Friday, January 09, 2009

OPINIONS: A sample of opinion on Israel/Palestine ...

I thought I'd reproduce a collection of opinions on the current Gaza conflict and the broader Israel/Palestine issue.

The far-Right blogosphere never ceases to amaze me. Here's a classic comment from chronic letter-writer Daniel Lewis on JF Beck's blog ...

With the endless coverage this is getting in the media, we are seeing the same tired lies trotted out by the terrorist supporters and Jew Haters, echoed by a gullible and culpable media ...

Witness all the 'starvation' in the fruit markets. Poor people can't even eat, yet apparently they can get ciggies and drive around town in their German cars.

Witness all the satellite dishes on top of the apartment buildings...err...sorry, refugee camps. Oh the humanity!

I reckon there's plenty of genuinely starving people in Africa, who've never tried to blow anyone up, and would love to see these pathetic terrorist loving whingers shut the hell up.
Charming. Meanwhile author Sara Dowse writes these compelling words in the Sydney Morning Herald ...
It has taken me days to begin writing this, so horrified have I been by Israel's latest actions. My sense of justice, however - as a mother, a Jew, and above all as a human being - impels me to try ...

... a tough, technocratically savvy, nuclear power with the backing of the largest military power the world has known, bombing, then invading, a territory the size of a small city, with a population of 1.5 million, most of whom are civilians, to "defend our citizens" ...

Israeli planes raided southern Gaza in November. The Hamas rockets
continued. Which side broke the ceasefire? Hamas may not be blameless, but the
situation is far more complex than Israel claims. The fact that more than 600
people have died because in a couple of weeks the US will have a new government
and next month Israel will have an election, is the most shocking form of
cynicism the Palestinian people have yet faced.
In response, one Peter Sussman has this to say:

While Sara Dowse sits in the comfort of her Melbourne home spewing out the vile propaganda against the very existence of the state of Israel ("Shocking cynicism or a legitimate right to defend one's homeland?", January 8), I have relatives and friends who have continually sought the safety of shelters over the past six months against incoming rockets/mortars in Sederot, Gedera and Beersheba fired by Hamas terrorists.
Ms Dowse, for your education, it is these people who are on the frontline to protect your right to live as a Jew in peace and quiet in lovely Melbourne.
It's understandable that Mr Sussman would have strong feelings about this. I don't know what it would be like to have relatives living in a warzone. The closest I've had to that is family friends being in Mumbai last November. But I find it hard to fathom the notion that Israelis are somehow protecting the rights of Australian Jews to live as Jews. I'd have thought that Australian law was what protected our religious freedom, including freedom not to be religious.

Furthermore, I wonder whether Mr Sussman believes Jews lived in peace and freedom before the modern state of Israel was established. I wonder who built the synagogue in Sarajevo. I wonder how Musa bin Maymoun al-Qurtubi was able to write all his magnificent works on theology, philosophy and medicine before the state of Israel came into being.

The Gaza conflict has about as much to do with Judaism as it does with Islam or Christianity. Yes, there are Palestinians of Christian and Muslim heritage and/or faith affected by the Israeli bombardment. Yes, there are Israelis (including no doubt Israelis of Palestinian Christian and Muslim heritage) facing bombardment from Qassam rockets. But in what sense is either side acting in accordance with the religious ethics from which they claim legitimacy?

(Then again, Mr Sussman is referring to Jewish history and Jewish identity in responding to the arguments of Ms Dowse precisely because she herself raised these issues in her op-ed.)

I guess what all this shows is that as time goes on, we will see a more open debate about these issues within Jewish circles. Such debate won't be limited to writers like Antony Loewenstein or academics like Norman Finklestein, who seem to be regarded by many Jews as being on the fringe of Jewish opinion.

The broad Arab/Muslim opinion is also divided and fractured. Many Arab/Muslim writers and commentators are openly saying that HAMAS rocket attacks were an unnecessary provocation. Some still cling to some crazed historical and ethical equation that Israel somehow has no moral right to exist. Heck, whether it has a right or doesn't, Israel exists. Deal with it.

There are people living in an area that was once populated by Palestinians. These people are of largely European ancestry. They are Jews. Yet not only were they born in this land but so where their parents. Are you going to tell them to leave? Don't they have the right to live in safety and security?

But by the same token, we must ask ourselves what price we place on this security? The words of Rabia Terri Harris are worth pondering ...
Reconciliation assumes that hostilities have ended, that it is time to heal wounds and unite enemies. Such moments are sacred. But not every moment is like this. When something bad is going on, merely to accept it is craven. Attempting to justify it is worse. But refusing to understand it is monumentally stupid ...
Hope depends on the notion that there is a bottom you can touch, a point at which the cycle must begin to reverse. But Israel/Palestine seems sometimes an infinite descent into Hell. When the object is extermination, there is no reciprocity to reach for, no reasoning together, no way out, nowhere to go but down. Hamas’s wish for the obliteration of Israel is explicit. But who is actually obliterating whom?

Many Israelis live in fear, and bitterly resent it. They want to go about their business undisturbed, which is one definition of peace. Every sort of violence is condoned in pursuit of this peace. Elimination of the Palestinians is not precisely mentioned: some thoughts are forbidden. But unless you manage to wipe out your enemy entirely, the long-term usefulness of violence in obtaining peace of any kind is exactly zero.

Thus spoke Prophet Zechariah, whose words were being read during Hanukkah when the bombings began:
Not by power nor by might but by My spirit, saith the Lord. God’s sovereign truth. But many Israelis are disinclined to trust in God, for God did not protect them. They think they can do a better job themselves.

But the futility, indeed insanity, of HAMAS's pseudo-bravado also isn't ignored. Harris continues:
Many Palestinians live in despair, denizens of a nightmare. When you are in despair, the options are limited. By far the most widespread choice is brute endurance: don’t think, don’t feel, just go on (Waiting for Godot should be staged in Gaza). But sometimes one can endure no more: then there’s insanity. Because any action feels better than none; insane hope feels better than no hope at all. Throw a few pointless missiles, feel like a man, and hope God will reward you. Death is coming either way.

More opinions later.