Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm watching the news in Israel and what appears to be an inevitable ground war in Gaza. I am both  horrified and surprised. Horrified, because war is horrible, and I dread the loss of lives on both sides. Surprised because my personal reaction to this is so visceral.

I am often very critical of the State of Israel. I support a two state solution, oppose theocracy, and would like to see the Israeli government take bold, decisive, and creative action to secure the former and end the latter "speedily and in our day" as our liturgy says. And yet I want to see the Israeli Defense Force annihilate Hamas.

I feel personally attacked. I feel ready, if the need arises and I would be a help rather than a burden, to immediately fly to Israel and volunteer to help. I don't often feel this kind of allegiance, and I surprised (and not unpleasantly so) that I can still feel this way.

This could be mere romanticism, and I will have to wait to see whether or not I am willing to put my life on the line for my people, but the feeling is not something I had expected.

You might argue that an incursion into Gaza is not an existential threat to Israel, but I worry that, given the current state of Arab affairs, what happens in Gaza cannot stay in Gaza. A war with Israel might serve the interests of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Syria's Assad regime, not to mention Iran. Attacking Israel is a convenient way to shift the attention of the masses away from the despots that oppress them, and toward the Jewish boogeyman that haunts them.

When war comes to Hamas in Gaza, their compatriots in Egypt will demand that they join the fight. The president of Egypt is himself part of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas is their movement. How could he stand by and let them bleed?

If Egypt enters the fight, Syria will open a second front hoping to put an end to its internal rebellion. Lebanon and Hezbollah will do the same. And even Jordan, with its huge Palestinian population, may be forced to enter the fray. The potential for regional war is real.

Should Israel refrain from invading? How can it? Imagine Mexican drug lords shelling Arizona, Texas, and Southern California: would the US just sit on its hands and beg them to stop? We would fire back, and if that weren't enough we would invade claiming that the Mexican government was incapable of controlling its own people and maintaining peace. Israel is in the same position.

No matter how strongly I detest the Occupation; no matter how illegal and even evil I hold many of the settlements to be; no matter how wrongheaded I think the Israeli right and Prime Minister Netanyahu are, I cannot help but support war.

I am not happy about this. It troubles me on so many levels. I share these thoughts with you as a matter of honesty, and invite you to help me see another way if you think there is one.

20 comments:

SteveL said...

Rabi Rami . . .

I expect the reason you've not been getting replies is that you've posed such a difficult and painful question. One that most of us have faced, and rarely if ever with a satisfactory answer.

What do we do in a crisis when we're torn by competing loyalties? When the competing loyalties are all based on good moral arguments and personal history?

If we fail to act when action is called for we suffer the shame of cowardice and abandonment. If we choose a course of action we have to live with the negatives that come with that choice: nobody can relieve us of that burden. Maybe, if we are lucky, the crisis will evolve so that our role will be of little consequence, except perhaps in our own minds.

Ty said...

I applaud your honesty...perhaps why you are my favorite blogger.

From my own life experience (65yo ex-Baptist minister, nowSBNR, who grew up in upstate NY but is living among 'tar-heels')
I would suggest you contemplate the phrase "my people."

Also, you may want to study triune brain theory if you are not familiar with it. Your "lizard brain" sounds ready to fight.

andrea perez said...

