hand, the pullout left the Palestinians stranded. On the other hand, Israel has stopped occupying Gaza as requested. On the other hand, they did so unilaterally. On the other hand, the Palestinians would not negotiate. On the other hand, Israel was occupying their land. On the other hand, the Gaza Strip was being used to attack Israel. On the other hand, Israel was formed on land containing Palestinians.
And so on. It goes on forever because (and I know people hate to admit it) both sides are right and both sides are wrong. This is not a war about a few missile attacks. It is a war about class. The Palestinians are poor. Very, very poor. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not solely because of Israel. These were the poorest of the Arab world, and they got left behind to form a nation that would conveniently stick in Israel’s side. They make excellent propaganda tools, and it is disgusting how people love to cloak their animosity towards Israel in sympathy for the Palestinians. Make no mistake: Israel is surrounded by wealthy Arab countries that use the poorest people – the Palestinians – to do the dirty work of fighting Israel and making it look bad.
My heart breaks for the Palestinians. It really does. But the answer is not for Israel to sit back and allow itself to be attacked. There are too many people who would love to see it destroyed. Don’t bother trying to tell me that feelings towards Israel have nothing to do with feelings towards Jews. That’s as much hogwash as trying to say that the animosity Israelis feel for Palestinians is free of bigotry. And I think it is safe to say Israelis on the whole bear not much love towards the Palestinians.
There are no two groups it is easier to hate than Arabs and Jews, which makes it mighty convenient that they are duking it out over a crappy piece of arid land. No matter which side a person picks, those stereotypes and prejudices play a part. Until we acknowledge the ethnic prejudices and economic facts driving this problem, no progress can be made.
And the Palestinians will keep dying.
Feel free to comment with what I am sure will be strong opinions. But if people start getting nasty, I will close comments. It was very hard to write this, and the reason I haven’t been posting much is because I needed to figure out how to say this. Disagree with me and one another, but do it respectfully.