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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

an Israeli soldier's story

I love The Story with Dick Gordon on NPR. This week, there was a particularly interesting one since it intersected with my interest in Israel/Palestine.

There were good and not so good points. I don't think the segment was long enough, personally. I know the point is for him to tell his story, but there were things left unaddressed. Maybe they needed a visit from Diane Rehm. She would go there! :) 

I'll have to see about the book that is mentioned- I've heard a lot of good things about Breaking the Silence.

Let me start with an explanation the guest, Oded Na'aman, gave about checkpoints. He said they aren't meant to be walls; they are supposed to let people go through and keep some out.

He begins by saying how at first, he wants to be compassionate and use good judgment, but then there was an incident that made him feel differently. His boss tells him the checkpoint must be closed indefinitely (for what reason, who knows- real reason- or some vague mumbo jumbo excuse, how often does that happen- every day- for how long- if unpredictable, how does that impact people). 

A 10 year old kid comes crying to him because he's on his way home from school and can't get back home because his checkpoint is closed, so he lets him through. An hour later, there are a bunch of crying kids- maybe they are lying, maybe not- because they heard this was the way to get through the checkpoint when all other ways out of the village are blocked. Then families send the kids to soften him up so maybe they can get through. He said letting that boy through was a mistake and he felt manipulated. This is why they feel a need to let their presence be known, he claims, so people won't even think about disturbing this (im)balance of power.

There was no discussion of why the people are that desperate to get out- the fact that checkpoints are more like walls in practice- and innocent people shouldn't be held in open air prisons. There is no stepping into their shoes and wondering if we would tolerate decades of being at the mercy of the whim of an 18 year old kid (possibly drunk with power- see later points) or occupying power- only allowed to go in and out at certain times, the unpredictability of closings, the hours long wait to get through for work, shopping, and all those simple errands we don't give a second thought to when we hop in the car, etc.

There was some good discussion of how it is easy for people to get drunk with power in this situation and how he did horrible things to people (no elaboration for him specifically) because you don't see them as people. He did say that those drunk with power can ask them to sing, dance, play violin, whatever they want because the people want so badly to get out and through that soldier is the only way to do it.

He makes some good points about anti-semitism then makes a point that I didn't agree with about having to accept Israel's existence. I agree with him that it is patriotic to speak out against your country's policies that are destructive, but you should define existence before we make the determination that you have to accept it. I agree that you shouldn't want to massacre Jews, so in that way, I accept Jewish Israelis' existence. But, if maintaining a Jewish majority is inherent in your definition of Israel's existence, this is by definition institutionalized, legal ethnic cleansing. I will not support that, nor should anyone else.

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