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Why It Is Hard to Feel for the Israelis

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Cross-posted from To The Point Analyses

From Israel tightens West Bank grip in search for kidnapped teens, arresting another 65 people.
Israel tightens West Bank grip in search for kidnapped teens, arresting another 65 people.
(image by YouTube)

Part I -- Denying the Connections

The display of anxiety and aggressive agitation in Israel, triggered by the kidnapping of three young men from an illegal settlement on the West Bank, seems to be accompanied by a near total denial of any legitimate relationship between government actions (the occupation) and Palestinian reactions (the kidnapping). No matter what the Israelis do to the Palestinians they insist that those actions are justified, and no matter how the Palestinians react, the Israelis insist those actions are never justified. By objective standards this Israeli attitude borders on the pathological.

Part II -- Resulting Tragedies

There are multiple tragedies that result from this disconnect. The tragedy of the three Jewish kidnap victims is the one that is foremost in both Israeli consciousness and also in the Western media. At this level there is lots of speculation that the young men were taken as hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. As if to put out the message that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu will not play that game, the Israeli military is arresting hundreds of Palestinians, including some who had been released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. They are also are destroying property in a wholesale manner, wounding scores and even murdering a steady number of Palestinians as they search for the kidnap victims.

However, all this mayhem, which only deepens, if possible, Palestinian hatred, may be based on an Israeli false assumption. Quite likely this kidnapping was not carried out so as to set up some future exchange. Quite likely it was a simple opportunistic act of revenge. If that is the case, the kidnap victims are almost certainly dead.

That many Zionists cannot fathom the fact that there are literally millions of Palestinians desiring vengeance for Israeli acts of abuse is part of their denial that their own actions define much of Palestinian reactions. This denial is reinforced by the gambit of labeling all Palestinians as terrorists.

Then there is the tragedy of the collectively kidnapped people of Palestine. That is the phrase used by Avraham Burg, a disillusioned Zionist who, apparently, is slowly but surely replacing his old ideology with contemporary disgust. As Burg puts it...

"All of Palestinian society is a kidnapped society ... many of the Israelis who performed 'significant service' in the army " entered the home of a Palestinian family in the middle of the night by surprise, with violence, and simply took away the father, brother or uncle... That is kidnapping and happens every day."

No doubt some Israelis deeply resent the fact that much of the rest of the world has come to agree with Burg. More and more, those on the outside know that the Israelis have created the context for this latest kidnapping and they no longer believe Zionist justifications for Israeli behavior. The result is that the Israelis are increasingly isolated in a misshapen world of their own. For instance, an editorial in the Jerusalem Post dismisses the world's principal human rights organizations as hypocrites because they did not express "immediate outrage, demand action, and even demonstrate at the United Nations demanding the immediate release" of the "three Israeli teens."

Alas, the major human rights organizations, which have in fact expressed disapproval at the kidnapping, cannot do as the Jerusalem Post editorial wishes because they understand the degree to which Israeli policies bring upon them their own tragedies. This fact makes very difficult the otherwise natural sympathies the Israelis insist upon.

This may help explain the frustration of M. J. Rosenberg, a liberal American Zionist commentator who now takes to task American supporters of the Palestinian cause for what he calls their lack of humanity when it comes to the fate of the kidnapped Israelis. Rosenberg tries to lay out his objection in absolute moral terms:

"There is no justification for harming kids [the ages of the victims are 19, 16 and 16] no matter what the cause. Never. ...The test of your humanity is whether you condemn the harming of children without caveats and quasi-justifications. If not, just shut up."

Part III -- Idealism Destroyed by Reality

Perhaps Rosenberg's rather harsh demand brings to the surface yet another tragedy inherent in the present situation -- the tragedy of insisting on moral ideals which, while admirable, are just not realizable under the present circumstances.

To be succinct:

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Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

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Sir,I am not an historian so please correct me if ... by Jeffrey Samuels on Saturday, Jun 28, 2014 at 6:32:29 PM
If you want sympathy stop your illegal occupations... by T J on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 3:56:33 AM
TJ,Please read some history books. I suggest you l... by Jeffrey Samuels on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 10:41:08 AM
Your history is spot on. At the time the land was... by Shirley Braverman on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 5:46:00 PM
Professor Davidson, I agree that the relative few ... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Jun 28, 2014 at 8:49:56 PM
Hi EJN,I felt like I had to respond to your post d... by Jeffrey Samuels on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 10:38:23 AM
Read my comment below, which you apparently ignore... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 1:55:28 PM
In May 1948, The Declaration of the Establishment ... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Jun 28, 2014 at 9:03:46 PM
While Israel and the US hate those who want to cre... by John Jonik on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 12:52:16 AM
It appears very evident that their are crimes from... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 6:38:34 AM
guys, first of all, I am not an Israeli. Secondly ... by Jeffrey Samuels on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 10:31:27 AM
It's long overdue for a world court to sit on this... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 12:23:53 PM
a world court won't do anything. I liked your othe... by Bill Johnson on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 1:15:07 PM
Still I think it will take a World court to settle... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 3:28:48 PM
This might answer your question. Image attribution... by Vierotchka on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 1:56:41 PM
Excellent illustration, very relevant to this disc... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 4:56:56 PM
There is always some new true believer who asks t... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Jun 30, 2014 at 6:31:24 AM

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