No matter how we feel about nonviolence, the world does not seem ready for it. With 30,000 troops on the border of Gaza and another 75,000 troops called into service, obviously our people aren't taking this lightly. With the US government basically telling Hamas it is their fault and saying that Israel has a right to defend ourselves, we have been given a green light to do whatever it is that needs to be done.
My question would be, how do we protect those caught in the crossfire? The facts are simple. The Israeli government is willing and able to do whatever it needs to do to protect ourselves. How is the 12,000 odd Hamas force going to protect their own people from the onslaught? Are they willing to become a country of martyrs to the greater Islamic jihad against my Homeland? Maybe just maybe, they should stop using their own "lizard Brains" (and I do know the theory) and begin to love their own communities as much as the Israeli's love ours. The two-state solution is starting to wear thin. Maybe what needs to happen is a one state solution with Palestine being treated like a Commonwealth or a Territory with egual rights. I believe that is the way to peace. I also believe the Arab Spring hasn't brought freedom or respect to the populations of the Arab world. It's time to invite them into our world. Respect their religious views but not their right to harm their own populations. When it is okay to shoot a little girl in the head because she wants to go to school...well, what do you do about that? Stand around and let it continue? As much as Israel makes me angry with some of the hypocracy, it's much the same way I view my life here in the US. Nothing is perfect, There are things we do in the US that make me ill. But at the end of the day, I feel that I can voice my opinion and have a pizza. That's what Israel is trying to maintain. We've seen what the Arab Spring has brought and it isn't a friendly chat over tea. I'm getting really tiered of watching people afraid of rockets hitting them and women getting stoned (STONED! REally?) for just wanting to have a life. Maybe, Israel (we) can start giving the Palestinian people a Life without hiding behind loafs of bread filled with bombs.

Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I'm watching CNN and things look even worse. I read in Haaretz that one Israeli ministers wants to bomb Gaza into the Stone Age. I think that was the age when all we had were lizard brains.

As for Andrea's comment on women. Sometimes I think that the key to true progress is to focus on the liberation of women via education, egalitarian and democratic governments, etc. Then I read or watch some woman (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, fundamentalist, right wing, etc) sounding just as lizardly as the men.

No hope?

andrea perez said...

There's hope. But there isn't much we seem to be able to do.
I agree with you, a lot of what happens to women is women holding down that little girl while someone is doing the shooting. I never said extremism is just the territory of men.
I wish there was a way to give Gaza a 24 hour warning, invite all those caught into the crossfire to leave for a few days, have the IDF go from house to house and arrest those who keep the rockets flying and then annex back Gaza until a territory can be established...but that's not the rules of war. Nor does it seem fair or just. Someone will have to back down. Can't see it being Israel right now.Unless that Iron Dome thing they have will render 100% of those rockets useless, they will fight. It's gotten past us. I feel that "never again" should apply to all people of the world. I think that's why we look at horror at this situation. Here we are, with some hot heads in control, ready to destroy an entire people on both sides. But, there is hope, someones in the Israeli government came up with an idea to circumvent the rockets. How many on the other side, have people in place who are willing to find the same solution? Who is calling for them to stop the bombing? Until both sides admit enough is enough, here is where we are indefinitely. You can't ask for forgiveness if the one you are asking isn't willing to accept your apology or even listen to you. Both sides aren't anywhere near that point. So hope? Yes. Time? someday.

David said...

I find your comparison of the US is to Mexico as Israel is to Palestine ludicrous. If the US blockaded Mexico and treated Mexico as the Israel does Palestine, we would then expect Mexico to sit back and let their homes be destroyed and children killed 20 to 1 as they fought back. Using that comparison, perhaps the US would be justified to invade Mexico because of the drugs that they export for our use and because their people try to get a better life here. Or because we want secure borders.
You disappoint me.

Ty said...

The problems of global politics are above my paygrade,as is the problem of violence...though I know my own lizard brain seems to want to go there often enough.

As the historian Thomas Cahill stated, "the history of the world is written in blood" and the story of Cain and Abel dramatizes the point.

Twenty years ago in my former Southern Baptist world in Virginia, one fundamentalist leader wanted to "go for the jugular" of my liberal colleagues.
When I moved to Vermont in 1989, a "northern" Baptist asked me which side I had been on!

So who are "my people?"

"Me and my brother against my cousin; me and my cousin against the world."

Our lizard brains seem to enjoy our tribal identities so we can more easily identify potential threats, i.e. "the enemy," and be ready to attack.

