Sunday, July 13, 2014

MY ISSUES WITH THE ANTI-ISRAEL CROWD

A few statements before I start:

  1. This post is, as usual, my opinion, and mine alone. My family and friends might not agree with me, but that's how I roll.
  2. This post is NOT simply a defense of Israel; I have been publicly very critical of the Israel government on numerous posts here and elsewhere.
  3. It is NOT my intent to insult or anger anyone, and I will not get into on-line arguments about this topic. I would, however, gladly have an objective discussion about this topic, preferably in person rather than on-line. 
  4. This post is NOT faith-based. Yes, I am Jewish. I am also an atheist and what I call a progressive realist. The faith issues in the Middle East, and the world, are very real, but I prefer not to be part of any discussions labeled as "inter-faith" because I prefer to leave these labels outside the door, and, well, that's not how I roll.
Every time there is an inflammation of violence in Israel-Palestine (more precisely Israel and Gaza) many people start posting about how horrible Israel is to be bombing and killing the Palestinian population in Gaza. There are demonstrations, such as the one here in Portland yesterday, in support of the Palestinians and calling for Israel to end the occupation, end the violence, stop killing innocent women and children, and etc. Muslim, Christian and even some Jewish friends post these things and go to these demonstrations. 

I also see posts (Facebook) by family and friends who are very protective of Israel, and try to convey information in support of the right of Israel, like any other country, to defend itself. 

All of the above actions are OK; this is what we call democracy. 

I am greatly bothered by the extremes on both sides, even by what I know to be well-meaning people. My greatest issue is with the pro-Palestinian side, and this is what I'll mostly talk about here.

To put it simply, I think the anti-Israel posts and demonstrations feed hatred for Jews, whether intentional or not. There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism world-wide, including here in the USA. This is a fact, supported by data of hate-motivated attacks on Jews and Jewish sites. The anti-Israel movements, such as the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, and the recent decision by the Presbyterians to divest of stocks in companies doing business in or with Israel, all feed this hatred. 

Read this short piece in the New York Times today about one of the hate sites on the internet, Stormfront.org.  It is interesting and chilling. The author's analysis of the site users concludes that 75 percent of the site users are younger than 30. The group most often mentioned as hated is Jews, at 39%, followed by Blacks 33%, Hispanics 13%, Muslims 11%. Surprised? Gee, certainly racists hate Blacks or Hispanics or Muslims more than they hate Jews, right? A lot of Jew-hatred is based on the misperception that we Jews are behind all the societal changes these folks hate because we are so powerful and clever. We control everything. 

There is, and for some reason always has been a hatred of the Jewish people in the world; this has been true throughout the history of the Jews. When I see anti-Israel stuff, it is very easy for me to find that it is not very far from outright anti-Semitism, or a gateway to hatred of Jews. This is certainly true for many people in the Middle East, where many maps used in schools don't even show Israel, and that country is called things like "the Zionist Entity," and children's cartoons on TV show devil-looking Jews eating babies and drinking the blood of children for rituals. If you don't believe me, spend 2 minutes on google. 

So what about the fact that in this present conflict, as in the past battles between Gaza and Israel, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed, and zero Jews have died? Doesn't that prove that Israel is evil and the Palestinians are simply innocent victims? Well, no it does not. The numbers are real, but the facts behind the numbers are the real story.

The elected government of Gaza is Hamas. Hamas is a Sunni Islamist militant organization, and has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a source I think is objective, "Hamas combines Palestinian nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism. Its founding charter commits the group to the destruction of Israel, the replacement of the PA [Palestinian Authority] with an Islamist state on the West Bank and Gaza, and to raising "the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."" 

To carry out their goal of the destruction of Israel, Hamas, as well as other extremist groups such as Islamic Jihad, has waged a campaign of terror against Israel and its citizens, including suicide bombings, attacking Israeli civilians, including busloads of children, and launching thousands of rockets and missiles from Gaza into Israel over the course of many years. 

I have asked a simple question numerous times in Facebook posts: What would you expect, or demand that your government do if a neighboring community was launching explosives into your neighborhood, and after how many such bombs would you demand action? I have never received an answer to this simple question from any one of my Facebook friends. My answer is simple: go find them after the very first missile is launched and stop them, even if it means killing them! Can anyone say that this is unreasonable? Can anyone say that Israel has not tolerated thousands of rockets before responding at a scale designed to eliminate the threat?

Let's get back to those numbers of people killed. The reason for the disparity is simple: Israel protects its citizens; Hamas purposely puts its citizens in danger. Israel carefully selects its targets and uses extraordinary measures to avoid and minimize civilian casualties. Hamas does not seem to select targets, they launch rockets in the hope that they will kill Israelis - Jews. Hamas (and the other militant groups) stores their weapons and sets up their rocket launchers in heavily populated areas, knowing full well that once they provoke Israel to attack, many non-combatants will be injured and killed, giving their cause a terrific PR boost. 

OK, you say, Israel needs to end The Occupation and everything will be fine; peace will break out. I strongly agree that Israel needs to end the illegal occupation of the West Bank, and the isolation of Gaza. But I don't agree that this will solve the problem. Remember, the goal of Hamas is not to end the occupation, it is the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state. Does anyone really believe that if Israel ends the occupation, removes the West Bank settlements and tears down the separation barrier that the extremist Islamists will dismantle their missiles and bombs, lay down their arms, and accept Israel with open arms? Yeah, right. 

 I am also very bothered by the fact that so many well-meaning liberal friends are quick to post about how awful Israel is when Palestinians are being killed, but are silent on all the other atrocities in the world. Where are all the posts and demonstrations about the thousands of civilians, mostly Muslim, killed by the Syrian regime? How about the hundreds of school girls kidnapped by the Islamic group Boko Haram in Nigeria? And where are the bleeding hearts about the thousands of civilians murdered in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries - Muslims killed by Muslims? From my perspective, it's only when Jews kill Palestinians that we see such an outpouring of concern - and hatred. When Muslims kill Jews I don't see any comments by non-Jewish Facebook friends. I do see reports of people in Muslim countries dancing in the streets and hailing their martyrs. When Jews kill Muslims that seems to be all anyone talks about. And I never see Jews dancing in the street to celebrate the killing of innocent people.  Am I missing something here? I'd like to know if I am.

I'll end this by saying a bit about the extremists on the other side of the coin. I sometimes see posts defending Israel that at their core are hate-based. Some of these repeat ridiculous statements, such as that there is no such thing as a "Palestinian," or that every Arab or Muslim wants only one thing, to destroy Israel and kill every Jew. To these people the entirety of what is now Israel, Gaza and the West Bank is part of ancient Israel, and the Arabs have no legitimate claim to any of it. These are people who are in or support the settlement movement that is rapidly converting Arab-owned lands into Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The existence of these hundreds of settlements is an impediment to any peace process, and has fragmented the West Bank into a jig-saw puzzle that will make any future two-state agreement very difficult.    

Israel is a country that exists within the legal framework of every other recognized nation on the planet. The history of the formation of Israel is not very different than the history of many other countries. We Americans, especially, should not be too quick to criticize the actions of Israel without thinking about the very often horrendous history of our nation. Israel has been forced by its neighbors to become a very highly militarized nation, knowing full well that the day after they become weaker militarily than their Arab and Persian neighbors will be the day Israel ceases to exist. Israel has been condemned more often by the United Nations than any other nation. Israel is condemned by the international community whenever it defends itself. It is no wonder that the government of Israel does what it thinks it needs to do to defend itself in spite of the international criticism and scorn it knows it will get. Israel has a very well equipped and modern military, with all the latest technologies developed by their own and the military industries of the United States and some other western nations. And they use their military when they are attacked. 

I would rather see Israel make peace than war. I fault the Israel government for not doing everything possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority and yes, even Hamas. Yes, I know, they have tried, in their own way, without success. But they have not set a goal of making peace even if it means giving up certain concessions to the other side. They have not tried to think outside the box of the same old worn out positions both sides have bolted their boots to. 

I would prefer that concerned people work to achieve peace in Israel-Palestine by waging peace on both sides of the conflict. If you feel that you need to criticize the way Israel responds, please also criticize the Palestinians who constantly attack Israel with bombs and missiles and put their own people at risk. Pay attention to anti-Semitism here at home and abroad (it might surprise you to see in the NY Times article that Oregon has one of the highest levels of users of the internet hate site I discussed earlier). Let your elected representatives, including the President, know how you feel about US support of Israel, but keep in mind that if Israel did not have modern weapons of war, millions of innocent people in that country would have been slaughtered years ago by neighboring countries. 

This is an extremely complex issue, and "truth" and "fact" are hard to find. Each side has a narrative, and every narrative is valid and should be learned and understood by the other sides. But one basic fact remains: every nation has a right to defend itself when attacked, even the tiny nation of Israel. The US was attacked by three airplanes and responded by going to war with two countries for over 10 years. The illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States probably killed more than 100,000 people in that country, yet only a small minority of Americans protested that invasion. 

Let's continue to express our opinions, but let's be careful what we say.  

1 comment:

Tzippele said...

I love your thoughtfulness. ( and you)

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