Thursday, July 10, 2014

Israeli Society and the Occupation

If you read my posts, or my Facebook feed, it's pretty clear that I am biased when it comes to Israel. I have a pretty clear point of view. I firmly believe that Israel is strongly in the right when it comes to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian Authority. I firmly believe that the Palestinian people's refusal to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is the fundamental reason for the conflict, and that things that Israel has done, such as building and expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories, may exacerbate the situation, but can't realistically be blamed for the existence of the conflict. I still fundamentally believe all of that. But, like I keep saying, I'm trying to keep an open mind, and open eyes, and read pieces and opinions from those who see things differently.

Today, Sarah Posner has a piece up called "The Ghosts and Illusions of the Occupation." I usually disagree with what she writes about Israel--she often seems to blame Israel where I think that Israel is the one being treated unfairly (e.g. she probably thinks that the Occupation is one of the primary reasons for the ongoing conflict). But, this is a piece, along with a few others I've seen in a similar vein, which has important things to say about Israel. Because, even if I'm right, and there's nothing that Israel can do to end this conflict--that no concession or compromise will ever make the current Palestinian leadership serious about a peaceful 2-state solution--that doesn't mean that Israeli society doesn't have some real soul-searching to do:
Sharon Abraham-Weiss, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote this week, “It is clear that the current tension does not exist in a vacuum. Alongside the complex security situation, Israeli society has undergone a significant shift in recent years where it has become increasingly radical, nationalistic and antagonistic to ‘the other.’”
(Still, though, hope: Elisheva Goldberg reported hundreds of Israeli Jews paying their respects to the mourners for Mohammed Abu Khdeir.)
“The current bleak situation is strengthened,” writes Brooklyn College historian Louis Fishman, “by the fact that there is a total lack of will by the Israeli state to promote co-existence and to educate the Jewish population about the national minority within them, that they too have a legitimate right to the Land. In fact, while the current government plans at allocating money to strengthen Israeli ties with the Jewish diaspora, there are none for creating a safe haven for its non-Jewish citizens.”

Let me beat this dead horse--I firmly believe that if every single Israeli were to simultaneously and sincerely declare their love for Palestinians, it would not end the conflict. I am not blaming Israel for what is happening*. But, that doesn't mean that Israel doesn't have a growing problem with how it views and treats Palestinians, both inside and outside the country. And that doesn't mean that that view doesn't have real consequences.

* And, as an aside, even if you do blame Israel, if you think that makes constant rocket attacks, fired from civilian centers, aimed at civilian centers, a reasonable or "understandable" thing to do, then I think you're pretty far gone, morally speaking.

First of all, there's the issue of how these Palestinians are treated, right now. Especially those who are Israeli citizens deserve, without question, equal treatment. If Arab neighborhoods get worse schooling, worse utility service, worse police protection (and, I'm not sure that they do, but I hear it enough that I tend to believe it), then that's a problem. I don't accept that kind of treatment for minority and/or poor neighborhoods in America, and I don't know why it would be ok in Israel, either.

And, then there's the matter of the future. Even if, like me, you don't think that the conflict is resolvable right now, that doesn't mean that it will never be. Forever is a long time, and I have hope that, even if peace isn't achievable now, even if it's not achievable in my lifetime, that doesn't mean that it's never achievable. Jews and Muslims are similar in that we've both seen that history is long, and what is impossible today seems like it was inevitable, down the road. Our stories attest to the possibility of the impossible. But, if we demonize the Palestinians in the minds of Jews, and if we embitter the lives of Palestinians, giving them reason to demonize us, then we make that future much less attainable.

I always take these reports about Israel's malfeasance with a grain of salt, because they are often later shown to be exaggerated, or unfair, or outright lies. But, sometimes they're true. And while I still maintain that Israel didn't cause this war, it's still in Israel's interest, to say nothing of it being moral, to do whatever it can to help bring it to an end, and to help prevent the next one. You can plant the seeds of peace, even while waging war. It's not easy. But, we are a people who believes in the possibility of the impossible.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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