I've been thinking a lot about the current conflict, and while I have no desire to add to the stream of crazy on Facebook, I want to be able to talk about some of these things with (hopefully) rational, open-minded people. I feel like a Jon Stewart-like screaming match is inevitable, but I guess I'll give it a chance anyways.
Disclaimer: I was born in Israel and lived there until I moved to America when I was six. I go back regularly to visit the many family members I still have there. I absolutely recognize that this makes me biased. My family members live within miles of Gaza and I've spent time in bomb shelters when ceasefires broke down. I'm not an authority on the history of the conflict, although I would generally consider myself more well-educated on it than the general public. These are just some of my thoughts:
First of all, I do believe in the right of the state of Israel to exist. I can have debates and discussions with people about the conflict and different wrongdoings on both sides, but there's really nothing I can say to someone who believes that Israel has no right to be there, that there is no need for a Jewish state, that they never had any claim to the land and so they should just GTFO. My grandparents who emigrated to Israel from Europe both did so after surviving the Holocaust. My grandmother's father was killed in Auschwitz while she was hidden in a village in the forest, and her entire life has revolved around that grief. She's been taking me to Holocaust memorials for as long as I can remember. The memory of the Holocaust is alive and well in Israel, so to say that the Israeli people can't "play the Holocaust card anymore" is ignorant. It is an enormous part of the narrative of the Israeli people and it is pointless to pretend otherwise. In addition, I don't think it really adds anything to the discussion to say the state of Israel shouldn't exist. It does. It has for almost 70 years. Where exactly do people who think that Israel shouldn't exist want the 8 million people who live there to go? I also think it's ignorant to say that there is no anti-Semitism involved in the worldwide criticism of Israel. I think there are many well-meaning people who are not anti-Semitic who support Palestine and criticize Israel, but I think that the scope of the outcry, especially when compared to other, equally horrible, conflicts speaks to something more sinister. I will never be the person who accuses anyone who is critical of Israel of being anti-Semitic, but I am well aware of anti-Semitism that is still alive and well throughout the world, and I do believe that it plays a role in the dialogue around this conflict as well.
That said, I have a lot of problems with the tactics of the Israeli government. I think that Israel is in an extremely difficult position, and I think its history of conflict with its neighbors when it *has* tried for a peaceful two state solution makes trust an enormous issue in this conflict. That said, I have very little respect for the current Israeli government. The way they used the murders of Israeli teens as a false pretense to go after Hamas was not only morally wrong, but incredibly stupid. I think that there is some truth to the fact that Hamas is more than willing to put Palestinians at risk, but I also don't trust everything the Israeli government says about its military operations. On a more personal level, I know that there are bad people in the Israeli army. Like in any army, there are sadists and people who are happy to go to war. One of the only times I've seen my dad so upset he could barely talk was when he told me about his time serving in Lebanon. About seeing people that you thought were your friends, your brothers in arms, the people you were supposed to trust with your life, do unspeakable things. (If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend Ari Folman's autobiographical film "Waltz with Bashir," about his experience as an Israeli soldier in Lebanon. In addition to shedding some light on the conflict in Israel, it's a beautifully made film that portrays the horrors of war in a really unique way.)
Outside the army, I think that Israelis have a serious problem with racism. I think there need to be more efforts to create positive interactions between Israelis and Palestinians, because it's easy to hate a whole group of people when your only interaction with them is war. I think there's ingrained racism and hatred on both sides, but since I'm speaking from the Israeli side, I'm going to be more critical of Israel in this. And nobody makes me more mad than the religious far-right in Israel. I think it's despicable that Ultra-Orthodox Jews want to build settlements because God said this land belongs to them, Palestinians be damned, and are willing to risk Palestinian and Israeli lives by creating a cause for violence. Violence which, coincidentally, they're almost definitely never going to personally experience, because they get religious exemptions from serving in the army. The stronghold these people have on the Israeli government infuriates me as much as the extremists on the other side who think Israel shouldn't exist and all Jews should be killed. One of my earliest vivid memories is hearing about Yitzhak Rabin's assassination on TV. All because he was working towards peace.
On a shallower note, let's talk Facebook. I'm Facebook friends with Israeli Jews, American Jews, and Muslims all over the world. Again, I'm mostly going to focus on the Jewish experience. I think it's absurd that the most "Israel can do no wrong" posts I see on Facebook are coming from American Jews. The Israeli Jews I know will post things that try to explain the Israeli perspective, but they'll also post things like this story about the "Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies" social media efforts (which, by the way, as somebody with a half-Arab boyfriend, I support 1000%), and make their profile pictures a combination of the Israeli and Palestinian flag, with the word "Enough" written in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
Admittedly, my family consists of total leftie pinkos, but I'm still disturbed by this discrepancy. I get very upset at people who are more concerned with "winning" than with peace and I think the American Jewish community needs to reflect on the problems it has with any criticism of Israel. To be critical of Israel does not mean you are pro-Hamas. There are many Israelis that want peace, and they want justice for Palestinians, and it is a *good* thing to criticize the actions of your government. Yes, even, in a time of war. Especially in a time of war.
Do I have a solution for the current conflict? No. There are many people smarter and more diplomatic than me who have failed to come up with a solution. But I do believe in a two-state solution. I believe that Palestinians shouldn't have to live as second-class citizens. I believe that Israelis shouldn't have to live in fear. I don't know how we're going to get there. All I'm working for right now is a more civilized discussion. I don't speak for all Israelis (I mean, for one, my Hebrew is pretty atrocious at this point, so I'd be a terrible spokesperson). I don't speak for all Jews. I just wanted to share the experience of one Israeli-American. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, but given the nature of the topic, I will also freely dismiss comments that I deem hateful (to Jews or Arabs).
Oh god, I'm totally gonna regret this, aren't I?