Ever since the latest round of violence in Israel/Palestine started, my Facebook feed has been inundated with opinions and news stories from various sources, either pro-Palestinian (from my left-leaning friends) or pro-Israeli (from my right-leaning friends.) On the Left, wholehearted support of Hamas, on the Right, wholehearted support of Israel. Support of one necessarily requires condemnation of the other.
Here’s the way I feel about the situation in Israel/Palestine: Fuck them both, because neither side has any interest in peace.
Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station wrote an excellent piece on the issue, aptly titled An Eye For An Eye In The Country of the Blind, and it’s definitely worth a read.
I tried to point this out in a Facebook discussion the other day… and I was accused of being “biased” and holding a “double standard” because I ignored the fact that Israel is occupying Palestinian land. For the record, I have no interest in re-hashing the arguments for or against, or who did what to whom, or even “whose land” it is… and the argument that Israel/Palestine historically “belongs” to somebody is particularly irritating bullshit. I’ve got a degree in Classical History and, as illustrated quite effectively by Nina Paley, every major actor in the Middle East has owned that patch of real estate at least once in the last 5000 years.
Claiming that it’s “their land” (and the aforementioned Facebook discussion it was claimed in ALL CAPS, no less) leaves us with the implication that whatever Hamas does is therefore justified because they’re the victims, and that by failing to support Hamas I’m therefore siding with their Israeli tormenters. Taking the opposite stance, that it’s Israeli land, and leaves us with the implication that whatever Israel does is therefore justified because they’re the victims, and that by failing to support Israel I’m therefore siding with their terrorist attackers.
Hamas isn’t the victim. Israel isn’t the victim. Civilians caught in the crossfire are the victims, and organizations like Hamas and the IDF are the ones victimizing them.
The Palestinian people have an interest in ending the conflict; but Hamas, as an organization, does not. Hamas’ entire structure and support network is predicated on being the only Muslims in the world to openly oppose Israeli aggression, which gives them funding and a status in the Muslim world that they can’t attain any other way… and there’s no way they’ll give up that kind of power voluntarily. Hamas is not now acting in the best interests of the Palestinian people, nor have they ever. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire, but none at all for Hamas… whose strategy is now and always has been goading Israel into a massive overreaction so that they can throw their hands up and claim to be the victims.
Mind you, I’m also pretty disgusted by the Israeli knesset and the IDF, who have to know what Hamas is doing and why, and who still let themselves be goaded like that. Their response is never to negotiate, never to accommodate, never to even remotely concede that the Palestinians might have a point… or the right to live. They just smash the living shit out of everything, and to hell with the number of civilian casualties they inflict. They let themselves be goaded into murdering innocent people because they refuse to even try finding another solution. Every fucking time.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The entire culture of Israel has been built on (and warped by) the premise that if Israel falls, another Holocaust must inevitably follow. It is the belief — with some basis in fact — that they are surrounded by implacable enemies who would like nothing more than to kill every Jew they can find until there are no more. The biggest mistake the West makes with the Israelis is assuming that they’ll bow to public pressure: Israel doesn’t give a shit about public pressure or international opinion or even the basic arguments of human rights. They have a deep, institutionalized belief that the slightest weakness will be the breach in the dam that will lead to the end, not only of their nation, but of their religion and race. This belief justifies any action, any atrocity. This belief transcends logic, debate and I suspect in some cases even sanity.
Those are the “sides” that people in the West are backing: a semi-coordinated group of fanatic militant terrorist cells whose strategy is to goad the enemy into blasting their own civilian population in order to build international support for their cause; or a deeply paranoid militaristic state run by people who believe that the slightest weakness (or even the appearance of weakness) will open the door to genocide and destruction.
Forgive me, but the notion that I somehow have an obligation to support either of those “sides” makes me sick to my stomach.
I don’t like that my government has given blanket support to Israel. I don’t like that my leftist friends keep flooding my Facebook feed with uncritical pro-Hamas propaganda. I don’t like that my right-leaning friends keep flooding my Facebook feed with justifications for Israeli military action. None of it is going to do any good. In a few weeks or months and a few thousand more civilian deaths there’ll be another uneasy cease-fire, and in three or four or five years we’ll be right back where we started watching YouTube clips of rocket contrails and exploding bombs and spokesmen denying responsibility and bloodstains in the streets.
Right now, in the first half of the 21st century, there is no peace in the Middle East and there will be no peace. Doug Muder, of the excellent blog The Weekly Sift, has written a post about why that’s true, and it’s worth reading. Long story short: peace requires compromise, and neither Israel nor Hamas have any interest in compromise.
And yes, I acknowledge that there are voices for peace in both camps. There is civilian resistance to the war in Israel. The Palestinian Authority under Mamoud Abbas is attempting to negotiate a cease-fire despite Hamas’ rejection of similar terms. But the Israeli government doesn’t want peace. The leadership of Hamas doesn’t want peace. Neither side will listen to the international community (although they’re both doing their level best to manipulate that community) because they’d much rather murder civilians than admit that their current situation is unsupportable. No number of op-ed pieces, candlelight vigils or even international sanctions will change that fact… and Westerners casting their “support” to one side or another only strengthens the combatants’ resolve and lengthens the conflict.
I don’t have a solution to the war in Israel/Palestine, because any reasonable solution I can come up with is predicated on the assumption that both sides are reasonable and interested in peace… something which is clearly not the case. Neither side wants peace; what they want is victory. They haven’t got it yet, so they’ve committed to fighting the same war over and over again until they do.
And I refuse to be dragged into fighting that war with them — on either side.
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