Israel and Gaza

Dahlia Lithwick: “What it’s like to be in Jerusalem as the conflict escalates”

It says so much about the state of our discourse that the surest way to enrage everyone is to tweet about peace in the Middle East. We should be doing better because, much as I hate to say it, the harrowing accounts of burnt-out basements and baby shoes on each side of this conflict don’t constitute a conversation. Counting and photographing and tweeting injured children on each side isn’t dialogue. Scoring your own side’s suffering is a powerful way to avoid fixing the real problems, and trust me when I tell you that everyone — absolutely everyone — is suffering and sad and yet being sad is not fixing the problems either.

Closed. And padlocked.

One good lesson I am learning this week is to shut up and listen. Because the only way to cut through the mutual agony here is to find people who have solutions and to hear what they have to say. Bombing the other side into oblivion is no more a solution than counting your dead children in public. The best thing about shutting up and listening? You eventually lose the impulse to speak.

… You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing. The one thing we learned this week is how quickly humans can come to normalize anything. But the hopelessness seeps right into your bones as well.

Lara Aburamadan: “Trapped in Gaza”

Each day here lays bare the ugliness of war, and for my siblings and me, each scene of our movie starts the same: we are trapped. And that is where our story begins and ends.

Robert Wright: “Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict?”

So in Israel the question was how to respond to aggression from Gaza, and in Gaza the question was how to respond to aggression from Israel. And each side considered its own use of force — what the other side called provocation — a response to provocation.

Patrick S. O’Donnell has a collection of informative links on Israel & Gaza at Religious Left Law. So does Daniel Nexon at Duck of Minerva.

See also:

• Juan Cole: “Top Ten Myths About Israeli Attack on Gaza”

• Ruth Everhart: “Is Peace Hopeless? Pray Anyway”

  • vsm

    I guess it depends on the country. American and German (and maybe Austrian?) leftists seem more divided on Israel than those of other countries, who tend to be critical. There’s actually a far-left tendency in Germany called the Antideutsch, who see German culture as inherently fascist while supporting Israel and US wars in the Middle East.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Wait, when did opposition to Israel become a leftist shibboleth?

    I suspect that was a rhetorical question, but in case it wasn’t… I noticed the transition starting in the U.S. in the late 80s/early 90s, though it hasn’t been a consistent thing. As near as I can figure it, it becomes less significant during Republican administrations, perhaps because the American left is more focused on domestic concerns in that case.

    Unsurprisingly, it correlates reasonably well with the prevailing narrative shifting from “Israel is the underdog, trying to survive amidst constant attacks by its Arab neighbors” to “Palestinians are the underdog, trying to survive amidst constant attacks by their Israeli occupiers.”

    This is a lot of what causes people like my mom to vote for people like Romney, as I’ve bemoaned in these pages before.

  • Ursula L

    Wait, when did opposition to Israel become a leftist shibboleth? 

    It really isn’t a shibboleth of the left.  It’s an issue on which the left, at least in the US, is divided.  See, for example, Aunursa’s mis-attributed quote from Obama.  (Even if you want a joke citation, there is no reason not to include an accurate citation in the text of your quote.)  

    The situation is complicated because there is a portion of the people, in the US, for whom any criticism of Israel, no matter how mild or how factually accurate, is evidence of absolute antisemitism and anti-Israel feeling. 

    It’s also complicated by Godwin’s Law, and that Godwin’s Law is too often applied to any criticism of a powerful group oppressing a less powerful group, as a way to silence such criticism.  

    ***

    All that you are seeing here is a reminder that you can’t understand what is happening now without understanding the effects that the blockade is having on civilians in Gaza.   

    And also that you can’t understand the blockade without looking at it in the context of the way in which interfering with trade and the transport of goods has always been part of how war is waged and how humans come into conflict with each other.  

    It certainly isn’t a shibboleth of the left, where you have to give the correct answer in order to be recognized as friend rather than enemy.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sometimes I wonder if the way to solve this would be to say, okay, all that land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean? Nobody’s allowed to live there till 2050. Anybody living there now, you’ve got a shortcut to citizenship in the nation of your choice. Come 2050, anybody who wants to live there can, on condition that you don’t start fights with your neighbors, for any value of ‘neighbor’.

