It is an understatement to say that the entire frame of Israel-related issues has long been overtaken by vociferous extremes. Increasingly weak attempts at launching reasonable, moderate discussions around the topic are bound to be drowned in the heady, simplistic rhetorical bullet points peddled on each side and gladly amplified by scores of well-intented moronic third parties.
Of course, for all the wishful thinking out there: Gaza is not some sort of plucky little nation bravely resisting a cruel barbaric invader. And Israel is not acting out of pure self-preservation to preserve its legitimate borders from impending invasions by neighbouring countries.
Israel is not the source of all oppression and abuse in Gaza. Gaza is currently ruled by a bunch of muslim extremists who have amply demonstrated their lack of concern for basic human rights and are not above propping up kids for their war, presumably because the adults are too busy stoning gays and impure women. Incidentally, hatred of gays and women: a point on which their conservative archenemies on the Israeli side seem to be in complete agreement.
Conversely, Israel has long slipped from its legitimate goal of ensuring its survival against hostile neighbours, toward appeasing a vocal ultra-orthodox minority, whose views on Arab-Israelis and their right to exist are only a couple degrees removed from what could be heard in the streets of 1930’s Berlin. It is no surprise that Israel has started alienating even its staunchest allies over the past decade: claiming to work toward peace while rushing to approve new settlements, like some schoolboy cramming as much as he can into his test sheet before the headmaster snatches it (or, for a more appropriate analogy: like victor nations of past World Wars, rushing to grab as much land as possible before calling in an armistice). There comes a point where no amount of denying the obvious through intellectual contortions can hide the fact that your policies are the exact opposite of what you claim them to be.
From there, whether Israel’s responses to Palestinian and Islamist acts of violence are justified (possibly), commensurate (probably not) or efficient (definitely not) is a moot point: they now revolve around the implementation and preservation of segregationist policies meant to ensure the support of the small bigoted minority that has been holding some iteration of the current rightwing coalition in power for the best of the past decade. While no modern nation can claim an unblemished record on Human Rights issues1, Israel not only has a few serious blotches on theirs, but a history of barely acknowledging them, when not openly embracing the people responsible.
The crux of the problem is that, while Israel has its share of misbehaviours and questionable tactics, they have always been near-perfectly matched by the pro-Palestinian side: back when Israel was showing great friendliness and offering nuclear assistance to one of the most despicable government of the 20th century, Palestinian militants were joining forces with every AK47-equipped group of para-marxist loonies and mercenaries, to blow up random innocent school kids and passerbys, the world over. Nowadays: Gaza has become the flagship of every brand of bearded nutjobs the region has to offer, while Israel casually conducts its black ops assassinations in Dubai like the Cold War never ended.
Bottom line is: both sides have by now accumulated enough blood feuds and vendettas to fuel a few lifetimes of exaction and oppression on civilian populations that have little to do with it in the first place.
Yet a large part of the problem lies nowadays outside of the two populations involved, amidst the legions of well-intentioned “friends” of either side. A mix of intellectual laziness, ulterior political motives and often just plain ignorance that results in people unquestioningly throwing their support behind one camp or the other, turning a blind eye to their fringe components and purposefully reducing the issues at hand to simplistic manichean narratives (“starving innocent Gaza children being vs. inhuman Israeli army” for one side, “millennia-oppressed peace-loving Jewish people vs. islamic terrorists” for the other). It takes very few jumps to link most pro-palestinian humanitarian organisations and rallies to all sorts of unsavoury characters, which is not to say that said organisations actually support these people, just that they often lack the good sense or moral integrity to distance themselves from them.
Conversely, it would be nice if people one day realised that acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, in no way necessitates putting up with the noxious rightwingers that make up its government and tend to direct current policies. The type of rhetoric that consist for some political factions to drape themselves in their national flag and brush off any personal criticisms as attacks directed at their entire country, is nothing new: Bush Jr. somewhat successfully wielded it to justify every single one of his action during his 8-year tenure. And do not get me started on the similar habit of said factions and their partisans to sling accusations of anti-semitism at anyone who would dare emit a negative opinion of their policies. Not only is it some of the most infuriating form of self-serving intellectual dishonesty out there, it has also been so effective at cheapening the accusation, that actual antisemite scums now get away with infinitely more than they should.
Refusing any compromise with the fringe might sound like the naive stand here, but it is the exact opposite: a pragmatic one. It should be blindingly obvious to anyone that there is no chance of reaching any lasting agreement, as long as both sides cater to mutually exclusive factions with strictly irreconcilable agendas.
All this takes us to the flotilla debacle of last month: a couple boats, equal shares pure-hearted humanitarianism and brilliant publicity stunt, and the last milestone on the increasingly out of control downward spiral of a country’s military command that, for being no less ruthless in the past, used to be considerably better at covering its track. As usual, one could spend hours distributing the blame around: a rather thinly disguised act of political activism, a blatant breach of international law, the stupidity of letting openly violent islamic militants board a boat in the middle of your “peace” flotilla, the no less stupid decision to board said boat and start shooting at everything that looks at you the wrong way, and, under it all: the questionable strategy of inflicting collective punishment on starving civilian populations for the sins of the terrorist organisation that took over their land… the list goes on.
The only relevant aspect of this whole mess is that Israel just endured the most resounding PR defeat in its existence so far, drawing the worst possible parallels in history, to boot.
Golda Meir used to say that “Peace will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us”. Forty years later, the postulate is reversed, many Palestinians have come to hate Israel because they love their children: standing on the rubbles of your house in a country where all foreseeable means of economic future are being smothered through vindictive military action, will tend to turn even the most moderate people into angry militants. Israel’s policies of the past 15 years are the ultimate proof, if one was ever needed, that means-to-an-end just does not work in the long term: even if the blow to your ethics could somehow be worth the results, you will just never win peace against a cornered people with nothing to lose and a legitimate sense of injustice.
Note: do I even need to mention that any potential comment to this entry that does not adhere to the strictest rules of courtesy, common sense and civilised discourse will be removed with great justice and no remorse? I didn’t think so either…
- Find me a single nation with no lengthy history of being oppressee and oppressor, and win a beautiful autographed edition of Hegel’s complete work! [↩]