Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bullying is bullying

I was in Israel in 1995 when Israel announced their expansion into the west bank. I was stunned by the positions of the locals on the whole situation.

No matter how many ways I turn this current bout of violence, I find fault with Israel. This doesn't mean I don't find fault with Palestine. Still, I have real trouble listening to Israelis claim that Palestinians are denying their right to exist. Yes, Israel, as a nation, has been persecuted - just slightly less than Palestine as a nation. I have no sensible resolution to the current situation. It was hatched in the addled brains of the post WWII leaders, and it is, and always was, horrific. Yet I just can't get past Palestine's right to exist. I don't believe that right gives them leave to fire rockets into Israel. But if you create several generations of disenfranchised people, you run the risk of violent, insane behaviour. After all, as Israel's foreign minister said, Israel has far superior fire power and will hurt Palestine far more than Palestine can hurt Israel. And in the end, this is the essence of this debate. Israel is the bully here, by sheer weight of fire power. Just like Israel deserved a homeland, so does Palestine. And a real one, not one divided and ruled by others.

What I saw in the old city of Jerusalem has affected me deeply. Much to my surprise. I expected to be untouchable by such things as trivial as religion. Instead it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. Christianity came off worst. A bunch of juvenile, demented people worshipping a figure that has been used to justify immeasurable violence. I'm not saying this exemplifies Christianity everywhere in all its forms, that's just how it looks in Jerusalem. Then there are the Jews - they look desperate and clingy. Telling their own history in a way that looks like they won as many as they lost. Again, I know this doesn't represent Jews in general. And then in the old city, there were the Muslims, drinking coffee, living their lives. They looked sane. Of course, they were also the ones who refused to return my lost purse until I had returned to Tel Aviv so that they could charge me US$100 for the privilege of bringing it back to me. I don't hold any illusions. I guess the point is, that disaster is nothing about religion, and all about politics. It tells us nothing about Christianity or Judaism or Islam. Just about people being territorial and stupid.

In the end, Israel has the upper hand, they are the bullies. It is in their hands to solve this problem. And I have no doubt that violence towards Israel from Palestine will continue for a long time to come. It isn't justifiable, but it's understandable. If you imagine your entire life being taken from you, and staying that way for a few generations, it might take a while for the anger to subside. Israel and Palestine have a great deal in common. If they could get past their religious sibling rivalry, it seems they should be great mates. It also seems intentionally aggressive from Israel to refuse to recognise these people's right to exist. Therefore, despite my revulsion for the violent tactics, I will find myself on Palestine's side in this mess, because they have no power and no choice. I will always support those with no power and no choice.


  1. What would the white Australians do, if the Indigenous Australians decided to stand up and fight?

    What would white Americans do if the Native Americans and African-Americans decided to fight back?

    We're lucky that we were bullies towards relatively peaceful groups of people.

    I don't know. I think if you look at things within an historical vacuum--if you just look at the here and now, then yeah. Israel IS the bad guy. But I think it's much different if you put it into an historical context. In the beginning (1947) Israel did support the idea of two states (at least according to Wikipedia) It was the Arabs who were against it and they started a war. Israel won. Israel wasn't just fighting against Palestinians. Various Arab nations joined in the fight.

    I think we have to look at in the Jewish point of view. Here they were systematically slaughtered in Europe. Australia and America for the most part didn't want them. So England said let them go to Palestine. I don't think there were any ideas of kicking the Palestinians out. And this wasn't like the Aborigines being invaded and taken over by White Europeans. Palestine already had both Arabs and Jews. So, why couldn't there have been two states then? Why did the Arabs fight so hard against it? Where was their sympathy?

    In 1973, a coalition of Arab fighters attacked Israel on the most holy Jewish holiday of the year.

    Okay and here I'm reading that Hamas won the election in 2006. Yeah, I knew that. But Wikipedia says they explicitly say they believe Israel doesn't have a right to exist.

    Is that true?