    Actually implementing that would compound the problem, of course, but I can’t help feeling that if nobody’d grown up on that land then it’d be a lot harder to use ‘I grew up here’ as evidence for why one and not one’s enemy should control the land.

  • Hilary

    “Why both sides can’t just knock the fuck off and stop it . . . .
    I don’t know what to say or what the answer is or how to stop it, but I fucking hate it.
    Hilary”

    To everybody who answered me, thanks.  And point taken.  I don’t usually swear that much, but that was a very enotional post late at night when I was very tired. I wouldn’t take back a single word, though. I do appreciate your responses.

    And whoever said that the problem is more people wanting total victory, meaning annihilation of the other side, over peace is right. I’m not blind to the fact that while both sides have people who want compromise and peace, and both sides have people who will not compromise until there are two nations of corpses, Israel has by far the greater military power to really make concessions to change what’s happening.  No, there is no excuse for continued settlements.  They are criminal.  Full Stop. I’m not going to defend them. The blockade needs to end.  There is no morality and no excuse for one out of five children stunted by malnutrition.

    As much as I cried out last night that this whole fucking mess is a betrayal of every ethical and moral value I hold as a Jew, the truth is it is a betrayal of only half of Jewish values.  The Shoah left us with two different narrative intertwined to the core of Jewish identity:

    *Never Again* will we stand idly by while others are destroyed.  We know what it is to be targeted for extinction while the world turns away -  we know that pain as our own and we cannot turn away from another’s need.  “Do not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of the stranger, having been yourselves strangers in the land of Egypt.”

    *Never Again* will we let ourselves be vulnerable.  Never again will we let ourselves be hurt, or wait and trust the world to care about our existance.  No matter what the cost to anybody who gets in our way, we will defend ourselves at all costs.  I don’t have the bible verse for this memorized, probably something from the conquest of Canaan. This isn’t the narrative I base my Jewish identity on. But I cannot deny or whitewash over it’s existence, or say “No True Scotsmench” would do this.

    This does not excuse what’s happening.  It does not wash off the blood of children, parents, civilians.  But the world turned away once when someone tried to annihilate us, and even I cannot quite silence the still, small voice of cynecism that if the death tallies were reveresed, if the positions of the Occupation were reveresd, no one would come to Jewish aide or care. 

    I have no trust, no faith in any polititian to stop this.  I didn’t realize Netanyahu was up for re-election in a few months, and knowing that makes the timing make a lot more sense. The only hope I have is in Israeli and Palastinian people deciding they’d rather live together then die to gether.  People like these:

    http://peace.mennolink.org/articles/israelpeacegroups.html

    I posted it before and I’ll post the link again.  The Parent’s Circle are people who have lost family to this terrible conflict, yet look across the divide to see another greving parent instead of an enemy.  If anybody can break the cycle of revenge, it’s them.

    http://www.theparentscircle.org/

    I have to go, I’ve got a sink full of dirty dishes and the kitty litter needs changing.  I just wanted to follow up from last nights cry of pain and frustration.

    Hilary

  • Ursula L

    Actually implementing that would compound the problem, of course, but I can’t help feeling that if nobody’d grown up on that land then it’d be a lot harder to use ‘I grew up here’ as evidence for why one and not one’s enemy should control the land.

    It’s a problem that goes far beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

    It has been thousands of years since any part of the planet Earth, aside from Antarctica,  could be genuinely called “unoccupied” by humans.  

    Different human lifestyles lead to different population densities defining what “occupied” and “unoccupied” means.  A form of subsistence based on gathering and hunting wild food makes a place “occupied” at a lower population density than horticulture/farming.  Which, in turn, seems unoccupied to a culture that is organized around an elite living in cities and living on the surplus (or the not-surplus needed to survive) of the surrounding farms. 

    ***

    I live in western New York.  Every time we elect a new governor, they promise that they will collect sales tax on businesses on the various reservations in the area.  

    But the various Iroquois living in the area have the law on their side, in the form of treaties with the state/colony of New York (predating the US revolution) exempting them from taxation by the state of New York.  

    This leads to a fiasco on a regular basis, as each new governor tries to fight this out in court.  Each one imagines that trying to tax sales on the reservations is a new idea.  Rather than an idea that their predecessor-governors have tried to implement and failed at because it is a violation of the laws and treaties of the state.   

    One of my law school professors worked, in part, representing certain Native American groups in court.  And she makes a decent income, every few years, pulling out the papers from the last new governor, adding citations from the decisions made since then,  and throwing that at the new governor, who promptly lost in court.  

