Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Recurring Nightmare

Deja vu all over again. Every time that a new provocation threatens to deepen the violence between Israel and the Palestinians is yet another time of anguish and despair. Why is this conflict so intractable? The reasons are many and complex.
But nobody really wants to hear them, on either side. In the now hysterical echo chamber of social media, it boils down to one thing on both sides of the divide: propaganda.
I don't trust that most people, regardless of their stance on the matter, can tell the difference between information and propaganda. Propaganda is manipulative, easy to digest and aims to inflame passions. Information, on the contrary, is hard work. It relies on facts. It's supposed to be objective and most importantly, it makes you think, consider, weigh, make up your mind. It's too much work, so people go with propaganda.
Well, I'm sick of the propaganda on both sides. I'm sick of scrolling down to rivers of  hatred unleashed upon Israel, the likes of which other terrible crises, indeed even worse crises, never manage to provoke. I don't hear such passionate outrage about Assad's ongoing genocide of his own people, or about the depredations of ISIS in Iraq, about the horrifying perennial conflicts in Africa, about America's drone attacks, or even about the humanitarian crisis of undocumented immigrant children right on our border. Such outpourings of virulent outrage are reserved exclusively for Israel because Israel is perceived to be the sole bully, the oppressor, the eternal aggressor in this conflict. Also, in many cases, because it allows antisemitism to come safely out of the woodwork. And please don't tell me that I perceive antisemitism because as a Jew, I am too sensitive. Antisemitism is like porn: I know it when I see it.
Newsflash for both Jews and non-Jews alike: being critical of the policies of the State of Israel does not make you an antisemite. Many Israelis and Jews, myself included, disagree with the continued occupation and other right wing policies of the current Israeli government. We are appalled and concerned by them. That does not mean we do not support Israel. On the contrary, we are worried that they are detrimental to Israel's survival. We want a better way.
Hating Israel, on the other hand, claiming that you are an anti-zionist, questioning Israel's right to exist, and spewing vitriol against Jews, that is a different story.
I am equally sick of Israeli propaganda about thousands of Hamas missiles (not remotely hitting anything, yet) and how the kind Israeli army sends leaflets out to warn Palestinians, and how restrained it is. And what would you do if your neighborhood was showered with rockets every day? These spiffy memes neglect a fundamental issue: they neglect to consider the occupation. They neglect to consider that the Palestinians living under it in permanent humiliation and distress, have a right to fight it, just like Israel has a right to its self-defense.
No one looks at a map. Well, here's another map:

No one cares about the geopolitics, the demographics, and the frightening political complexities of the Middle East. People are busy posting pictures. Of fizzling flying missiles, to Israel's public relations misfortune, rarely landing on top of as yet unscathed civilians; on the other side, and far more damaging in every sense, of scores of Palestinian children killed and maimed by the Israelis. You tell me what provokes more outrage.
But much worse than the propaganda are most comments. Caught between two sides of a world citizenry that, with the advent of social media, has taken it upon itself to be the bearer of bad news, defender and apologist for one cause or the other, one is at the mercy of unrestrained lunacy, bordering on idiocy, on both sides.

Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is a rapidly spreading cancer that threatens its existence. It is morally untenable. It is fraying the fabric of civilization, let alone democracy, in Israel. In my view, it has become a grave strategic error. All it has unleashed is a threat to Israel's survival as a modern nation, from the oppression of the Palestinians to the unconscionable coddling of religious Jews in the expanding settlements. If Israel continues its path towards the extreme right, it may survive as an obscurantist theocracy, but that, my fellow Jews, should be cause for alarm and our most vocal opposition. Because if that happens, it will be the end of Israel. 
Having said this, many people see this conflict as Israel's sole responsibility. They choose to ignore the fact that the Palestinians are also oppressed by the vested, byzantine interests of the Arab world, to whom the Palestinians are a convenient tool for directing elsewhere the frustrations of their own oppressed citizens.
The only way out is to find the political will of all parties involved: of Israel, of the different Palestinian factions, of the neighboring Arab states and the rest of the Arab world, of Iran, of the US, the EU, Russia, China, etc, to sit down to serious negotiations and commit political will and economic resources to find a viable Palestinian state or some other option that ensures Israel's right to exist, preferably in peace.
Good luck with that.
Still, nobody, it seems to me, is thinking creatively. Part of my despair comes from realizing that Israel always falls right into Hamas's traps. I admire Israel's technological ingenuity and its human capital, but it amazes me that it has been unable to come up with a surprising, out of the box strategy against its enemies that does not entail a massive show of force, making Israel look like the worst villain the world has ever known. Think of something that will find its enemies off-guard. It can't be easy, but the predictability of the reaction is getting to be very depressing.
I have no solutions, but, perhaps unlike most people screaming like banshees about the conflict, I think about them. What's more, I've seen a map, and I have lived in Israel. I am not a Pollyanna (see maps). I am well aware of how a hostile Arab world in turmoil must look like from Israel's vantage point (hint: not good). But at this point, there has to be a more intelligent way to protect and defend Israel.
In the meantime, this is it. I will refrain from posting or commenting, defending or attacking, arguing and wasting my breath. If you bother with a screed for or against, don't expect an answer. I'm tuning out of this nightmare. Wake me when it's over.