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When We Say These Things – Do We Really Believe Them?

When we say… why focus only on Israel and ignore Syria, Iraq, North Korea etc… are we sure that this is a justification for not talking about Israel? Or are we trying to change the subject?

When we say… look at the antisemitism displayed by supporters of the Palestinians… are we sure that this is an argument in favour of Israel? Or are we conflating separate things? Do we prefer to talk about Jewish suffering rather than engaging in the more difficult task of facing up to suffering caused by Israeli military action?

When we say… that Israel has no choice but to defend itself… do we really believe that everything Israel is doing is in self defence? Are we sure that the Palestinians are always the aggressor and Israel always the victim?

When we say… that all the civilian deaths in Gaza should be blamed on Hamas… do we really convince ourselves? Didn’t Israel have a choice not to bomb, and thus not to cause the death of hundreds of civilians? Doesn’t at least some of the blame fall on us?

When we say… that Hamas’ motivation is to kill all Jews… don’t we think that they, like us, might have some more normal, rational goals? Is it likely that they are only driven by blind hate while we only want peace? Do we entertain the possibility that Hamas might just possibly mean what they say – that their goal is to end the siege of Gaza, allow normal transit of people and goods and gain the release of the hundreds of Hamas members that Israel arrested in the wake of the West Bank murders.

When we say… that Hamas fires rockets from civilian areas… do we honestly think that justifies killing civilians? And do we ever, even for a moment, put ourselves in their shoes?  Do we think about what we might do if we were involved in a guerrilla army fighting to liberate its territory from a siege? Would we put all our weapons in a clearly designated area and wait for the other side to bomb them? Can we think of any guerrilla army in history that behaved like this?

When we say… that Hamas rejected the ceasefire because they don’t want peace… do we really believe that it’s in anyone’s interest to have a ceasefire that doesn’t resolve any of the underlying issues? When Hamas says that Gazans are: ‘being punished with a slow death in the world’s biggest prison’ don’t we privately admit that they have a point?

When we say… that the only way is to defeat Hamas militarily… are we really sure that there is no alternative? Might there not be a political solution? Would not the approach of lifting the siege, allowing Gazans to have a normal life and opening negations with a unified Palestinian government be a possible step forward? Have we ever really tried offering Palestinians a just and generous solution to the conflict?

When we say… that we want Palestinians to support the moderates rather than the terrorists… don’t we know, deep down, that the moderacy of Abbas, Fayad etc hasn’t got the Palestinians very far? More settlements, deeper occupation, no more territory for the Palestinian authority, UN status blocked. Can we be so sure that if we were a Palestinian we would be a moderate? Might we not decide that it’s futile to lay down arms and recognise Israel before an agreement that provides justice for both peoples?

When we say… that Israel wants peace… are we so sure anymore? The Israeli Prime Minister recently said that Israeli security control of the West Bank should be permanent.Do we really believe that is a credible vision for peace?

When we say… that the conflict would end if Hamas stopped firing rockets… do we genuinely believe it? Would Israel really lift the siege, evacuate settlements, grant a Palestinian state on more or less pre 1967 lines? Do we even convince ourselves?

When we say… that this is becoming a clash of civilisations… aren’t, once again, trying to change the subject? Underneath, don’t we acknowledge that this is a local conflict about a people seeking freedom and normality in their land. Do we have the strength to move past our national-historical sense of trauma and grant Palestinians equality? Do we have the courage to at least try?

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4 thoughts on “When We Say These Things – Do We Really Believe Them?”

  1. Hey Baruch, I would honestly answer ‘no’ to every one of your questions, while fully agreeing that there are some smaller-minded Jewish people out there who would answer in the only way your provided. But, you know, two Jews, three opinions etc..?

    To me each question requires a thoughtful, knowledgeable and nuanced response, not a black and white answer, one that recognizes the full complexity of each (good) question raised. You haven’t provided such answers, limiting your rhetorical questions to the rigid shallow answers you yourself provided.

    And I have arrived here via pages with anti-Semitic tendencies who are linking to you. Good job brother!

  2. .. and because each question demands a thoughtful complex answer, I am not going to provide the answers I would give if asked, cause each one they would require me to write an essay and provide evidence and backup my response, which I’m not really prepared to do in this particular context. I know that’s a cop out, but I didn’t come to argue, just to see what those nutters were on about..

  3. Saying that these questions don’t cover the full situation or context from an Israeli position misses the point. I’ve read lots of completely pro-palestine stuff and this clearly isn’t that. The desires and justified grievance of the Israeli seem implicitly accepted here. Seems to me a fair minded exercise in perspective taking, just asking people to lay aside their stake, their disgust at disgusting things done or apparent opportunities lost. This reads as just a plea for some rehumanisation. An acceptance that Palestinians are fighting a war for their homeland. That’s inarguable because it’s how they feel. Brings Winston Churchill to mind “…Fight them in the hills… the beaches, we will never surrender.”

    It strikes me because having watched movies inculcating a certain frame of history I find that quote banale and platitudinous. What could be more obvious than that if you fight for your country, your ultimate goal and cause for which there could be no action too extreme would be preventing invasion?

    This isn’t to condone the rabidly hateful tactics of terrorism as their only practical means of war but to do the harder thing and not write off the humanity and desires of a whole group of people because they do terrible things. War is terrible. Deliberate but ineffectual killing of civilians may be more terrible than collateral but highly effective killing of civilians but I think any intellectually honest Jew, whichever their allegiance knows:

    – The moral difference between deliberate and incidental civilian killing is important but to make it everything, the entire argument you have to stretch so hard you’ll feel it. They’re both mass killings. That’s the overwhelming reality to people who are now parent to a bag of shredded meat. To completely excuse one bag while irredeemably vilifying the other won’t ring true to anyone with intuition and intelligence.

    – As unreasonable as Palestinian leaders have been by many measures of logic, it’s very possible I personally wouldn’t feel that way about deals they’ve refused to accept if Palestine were my nation and that of my grand parents and theirs and theirs.

    – Criticising Israel is as antisemitic as Republican criticism of Obama being hating Americans.

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