Monday, January 12, 2009

Fear and Ambivalence in the Strip

Somewhere in the haze of the depressing news about the economy and the exhilarating news about the inauguration, there has been ample time for the media to cover the incredibly depressing news of the war in the Middle East. Which came first - the incursion into Gaza or the Hamas bombardment of civilian targets in Israel - depends on who you ask. What everyone can seem to agree on is that the situation is ripe with potential for pundits, commentators and of course, bloggers.

My colleague, Jack over at Random Thoughts and curator of the Haveil Havalim, has compiled no fewer than 14 editions of blog carnivals devoted to the current violence in the Gaza Strip/Southern Israel. (In the interest of brevity and political correctness, heretofore referred to as the GS/SI Shitstorm.) Many of my Facebook friends have yielded their status reports to daily-updated tabulations of rocket counts. Others have attended rallies from Baltimore to New York to Los Angeles.

Yet in 17 days of formalized battle, I have remained uncharacteristically silent. No submissions railing against Hamas violations of three-hour humanitarian ceasefires. No money paid to help Palestinians held hostage by threat of airstrikes. No posters carried to convince world opinion of Israel's rightness in waging this fight. Why?

More than fatigue or absorption with pressing problems closer to home (and literally within my own family), I feel an incredible sense of ambivalence about the GS/SI Shitstorm, which by the way is known as Operation Cast Lead in Israel.

On one hand, I firmly believe that Israel and all Israelis have the right to live in peace and security without fear of constant rocket fire. Just as America would strike with furious vengance if a projectile launched from Sonoita detonated in Tucson; Israel has to defend herself.

But on the other hand, I don't see how the deaths of more than 900 Palestinians accomplishes anything more than making more suicide bombers, more Hamas militants, more extremists. Because I gotta tell you, if I didn't already hate Mexicans (which I totally don't), having them lob murderous weapons at me would make me freaking hate them.

Some people instantly throw down the anti-Semite card at the first sign of media leaning to any side that is not 100% pro-Israeli. Protests have sprung up throughout Europe condemning Israel's actions as disproportionate, aggressive and (dare I say) terrorizing and as expected, the organized Jewish community has labeled Jew-haters anew.

Sure, the Israeli Defense Forces are held up to a different standard than that of any other country. When 40 civilians died near a United Nations school in Gaza, it wasn't an unfortunate and tragic mistake. It was further evidence of the barbaric Tzahal airstrikes. Nevermind evidnce that Hamas booby-traps schools and uses children as human shields.

My best advice on this issue is to simply get used to it. Mass media will always expect more from the IDF - they made the same mistake I did and were entirely too good at the beginning. Maybe if we'd let the Six-Day War go on for a whole week, they would cut us a little slack now.

Today the New York Times published a story about how the worldwide criticism has forged solidarity among often-fractured Israelis, and their Jewish brethern in the Diaspora. So why is it still so hard for me to outwardly express my Zionism?

As a child, I was sold the notion that Israel was this mystical, magical place where milk and honey flowed from every crack in the sidewalk and where every Jew experienced some sort of spiritual awakening. In my two entirely too brief trips, I have fallen in love with the sights and been inspired by its people, but I've never been able to give myself over to Israel whole hog (pun intended).

Just as I love America, despite her faults, I love Israel in the same way. Enthusiastically and unconditionally, but still with a few questions. And maybe that's why when times are tough in Israel, I will defend her to our enemies but will shrink from the front lines of rhetorical battle. Besides, healthy criticism is much easier when the rockets aren't raining down on you.


Jendeis said...

Love and completely agree with your last paragraph.

Jack said...

I don't see how the deaths of more than 900 Palestinians accomplishes anything more than making more suicide bombers, more Hamas militants, more extremists.

You have to remember that viewing things through a western perspective doesn't always lend itself to understanding the other side.

It is complicated and tragic. One of the men that Israel killed sent his own son off to be a suicide bomber. There is a death cult that has formed and we cannot allow it to function as it would like to.

The US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The allies wreaked havoc all over Europe.

Sometimes the way to bring people to diplomacy is to crush them militarily so that they understand that violence is not the answer.

It sounds backwards, but there are many examples throughout history of this.