My Facebook page is filled with posts from my Jewish friends about the latest turmoil involving Israel and the Gaza Strip. I get it. It’s a tragedy that Hamas is lobbing rocket after rocket into Israel. I get it. This has been going on far too long and it must stop. Israel, please defend yourself. There is simply no way to condone what Hamas is doing.
But, here’s where I draw the line. From an editorial that appeared in Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper:
It’s up to Hamas, which is entirely to blame for the current situation, as it was when Israel was forced to invade back in 2008.
No, actually Hamas is not entirely to blame for the current situation, and this is where it gets difficult. Who threw the first stone? Who killed the first innocent? Who committed the first great atrocity? Maybe none of those questions should be asked, let alone answered, because those words all just lead to more finger-pointing and rocket-launching. So, let’s look at it a different way.
While I sat with the younger generation of Jews at the family synagogue Friday evening and discussed their Jewish upbringing, two young men came in. They were from Israel, only having been in America for a month. They spoke about life in Israel, and as you would expect, the conversation turned to the rocket attacks and counter-attacks on Gaza. The one Israeli who spoke English the best at one point, somewhat sarcastically referred to “the fiction of the Palestinians.” I’m pretty certain he is not the only Israeli or Jew who believes that.
And, there you have it. In 1947, Arabs living in what was to become Israel were expected to accept the inevitability of a Jewish state in their midst. Arabs whose families had been living there for centuries. Yes, there was a lot of bad stuff that happened then — but it came from both sides. And, yes, many Arab countries and Palestinian groups spent decades publicly calling for the destruction of Israel. There’s a whole lot of hate and violence wrapped up in this conflict.
I’d suggest that there is another inevitability to this situation. One that isn’t for the Palestinians and other Arabs to accept. It’s one for the Israeli’s and Jews around the world to accept. The Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. They aren’t a fiction. They are real people trying to lead lives and millions of them have been harmed for decades by Israeli policies — their lands taken away, their villages and homes destroyed, more and more Jewish settlements constructed in occupied territories. A wall being built, in many places cutting off even more territory.
Yes, Israel is a tiny sliver of land surrounded by “enemies.” Yes, it must defend itself. But, if it is going to occupy land that is not rightfully its own, if it is going to continue denying Palestinians fair opportunities and a stake in a future that looks bright, if it is going to continue to claim that Palestinians and their claims are a fiction, then Palestinians have no choice but to go to war as they do.
Let me give my American readers an example. Imagine, if you will, wherever you live that 65 years ago, the United Nations came in and said that the land you live on, the towns and farms where your family has lived for generations, is being given back to the Native Americans, whatever tribe it was that lived there 200 years ago. You resisted this because it was your land and you did not want to be ruled by a tribe. Hell, you aren’t Indian, why should they get to rule you. This is your land!!! But, well, it’s inevitable and it’s justified because of all the horrible evils that were inflicted on Native Americans over the years. They deserve a homeland they can call their own.
A war was fought and they won. In the course of the winning, they took more territory than what the United Nations granted, they drove hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens out of their homes. Destroyed villages and started importing more and more Native Americans from other parts of America into this new homeland of theirs. They denied you equal rights and your little sliver kept getting smaller and smaller. You were now a second class citizen where once you were not. They built new towns inhabited by their tribe on land that was supposed to be yours. They began to build a wall to cut you off, gobbling up even more of your land. To travel you have to go through check points. You are harassed by extremist members of the tribe. The list could go on and on of the wrongs that have been committed against you and your people over the last 65 years. But what it all comes down to is this … as a result of the inevitability of the Native American homeland, and the tribe’s harsh policies, you have no stake in a future that makes sense. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. What do you do? Yes, I’m pretty sure you would take up arms against your oppressor.
[Forgot to Add this Part: It’s one of the reasons why I have a difficult time getting outraged about groups hating America and waging terrorist war against us. Drone strikes that kill children. Soldiers who go off the deep-end and kill entire families. Trying to force our way of life, our political views on other countries. Afghanistan was a war I thought should have been fought but much differently. The point was to destroy al Qaeda, get Osama Bin Laden, put the Taliban on the run, and give the country a chance at some peace. We should have been in and out a long time ago. Instead, more than ten years later, we’re still there, creating more and more enemies as we do and there’s little doubt that when the last American soldier leaves, the country will descend into chaos. We will have achieved nothing other than weakening al Qaeda, but that is only a temporary achievement. It’s the same with Israel. Yes, they’ll bomb the Gaza Strip back into the Stone Age and will have achieved absolutely nothing.]
My point is this … Hamas is not entirely to blame for what is going on this month there. There is equal blame to go all around. As long as Israeli’s and Jews refuse to acknowledge their share of the responsibility for what is going on, there will be no peace in that area. As long as Israeli’s and Jews cannot see what they have done to a suffering people, giving them reason to go to war, there will be no peace in that area. If Palestinians are a fiction, there are just as many reasons to believe in the fiction of Israel. Accept the reality of each and progress can be had. There are plenty of Arabs and Palestinians who want peace with Israel. Yet, Israel’s current policies seem focused on the extremists — as long as there is one Palestinian who speaks of our destruction, we cannot speak of peace seems to be the sentiment. Reach a hand out, acknowledge some responsibility, provide the every day Palestinians with a reason to believe in a future, find peace, rather than wage war.