    Or is it more true that all the Palestinians want to have a peaceful two states, while Israel wants to Palestinians not to exist?

    I guess the question is this:

    What percentage of Israeli Jews support peace with Palestinians?

    What percentage of Palestinians support peace with the Jews?

    And these peaceful people...are they strong enough to counteract the violent fanatics (on both sides) who don't want peace?

    I hope there's peace one day.

    I hope Israel stops being a bully and treats Palestinians for who they are now and not what they have done in the past. But it's hard to do that. I think it's hard to trust a group of people who have been so against your existence in the past.

    Yes, Jews are paranoid and clingy. But I think in some ways they have a right to be.

    Not only were they murdered in mass numbers, but then they were ignored and rejected. If not Palestine, where should they have gone? Someone proposed sending them to the outback in Australia. That idea was rejected. America turned away shiploads of Jewish refugees.

    No one wanted the Jews. England wanted to give them control of a country in which many of them already lived. And their plan allowed for the Palestinians to stay in the country. But for the most part the Palestinians did not want them. They tried to drive them out.

    Now Israel has turned into a bully. Yeah. It's sad. But I can't really blame them. I wish they'd change, but I do have sympathy for them.

    Personally, I'm not going to side with Israelis or the Palestinians. I'm going to side with the people from each group who want peace.

  2. What *would* white Australians do or what *should* they do? They should make a treaty, as was done in NZ where the Maoris did stand up and fight. I suspect that might even be what we would do, as a nation we pride ourselves on fighting well, but reluctantly. The path of least resistance would probably be a treaty.

    I am actually looking at an historical point of view - the really long one. As told by themselves, the Jews have won as many fights as they have lost - not in the last 100 years, but over their whole history. They've done their fair share of oppressing - and I'm basing this on the history they present in the Temple of David exhibit in Jerusalem.

    The reason I said that Palestine and Israel have a lot in common is that they have both been largely shunned by the rest of the world. Palestinians can't be grouped with all Arabs, they are not wanted in Jordan or other countries in the region either. So the behaviour of the other Arab nations doesn't necessarily represent Palestine.

    But the main distinction I want to make is that I am talking about Israel and Palestine as political entities, and not the people as such. I don't know what the proportions of people are who want peace. What I know is that Israel as a state has infinitely more firepower and resources than Palestine as a state. I completely agree with you that my sympathies lie with the people who want peace on both sides. But as political entities, bombing the crap out of someone because you can is not acceptable. And of course, it doesn't work! It hasn't worked so far, and it isn't about to change.

    Actually, the comparison with the Australian aborigines is quite a good one. Both they and Palestine have broken cultures as a result of generations of abuse at the hands of others. Our indigenous people have turned those problems on themselves, to our nation's great shame. The Palestinians have turned it outwards. The only solution in both cases is restoration of a real place in society, either within their countries or as a separate state.

    When I look at the Jewish point of view, I see self fulfilling prophecies. I see people who are well-off, educated and legitimate members of the global community behaving badly. They aren't alone, that's pretty much how I see the US military and much of Australia's behaviour recently too.

    As they say, you can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace. Israel as a political entity has no interest in peace, or it is stupid, one of the two.

    Just to make it clear, I am not talking about Jewish people in general. Even when I mentioned them in my original post, I was talking about their appearance in the one square mile that is the Old City of Jerusalem, and not the enormous and diverse Jewish population.

  3. Ariane,

    I don't know much about the stories of oppression done by the Jews. I guess maybe because I'm Jewish. We hear more about the stories of Jews being oppressed....the holocaust, the pogroms in Russia, the blood libels, massacres, and expulsions during the Middle Ages in Europe, the mass murder of Jews in Morocco,

    I personally don't count Bible/Torah stories because I believe that's mythology...not history.

    I'd like to know more about the Temple of David exhibit and the cases of oppression caused by the Jews. I'm sure our histories
    glossed over it. Or I wasn't listening that day in class.....

