The New York Times reported yesterday that Israel is permitting foreigners to leave Gaza as it continues bombing. Translation: We have no plan to stop killing civilians, so, if you’re not a Palestinian and we don’t consider you a national enemy, we invite you to get out so we don’t get in trouble with your government.
On paper, this information merits an eyebrow furrow. Pick apart the Times article word-by-word, and you quickly glean the implied opinion. The Palestinian salvo rockets (the alleged reason for the current attacks) are responsible for “lightly injuring” two Israeli women. Meanwhile, the UN is “deeply worried” that Israel will take things further. It’s already responsible for over 100 civilian deaths. (But to be fair, they were only “lightly deaths.” NOT.)
Nevermind that the authors of this article have been taking cheap shots by using adverbs in reporting. The facts here make Israel’s behavior appear tyrannical, extreme and almost impetuous. Even by Biblical standards, this is no eye-for-an-eye scenario. But that’s not the psychology that fuels Israel’s tanks.
Though I’ve debated it often, I have yet to take a stance on moral relativism. But upon reading this article, I was reminded of my own trip to Israel in 2005. I went on a Birthright trip, during the course of which I was taught Hebrew words, told that I was “home,” that all Jews loved me and that I should return the affection by having 7 (seven) [SEVEN] Jewish babies. (Newsflash Team Leaders: Although in comparison to my small upper body they may look wide, but mine are not birthing hips.)
In other words, I had an amazing time, but the trip aroused my skepticism about the whole endeavor. We traveled for a while with some Israeli soldiers, and their quiet, ingrained demeanor of sadness and steely resignation didn’t help. But one day, we climbed up Mount Masada and on the treacherous journey back down, I had the opportunity to listen to a 19 year old woman doing her time in the army to avoid jail. (Her words, not mine)
She hated the army. She hated war. She hated fighting. And she hated the rules. She had grown up too fast. She wasn’t religious and didn’t identify with Judaism in any personal way. She visited friends of hers in jail and she wasn’t brave enough to evade service as they had. She didn’t know if what was happening was a good thing, and she doubted there would ever be peace. She cried to me. (and not because climbing down a steep rocky mountain makes your thighs burn, although let me assure you, it does.) No, she cried over the parts of her life and self she had lost, over the violence and because she was caught in a stream of limited vision and limited choices.
“So,” says RB, ever the problem-solver. “Don’t you think by talking, by the right sharing agreement and a carefully constructed mutual government, peace can be achieved?”
She stopped crying. “No,” she shook her head. “No. You don’t understand. If we want to live here, we have to fight. If we don’t kill them, they will us first.”
That kind of thinking that is the impetus behind events like the current attacks. That attitude is the cornerstone of dysfunction in the Middle East. That attitude fuels the frenzy of those who live there. That attitude is the secret ingredient of stalemate.
At the time, I had nothing to say but, “are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said. “They want us dead. That’s all there is. Let’s find a ladies room and then let’s find lunch. I’m starving.”
For as long as it lasts, life goes on.