    ***

    “Who was there first” is something that no human group can claim.  “We were there before you” is something that human groups can claim.  “You have no right to be here” is something that every invader says to the invaded, even as they are trying to get the invaded population to support the invaders for the sake of not having the invaders doing horrible things to the.  

  • Tricksterson

    Thing is both positions have a lot of truth to them.  The Isrealis are surrounded by nations that want to wipe them out, including many, maybe most Palestinians and they are unfogivably dickish and arrogant to their neighbors and the Palestinians and bring on a lot of, maybe even most of their own problems.

  • http://twitter.com/pooserville Dave Pooser

    But I cannot deny or whitewash over it’s existence, or say “No True Scotsmench” would do this.

    I hope it doesn’t detract in any way from my respect for your passionate plea for decency, but “No True Scotsmensch” almost got my keyboard coated in Diet Dr. Pepper. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Thing is both positions have a lot of truth to them.  The Isrealis are surrounded by nations that want to wipe them out, including many, maybe most Palestinians

    I always see this and this assumption of instant knee-jerk forever-and-ever they-hate-us-because-we-exist is what allowed Serbs and Croats a convenient narrative to go to war with one another in Bosnia.

    Even Benny Morris admits from his historical research that this prevailing siege-mentality narrative of the 1948 war is wrong.

  • Hilary

    Thanks.  I needed that.  My name ‘Hilary’ means laughter, from the word ‘hilarious’ and any time I can live up to it I always feel better. 

    “Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”  

  • P J Evans

    I hope a very advanced solution might help

    From both sides. Or it isn’t worth it.

  • P J Evans

    Well, go back far enough and there might be a workable solution: from1891. (There are a few copies in the University of California library system, but no scanned copies.)Eternal Peace: Views
    of a Statesman. How the Critical, Social, and Political Problem of the
    World May be Solved in the Present Century. With a New and Suggestive
    Map. Palestine and Poland Restored

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    All the arguments put forth by Israel’s defenders about Muslims, many of which I agree with and I know alot of Muslims, seem to be better arguments about us NOT being involved in this part of the world and them not inhabiting it.  

    If their neighbors are allegedly so dead set against peace and their neighborhood is so hopelessly hostile why are we attempting to re arrange it to their liking?

    People often draw the analogy that the Palestinians are like the native Americans and we are hypocrites to criticize them.  That’s true in a sense but it also exposes the issue for what it is in a law of the jungle way:

    The Pilgrims then the colonists were militarily far more advanced militarily, if not orally, over the Indians and they had numbers to overtake them.  Israel is 6 million colonists surrounded by a billion Indians, none of whom are fooled into believing they want peace.  

    If the Native Americans decided they wanted to fight us for the land again we would have to fight them again. The UN wouldn’t step in and be like “No you can’t do that”. 

     No one begrudges the Native Americans for trying to hold on to their land!

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time understanding what point you’re trying to make here. If you are trying to make one, would you mind restating it? (It’s fine if you’re not trying to make a specific point/are just rambling, but if you are trying to get at something I’d like to understand it).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    By Hadricksian standards that post was positively a mental marvel so it’s worth not being as cursorily dismissive as one usually is towards him.

  • AnonaMiss

    I was trying to word my request for clarification to be as non-dismissive as possible – I guess I didn’t do a very good job.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    Anonamiss- I’ll try to break it down here. I’m sorry I wasn’t clear

    1. Israelis constantly complain about their neighbors. It begs the question: If you hate it so much why don’t you leave? 

    2.Americans beat the Indians because the odds were on our side. The odds aren’t really on Israels side.

  • EllieMurasaki

    When have Americans ever fought Indians? British, sure, British did a number on that subcontinent, but Americans weren’t involved, I think.

    I disagree with many things Israel does, but I can’t argue that the world’s history of oppressing and killing Jews doesn’t make a compelling reason to believe that there needs to be somewhere in the world where any Jew can come and be safe, and nobody can argue with the feeling that home is where one’s ancestors lived, even if one doesn’t share that feeling. So wanting to make a safe home for Judaism in the place that used to be Judah, I have no problem with that idea. The implementation sucks, and that’s at least as much the Israelis’ fault as the Palestinians’ (probably more because Israel has bigger allies), but there’s nothing wrong with the idea.

  • vsm

    Well, how do you implement colonialism in a non-sucky way? Pre-Zionist Palestine was not empty, as we can see on the news every day. I don’t think there’s a way of cleansing an area of undesirable ethnicities that won’t result in suffering and justified hate.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think if the future Israelis hadn’t come in with the attitude that this was their land and nobody else’s, not even those who were living there when the future Israelis started arriving, there’d be a lot less problem. In fact if the present Israelis (and Palestinians) adopted a policy of sharing nice, I think there’d be a lot less problem.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino
  • EllieMurasaki

    That wiki page is talking about conflicts involving Native Americans in North America and not Indians in India. Therefore the page is named wrongly. Also Chris Hadrick as we all know is devoted to accuracy of language and cannot possibly have been speaking of Native Americans when he said Indians.

  • Leum

     I don’t there’d be less problems if they tried to be nice. A two-state solution along the current borders gives Israel much better land than it gives Palestine, as well as access to the ocean. A one-state solution is incompatible with Israel’s desire to be a Jewish state (as is the growing Muslim Arab population in Israel proper, which I strongly suspect is going to become the next crisis).

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    Ellie- I meant Native Americans sorry.

  • Ursula L

    That wiki page is talking about conflicts involving Native Americans in North America and not Indians in India. Therefore the page is named wrongly

    Strangely enough, that is not necessarily the case.  

    The Native American group that one of my law school professors represented preferred “Indian” to “Native American” when they were talked about in English, if you weren’t going to use their full name.  (“The Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians”,  was their full and proper name in English.  Note “Indian” not “Native American.”  Part of the Haudenosaunee, better known as the Iroquois Confederacy.)  

    I found it rather awkward to use their preferred language, as my mother is from India, and I spent much of my youth being annoyed when people assumed “Indian” meant “Native American” rather than “Indian.”  I started out strictly preferring “Indian” to mean “Indian, subcontinent” and “Native American” to mean “Native American.”  And ended up simply needing to ask anyone who self identified as “Indian” whether they meant “dot or feather” because there was no good way to sort out “Hi, I’m Indian” without other clues such as accent or preferred clothing.

    But neither type of “Indian,” whether “Indian” or “Native American”, is one thing, neither is “Native American” one thing, and probably the best way of using language is to know the sub-group, whether dot or feather, and use their preferred language in-context.  

  • Anton_Mates

    Wait, when did opposition to Israel become a leftist shibboleth

    I know this is mostly a rhetorical question, but:  It never did, of course.  American liberals are still about 50% more likely to sympathize with Israel than with Palestine, according to Pew polls.  They just don’t show the near-unanimous sympathy for Israel that you find in US conservatives.

    (In Western Europe, people are obviously more critical of Israel, but the ideological gap is still there.  Left-wingers and centrists are more likely to sympathize with Palestine; right-wingers more likely to sympathize with Israel.)

    As for when the American left stopped being near-universally supportive of Israeli policies, AFAIK the critical year was 1967.  The Six-Day War and the controversy that surrounded it made a lot of liberals start looking at Israel as the aggressor rather than the defender.  (Simultaneously, it kicked off the religious right’s love affair with Israel, as spearheaded by Jerry Falwell.)    And I might be wrong, but I think American liberals started focusing on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in particular (as opposed to all its Arab neighbors) after the first war with Lebanon in 1982.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I would probably date it to the 1980s, when it was becoming clear that the Israeli treatment of Palestinians wasn’t as nice as the official propaganda had it.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The Native American group that one of my law school professors
    represented preferred “Indian” to “Native American” when they were
    talked about in English, if you weren’t going to use their full name.
     (“The Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians”,  was their full and proper
    name in English.  Note “Indian” not “Native American.”  Part of
    the Haudenosaunee, better known as the Iroquois Confederacy.) 

    As I often point out, all things being equal, one should call a person or a group what they want to be called.

    But all things are not equal.

    It doesn’t matter if many Native Americans want to be called “Indians”.  That one’s taken. By Indians. In India.  They’ve got a prior claim.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > It doesn’t matter if many Native Americans want to be called “Indians”.  That one’s taken. By Indians. In India.  They’ve got a prior claim.

    I hadn’t realized it worked that way.

