On 12/29/ Fr wrote:
I wonder whether to add the following account to my new year's message to friends, family and colleagues abroad - what do you think?
We are ending the Hannuka holiday and celebrating the new year, while worrying about friends whose children or grandchildren are being called up to reserve service and about colleagues in the Sapir college in Sderot who are spending the holidays with their families in air raid shelters.
As I send this, I am listening to radio 4 broadcasting from Gaza giving a picture of death and destruction (but also admitting that two thirds of the injuries are "militants") and it is agonizing to be an observer of the suffering of civilians caused by Israeli bombing.
I do not know whether or not this Israeli action is inevitable, misled, wise or futile - the future will tell. However, it is certainly a decision taken in a difficult position - the constant rain of rockets from Gaza has turned the western Negev small towns and villages into a nightmare for the last four years.
The Arab world is divided between those who regard Israel as an unjustified aggressor and those who regard Hamas as a puppet of Iran, which is interested in subverting the Egyptian regime and introducing an Islamicist regime.
This said, I myself am not reassured that this Israeli action will solve the problems.
This is indeed an agonizing time. I am amazed at how much agony and uncertainty the Israelis have had to endure over the years.
What you’ve written is fine. I think you should send it. You can wait a bit and feel if you want to add or change something here or there. But it is heartfelt and I’m sure the people you will be sending it to really want to know what’s in your heart.
In some ways I feel like an outsider to this conflict. Not just because I’m not an Israeli citizen, so that I don’t vote here or serve in the army, but mainly because I have not had to agonize about these sorts of things again and again, war after war, the way Israelis have. There is a sadness in my heart about that.
In my world I get to meet good Christians who really want to do good. Some of them support Israel because the bible says so. But other good Christians I know, and by the way, good Jews as well, support the Palestinians because the Palestinians suffer more. He who suffers most gets their sympathy, or at least that’s what they say. They say, quite literally, that to them it’s like David versus Goliath, where Israel is the Goliath. I am not sure whether they would have supported Israel in 1948, when Israel was the David, that’s not at all clear to me. In their shortsighted estimation, the suffering of the Jews in Sderot is minor and overshadowed by the suffering of the Palestinians. They say the suffering of Jews is not so great because the Jews are more powerful than the Palestinians (okay, so it’s illogical, but it is what they say). They say the Jews are stuck on their historical suffering, the holocaust is over, and this is not the existential struggle the Jews cry that it is. Besides, they say, the Jews committed the sin of allowing settlers into the Palestinian Territories and the Jews should have been more gracious in making peace with the Palestinians (“turning the other cheek” is something the Jews should do). So, “the constant rain of rockets from Gaza [that] has turned the western Negev small towns and villages into a nightmare for the last four years” is not such a big deal to them. Their compassion has a different logic than ours. Unless, of course, some day a constant rain of rockets falls on their cities. For example, there wasn’t much criticism from them when the US invaded Afghanistan after the terror attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. It didn’t seem to matter then that the US was much stronger than Afghanistan, the Taliban, or Al-Qaeda or that disproportionately many more innocent civilians died as a consequence of the US invasion than died on 9/11. It seems that the concept of the unacceptability of the use of disproportionate force was invented only after the invasion of Afghanistan and the “shock and awe” tactics of the US in Iraq.
Perhaps Israel made a mistake after the Six Day War by trying to keep the Palestinians from forming an independent state instead of helping them establish the kind of Arab country Israel would have loved to have as a neighbor. Perhaps if Israel had more foresight then, maybe we would have peace now. But then again, maybe not. Who is to know how history would have turned out if a different choice had been made in the past? In those days right-wing Israelis argued that it would be national suicide to allow the Palestinians to form an enemy state right up against Israel’s border. Were they saying that only because it was an excuse to settle in the Palestinian Territories or was it an honest appraisal of the state of the world at that time? Was the taking of Palestinian land the driver in Israel’s policy toward the Arabs or was it an unfortunate consequence of an unrelenting state of war with an enemy that wouldn’t give up? Surely some people felt one way, others felt the other way, and others combined the two motivations into a seamless whole. I’m not a right-winger. I spoke out against the settlement policy in my small voice, right here in Israel to the political leaders I had the opportunity to speak with. I said, in my small voice when I had the opportunity to do so, that Israel should have tried to help the Palestinians establish the kind of Arab country Israel would have loved to have as a neighbor. But am I sure now that I was right then? I was also in favor of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. I still think that was the right thing to do, but I didn’t foresee that Hamas would take over and shoot rockets at Israel. If Israel had helped the Palestinians set up an independent state after the Six Day War while the PLO was still in exile, would the people Israel helped put into power have been able to keep the PLO out and keep them from taking over in the kind of democratic country I wanted to see there? In those days, the PLO had not yet accepted Israel’s existence and the “two state solution,” it was then much more like Hamas is today. Can we be so sure that what happened in Gaza recently would not have happened in the West Bank back then. Were the right-wingers right when they said it would have been national suicide to allow the Palestinians to form an enemy state right up against Israel’s border? I don’t know. But I lived in the US where my opinion didn’t matter and such thoughts could be replaced with other, simpler concerns.