With all due respect, as I read the Hebrew scriptures, in actuality, the promised land was not given, but taken through violence.

Must we be victims of the lizard brain and/or karma?

My hope is in Shalom and its definition which Gabe Fackre (of Andover Newton Theological School)
coined some years ago:

"Shalom is the 'Peacing' together of all that which is shattered.



Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

I know without a doubt or the necessity to reflect for a moment who MY PEOPLE are. They are the ones who wore the yellow stars in Nazi Germany. They are the ones who were killed by the Crusaders in the Rhine Valley of Germany as they travelled to the Holy Land to kill more. They are the ones who were confined in the ghettos in medieval Europe. They were the ones who were murdered by the Cossacks in the pogroms. They were the ones who were accused of poisoning the wells during the bubonic plague. They were the ones who when given the choice between death and acceptance of Jesus Christ chose death and whose last words were "shma yisrael adonai elohenu adonnai echud"

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

I would suggest that you read a bit about Jewish history so that you might understand why a Jew has little problem who he is referring to by MY PEOPLE. The Jewish spiritual concept of Avodas Yisrael will forever be beyond your ken.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

There are no "competing loyalties"

Ty said...

Many things are "beyond my ken" and I am not a student of Jewish history, though I know enough not to want to add any further hurt or injury. Please forgive me if I have.

However, in my opinion, if we (humanity) cannot move beyond our tribal identities, how can we avoid mutual destruction? The fuse for WWIII and global anihilation seems lit.

As John Donne wrote,
"Each man's death diminishes me
For I am involved in mankind
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee."

My wife is urging her friends that we all stop at Noon for 5 minutes and pray for peace. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Ty:

You are obviously a person of good will. I share your prayers for peace.

Rabbi Rami said...

Nice to see some reconciliation in the comments. And I do appreciate both Ty's comments on Mexico and post tribalism, and Mordecai's passion for our tribe. There is a chicken and egg element to all of this. If we want to blame someone for the mess in the Middle East we might want to focus on the British.

In the meantime, let me add my prayers to those of others who wish for peace.

Fraser said...

I've got some idea of history and that includes Israel's recent history which seems to quietly slip away when Israeli's start getting killed. Forty odd years off brutal enslavement, murder and not one single moment of honest negotiation on Israel's behalf brings a very ugly karma with it. The solution has always lain with Israel and still does. It is a lot less complex than people make it. Gaza's recent history seems to be all but invisible in all these arguments. Why should anyone be expected to be treated like that and not take up arms. It is not as if it has been a holiday camp in there. Absolute brutality and unfortunately one of the closest comparisons you are going to get to German ghettos during the war. Ones own suffering does not excuse doing the same thing to another people.

Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Quite a partisan statement to say that Israel did not engage in "one single moment of honest negotiation." Anwar Sadat would disagree, The long-standing peace with Egypt, the most powerful of Israel's neighbors stand in strong contradistinction to that absurd comment, and reflects upon the lack of credibility such statement,

While Israel's Arab neighbors routinely torture and execute gays, lesbians, political dissidents, Christians, etc., Israel is cast as Nazis by the profane comparison with German Ghettos.

The very existence of Israel and its initial tiny amount of land that comprised the nation in 1948 stuck in the craw of its Arab neighbors who sought its destruction. The cry from the Mosques and the Arab media had always been kill the Jews and push them into the sea.

For the first time in 2000 years, the Jews were no longer the bookish and helpless itinerant wanderers in foreign lands. How sad for the anti-semites. Now a different Jew is seen -- the Jews that wiped out Roman legions and the Jews that defeated the Greek armies.

As far as I can see there may be injustices that Palestininians face but this must be viewed in context of a nuanced situation in a politically charged environment replete with suicide bombers and extreme Moslem fanatics.

There are no Auschwitzs, Bergen Belsens, and Mauthhausens consequently the claim that Israel is doing the same thing to Palestinians as what was done to Jews is mythical polemic.