    I mean, no particular country or community owns “Hispanic,” or “White,” or lots of other group labels… there’s no notion of an exclusive claim for those labels the way there apparently is for “Indian.”

    Is there some kind of  registry I ought to be checking?

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘India’ is a country. There isn’t any ‘Hispania’ except on maps dating to Roman times, and there never was a ‘Whiteland’. ‘Hispanic’ and ‘white’ don’t denote ancestry from a certain country or citizenship in a certain country the way ‘Indian’ does.

    If you want to really get a particular flavor of US folk riled, point out that US folk don’t have exclusive title to ‘American’, on account of the US not owning the entirety of the Americas. (I keep trying to get ‘estadounidense’ in common English parlance but it keeps not taking.)

  • Ursula L

    It doesn’t matter if many Native Americans want to be called “Indians”.  That one’s taken. By Indians. In India.  They’ve got a prior claim. 

    Not really.  “India” is the English/European name for the place.  And it derives from the Indus valley, which isn’t even in India, it’s in Pakistan.  The name “Indian” began with the ancient Greeks, and more or less meant “everything past the Indus river.   It didn’t really catch on in India until the British started messing around.  

    On both continents  “Indian” is a name created by outsiders, and applied to people from a large number of different groups who didn’t necessarily consider themselves to be part of a single group of “Indians” at the time the name was first used. 

  • The Guest Who Posts

     Well said.

    I prefer “US Americans” when talking about people from the USA as opposed to the American continents.

  • AnonymousSam

    For that matter, what about trans/genderqueer individuals who’d rather be called by a different sex than the one with which they were born? “No, you can’t be male. I’m male, I’ve always been male, and I’m much closer to what counts as male than you are. You get to be female, which is a decision I get to make.”

  • AnonymousSam

    For that matter, what about trans/genderqueer individuals who’d rather be called by a different sex than the one with which they were born? “No, you can’t be male. I’m male, I’ve always been male, and I’m much closer to what counts as male than you are. You get to be female, which is a decision I get to make.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think that follows. Someone male who’s female assigned at birth was wrongly identified at birth and is still male no matter how loudly cissexists insist he’s female. Someone not born in or naturalized in or with ancestry from India is not Indian no matter how loudly people insist that when Columbus misidentified North America as India he was right.

  • AnonymousSam

    What happens if someone is born in India and then the country spontaneously decides to change its name to Scandinavia? I’m of the mind that the only term which inherently applies at birth is “human being,” and I’m not even entirely willing to commit to certainty on that one. :p

    This reminds me of a similar debate I had once. Australia’s natives are the ones most often referred to by the term “Aborigine,” but the same term is also used to refer to the indigenous people of about 20 other nations. Get two biased pedants in the same room and watch the sparks fly.

  • Joshua

    I agree with your larger point, but:

    “Who was there first” is something that no human group can claim.

    Aboriginal Australians can claim that for Australia, and Maori can claim that for New Zealand. Although individual tribes’ territories certainly shifted and many bits of territory may have changed hands, there were no humans in either place until the first member of those groups arrived.

    Kupe for the win! He could navigate his way to hell and back.

    One of the landing sites for one of the original migratory canoes (not Kupe’s) is just an hour or so south of where I live.

  • Joshua

    Woops html fail.

  • Ursula L

    Aboriginal Australians can claim that for Australia, and Maori can claim that for New Zealand. Although individual tribes’ territories certainly shifted and many bits of territory may have changed hands, there were no humans in either place until the first member of those groups arrived.

    The shifting of territorial control between groups is my point.

    Prior to “discovery” and colonization, neither Aboriginal Australians nor the Maori in New Zealand were a unified political and cultural group, which moved into their territory as one, and remained united culturally and politically, without conflict over who controlled what land and resources. 

    It later became convenient for outsiders to treat these various groups as one group, and also for the various groups to organize to cooperate and act as one in relation to outsiders, when possible, in order to maximize their political, social and military strength.  

    Centuries ago, thousands of years ago, there may have been humans who moved into a territory, and who were genuinely the first humans there, and who could claim a right of control over other human claims based on “We were there first.” 

    But since then, original groups have grown, and fragmented into new groups that came into conflict, and other groups moved in, and yet others from elsewhere, and “I was there first” is a very, very tricky claim to make unless everyone arbitrarily agrees on a date for when “first” is defined, and accurate records are kept for the terms for the voluntary and compensated transfer of control.   


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