    As for the current stuff: I agree you shouldn't bomb the crap out of someone simply because you can. But I also think you shouldn't aim little bombs at people whom you know have bigger bombs.

    Let's say I'm walking down the street with my family. I see a family I don't like. I know these people carry guns with them. They're rich and can afford it. I have no good weapons. All I can do is pick up some rocks and throw it at the parents and their children. I keep aiming and fortunately for the family...I'm missing for the most part. I hit a few targets, but nothing substantial. Still I keep attacking and attacking.

    Why would I do this if I knew this family had the guns?

    Why does Hamas keep hitting Israel with their rockets knowing that Israel has bigger and better weapons?

    The other issue is...the Israelis have been bombing for a few days now. Why won't the Palestinians hide from places they expect the Israeli's to bomb. From what I'm reading they're not targeting malls, shopping centers, houses, preschools, etc. They're targeting buildings where they expect Hamas militants to be. Why are there all these civilians around there?????

    No, Israel shouldn't be bombing them. But I think Hamas needs to be hiding their civilians. It makes me suspicious that they're not doing this. It almost seems they want their civilians to die because then the world will have sympathy for them. "Look at the poor suffering Palestinians. Look how mean and bad the Israeli's are."

    Meanwhile the Palestinians are hitting civilian targets. They've hit houses, schools, kibbutz, shopping malls, etc. I don't know if this was on purpose...if the rockets can be aimed. Or is it just random?

    Fortunately, not many Jews are hit I don't know if it's luck or if the Israelis have some kind of good warning system and they evacuate in time. (I don't understand weapons much)

    The Israelis have caused more casualties than the Palestinians. But I also think you have to look at intent.

    My sister was hit by a drunk driver. Because he hit someone (who happened to have good lawyers and had massive injuries) he spent some time in jail. It makes me angry that a driver who is equally drunk would get a lesser sentence if he hadn't hit someone or if my family couldn't afford good lawyers. It was bad luck that this particular drunk driver was speeding in the parking lot where my sister happened to be walking.

    To me, it's the action that matters and NOT the consequence.

    So, I don't look at who has hurt more people or who has killed more people. I look at the intent. And I don't think the Palestinians are any more innocent.

    To be honest, I was kind of neutral about this topic until VERY recently. I've been doing a lot of reading and now I feel I'm definitely on the Israeli side.

    I DO want peace. I don't want harm to come to either side. But I do see more blame on the Palestinian side.

    And it's not because I'm personally Jewish. I really have no particular love for the Jews (outside of my self and family).

    Hey, though. I just want you to know...although our opinions differ, I'm still very fond of you!

  4. First up, I'll explain a little more about the Temple of David exhibit, because it was 20 minutes that I found very interesting. It was a potted history of the nation of Israel, and it was a folkloric one. You are absolutely justified in being skeptical about its validity, I was more interested in what it said about what the powers that be in Israel believe. It covered the entire history from the Torah to the present. I'm not saying that I believe it is all historically accurate, what I am saying is that the official line in the history of the nation of Israel has them winning as many as they lost. In that little display, there was about as many "and we did God's work in putting down enemy" as "we were persecuted and abused". I was a bit surprised by that. Certainly in more recent history, they have lost more than they've won - until 60 years ago, and they are certainly still under constant attack. They just haven't lost so many in the last 60 years. So I do question at least the official position of the leadership of Israel being able to justify their behaviour because of the ongoing persecution of Jews. The history those people tell is more balanced.

    With respect to your hypothetical, no, you are no more innocent, and I don't think Palestine is innocent either. The thing is, as the substantially more privileged family, the one with guns have an obligation not to blow you and your family away. They have an obligation to say "What the...? What is the real problem here and how do we fix it?"

