We are watching incredible carnage, forced to watch what is presented on the TV. No matter what channel I choose, MSNBC or Al Jazerra, it is horrific. I want to say something. I have to say something. I can’t stand on the silent side of history like the Germans, Spaniards and Italians, including the Pope, who thought that Hitler was going to win the war he started. They played it safe to save their skin which cost millions of lives. They chose the wrong side of history. It’s easy to see in hindsight. Many of them have tried to defend themselves by saying that they didn’t have accurate information. There might have been a suspicion that the Final Solution was underway but only later was the true horror of the Holocaust revealed. Their self-justification follows something along this line of reasoning: the Germans had been crushed in the first world conflict and the sanctions imposed at Versailles had also crushed any possible recovery. Hitler’s fascism was a perfect fit for a wound that wouldn’t heal. The harsh vindictiveness of Wilson, Lloyd, Clermenceau and Orlando did not include a Marshall Plan.
I’m horrified to see Jews murdered at music events, kibbutznik driven from their homes. I can’t watch grandmothers and children taken hostage. I have many Jewish friends and I sense the pain and frustration of not being heard or misunderstood as they defend Israel’s military response. But neither can I stand by and watch hospitals cut off from electricity and medicine while babies die and innocent civilians caught in the crossfire are not able to receive the life saving care they need.
I ask myself why I feel helpless and tongue tied? Who has tied my hands and gagged my mouth? I feel loyalty to my Jewish friends, but I also have numerous Muslim friends, mostly in India, who feel marginalized and excluded. Bibi Netanyahu didn’t sell me his justification for invasion. I’ve never believed one word out of his mouth. I don’t buy into Hamas’s propaganda either, but something in me is screaming that no amount of past harm justifies barbarism in the present. This seems to apply equally to both sides.
Why am I feeling pressure to take sides? I know that I could just lie low, not offend anyone and see what happens. Why does anyone think that he or she can really know what’s going on in Gaza? Did we learn anything from the American involvement in the War in Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers? Did we imagine that once we’d uncovered massive criminal lying on the part of any state, it would magically disappear? I just listened to a podcast by Edward Snowden. He highlighted that the sheer amount and complexity of the information that governments now collect and analyze make it even harder to detect the gross distortion of information. He contends that it is going on, and not in plain sight. I have no confidence that I have all the facts. That is really the only certainty that I have. My inability to trust reporting slanted by either side ironically strengthens my inner resolve to speak up.
Having said all that one might think that I’ve left myself very little room to solve my own dilemma. Both sides have tried to take me as their prisoner. However, I am going break free--just sticking to what can be said with any certainty, Hamas committed a grave offense with their unprovoked attack. That alone justifies Israel’s right to self-defense. I condemn Hamas but not the Palestinian people. I support Israel's right to defend themselves but cannot not extend that to justify the continuing settlement of occupied territories nor their almost messianic drive to expand their footprint. Hamas may have provoked Israel to incite worldwide condemnation of the expected massive attack. There can hardly be another possible motive, but as Israel’s far superior IDF or Tzahal swings into action, I hope they act with restraint that wins the world’s approval. That would be a difficult task even for King David’s armies. Nevertheless that is my prayer, or just as in the past, there will be no winner.