Saturday, November 24, 2012

Israel Thoughts

I followed the recent fighting in Gaza rather closely, and though it's unclear whether Israel's made any long-term gains from it, I'm happy that the Israeli casualties were relatively low. It's interesting to compare my reactions to the fighting to my reactions in previous years: during Intifada II I was fairly critical of Israel, but over the last few years my sympathies for the Palestinians and focus on the IDF's foibles have shifted. I still recognize that the IDF isn't perfect-- and there are plenty of cases I've heard about over the years where I question individual actors' judgment-- but it's also quite clear that at least when it comes to Hamas, there aren't a lot of options at the Israelis' disposal. Two days before the cease-fire, Mrs. Yid and I were driving home in the car and I happened to put the radio onto a public access show run out of Berkeley, and the hostility toward Israel was so infuriating we both started yelling at the radio. It's quite a contrast to my first days of becoming aware of Middle East politics and discussing such topics online with people, often taking the Palestinian side, or at least playing a very strong devil's advocate for their position.

I don't think I've drank the hasbara kool-aid, but after a lot of years of reading and talking about Israel and becoming closer with relatives there, I now feel more identification with it and the Israeli people. I certainly don't think of myself as Israeli, but I feel that I understand Israel much better than when I was younger. At the same time, I've tried to work to better understand Palestinian and Arab-Israeli issues and viewpoints as well, and I think that's important, too, if only so one can be educated about all the things going on there. While I continue to have sympathy towards Palestinian civilians I also recognize that the politicians and fighters in their society bear a large measure of responsibility for the ongoing conflict with Israel. Listening to the idiot on the radio talking about Hamas "bottle rockets" and comparing Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto and Israel to the Nazis, I realized that people like that are why it's becoming so hard for honest liberals to feel like they have a place in the discussion. It is true that we need to be talking about Palestinian deaths, and it is true that no military is infallible, but as soon as you've started minimizing Hamas' behavior or making ridiculous accusations or comparisons, you've lost any credibility-- or at least, you should have. I don't know whether the crazy rhetoric was just more subtle during my high school years or I wasn't listening to those kinds of people, but now I feel like I better understand what the real issues are-- and what they aren't. Israel isn't perfect, but it sure isn't genocidal (though it does have its share of morons). And, while some may accuse me of naiveté or squishiness, I don't think most Palestinians are, either-- though I do think they require major social and political shifts to get to a point where coexistence starts looking like a reality. I'm worried about the next generation of Palestinians and how they get from where they are today to where people would like them to be.

What I've mostly tried to do over the last few years, though, is become more thoughtful about how and when I offer my opinions about what goes on in Israel and proto-Palestine. Because I realize that while I'm entitled to an opinion, it doesn't mean a whole lot if I'm not there, on the ground, living through what people there are living through. My opinions-- and especially, my advice-- don't mean much, because I'm not the one on the line. Though it's natural for people outside the region to want to help or feel a strong urge to contribute to the discussion, sometimes I think we'd all be better off if we took a step back and tried to listen more, instead of lecturing the Israelis and Palestinians about what they need to do to bring peace. As with so many others, I still hope for peace and resolution in my lifetime, but I realize that those dreams have to be shared and realized by the people actually living through the fighting-- and who have the most to gain or lose.

No comments: