Posts tagged Enemies

Thoughts on Israel and concept of ‘enemies’

How is it that in respect to the history of Israel and Palestine in the last 60 years (and perhaps longer) documented events are so controversial?

There never seems to be any events in the history that seem to be commonly agreed upon. American supporters of Israel have to do a variety of intellectual acrobatics to defend their position. Those who condemn the Israeli occupation of Palestine often times do the same dance around the truth about Palestinian violence. I was asked to read Alan Dershowitz’s A Case for Israel. I literally cannot make it through the introduction. I might as well be reading the new Ann Coulter book. My bias going into the book is ridiculous. All I can think about is how this is the guy who helped OJ Simpson get away with murder. I think this is the guy who just wrote about how Israel’s ‘enemies’ want to try Israel for war crimes because they hate Israel, and defends Israel because they only killed several hundred civilians in the month of January. Within the first several sentences of his intro to A Case for Israel, he writes “Most important, I argue that those who single out Israel for unique criticism not directed at countries with far worse human rights records are themselves guilty of international bigotry…So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair it should be encouraged, not disparaged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticisms crosses the line from fair to foul, from acceptable to anti-Semetic.” (p.1)

Does he expect the scholars, bloggers, journalists, protestors, politicians, lawyers, human rights activists, to put equal fervor in to every single nation that does foul? When I say it is wrong to kill civilians and don’t talk about American war crimes in the same breath, does this mean my outrage and opinion is not acceptable? Am I anti-Semetic? Does it matter that I am Jewish? Does he really think Israel is the only country to even be tried for war crimes? Has he heard of the Nuremburg trials?  I would like to ask Dershowitz what he honestly expects?

I do not know why every individual not Israeli or Palestinian feels compelled to discuss the international crisis occurring there. I do not know why this particular crisis draws me to hours and hours of research, contemplation, and prayer. Maybe it is because I am Jewish. Maybe it is because the history of the Holocaust which has been the emblem of the ills of 20th century nationalism, war, and the seeming culmination of moral failure. And maybe because I am afraid that the way Germans and collaborating and appeasing countries blindly allowed the magnitude of the Holocaust to unfold is what is happening now to Palestinians. How much easier would the story of Israel statehood be if the Palestinian problem just went away?

The people in the settlements seem adamant about not leaving, and not allowing by any means necessary the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Not all settlers are this devout, but if what was featured in the 60 minutes piece is true, and the reluctance to which Israel will allow jew versus jew violence, the probability of settlers leaving Palestine is nil. 

Maybe the settlers are just the fringe extremists and Israel will some day deal with them and force them to leave the territories, but if Israel has the Palestinian enemy (or Lebanon or Syria or Iran) to deal with, then they won’t have to deal with the Israeli extremists. Why fight the enemy within when you can contribute to the making and remaking of the foreign enemy. Many believe that if those in power in Israel truly wanted a lasting peace, they would find a different strategy for dealing with Palestine. Instead, it seems, they have participated in strengthening Hamas, and weakening the Fatah party. 

However corrupt and imperialistic America has been (and it has)…the situation for Gazans and West Bankers is unparalleled. The blockade of Gaza represents a continued occupation, and the walls constructed in the West Bank are the visual indicators of oppression and apartheid.

Dershowitz has a new book out on the case against Israel’s enemies, with the key enemy named Jimmy Carter. As if wanting peace  and not apartheid was a bad thing! He says these ‘enemies’ de-legitimize Israel’s right to exist. And enemy is defined by Webster’s as “ one that is antagonistic to another ; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.” By calling a critic an enemy, Dershowitz is contributing to the ideology of war, victimhood, and political chaos. When someone criticizes a nation in the academic sector it is not done so to injure Israel, overthrow Israel, or to be antagonistic. The enemies Dershowitz addresses are not enemies of Israel, they are actors in the dialogue of political thought.


Maybe the big problem here is the concept of enemies. Barack Obama told the Muslim and Arab worlds yesterday that America is not their enemy. I wish Israel would do the same. But the trauma of the land runs so deep, that the desire for vengeance permeates the psyche so powerfully, the concept of the enemy  seems so ingrained.

I’m reading Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which is all about paradigms and shifts in accepted ideas. I am hoping that the ideology of war for peace, and the world made up of nations as opposed to a world made up of humans are on the way out.

To be honest, I am humble enough to know that I cannot stop the Israeli occupation or change ideologues minds about the necessity of a new way of thinking about the problems of the Middle East. People will believe what they want, especially the likes of  ‘academic’ bullies like Dershowitz. But I do know this, not a day goes by where I don’t pray for peace, and as the sometimes hopelessness that comes with learning about Israeli and Palestinian history overcomes me, I try to remember that the problems of the world are bigger than me, not for me to fix, and ultimately life and history unfold as they will. But if I can contribute information and analysis to those not ideologically confined to their beliefs on Israel and their right to do what ever they wish, then I have done something positive. I have stated that as an American and as a Jew, I do not support Israel’s policy, and as more and more people come out of the woodwork standing up against the humanitarian and political crisis in Palestine, the tide of blind and tacit support for Israel is changing.

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