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Enough!

18 months ago, in May 2011, I wrote a blog entitled “Hitting Back” which finished with the following paragraph:

“Our government has a tendency to suggest that the Palestinians only understand violence. ‘We won’t talk under fire,’ they say. But when the Palestinians aren’t firing at us we won’t talk either. It seems that we simply won’t talk at all. As the mother of an Israeli soldier, I feel compelled to voice my plea for our government to talk now in order to prevent armed conflict later. I, for one, am not prepared to see my son go into battle in an entirely avoidable war. Now’s the time to take action to prevent the next war. It’s time we learned to use words rather than always hitting back.”

I find it almost unbearable to see my son go into battle in a war that might have been prevented. I believe in Israel’s right to self-defense, but I also believe that the right to self-defense has some conditions and obligations alongside it. Our government is promoting the question in its propaganda campaign, “What would Obama / Putin / etc. etc. do if New York / Moscow etc. etc. was under fire?”  I find the question objectionable because it completely ignores the context of this campaign. Israel cannot afford to look at things only through the lens of an immediate response to the current situation. We are morally and strategically obliged to have a longer term view.  What would Obama do? I hope he would develop a long-term strategic plan to change the equation rather than simply re-playing the same record over and over again. Here are some steps we Israelis could have taken since the last round of fighting four years ago (what a coincidence) in order to prevent this one:

  1. We could have acted to strengthen the moderate Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, in order to increase his legitimacy as the Palestinian leader, rather than undermine him at every turn.
  2. We could have initiated negotiations, direct or indirect, with the Hamas leadership, in order to promote a long-term cease-fire – something that was seemingly undertaken by peace activist Gershon Baskin, who successfully brokered the Shalit deal.
  3. We could have strengthened our strategic alliance with Turkey – rather than insisting on our “honor.”
  4. We could have taken a long and hard look at the Arab Peace Initiative.
  5. We could have stopped building settlements, which only protract the conflict, in order to sit down with a reasonable partner and try to reach agreement.
  6. We could have welcomed Abbas’ UN initiative and agreed to recognize a Palestinian state, on condition that its borders remain to be negotiated.
  7. We could have poured the billions of dollars we invest in occupation and war into peace and the real security that peace would bring.

Many call me naïve. But who is naïve here? I am not for one moment suggesting that Hamas is a peace-loving movement of the righteous. I am not even sure that any of the possibilities I suggest above would have been successful. I don’t know if any of these initiatives would have brought the residents of Southern Israel the security they deserve. But I would feel very differently about this war if I felt that we had made ANY significant effort at peace since the last one. And I say it is naïve, if not worse, to throw away human life on both sides, in an entirely predictable repeat performance of the last Gaza fiasco, knowing that the same results are all that we can hope for: a few months of semi-calm, followed by a renewal of sporadic sniping, which will last 4 more years until we do this again. ENOUGH!

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Discussion

12 thoughts on “Enough!

  1. People use the term naive to dismiss an argument they don’t want to engage with, and what you say is not something many Israelis are ready to hear, because they cannot get beyond the self-mythologising idea of a beleaguered nation state hedged in on all side by enemies who want only to kill Jews. You can’t begin to develop a rational foreign policy on that basis. Absolutely tragic. You must feel completely torn about you son’s potential deployment in this idiocy.

    Posted by Marina | November 19, 2012, 4:41 pm
    • Thank you Marina. I’m hoping and praying that a ceasefire is being brokered and will hold. And if that happens, we have to find a way to change the equation, rather than simply embark on another trip around the same circle.

      Posted by jerusalempeaceseeker | November 19, 2012, 4:48 pm
    • “beleaguered nation state hedged in on all side by enemies who want only to kill Jews”

      Do you have a better description of Israel after you see what Iran hizballa and hamas declare and how they act to fulfill their “peaceful” vision.

      Posted by Ron | November 20, 2012, 12:02 pm
  2. Marina, What if it isn’t “self-mythologising,” but an accurate assessment of reality? What is a rational foreign policy with Hamas, who definitely wants to detroy you (that’s what they say, it isn’t exactly a “hidden” agenda)? Is it OK to have a goal that tries to change who they are? or do you come up with a plan that recognizes their right to destroy you, but maybe gives the victim (Israel) some control over it (we agree to let you kill us, but on our timetable… say you get 1/10th our our country every year for 10 years, or get to kill 1/10th of our population every year?)
    What would Obama or other leaders do? I imagine they would more resolutely defeat the Gazans. That is how past conflicts have ended… with one clear victor, one dis-empowered loser. It created resentment at the end of WWI, which certainly helped to foster WWII. But the absolute defeat of Hitler and demilitarization of Germany seems to have held pretty well for over 65 years…

    Posted by Janice | November 20, 2012, 12:30 am
    • Janice – I do not believe that even our most hardened military strategists believe that it is possible to “solve” this ongoing problem militarily. They understand that there has to be a political resolution to our conflict with the Palestinian people. We cannot shell the Palestinians into not wanting self determination. The bottom line is that we are faced with a choice between a two-state and a one-state solution – and I still favor the two-state option because I still want a Jewish state. The best way to defeat extremists is to partner with moderates.

