Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gilad's war

Just a few fragmented thoughts about current events:

I read the criticisms by other countries against Israel, saying that the response to the killing of two soldiers and the kidnapping of a third has been out of proportion. And I have a few responses to that:

a. I can see how, from thousands of miles away in Europe or the US, the launching of a new war in order to save one soldier seems a bit, shall we say, extreme.

b. We all know this isn't just about Gilad. It's about a lot of things before Gilad. What do you expect Israel to do, after all the Qassams on Sderot, and the audacity of Palestinian "militants" to smuggle themselves into the pre-1967 borders, kill 2 soldiers, wound a third, and kidnap a fourth? Hello? What else do you propose? Negotiations? With whom? Hamas? Hamas, who won't even utter the word "Israel," who keep referring to us as "the Zionist enemy"? Should we just sit back and smile wearily while they drop rockets on us and kidnap our soldiers from inside our sovereign lines?

c. So, what's extreme? As far as I've read, so far there have been no Palestinian civilian deaths since Israel re-entered Gaza. What "extreme" actions are they talking about, exactly?

d. I do understand that having hundreds of thousands of relatively innocent people be without electricity is a tremendous hardship, especially in the summer. No fans, no air conditioning, no refrigeration, no radios . . . and I hate to think what's going on in their hospitals. I hope they have generators.

So, if I were living in Gaza right now, I might be saying that it's ludicrous to make so many people uncomfortable in order to find and save one 19-year-old corporal.

But that would be coming from the perspective of a culture that sends children into Israel with bombs strapped around their waists. From my perspective, it absolutely is justified to make a lot of people uncomfortable in order to save the life of one. And, for the record, if there was a non-terrorism-involved Palestinian whose life could be saved by my giving up electricity for a while, I would do it. Would they?

e. I keep thinking about a statement made by the Arab founder of a Holocaust museum in Nazareth, who said "if you want to understand Israel, you have to understand the Holocaust." He's right. We Jews have a lot of complexes, borne in no small meausure by the anti-Semitism we experienced in Europe for many hundreds of years. And after what happened 60 years ago, you don't f*** with us, you understand? Nobody f***s with us.

Neurotic? Maybe. But now I'm reminded of the topic of a debate at Columbia's Philolexian Society during my Barnard years: "Resolved: Your paranoia is justified."

And I also think of the story -- perhaps an urban legend-- of the Israeli government minister who was speaking to an international body of some kind, whose European members were accusing him and Israel of being "like Nazis." To which he responded "I don't know what it means to be 'like Nazis,' but I do know this: Your parents, your countries . . . you were the Nazis." And then left.

So, yeah, I can take a little criticism from the US. But from the EU? Talk to the hand.

f. Regarding the Qassams on Sderot, and the audacious attack on June 25th, and now the Qassam on Ashkelon, I am reminded of the following conversation I had with a friend:

We were talking about couples with bad marriages, couples in which one member is "the yeller." That is, one member is known in the home as having a short temper, flying off the handle, having no control over his/her anger, getting disproportionately angry over small things, etc.

It's easy to hate that person and blame all the problems of the marriage on them. It's easy to see the other member of the couple as a victim. But if you look closely, my friend pointed out, often (not always) the other member of the marriage is what she calls "the poker."

The Poker will poke . . . poke . . . poke . . . repeating exactly the behavior that she/he knows sets off The Yeller's temper, playing out the same script over and over again for years, doing the very things that The Yeller hates - often for good reasons . . . and then crying and feeling victimized when The Yeller explodes.

This is clearly an unhealthy relationship. And yes, The Yellers of the world need to learn to take a deep breath and calm down. But at the same time, one can legitimately ask what it is, exactly, that The Poker is doing, acting as if he/she wants a blowup, going out of his/her way to do exactly the things that will definitely lead to one.

I think that lately the Palestinians have been poking Israel. Israel mostly leaves Gaza, and now the Palestinians there are looking around and saying "now what?" And they have no leaders who are truly interested in leading them to productivity. The leaders are interested in keeping their power. And their power is based on everyone hating Israel. So they launch Qassams . . . poke . . . and when that doesn't work, they kill and kidnap soldiers . . . poke! poke! poke! poke! poke!

And finally Israel explodes. Classic Yeller response.

Like I said, it's easy to see the Poker as the victim. But you have to wonder: why are they repeating this script, unless being the victim is somehow advantageous to them?

e. Regarding the extremely vague "ultimatum" that recently passed, I strongly recommend reading this thought-provoking and all-too-possibly-true post over at Treppenwitz. Since the post is long, I'll summarize: David hypothesizes that since the Palestinians have not produced a video of Gilad, and no objective third party has seen him, and the ultimatum did not promise he'd be delivered alive, chances are great that Gilad is already dead. For the sake of the Shalit family, I hope David is wrong (and David does, too).

f. Regarding the "to negotiate or not to negotiate" question, Jameel here transcribes two interesting interviews from Israeli media: One with the mother of Eliyahu Asheri (the 18-year-old who was killed last week by Palestinians), and one with Binyamin Netanyahu. (via Orthomom)

May we live to see saner, more peaceful times.

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