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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

journey from peacenik to warmonger

I do love The Story on NPR,

these are a few I really liked:
To Catch a Thief
Scamming the Scammers

BUT some do bother me. I guess that's why I like this program, though. There is such a variety of people and situations represented. I almost deleted the podcast, A Father’s Rite, but ended up listening to it later, despite the description. The last one to really bother me like this one below was about a girl who shoplifted habitually, made it a game, had rules and didn't really feel any remorse in hindsight.

Oh, and another one that got under my skin was about a family who squatted in a foreclosed home and felt as though they had some right to stay there rent free. They did clean it up and possibly kept crackheads away, but is that worth $100,000 or whatever the value is? Maybe I should stop paying my mortgage- hey, maybe they owe me for paying my mortgage for some 6 years? That said, though, I think there should be some help available for those who were wronged by mortgage and credit companies (I can’t remember if this family falls into this category). Maybe there could be a temporary rental situation to be worked out matching homeless families to all the foreclosed properties, but if that occurs, it would make sense for the family foreclosed on to get dibs. While I don’t think all the blame for people getting in over their heads with credit cards and mortgages and loans should be on the individuals all of the time, I was dumbfounded that they thought that because they found a vacant property, cleaned it up, and moved in it was theirs- and not just theirs- theirs free and clear. Perhaps I’m not as socialist as I thought!

This ended up being a rather long analysis or over-analysis of this particular “The Story,” but everything the guy said ruffled my feathers. Enjoy- or not!

The Story: A Father's Rite

This story is described as one of a guy's turning point from optimistic leftist peacenik to not so sure. In listening to this, I really doubt how much of a peacenik he actually was. That’s going a bit far. Maybe he was on the Zionist left as opposed to the peace-loving left. I have recently learned there may be a difference between “leftists” like Yossi here and the likes of Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery, and Jeff Halper that I have enjoyed reading for some time.

He talks happily about Israel basking in the 6 Day War victory against 3 Arab countries when he went to visit Israel with his parents when he was young. He said the attitude there was that anything is possible (as long as you can beat down your neighbors?). Peace is possible (only when you are in the position to dictate the terms?). He used to think peace without weapons was possible and now he's not so sure (because your enemy now has access to guns instead of rocks?).

This optimism seems driven by military victory rather than a real desire for peace. The Israeli view seems always to be colored by military superiority and getting their way; equality doesn't enter their equation, which is a big problem and obstacle to peace as far as I can see.

From the time of that first visit, he was committed to coming back to live in Israel. He thought it was “the most compelling place on earth for him as a Jew to live.” This seems to indicate a love for Israel (and it's Jewishness) above all else which would lead one to believe that he won't ask the hard questions- should it be a Jewish state, do Palestinians have a right to the land as well, etc- that leftists generally ask for the good of their country and their neighbors. If keeping Israel Jewish is your primary concern, peace will take a distant second or worse. After all, when you've got to worry about demographics, dismantling illegal settlements becomes a bit of a problem and equal rights for Palestinians may mean a more involved Palestinian Israeli presence at the polls which would obviously “threaten” Israel's Jewishness. The Occupation is good for demographics, but bad for peace and saving and improving lives of Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims. That's part of what makes Israel's response disproportionate. When they say some violence was necessary or for security measures what they really mean is that it's necessary in their view to help maintain a Jewish majority and Jewish state. This is a political goal for which they are willing to terrorize and collectively punish the Palestinian population in order to maintain. A former Mossad agent has said that the Gaza blockade is counterproductive, so why is it in place? We probably will never hear them say they target civilians (unless Lieberman and his ilk gain still more power), but there is ample evidence that they, at the very least, do not take care to minimize civilian casualties.

In contrasting the effect of war on Israelis during the 6 Day War and 1982, Yossi equated war and existential threat and said that that usually united Israelis, but in 1982 there were anti-war protests. Later in the story, he also said that if Israel doesn't go to war with Hamas, it will say that Israel doesn't have the nerve to survive. Peaceniks are able to separate war and existential threat; they aren't always the same. In Israel's case, the two haven't been the same since the beginning; not even the existence of Israel as a Jewish state has been under existential threat. I have a hard time believing that anyone who equates war and existential threat is or was anywhere near the left or peace camp.

