SHARED BLAME, SHARED SHAME
Well, now we have another perfect storm – US made and financed weaponry turned on entrapped men, woman and children by descendants of former victims of oppression. Hard to believe, but even the US Israeli apologists may be gagging on their faux yarmulkes. For perspective, I am an American of Jewish descent, not much rooted in either soil. America exports arms and righteousness to those who kill indiscriminately and then stands idly by while children are bombed in school yards, hospitals, and markets. The Israelis wrap themselves in reflected righteousness and train American weaponry on innocents while invoking visions of past oppression as a justification for present mindless death and destruction.
I have long ago left religious Judaism behind, easily giving up on a god that leaves so many innocents dead or maimed. Atheism has become a comfortable intellectual refuge, replacing devotion with sustained dismay at those who find prayer an acceptable substitute for conscience. The latest devotional wasteland is Gaza, a strip of land that looks a lot like the Warsaw Ghetto must have looked so many years ago to those trapped inside by others so confident of the righteousness of their cause. Humans can’t leave and desperately needed medicines, fuel, goods, and services can’t enter. The root causes of the ensuing mayhem are easy to identify, but seemingly impossible to overcome. For centuries, trapped people have found a way to fight for freedom. The oppressed almost always lose in the short term, but the loss eventually seems to lead to some sort of victory.
There is a lesson here that seems to be lost on many Israelis, way too many Jewish folks, and the army of US lobbyists who spend millions to buy US political allegiance to Israel – trapped humans who resort to violence against those who entrap them are not terrorists to those they serve. They are freedom fighters – to many Palestinians, the Hamas soldiers are no less heroic than the Jews who valiantly resisted an overwhelming Nazi force in Warsaw. The always lost lesson is that one man’s hero is another man’s terrorist.
Moreover, when bombs fall indiscriminately on the helpless, those who make the bombs, sell the bombs, drop the bombs, and make excuses for the bombs implicitly reduce the humanity of the dead and dying. It is ok to kill those children – they are the children of the terrorists, or it is ok to kill those children – they are the children of the oppressors. When Palestinian children die at the hands of Israelis, it is seen by some to be for a greater good. When Israeli children die at the hands of Palestinians, it is seen by others to be for a greater good. While no one’s dead child will ever see another sunrise, Israeli heroes get a star turn on CNN and Palestinian heroes find their place in Arab lore.
This carnage will continue as long as Israel is viewed as sacred land and Palestinians wander in an undefined, under-developed, and occupied territory. Israel is a country and nothing more. It is ridiculous to continue this notion that the British, French, and the UN carved out sacred land for the nation of Israel that forever absolved that nation from the rights and responsibilities of nationhood. Responsible nations do not occupy the land of others. Responsible nations sign and adhere to human rights accords. Responsible nations do not indiscriminately destroy civilian populations to achieve military objectives. Responsible nations with nuclear weapons participate in international treaties that seek to ensure that weapons of truly mass destruction are known to all and limited by agreement. And, perhaps most importantly, leaders of responsible nations do not dehumanize those with whom they disagree, even when those disagreements are profound.
In today’s world, the list of nations that can lay claim to all of these minimum standards is a short one. America is not on the list, although it meets a few of the enumerated standards. Israel meets not a single one. Both nations have thrived on their own terms, and both at times have played a significant humanitarian role in addressing international crises. However, each could do so much more to improve the human condition if each would only look inwardly to examine its role in the prevailing death and destruction. America must stop pretending that its arms merchants are benign players in a strategic game and must recognize that a policy that indiscriminately arms the world puts the grim reaper at so many innocent doorsteps. Israel, for its part, must stop acting like some god weighed the balance sheets and decided that Israel was chosen to protect a sacred land that nobody asked it to protect.
It is time for all parties in Palestine to sit down with folks they don’t like and figure out how to divide a troubled land. Occupation and settlements can’t be worth any more dead children. The continued price of failed policy is simply too high – bombs fall from the sky, ceasefires come and go, and another father is left to carry his dead baby to an early grave.