    Why does Hamas do this? I don't really know. Why can they convince their people that they should? Because these people feel that they are without hope. It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. Because the world is so broken that throwing sticks and stones gets the world's attention. Look at Tibet, it's really hard to make people care when you protest peacefully. Is any of that justified? Absolutely not. I think Hamas are abominable. But I can understand how they might be sufficiently broken as a culture as to think this is the only option they have. I don't think Israel is such a broken culture. I think they should be able to see that the only long term solution is to really look at the underlying issues. And they are not about Arab and Jew or religion. Those things are excuses and weapons, not causes. They are about making sure that every person can live happily and freely. Happy, free people rarely blow up themselves or their neighbours, no matter how different their beliefs are. (Not never, I acknowledge, but definitely MUCH less often.)

    I understand and agree with your intent argument, but I think if you look at why each side has the evil intent, there are different answers.

    As to some of the factual details. I don't know for sure about why there are civilians around the target areas, but as a general rule in places that are very small (and Gaza is tiny) it is basically impossible to be a long way from targets. I am not dismissing your claim out of hand. The Israelis have blown up their own people for political reasons, I don't doubt Hamas are capable of it too.

    The rockets Hamas fire are not guided. They have increasing range, but no steering. So yeah, it's random.

    As I said, I agree with the intent - I've never understood why attempted murder is different to murder when the only difference is the competence of the would-be murderer. But I also think we get nowhere as a society if we don't look at why that person became a murderer in the first place. It isn't just about guilt and innocence, it's about finding a solution. Violence makes that terribly difficult.

    I can't see how the violence will stop unless the people of Palestine can live free and happy. For that to happen, Israel needs to treat the people and the nation with respect, dignity and understanding. How exactly one treats a group of people that way while they are hurling rockets at you, I confess is a little tricky. That's why any solution will absolutely require an arbiter. And I sincerely doubt the successful arbiter will be American. Send in the Dalai Lama I say! Ultimately, Israel has the luxury of excellent education and genuine interaction with the rest of the world. As the privileged side in this stupid, stupid fight, the onus is on them step above "an eye for an eye" politics, or even particularly defensive politics, because otherwise the only possible end to it is to wipe out the Palestinians altogether, and that is simply unacceptable. And no-one wins if it never ends.

    I think the biggest reason for our difference is the different focus we place on various aspects of the situation. I agree with your arguments, but believe my other arguments about other aspects are more important, and so do you in reverse. Fair enough, this kind of discussion that reminds me about those other things, because even if I still think my focus is more important, I can't disregard yours.

    Thankyou, Dina. I like you too, and no amount of disagreement would change that. The only thing I can't handle are ignorant opinions that are utterly unconsidered. Nobody could accuse you of that!

  5. I think you have a lot of good points...especially the eye for an eye thing.

    This thing will keep going until someone is strong enough NOT to retaliate.

    I think Jews are very paranoid because of the Holocaust. They have this everyone-is-out-to-get-us mentality. I think they feel a lack of support. Maybe if they had more sympathy? I don't know.

    It reminds me of Jack fighting with his cousins. His cousin will do something mean to him and then he wants to retaliate. I work so hard to try to tell him that this will accomplish nothing--and that in many ways, this is what she wants from him. She wants to make him mad so he'll do something worse. And then he gets in trouble and she gets the comfort.

    The best I can do is try to comfort Jack--be sympathetic.

    Maybe that's what we need to do towards Israel to encourage them to stop retaliating. Instead of simply condemning them for how they're over-responding to the attacks, tell them we understand what they've been through. Blah, blah, blah. But come on. Be the bigger guy.

    I think the Jews are so desperate for people to be on their side. I think the main people who are on their side are right wing Christians. And that's not good because those Christians believe Israel BELONGS to the Jews. I can't say for sure, but from the little I know...I don't think these people have much sympathy at all for the Palestinians. These Christians feed into the Jewish paranoia. And in most cases, they're not truly caring about Jewish welfare. They just want the Jews to go to Israel so Christ can come.

    Anyway, I think if more other groups (such as the far left political groups) support Israel (or at least give them sympathy) maybe the Jews would depend less on the right-wing Christians.

    I think there would be a more chance of peace that way. Because as it is....it's kind of like the political left against the political right.