      Posted by jerusalempeaceseeker | November 20, 2012, 7:25 am
  3. Actually, what would we Jews do if the shoe were on the other foot? No question… we would accept whatever the Arabs offered us (we accepted the 1947 division, which was a terrible map! including the “internationalisation” of Jerusalem, despite it having a significant Jewish majority population; then we accepted the 1948 cease-fire lines, which were happenstance but somehow have become “sanctified”) and we would NOT devote decades to “martyrdom operations” (hate and murder), but rather, we’d do the best we could to build a nation with what little we had. There are actually many solutions to the problem, not just two. But they all do require something we can’t control: that the Palestinians decide on a goal that is NOT the destruction of Israel. (Gee, and what if the other Arab countries did that, too… thinking about the Palestinians needs, rather than about hating Israel). Obviously, they could have spent the last years since Israel’s pull-out from Gaza building up a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian culture in a Judenrien Gaza (they’d have to spend some time thinking about what a Palestinian culture would look like, since the only one to exist so far was basically a fiction whose only feature was being an enemy of the Jews. Is there anything unique about Palestinian culture that isn’t generic Arab culture, and doesn’t have to do with “Zionism” and hating Israel? They certainly could have been the first genuine, non-corrupt Arab democracy, “secular democratic state” they give lip service to…). In short, the Palestinians actually HAVE self-determination in two different places, now… they just need to have a visionary that thinks for a few minutes about what they want their Palestinian state to look like. If they had a peaceful, positive country, really, boundaries between Israel and Palestine would be a non-issue… they’d be open, perhaps similar to the European Union! I do not condescend to Arabs. I think they are every bit as capable as Jews are of creating a positive, democratic, burgeoning society, starting with whatever territory they happen to be on (even less than they actually have). The reason they don’t is that they aren’t even talking about that goal! (perhaps a microscopic, irrelevant fringe are). They are completely focussed on hate and fighting, and I don’t think Jews or anyone else ought to support them in those evil goals! No more than I’d support Nazis or white supremicists, including US racists who want to secede from the US so they can implement a racist country in our South.

    Posted by Janice | November 20, 2012, 4:46 pm
    • Obviously I fundamentally disagree with your position. I think your characterization of the Palestinian people as the equivalent of Nazis or white supremacists is offensive and racist. I believe that a large majority of the Palestinian people want to live in peace, just as a majority of Israelis want to live in peace – but years of violent conflict have created deep fear and hatred on both sides. I believe we must work to eradicate the hatred, not each other.

      Posted by jerusalempeaceseeker | November 20, 2012, 8:09 pm
  4. Janice, I am sorry that you are not able at all to engage with JPS’s way of thinking. The pity is that until more people (on all sides) are able to, there’s little chance of true peace in the region.

    Your characterisation of the Palestinians is probably very different from JPS’s – perhaps one of you knows them better on a personal level? – but that is no matter. Whether or not your characterisation of Israel’s situation is exactly the same as JPS’s is also no matter.

    The difference between you two is that JPS accepts that Israel has some problems with its neighbours and asks ‘what could we do that may – just possibly – help change our situation?’ And if that doesn’t work, the question would be ‘and what could we try next?’ You ask ‘ why don’t they do what they ought to do?’.

    People don’t have to agree what the problems are, and certainly don’t have to agree whose fault they are. They don’t even have to agree what the likelihood is of the success of any particular path. But until everyone – on all sides – is capable of empowering themselves, taking their destiny in their own hands, by asking ‘what can we do to change the equation?’, then people – on all sides – will continue to die. Sadly, too may people fear that asking this question would be to take the blame for the problem in the first place. Voices like those of JPS are so important – on all sides – precisely because they remind us that if we start by talking about who is to blame, we guarantee that we will continue in conflict. (Which is quite a different thing from saying that the other side in the conflict is not to blame.) As JPS says, what you try may not work, because usually the other side in a conflict needs to change too. But unless you ask the questions and try what can be tried, then you cannot simply blame the other side. JPS does not deny the need to defend oneself and one’s country – but sees clearly that defending yourself through military action draws its justification from being a strategy of last resort, not of first resort.

