Israel’s First Punch and Continued Hope for Peace

A while ago, I pointed out that a photo which a Facebook friend shared, showing a soldier with a boot on a little girl’s chest, was faked. But now there is so much genuine horror that it seems moot that some of the images are not real. I can’t seem to hold on to an opinion for more than a few minutes, and may instantly regret what I write after I post it, but what I see happening today is Israel claiming to minimize civilian casualties while its military members are so hateful that they don’t really care. I see Palestinians in an unacceptable and unfair situation, but who long ago chose the most horrific methods of expressing their frustrations. I see Israel’s right to invade Gaza and destroy the tunnels, and I see Palestinian’s right to protest the carnage. I see terrible wrong on both sides and partisans on both sides sharing half-true news stories, with Zionists ignoring the economic hardship caused by overbearing security measures and Palestinian supporters ignoring the fact that no matter what Israel gives them, they either destroy it or use it against Israel. There is wrong on both sides.

The first punch, though, is on Israel. Not because the Zionists expelled all of the Arabs to create their homeland; that story ignores all those who willingly left so they could join their Arab neighbors in a failed attempt to murder Israel. And not because Palestine was a sovereign nation that was invaded. It never was. And not because the region hadn’t already changed hands many times before. And not because the people who lived on the land that became Israel might not have prospered had they accepted the Zionists’s offer of citizenship. But despite all that, there were people living in the land that became Israel, and when those people were told that a bunch of new folks were going to move in and form a nation, their response was, “we don’t want it”, and that response should have been honored.

Finding out who threw the first punch isn’t enough to bring peace or justice in an escalating conflict. Today, we have an imperialist military power fighting against a movement that wants nothing short of the death of the sinner as reparations for its sins. Israel will not die to appease terrorists and Palestinians will not accept brutal conditions imposed on them by occupiers. It seems hopeless.

I do think it’s hopeless to stop the horror of the current operation. I am still supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself but cannot blame all of the carnage on Hamas’s “human shields” while praising Israel for not targeting civilians. Too bad my support is irrelevant. This operation will play out until the tunnels are destroyed and Hamas is devastated, along with dozens of innocent, non-targeted children.

But after this incursion, there will again be hope. Israeli supporters claim it is hopeless because they keep making concessions and getting nothing but aggression in return. That is, to a small degree, true. In support for their arguments they contrast relinquishing the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for peace against withdrawing from Gaza in 2005. That withdrawal resulted in Palestinian criminals looting and destroying greenhouses that Israeli settlers left for the Palestinian people, economic devastation in Palestine, and continued attacks on Israel. But there are many differences between giving the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and withdrawing from Gaza, including:

  • Israel’s continued control and harsh restrictions of Gaza’s borders (with Egypt’s help).
  • Egypt’s financial and political establishment which would not have allowed the Sinai Peninsula to descend into chaos
  • Palestinian longing for land within Israel’s borders

Another difference: if militants on Egypt’s border were to fire rockets at Israel, Israel’s response, even if it were disproportionate, would not be so devastating that all of Egypt would be bathed in the blood of Egyptian civilians.

The next withdrawal from Gaza must include a genuine economic investment for peace. It must include a police force capable of protecting resources from looters and the ability to move goods in and out of Gaza. It also must include a willingness on both sides to show enough restraint not to let enemies of peace scuttle the entire process. That last point means accepting the fact that there will be more murders, but not every murder should be answered with a military incursion.

Peace won’t happen without pressure. For Americans it means writing letters to politicians expressing support for Israel’s right to self-defense but also support for pressuring Israel to make genuine, costly, and risky efforts towards peace. It means financial contributions to organizations working for peace. For those who can, it means volunteering for such organizations.

A true effort towards peace is almost impossible to imagine, since Israelis will raise hell in protest and it will not eliminate the threat from anti-Zionists who only want the death of Israel. But considering Israel’s prosperity on land that once belonged to others, they should and hopefully can be pressured to take the only realistic path towards peace short of self-annihilation or criminal oppression and murder. As for the Palestinians who want Israel dead, I believe that pragmatism can beat extremism even when the extremism is fueled by a legitimate grievance.

Update: This post was originally titled “Israel’s Original Sin and Continued Hope for Peace”, and I had used the phrase “Original sin” in the text. I posted it on Daily Kos as well as this blog, and on Daily Kos I was strongly criticized from commenters who told me the phrase was inflammatory, and who felt I was literally cursing Israel, in a religious sense. That was not my intent. I was only trying to find a place to point to and say, “There, that was the definitive moment.” As I did on Kos, I apologize for the poorly chosen phrase, and I hope this is more clear now without it.

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