    As for the Torah stuff and Jewish history. I don't know of many accounts of Jews oppressing people....unless we believe in the idea that there's a secret Zionist group that controls the world. Then in that case, the Jews oppress everyone. But outside of that mythology and what's going on in modern day Israel/Palestine, I can't think of a time that the Jews caused oppression.

    I do know that you're right that the Jewish people DO have a lot of pride in the fact that people tried to oppress them and they survived. They're very proud that there are still Jewish people today after the Holocaust. Hitler's ultimate plan didn't work. They're proud of the Passover story....the Hebrews escaping the Egyptians. Their proud of the Purim story. They're very proud of the fact that people tried to kill them and they won.

    There's a Jewish joke that says all Jewish holidays can be summed up as "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat."

    But I think there's a big difference between a group of people that's proud they survived persecution. I think that IS something to be proud of (even if some of it is mythology). Vs... a group of people that's proud of the fact that they conquered and oppressed other people. I'm sure there ARE some obnoxious Jews who feel the latter. But I don't think it's the majority. I don't hear Jews bragging about how we're hurting the Palestinians. I do hear a lot of complaining about how Palestinians all want us dead.

    I didn't know about Israeli's blowing up their own people for political reasons. Do you know when that happened? Or does it happen a lot?

  6. Yes, you make a good point about the world's lack of sympathy for Israel. The political lexicon needs to be expanded from just "We condemn these attacks" to "We appreciate the impossible situation you are in, but we know the state of Israel can be better and smarter than this."

    Mossad (the Israeli CIA equivalent with tendencies towards terrorist end of the spy agency spectrum) was responsible for at least one bombing of an Israeli embassy. This link is to a newspaper article about a London bombing http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/981127/1998112708.html - but I first heard about this with respect to different bombing (I can't remember which one). It was designed to demonise the Palestinians.

    There's not too many governments globally who have no blood on their hands. I can't think of any off the top of my head...

  7. Is there definite proof that these bombs were done by Mossad? I'm finding websites that blame EVERYTHING on the Jews....Kristallnacht, King David Massacre, the death of Robert Kennedy, The Port Arthur Massacre, September 11, Bali, Columbine, Oklahoma City bombing, Virginia Tech massacre.

    Before I take this Mossad thing seriously, I would have to know what proof the source has and whether they try to blame a bunch of other things on the Jew as well.

    Yeah, I can buy one or two bombs. But once they start denying the Holocaust and blaming every horrible atrocity on the Jews...I become a bit skeptical.


    The link you gave me doesn't seem as extreme, but I'm not sure I'd trust an Arab news source to be completely truthful and fair regarding the issues. On the same token, neither would I trust a Jewish or Israeli news source to be completely truthful and fair regarding the issue.

    That's why all of this is so hard. Who knows what is true and what is not?

    I'm just saying... is the Mossad bombing of London an excepted fact. Or is it a conspiracy theory? And not that I'm discounting conspiracy theories.... They CAN be true. But I try to look at them with skepticism. I do it when I hear Jewish people tell me that Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews in preschool. It MIGHT be true, but I'm not going to easily just accept that without some good proof.

  8. My understanding of the Mossad embassy bombings is that they are accepted fact - it was a British intelligence agency that revealed it, and their bias is generally towards Israel. I don't have specific references, but I have seen a number of reputable documentaries that have referred to the incidents in passing as though they were fact. Just because it is passed as accepted fact, doesn't make it so. I can't tell you 100% that it is, but it is certainly widely regarded as fact.

    You are right about the looney websites - I followed a few links regarding the bombing of the US embassy in Yemen, and that all looked like garbage. Some people have way too much time and hate on their minds.

    I've gotta say though, if you are right about the Israelis wanting people to sympathise with them and see things from their point of view, they might want to consider human nature. In the list of how to win friends and influence people, being seen to hammer the underdog is not up there. They are not winning the hearts and minds war, either in Palestine or in the rest of the world.