    This seems obvious. Why are the voices like Janice, then, so much more common than the voices like JPS? This I cannot answer

    Posted by Simon | November 20, 2012, 9:18 pm
  5. Hmm, I am not name-calling, but just pointing out that they have the same ideology, more or less. Don’t know what that has to do with race or racism. Have you re-read the Hamas charter lately, to remind yourself what they stand for? Islam (their version of it) is the one true religion and ought to rule the world. “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” So, what is a “rational” foreign policy to have with them?
    So, they want to kill me, and I want to stay alive. They don’t want to compromise (even refuse to talk to us,and really, what would there be to say?). Are we harming their human rights by trying to prevent them from killing us? That is Israel’s current policy… not to change them, just to “contain” them try to discourage them from killing very many of us. (Funny satire showed a pretend Hamas representative shocked that it was so hard for them to provoke Israel into attacking… we had to launch sooo many rockets into Israel before they’d fight with us!)
    Obviously I would love peace; every Israeli would. I guess I just think that Israel has wanted peace from the get-go. The Arabs have certainly made progress in recent decades, but ultimately, peace is way more in their hands than in ours. there is only so much Israel can do.

    Posted by Janice | November 20, 2012, 10:24 pm
  6. I am very glad someone directed me to this site. I liked your comment, too, Marina.

    Posted by Susan | November 20, 2012, 10:28 pm
    • Dear Susan, dear Janice, Marina and Simon – dear Jerusalempeaceseeker!

      I am thrilled by this discussion! You are touching the ailing heart of the vast majority of Israel’s Jews and their supporters in the Diaspora: You belong to this country for historical and political reasons (You have recently conquered the land of your forefathers – and a bit more.), but this country doesn’t belong to you alone (Other people belong to this land as well – and they own large parts of it, for historical and political reasons, and have been driven out and deprived of it between 1947 and 1949 and 1967 again – and ongoing!).

      The Jewish heart, instructed by divine revelation in its biblical and rabbinical tradition, KNOWS that this was and is and continues to be unjust – and you are at loggerheads with your God, if you don’t change this. And your God is cross with you, but He is seeking your heart to save you from self-destruction, as He always has done.
      Go to your roots and “love your neighbour as yourself” – accept that your neighbour, even your enemy is a human being with natural, legitimate desires as yourself. KNOW the reality of your history, acknowledge the dark side of it, accept having been and being mistaken as any human being and any people can be mistaken (We Germans have luckily been forced to know our dark heart and our misdeeds.), turn around, repent – redress and make peace!

      As to not putting the blame on anybody – this is unrealistic, far away from real life. Troddlers in kindergardens are learning to be more mature! Things don’t happen out of the blue. Actions trigger reactions and reactions trigger an endless chain of reactions, except you stop blaming only the other and start accepting your share of guilt. If you are in conflict with your neighbour, it’s way better to accept your share of the blame; you, thereby, redeem him from the spasm of hatred and aggression and will most certainly earn, sooner or later, his admission to being guilty as well.

      Remember: Justice comes at no low costs. You are not alone here, regardless what you would like to make yourself believe. You have to share this country, i.e. you will have to give in order to receive peace with your neighbours and uncontested legitimacy. As a first step: Want to know THEIR pain endured during the past one hundred years, so that they become open to feel the abyss of pain your people have endured in their history for a long time – and recently! Make their pain yours, so that they may become empowered to make your pain theirs!

      I know I am calling all good and evil spirits of this part of humanity down on my head, but that’s why I am living here for. Wrong is wrong and right is right, and there are no angels here and devils there. We are human beings; let’s admit to being both, good and bad, and relying on each others’ mercy, as on the mercy of the Almighty. The alternative is destruction.

      Michael

      Posted by Michael van Lay | November 25, 2012, 1:30 pm
  7. I too am a peace seeker, and though I fundamentally disagree with your approach, I support your right to express your opinion. I only have a problem where your prescriptions slip into “mythologizing”. You claim that Israel has undermined Abbas, thwarting the desire of this moderate PA leader to make peace. You ignore the fact that Abbas has steadfastly refused to enter into negotiations with Israel. When the Israeli government bowed to American pressure and declared a 10 month building freeze on Jewish-owned land in the West Bank as a confidence-building measure in order that negotiations could begin, Abbas refused to come to the table for 9.5 months, then demanded an extension of the freeze. When this was not forthcoming, he reneged on his side of the bargain, and to this day, Abbas refuses to enter into negotiations. After all, why should he present himself as moderate to his people, who are largely supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, and see the more fundamentalist Hamas as the true leadership of the Palestinian people (remember, Abbas’ legitimate term as elected leader ran out years ago). More significantly, Abbas’ PA controlled educational system and broadcasting service reflects its true agenda: it spews vile anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli propoganda, glorifies terrorists, and doesn’t give the impression of a society that is waiting to make peace with its neighbors. In short, like all Israelis, I want nothing more than to live side-by-side with my neighbors, in a state of peace. But to achieve peace, you need a true partner. Lacking that (as I believe we do), it’s best that we try to see reality for what it is.

    Posted by Sandy Cash | November 21, 2012, 8:55 am

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