Another part of his story that makes me doubt he was ever in the peace camp was his account of an experience on a "mission" during his alleged peacenik phase:

He woke a man and his two sons in the middle of the night to paint over anti-Israel slogans on the wall and looking for militants. (???) First, isn't this free speech? Is that an Israeli value? Guess not. And what did this have to do with their supposed mission to find militants?? He didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with making civilians do slave labor to cover up free speech. It's standard practice for the IDF to deface everything with the star of David and derogatory things about Arabs. Shall we wake Israeli families up at night and have them come clean that up- and while they're at it, rebuild Gaza?? Even if he's become more of a hawk, surely he would have remembered some feelings of guilt, thinking it was odd, etc about this, but nothing.

He did say that his reservists would discuss why were they here and what were they doing in general. Yossi even expressed empathy for Palestinians throwing rocks at soldiers with guns. Now that's generous of him. Now that Palestinians have guns- I wouldn't say they are on an equal playing field, but it's better than rocks- suddenly Yossi thinks they have to be crushed.

He also describes how he would fight with his kids about going out for fear of an attack, but let them go once his wife framed it this way: we should let them go out or move and concede Israel is a failed project. So it comes back to Zionism once again. They have the right to live there, but these Palestinians whose land they are on don't. Not only don't they have the right to land in Israel, they barely have the right to land in the Occupied Territories and don't have the right to freedom of movement (not just into Israel, but from city to city in the Territories), safety, security, schooling, food, water, electricity, trials, not to be imprisoned indefinitely without charge, not to be extra judicially assassinated, not to have tanks roll over your possessions at will, not to be fired at indiscriminately, not to have your house taken over by the IDF for a base, not to have your house bulldozed, the list goes on. So when I hear about Israelis being sad they cannot go to a discotech or café (teen hood stolen??) I get a little mad. It seems like such a silly thing to complain about when you look at the other side. I mean in relative quiet, three times as many Palestininas die as Israelis, and in conflict, 1000 more Palestinians die. I know that it would be hard to be an Israeli parent, but what about Palestinian parents?? No one ever asks this. The media is always putting us in the shoes of Israeli parents, comparing our feelings after 9/11 with Israelis who get attacked so much more. Of course they has the right to defend themselves. No one ever talks about a Palestinian's right to defend himself and his family. If we were in the Palestinians' position, what would we do? Perhaps more people should think about that.

He feels the difference between him and his kids was his kids grew up after Israel had made a serious offer and accepted a two state solution. He also made a big deal about the fact that Israel offered to share Jerusalem. Those gestures made him feel the guilt of occupation largely was removed. (???) That it's the Palestinians' fault now. He also said- and this is the part that got me- his kids had an advantage because they weren't guilty Israelis. Similarly, he proudly said he was conflicted in his service and his son wasn't. Proud of the rage he said his son felt, proud of the lack of empathy. He was glad his son felt like he had no choice and that he was doing the right thing because that's what you need to win. That's one thing if he feels Gaza is necessary, but why does this change the past? So he's ashamed or regrets feeling empathy for Palestinians who defended themselves with rocks against guns??? Regardless of morale, they really should have been able to "win" against rocks. That should tell them that violence isn't the solution. Oppression, in a way, makes resistance stronger. Israeli Jews should really look to their history to relearn that lesson. Did Jews in Nazi Germany roll over and die? No, they did what was necessary to survive.

He feels Israel tried to prevent the recent Gaza action; it's not a war of choice. This makes no sense. I have addressed this before, I think. If I haven't, there are tons of analyses out there now.

Another rather disturbing thing was that he feels conflicted with his reconciliation work and defending Israel. This shouldn't be, unless with his hawkish attitude comes the Zionist racism of the right as well. A person who desires peace, regardless of how optimistic they are about it, should be able to work on the individual level with Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims and Jews, to connect the people, appreciate that all the civilians suffer, promote dialogue, or whatever his reconciliation work is about. I don't see how he is conflicted unless he blames the Palestinian civilians for everything that's going on and is a big racist. Or, perhaps deep down, he knows and asks the questions the real Israeli left asks, the hard, self-critical questions. Maybe he knows Israel is guilty of some of the things it's accused of, feels guilty for that, and blames Palestinians for that.

Yossi in his analyst mode:

Articles by the actual left:

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