A reader writes:
I can totally relate to the reader you quoted. Actually, I said something similar – if more emphatic – around three years ago and you quoted me then. Frankly, I don't even remember what the specific flare-up was that prompted my email at the time. And that only serves to reinforce my opinion as expressed three years ago: This will not end until both sides burn themselves out, so go for it – but leave the rest of us the hell alone, goddammit.
This kind of response from Americans really makes me angry. Casually wondering about nuking the whole region because the news is despoiling the pages of his newspaper? What a a gross, narcissistic, ugly-American way to respond to the world. That kind of rhetoric is really harmful, and I wish he would just keep it to himself.
Yes, it is a bleak, bleak situation in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank (as it is in any number of other ethnic conflicts around the world). There are lots of times I want to just throw up my hands, too. But I don't.
The reason is that I'm a good distance removed from the epicenter of pain and frustration in this conflict, and I'm old enough to remember when the peace process looked more promising. Someone needs to keep the hope of peace alive, and I want to stand with the Israelis and Palestinans who heroically find a way to do so amidst all that chaos. There is more than enough nihilism to go around.
When I'm feeling hopeless, I find myself thinking about when I found out that Rabin had been assassinated. I'm a lot younger than that other reader, but remember exactly where I was - it's like my parents with Kennedy. I had just finished a bike ride with my best friend, and as we got into the car to go home, NPR was reporting what had happened. I knew who Rabin was, and I cried. I was in the fifth grade.
You see, that memory of loss – that sense of progress snatched away, of opportunity lost – is also memory of what it is to hope. We get cynical as we age, and today it would be easy to just declare a curse on both houses – but I didn't know how to do that back then. I think the ten year old me was a lot wiser than she knew.
That little rant was epic in its lack of self-awareness. We aren't just watching and rooting for one side or another, we're actively and directly involved in funding and arming one side to such an extreme extent that it can engage in wars like this. Does the author look at our troops in Afghanistan, where both sides have committed numerous atrocities, and think "fuck 'em both"? Does "fuck 'em both" ever apply to anything we actually do, or when we are responsible for part of it, is the response "cut it the fuck out!"? If "fuck 'em both" is an honest opinion, it has to mean "stop funding this war and arming the participants." If it doesn't mean that, then it means "killing civilians is fine with my money, but quit telling me about it."
??I’d like to echo your reader's comments on the current Gaza conflict and ask the question that has troubled me since my early teens when I first became aware of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: Why is Israel considered our most important and closest ally? Is it on religious grounds only or is there some other fundamental national interest at stake? Why are our politicians so afraid to have any "light" between us and them?
Surely we can point to AIPAC’s influence in Congress, but considering 70% of Jew voted for Obama and identified support of Israel a fairly low priority and great swaths of the electorate are sick of funding this cycle of violence, you’d think at some point someone would stand up and call a spade a spade, regardless of what APIAC had to say about it.
To me that is what is so frustrating about this whole situation. We simply fall into line defending Israel’s right to defend itself, while funding the military power that kills innocents who are forced to live inside a blockade where they denied basic supplies.
We refuse to stand up to stop the settlements because of some pseudo electoral price to be paid. Well, I for one have a hard time believing that any President that distanced the US from Israel while it continues on this unproductive path that is in direct opposition of our national interests will suffer much if any backlash at the ballot box. ? ?
I mostly agree with your reader when he speaks of the Israeli-Palestinian back-and-forth. I tend to tune it out too. But it's trickier being Jewish. I have tried to divorce my background from the Jewish state of Israel, but I can't. I always waiver between two feelings: 1. grudging support for Israel's right to defend itself, or 2. being pissed off at a bunch of people who should know better than anyone else not to build walls and create checkpoints. The more I think about it, the more frustrated I get.
What I hate most is listening to other people's opinions. People I respect will say something so incredibly stupid, so divorced from facts. If you are pro-Israel, all you do is find fault with anyone who paints the Palestinians in a more than heinous light. Same if you are sympathetic with the Palestinians – "Hey, why aren't you covering what's happening to them?"
My Facebook and Twitter feeds are clogged with normal people who have gone nuts on either one side or another. Many of these are my friends. I've been asked by people I know why "your people are doing this." I try to explain to them that being a Jew is not the same as being an Israeli, but they don't get it. (There is a reason I live here and not there.) Or, I get the whole – "if your people would stop behaving like assholes, 9/11 wouldn't have happened." These are people I generally like, with whom I share many political positions. And now they've turned into the Screamers who they've always decried.
Mostly, this whole thing depresses me, as it does every time it starts up again. It's like Nietzsche's law of eternal recurrence has a ground zero in the holy land (I know, Nietzsche, Jews, ironic.) I picked the wrong week to give up Manischewitz.