Mordechai Ben Nathan said...

Quite a partisan statement to say that Israel did not engage in "one single moment of honest negotiation." Anwar Sadat would disagree, The long-standing peace with Egypt, the most powerful of Israel's neighbors stand in strong contradistinction to that absurd comment, and reflects upon the lack of credibility such statement,

While Israel's Arab neighbors routinely torture and execute gays, lesbians, political dissidents, Christians, etc., Israel is cast as Nazis by the profane comparison with German Ghettos.

The very existence of Israel and its initial tiny amount of land that comprised the nation in 1948 stuck in the craw of its Arab neighbors who sought its destruction. The cry from the Mosques and the Arab media had always been kill the Jews and push them into the sea.

For the first time in 2000 years, the Jews were no longer the bookish and helpless itinerant wanderers in foreign lands. How sad for the anti-semites. Now a different Jew is seen -- the Jews that wiped out Roman legions and the Jews that defeated the Greek armies.

As far as I can see there may be injustices that Palestininians face but this must be viewed in context of a nuanced situation in a politically charged environment replete with suicide bombers and extreme Moslem fanatics.

There are no Auschwitzs, Bergen Belsens, and Mauthhausens consequently the claim that Israel is doing the same thing to Palestinians as what was done to Jews is mythical polemic.





Fraser said...

The fantasy that anyone could push Israel into the sea does you no credit. It, with the complete backing of the USA, is the most powerful military state in the area. Earlier, perhaps, now never!

The agreement with Egypt does nothing but underline my point. If Israel decides to come to the table things can happen if they don't nothing can. I stand by my assertion that in all the negotiations undertaken with the Palestinians there has never been a real intention to make those negotiation work on the part of the Israelis. There has always been a media complicity in the nonsense that there was "no partner for peace" in the Palestinians.
This is not my opinion but is something I pass on from Tanya Reinhart's book 'Israel/Palestine'.
She is an Israeli and goes into each of the main negotiations in detail and it is a sobering critique.

Palestinians live in military compounds from which they have no freedom of movement, are routinely slaughtered at any hint of rebellion, have no ability to run business normally, are in a state of medieval siege in which they are on the border of or well into starvation and are apparently meant to stay calm and cooperative as well.
Call that what you will but it sounds very familiar to me. The country has been sub divided into manageable caches and what was recently seen in Gaza is an example of how it works. Massive bombing, illegal chemical weapons and thousands of deaths. A civilian population trapped and utterly vulnerable.

"There may be injustices that Palestinians face" and everything that follows it is not worth addressing.

The thing that is most tragic besides the Palestinian suffering is the terrible thing this does to Israel. Those who love her most in Israel constantly have their voices raised. As in the USA a thorough re imagination of what patriotism is would be a very good thing.



Fraser said...

Forgive me fellow bloggers... I'm beginning to sound strident. Thomas Merton used to say"I'm sounding like the opposition". I'm also praying for peace and might be better placed finding it inside first.

Diana Reed said...

Two wrongs don't make a right. We are all one people, and we all have the same basic needs and desire for happiness and peace. The disputed land is a metaphor for all that is wrong in our world, the narrow minded philosophy of mine and yours, good and bad, fair or unfair. We all live on this one fragile planet, we all breathe from this one atmosphere,and we are all affected by the actions of others. Let our actions as spiritual people be an example to others, promoting peace, and refusing to fight. Love and compassion are god.

Diana Reed said...

Two wrongs don't make a right. We are all one people, and we all have the same basic needs and desire for happiness and peace. The disputed land is a metaphor for all that is wrong in our world, the narrow minded philosophy of mine and yours, good and bad, fair or unfair. We all live on this one fragile planet, we all breathe from this one atmosphere,and we are all affected by the actions of others. Let our actions as spiritual people be an example to others, promoting peace, and refusing to fight. Love and compassion are god.