Israel – The Night is Darkest before the Dawn
I have spoken my mind on Israel numerous times, notably here, here and here, but the following is perhaps my most comprehensive post.
First, let me state this clearly, I believe in absolutes. There is such a thing as The Truth. We can never be perfectly just nor perfectly true, that would be disingenuous of us – but it is something we can live into, something to constantly strive for. Too often we settle for compromise, we are told “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder, “justice” is relative, and “truth” is hidden – these are stories to help us sleep at night. The most fundamental human truth is very simple: all people have equal rights. Consequently, any situation that violates this rule is unjust.
Ah! But what of the fog of war and the clouds of perception? Merely obstacles to finding the truth and honoring it, not excuses to hide behind. The use of a “comprimise of ideals” is perhaps best illustrated by Israel’s behaviour. They claim to be unable to abide by UN resolutions, the Charter for Human Rights and other protocols because of the threats they face, they are wrong and they are wronging all of us when they say so.
On Israel, emotions are particularly sensitive. From my writings and postings on Israel, I have received much love, a good deal of indifference and too much hate; I hope to convert some of that hate into compassion. Nearly all the indignation against the defense of Palestinian rights, at the perceived expense of Israeli “self-defense”, emanates from good, decent people. In response to negative remark of Israel’s behaviour, the reaction from the Jewish community, without major exception, is a genuine sense of anger and offense. In all other walks of life, these same individuals are kind, generous, and loving, but when it comes to Israel, they quickly become enraged, threatening, and disrespectful of all but their own opinion. It is not their fault. The Israelis and their supporters see the world differently than you and I.
The supporters of Israel have been conditioned. They have been trained to believe that the nation, and its people, are on the constant brink of annihilation – from Hitler, to Iran, to Hamas – they are scared. Similar to America’s overreaction to 9/11, Israel has been in a constant state of convulsion, unable to see what they have done and who they are becoming. A major hurdle to a reasonable agreement between the Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbours is the military culture that has been created in Israel. When every 18 year old child is forced to join in the military, and most see some form of action, they grow up thinking that war is normal. It’s not. The only way to break the culture and conscription is to alleviate the genuine concerns Israelis have for their safety.
Most of Europe had conscription until the 1980s, nearly 35 years after WWII. Once the EU had been established and there were clearly no wars on the horizon, the countries could relax their military systems and effectively remove conscription. It will take a similar amount of time in Israel, but dismantling the military culture will be a fundamental part of and consequence of genuine peace and co-operation with their neighbours. Because of their military culture, Israel sees hatred and threats rather than opportunity or an open hand; in effect, they see the world through emerald glasses. In addition to the European model, the struggle for rightful representation through non-violence in India, South Africa and Segregated America stand as a beacon of light and possible inspiration for the Palestenians.
Remove these glasses and by most lengths of the stick, Israeli citizens share more with their Arab neighbours than they do with Americans, Canadians or Europeans. With their neighbours, they share history, food, culture and most importantly – location. Israelis, in the national sense of the word, are brothers with the Arabs, and cousins with the rest of the world. If we build on this shared heritage, peace is possible.
In the struggle for Indian independence, Gandhi and his followers clearly stated that they were not fighting the British people, but rather The British System. The Israeli System, not so dissimilar, with its external American support, has corrupted its institutions, ideals and principals – to its own detriment. It is the system which must be fought, not the people.
How to fight such a system? I believe in massive non-cooperation and non-violence. Palestinians should refuse to work for Israeli companies, liberal minded citizens of the world should not purchase items which contribute to the construction and growth of the settlements and countries should not sell weapons of agression to Israel. Gandhi laid out his views on Israel and Palestine quite clearly,
“Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They [the Jews] have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus is very close. ” … Gandhi went on to say, “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the Arab heart, who rules the Jewish heart. … Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth. Every country is their home including Palestine, not by aggression but by loving service.”
Published in Harijan on November 26, 1938
A fundamental tenet of Gandhi’s philosophy is the extraction from the past, forgiveness of your enemy and the triumph of love over fear. The Palestinians and their supporters must be just and show Israel how wrong it is. Israel must be shamed into accepting the equality of the Palestenians and Israel must step out from it’s historical context into the modern, international, world. Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker, has written a wise and timely book title, “The Holocaust is Over; We must Rise from It’s Ashes“. His main thesis is that Israel and her supporters lean on the Holocaust, pogroms, wars, suicide bombs and other traumatic events as a reason not to act and an immunity against criticism. They live in the past and cannot move forward. He goes on to say that whenever criticism is brought up against Israel, it is placed against the backdrop of the holocaust – making it more palatable. When he stated his objections to the Gaza war, his Israeli friends replied, “It’s not the holocaust!”, of course not. And in contrast to it, the Gaza war seems moderate. To break the cycle of violence, the current conflict must be removed from the historical context.
