Hamas is Bad, But…
We shouldn’t have to make a disclaimer every time we want to criticize Israel
In the United States, it is incumbent upon us to make sure to specify that we do not support Hamas somewhere in any essay in which we might be even a little bit critical of Israel. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eugene Robinson satisfied this requirement in the third paragraph of his piece, Losing the High Ground. He said, “I support Israel. I abhor Hamas. But unleashing such devastating firepower on a tiny, densely crowded enclave in which civilians are trapped—and thus destined to become casualties—is wrong by any reasonable moral standard.” If targeting civilians is wrong by any reasonable more standard, why did it have to be qualified by saying “I support Israel…?” And if that which is wrong by any reasonable moral standard is not enough to get you to at least question your support, why should Israel give a damn about what you think of its targeting practices?
This, however, is the norm for American discourse on Israel and Palestine. Any statement that does not include a veritable loyalty oath to this foreign government and a retort to its enemies is marked as being anti-Israel (god forbid) or even worse, anti-Semitic. Consequently, nothing of substance can be elaborated about this ongoing conflict. We are condemned to issue our support for Israel despite their criminal behavior. We consigned to show our disdain for Hamas despite it being the democratically elected body in Gaza. In the crosshairs are Palestinians who are suffering at the hands of Israeli policies, and Israeli citizens who become targets of Palestinian retaliation. The interesting thing is that even the Israeli press does not have this standard!
Look, the Israel-Palestine Conflict can only be resolved in two ways. The first way is for one side to wipe out the other. That seems to be the goal for the power establishment on both sides. There’s really nothing anyone can do so long as this is the latent goal of politics in region.
The civilized, rational way to resolve the crisis is for both sides to decide on peace. Before that can happen, they both need to accept some truths that neither side has demonstrated a willingness to embrace. Without apologies to either side, those truths are as follows:
Palestinians (Hamas, Palestinian Authority): You Can’t Right the Wrongs of the Past: You got a shitty deal. Your lands were mandated to Britain, who used them toward their own ends without regard to your sovereignty. Ultimately, you were violently displaced. It sucks. It’s not fair. It’s even a travesty. But it’s done, and there’s really no going back. No amount of martyrdom or rocket attacks is going to make up for the loss, and you are certainly not going to get your traditional lands back any more than will the Sioux, or the Cherokee or the Tatars or any of a myriad of cultures that have been unjustly displaced by more powerful forces. You will most likely have to settle for sovereignty over what lands you have, or some form of cultural pluralism. Regardless, the wrongs of the past must remain in the past. Your indignation might be righteous, but Israel has existed since 1948 and will likely continue to exist. It’s done. Using violence, especially violence against civilians will not right the wrongs of the past and makes it more difficult for those in the international community who would otherwise be sympathetic to embrace your movement. Peaceful resistance and democratic movements are the way you need to go.
Israelis (Israeli political establishment, especially the conservatives): You are the Beneficiaries of Injustice: It sucks, but it’s true. Your nation was founded on the displacement of the indigenous people. Perhaps you have a two thousand year old claim, but who gives a shit. There were people already living on this land before your grandparents arrived. Now most Israelis had nothing to do with this, but as the beneficiaries of this injustice it is incumbent upon you to right it. If there’s going to be a two state solution, then the sovereignty of both states must be sacrosanct. You can’t blockade a region just because you don’t like the election results. You cannot bring settlers into lands that don’t belong to you just because you need elbow room. You can’t build a wall between people and their farms, fields, jobs and water sources and call it “security.” Most importantly, when there is a conflict between your nation and the other, you can’t respond by crushing them with tanks and missiles, especially when you target, and you did target, civilian centers. When three Israeli boys were killed outside of Gaza you responded by firing missiles into the territory. What are the chances that those missiles hit the boys’ actual killers? That’s what diplomacy is for.
Look, I know that when it comes to being a beneficiary of injustice, as an American, I have no room to point my finger. But someone has to say it without apologizing for saying it. My own country I have to say, stay the hell out of it. You can’t arrange peace when you are funding the military establishment of Israel. Your diplomatic efforts would be better served in more fruitful endeavors. Peace cannot be secured in the Israel-Palestine through US diplomatic efforts. The political establishment there is dedicated to destruction, not diplomacy. That does not mean we should profit from this. Our undying alliance with Israel is likely a key reason why its government feels free to pursue such harsh, disproportionate policies. Stop feeding the beast. No more military assistance for either side. Align the international community behind letting these groups figure out their own problems.
Most importantly, the political establishment of both sides rests on its hatred for the other. This has to end. The people of Israel and Palestine will have to choose their representatives based on their willingness to accept the truths elaborated above. Until that time, there is nothing anyone can do but shake our heads and the generations long stupidity of your conflict. Many more will die. Many more will suffer. This death and suffering will instigate further retaliation, which will only lead to more death and suffering, leading to more retaliation. Only you can end this senseless cycle.
As a writer, however, I’m not obliged to support either side of this macabre idiocy. Not being obliged to swear my fealty to Israel or my disdain for Hamas, or vice versa. Not getting caught in the rhetorical traditions requisite to legitimate commentary on this issue I’m free to say, a pox on both of your houses.