Archives for posts with tag: Palestine

ETA: Please read Nedra’s very thoughtful response to this in the comments. She’s on the ground and doing the work in Jerusalem and has a far clearer view of these things than I do.

Again, I’m writing from the perspective of profound ignorance that blights all of us who choose our media bubbles and stick to them. (Disclaimer: My preferred news sources include the BBC, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow. If I get my act together this year, I hope to add, NOS Journaal, and at least one other Dutch source.)
In response to my last post, my mother referred to a friend of the family, a liberal Jewish woman who made aliyah (Note to the goyim: To make aliyah as a Jew is to emigrate to Israel) and lives in one of the settlements. Mum’s wish is that I get in touch with this friend who has on the ground experience and for a variety of reasons doesn’t fit the stereotypes, but ‘says things like “Palestinians teach their children to hate”‘.

This phrase has always struck a nerve with me. Yes, among the Palestinians are those who attack Israeli settlers and soldiers and who fire explosives from Gaza into those settlements. And the entire population suffers IDF (Israeli Defence Force) response far out of scale with the initial attack. 

And it has happened over and over and over again.

We Jews have an interesting history with occupying powers that predates our history as one. By the (hundreds of?) thousands we endeavoured to escape the pogroms of the late 19th century. We all know what happened to those who didn’t escape, but with almost the regularity with which we tell the story of Passover, we retell the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. We tell of how the Jews of Warsaw were forced into smaller and smaller spaces and had their resources systematically cut off, and of how valiantly the Jews of the ghetto fought against the Nazis. ‘One shudders to think that it required a quarter of a million Jews to give their lives, for the remainder to understand the reality of the situation and come to the right conclusions,’ wrote one Shmuel Winter as documented on the Yad Vashem web site dedicated to the uprising (

This is the crux of the matter. When we were systematically restricted in World War II, we finally rose up. We glorify those who finally rose up and shudder through the tears of 20/20 hindsight at the meekness with which we suffered the slow approach of our destruction. I don’t have my copy of Night to hand, but Eli Wiesel described the situation in the Romanian village in which he was raised similarly. The villagers could see what was happening and talked about emigrating (to Palestine, generally), but few made the leap because that village had been their home for a thousand years.

I know I’m simplifying the matter, but wasn’t Palestine the home of these people for a thousand years before the Zionist movement and the establishment of Israel? Yes, their children are taught to hate the occupying power. We glorify our meekness, but wish we had hated sooner. Perhaps something could have been done. One of the problems is that Israel insists on the right to the territory that comes from greater military strength rather than the might that derives from diplomacy and its attendant hard work. 

Colonial histories, from the liberal perspective, often berate the colonising power for the length of time it took it to leave. Britain’s long occupation of India and Rhodesia (and, for that matter, Palestine) are cases in point. France in Algeria, Belgium in the Congo, the US in any great number of places – North Dakota at the moment comes to mind. And I berate Israel for the same reason. It’s long since been time to make a solution. Blaming the occupied population for their resistance isn’t productive. 

It might look from the air like the Burning Man festival. It’s a gathering in the desert, but at 81,000 inhabitants in 2015, this gathering exceeds the population of Black Rock City by approximately 12,000 people. This is Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Last September, at the height of the Syrian crisis, Israel refused to take refugees from the conflict. PM Netanyahu claimed Israel was ‘too small‘. (That link points to the NY Times, but a google search on ‘Israel refuses Syrian refugees also provides links to the LA Times, Al Jazeera, and the Daily Mail in the first ten hits.) During the endgame last month the Israeli government had agreed to take a few. Netanyahu announced, ‘We see the tragedy of terrible suffering of civilians and I’ve asked the Foreign Ministry to seek ways to expand our medical assistance to the civilian causalities of the Syrian tragedy, specifically in Aleppo where we’re prepared to take in wounded women and children, and also men if they’re not combatants.’

I’ve possibly mentioned before that I’m Jewish by birth and have great love for the holy land and look forward to visiting there again, some day. However, I cry whenever enough Israelis vote for Netanyahu to put him back into office. He’s spent several decades fighting for Israel’s right to pariah-hood amongst the family of nations. At the moment they could have taken the moral high ground and admitted the refugees from one of this century’s more insane conflicts, he said no. Whenever there has been a chance to move towards peace, he increases the state of war. The main exponent of this behaviour has been the war on Israel’s Palestinians. (This subject is far more complicated than I present it and I know that in my idealism, I miss a lot of salient issues. I’ve consistently missed the point on this issue for well over 30 years, and I probably won’t stop now.) 

On the one hand there’s the treatment of the residents of the Gaza Strip, an insane piece of real estate sandwiched between the Negev desert, Egyptian Sinai, and a small piece of Mediterranean beachfront. Every couple of years, that area heats up and some idiots fire rockets from the strip into Israeli settlements on the West Bank. In reprisal, the IDF rolls in tanks and destroys another part of the Strip. Note that Israel blockades the Gaza Strip from receiving a great number of things including construction materials such as concrete. Rebuilding after these invasions, from what I gather, is well nigh impossible.

On the other hand, there are those settlements I mentioned. The ones the UN condemned last week or the week before, when, for the first time in 40 years, the US didn’t use its veto power to support Israel’s ‘right’ to construct Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The history of the settlements is well documented. For a very long time, I argued that Israel won the West Bank fair and square in 1967 and should have the right to do with it as it pleases. Of course, this ignores the fact that for 19 years the area we now call the West Bank had been in Jordanian hands, and Jordan had done feck-all to integrate the Palestinian population. When Israel occupied this area (and The Golan Heights and the Sinai Desert) at the end of the Six-Day War, there was already. The issue that refugees of the previous two wars for Israel’s right to exist (’48 and ’56) had deprived the residents of the area of houses to which the only indication the houses had ever existed were the keys the refugees and their descendants still cherished. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank precipitated its own refugee crisis for which Lebanon also provided the real estate for refugee camps.

I’m going to piss some people off here, not the least of whom are family members and friends who have made aliyah. At this point, the settlements are an abhorrent Israeli echo of Germany’s early 20th century claim to ‘lebensraum’ in northern Czechoslovakia. Netanyahu said last year that Israel is too small. The problem isn’t that Israel is too small; it’s that Israel thinks too small. Too small to do the right things for peace in a time of war, too small to say repudiate decades of No with a resounding yes, too small to give of its bounty instead of taking again.

As I said, I know this is more complicated than that. I’m well aware of how crazily hateful Israel’s enemies have been since the first shaking of the British Mandate. Remember, though, that Israel managed to make peace with Egypt and to establish diplomatic relations with Jordan. The process of peace is slow, but it was working. However, hate is easy and taking and holding the moral high ground is hard. An argument could probably be made that if the US hadn’t invaded Iraq, and perhaps had worked against the inflammation of the late 90s intifada, then we might be much closer. As I said, it’s really complicated. And dreams of what could have been are just that. Working with the now is much harder.

Beer: Brewdog Punk IPA // Music: Muslimgauze: Intifaxa