Too often, the defenders of Israel state proudly, “Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only country to tolerate a pluralistic society and defend women’s rights” and then expect that this somehow excuses them from their gross abuses of international and human rights law. There are numerous democracies that have descended into folly, democracy guarantees neither a healthy or just society and does not offer a shield cloak against criticism and legal prosecution, if anything being democratic means the people are responsible for the government. Let us pause and think about what the Israeli system has become.
Imagine what could have been. Israel, a home to the jewish people, victims of terrible crimes, could have been a beacon of hope, tolerance and peace. It could have stood up for the people in Rwanda, the Tibetans, the people in Darfur, the blacks in segregated America, the monks in Burma, and the black South Africans during Apartheid. That would have been a noble state indeed. Imagine, what could have been and what can still be, if only we try with all our hearts.
Below is an interview concerning the book by Avraham Burg:
In fact, their is little anthropological evidence to support a genetic Diaspora, the Jewish faith spread around the Meditaranean basin, not the people (Source).
See this interesting BBC debate that degenerates into Alan Dershowitz calling Michael Scheuer a bigot. Avraham Burg, same mentioned above, and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN (Likud), were also present at the heated debate.
Further Suggested Readings:
The Fateful Triangle – Noam Chomsky
A Defense of Israel – Alan Dershowitz
Peace, Not Apartheid – Jimmy Carter
From Beirut to Jerusalem – Thomas Friedman
All the Articles I have posted to Facebook since January 1st, 2009 as of April 8th, 2009:
Op-Ed Columnist – Israel Cries Wolf – NYTimes.com
Op-Ed Contributor – Israel on Trial – NYTimes.com
BBC NEWS | Middle East | New support for West Bank outpost
Palestinians serenade survivors in Israel – International Herald Tribune
How some military rabbis are trying to radicalize Israeli soldiers. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slat
Soldiers’ accounts of Gaza killings raise furor in Israel – International Herald Tribune
The Palestinian Perspective: What the World Looks Like from the West Bank an…
Israel has plans for 73,000 settlement homes | Reuters
The novelist in wartime | Salon Books
Reflections of War – 14 Feb 09 – Part 1
Obama, take away the pain in my stomach
Charlie Rose – A conversation with Jimmy Carter
Carter’s One Regret – The Daily Beast
www.zcommunications.org– Chomsky on the recent War on Gaza
Edge: HOW WORDS COULD END A WAR By Scott Atran & Jeremy Ginges
globeandmail.com: Anti-Arab sentiment swells among youth in aftermath of Gaza war
Eyeless in Gaza – The New York Review of Books
Palestinian Astrophysicist in US Recounts How His 11-Year-Old Son Died in a Israeli Warplane Bombing
Gazan Doctor and Peace Advocate Loses 3 Daughters to Israeli Fire and Asks Why – NYTimes.com
Charlie Rose – An update on Gaza
Richard Silverstein: The Israeli foreign ministry itself is asking volunteers to flood news websites
Gaza: satirizing world media
Israeli strike on UN headquarters in Gaza a ‘total disaster’: UN director
King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein (1882-1951)
Pro-Israel Against Gaza…Max Blumenthal
Israeli public broadly backs the war against Gaza – International Herald Tribune
Naomi Klein: Enough. It’s time for a boycott of Israel | Comment is free | The Guardian
BILL MOYERS JOURNAL | Bill Moyers on Mideast Violence | PBS
Robert Fisk’s World: Wherever I go, I hear the same tired Middle East comparisons – Robert Fisk, Com
Charlie Rose – A conversation with Bob Simon
Israeli / Palestinian Coffin Counter
AGORAVOX – The Citizen Media
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Propaganda war: trusting what we see?Published on April 9, 2009
Non-Violence – The Power of Iteration
My most recent discovery has been the power of non-violence and iteration. After reading a number of books on Gandhi and his general philosophy, I have come to accept non-violent resistance as the most powerful political force available. Ultimately, it is not so much about changing others, but changing oneself and letting that affect the behaviour of others.
Everything boils down to action-reaction, where you control the action, you can control the reaction. By iterating rapidly over many actions, you can identify the best and most effective way to obtain the change you seek. Gandhi exemplified this strategy by repeatedly defying unfair laws, inciting a disproportionate reaction from the government, which further highlighted the injustice of the law. If the reaction did not meet his expectations, he would simply try something different. This strategy of continuously tweaking your approach strikes me as a fundamental principle of everything, from business to science to politics. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate.Published on March 21, 2009