And with another outbreak of violence surrounding Gaza, I brace myself to deal with the inevitable flood of hatred against Jews, the accusation that we’re genocidal and commit war crimes, that we target children, that we have no respect for Arab life, that we are unprovoked aggressors. You name it, we’re accused of it. I know that sometime in the next few days, I will read of visibly Orthodox Jews in Stamford Hill and Golders Green being attacked, of synagogues being vandalised, because people punish Jews worldwide for whatever happens in the Middle East while at the same time claiming, “I have nothing against Jews, just Zionists and the Israeli government.”
Outside the Israeli Consulate not far from my apartment, people are chanting, “Zionist scum, your time has come.” Welcome to tolerant, liberal, progressive San Francisco.
No mention of over 12,000 rockets landing in Israel, targeting civilians, since 2001. Non-Israelis and non-Jews rarely consider the fact that their countries, if faced with the same attacks, probably would have retaliated a lot quicker. No mention that militants in Gaza deliberately aim at non-military targets. Nope. It would get in the way of their refusal to see any shades of grey in this massive mess.
This is me a few years ago, in London:
It’s strange. I’m not really an observant Jew. I’m in synagogue maybe twice a year. But more and more I have to be a spokesperson for my ethnic group in the face of loads of bullshit. I have to explain everything to people who don’t have a clue. I don’t like it, but I have to do it because then otherwise I’m just rolling over and being complicit in letting people walk over us. Between this and Tottenham-Y-Word-gate, I’m feeling like I have to be SuperJew when I’m honestly not the best spokesperson, but, eh. Gotta be tough, Kite. Got to risk the fact that people are going to label you things that you are not, call you scum, dissolve friendships simply because you believe Israel has a place on the map alongside a Palestinian state. That’s life. Some people are going to love you and others are going to hate your guts, but the best you can hope for is that people are going to listen to your argument. Big shrug.
I hate war. Like any other person who isn’t a total sociopath, I want war to be the last resort. There are crazies out there who hate Muslims. I am not one of them. Extremists hijack Islam and use it to justify violence, and I know moderate Muslims feel the same way about that as I do whenever some crazy ultra-Haredi-Jewish idiot dehumanizes Arabs: angry that our background has been seized by people full of hatred, and eager to distance ourselves, rushing to say, “We’re not all like that.” I am saddened by any loss of human life, and I detest those right-wing elements of Israeli politics who treat Arabs as lesser people. But it is inexcusable for people to ignore the context, to ignore how many times Israel has offered to negotiate and been rebuffed, to ignore the barrage of rockets on towns like Sderot. People point to the skewed death tolls, at how few Israelis compared to Palestinians have died. That’s because there is an excellent missile shield intercepting them before they hit Israeli towns, and a coordinated warning system and network of bomb shelters. But that’s immaterial – does a government have to wait until a bloodbath has already happened to defend its sovereignity like any other country would? Israel has said enough is enough. Apparently, in the eyes of the rest of the world, it is not allowed to do that. It is supposed to sit there and take it and take it and take it.
I believe that the only way there is ever going to be peace is a two-state solution. Neither of us is going to disappear anytime soon so we ought to figure out some way to accommodate both groups. But Hamas won’t even come to the negotiating table. Palestinian people deserve better than that.
Hamas could help Palestinian people. It doesn’t. When Israel pulled out of Gaza, it left agricultural infrastructure intact so that Palestinians could use it. Hamas destroyed everything. If Hamas can keep Palestinians in poverty, if Hamas can place weaponry in civilian areas to maximize casualties in Israeli strikes, then it can continue to demonize Israel. Its charter calls for the extermination of Jews – not just Israelis, all Jews – and how can I negotiate my right to breathe?
I’m not going to apologize for my existence or to whom I was born. I am not going to be a useful idiot. There are loads of people who want us Jews to shut up and go back to hunching over our books in the Yeshiva rather than reacting like any other country would in the face of eleven years of attacks on its existence. Sorry – ain’t gonna happen. We Jews will negotiate land, we will negotiate policy, but we will not negotiate our right to simply be alive.
The rest of the world has a problem with that.
The rest of the world thinks that Israelis and only Israelis need to roll over and die.
Anyone who thinks this is genocide, read a book that has the definition of genocide in it. Look at Darfur, at Kosovo. And stop embarrassing yourself.
I was a teenager when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, and I hoped that within my lifetime a similar process would play out between Israelis and Palestinians as it did between Irish Republicans and Unionists. That hope fades with every year I grow older. If there is to be ANY hope for peace, there needs to be negotiation. Hamas doesn’t want to negotiate. Never has done and, sadly, never will.
A friend of my father’s is an American Jewish doctor. He’s also part of a group that regularly travels to Israeli hospitals to perform free life-saving surgery for Palestinian kids. Several years ago he operated on a child with a heart defect. After the successful surgery, he met the child’s mother, who didn’t have any money and who didn’t speak Hebrew (and the doctor didn’t speak Arabic), but she was so overcome with emotion that she began stuffing a bag full of sweets and crying and giving it to him. Things like this show that no two groups of human beings are natural enemies. We get warped by politics, by intolerance. Both groups have done plenty wrong, but the only way forward is to at least acknowledge the other side has a right to exist. Israel has tried this. Hamas has refused. And that’s sad. And civilians suffer. All people essentially want the same thing. They want healthy children and a safe place for them to grow up. They want them to live.
The world doesn’t want to see things like the surgery project. The world thinks there’s no good in Israel, that it’s not a truly multicultural place. The world thinks people like this simply don’t exist, can’t exist, because it sees Israel as an evil malignancy to be chopped out and thrown away.
And I feel sorry for the rest of the world.