Saturday, August 16, 2014

Middle East Ripple Effects

On July 23rd, 2014, Jews in France were threatened and looted because of Israeli actions against Palestinians over 4500 kilometers away. While Jews continue to face discrimination in many places, they are seldom attacked en masse as they were in France. Could this be the beginning of a new international trend where Jews worldwide begin paying the price for, if not the reality, at least the perception of how Israel treats Palestinians?

More compelling, could events like this result in Israel finally realizing that its actions, justified or not, are resulting in a perception that it can no longer afford to ignore?

This is not about Israel’s right to exist or international support for a Jewish state. However, while most agree that Hamas is a terrorist organization, far too many sadly now believe the same about Israel.

It is a terrible reality that most of Israel’s closest neighbors loathe its existence and have national platforms calling for its destruction. Hamas’ own charter specifically indicates that “Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.”

Because of that, Israel’s intense focus about its own survival is justified on any level and their instincts to defend themselves simply cannot be called “morally unacceptable.” But their policies can and should be questioned, especially given the mounting numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties. And while Hamas is at least as much to blame as Israel for those casualties, Israel aspires to be better than that. More on that later.

As Ali Rizvi recently wrote, it is no longer just speculation that Hamas puts its own citizens in harm’s way. Hamas own spokesperson called the human shield strategy “very effective.” And effective it has been, because Israel is now being perceived as sanctioning civilian casualties.

What France reminded us is that the Jewish homeland is now the entire planet. When threats to Jewish people living in Europe start escalating into episodes not seen there since World War II, it should cause very serious concern to everyone.

Israel: Even if you are in the right, you are not being perceived that way. And if Jews throughout the world start suffering because of your policy decisions, that might be a signal it really is time to try something different. Followers of a religion are getting blamed and punished for the behavior of a nation on whose ground the vast majority have never stood.

Combine this with the hard-to-ignore reality that a half-century long generally unchanging strategy of national defense has failed to achieve peace. While it is not fair or right to blame Israel solely for this reality, it remains, nonetheless, reality.

Ripple effects that can no longer be ignored have collided with the definition of insanity.

It is time for a Palestinian state. There is simply no other solution that takes not only the Palestinians (and the support they have all over the world) into account, but also the Israelis themselves and, now, Jews throughout the world as well. Support for a two state solution is not synonymous with support for Hamas.

What is the difference between a peace treaty with Hamas leading Palestinians and a peace treaty with Hamas leading Palestine? If the State of Palestine attacked Israel, the international community would have no choice but to support Israel and, perhaps, increase internal support for Fatah instead of Hamas. When a bunch of poor, starving, Palestinians fight for their freedom, and die by the thousands, the choice is far more ambiguous.

It is never easy to hold oneself to a higher standard, especially when surrounded by others who will exploit it. But as the US has learned through the Iraq invasion and the torture discussions of the last decade, one wrong move by a nation who aspires to be better can obliterate its claims to the moral high ground.

Like the US, Israel holds itself to a higher standard. But innocent civilians keep dying and the perception of blame continues to shift. And if July 23rd becomes a common theme rather than a solitary event, maybe Israel will start looking at other solutions and finally find a way to lead the way to a lasting peace.


Andy Hilnbrand said...

Thanks for the careful thoughts B. I hadn't considered the 2-state solution as a means to Israel's gaining international support.

Barb Olson said...

Israel has already eliminated any possibility for a viable two-state solution by its carving up of the W.Bank into a Swiss cheese of bantustans, annexing Arab East Jerusalem, and turning Gaza into a cross between a concentration camp and a Native American reservation. According to South Africans, Israel is far, far down the road to creating a classic apartheid regime (as defined in international law), which is now the only realistic alternative to some kind of democratic secular state for all. All this flows from the fundamental original sin of trying to create an ethnically defined (and cleansed) state on the land of people who were there first but were not of the chosen ethnic group. Please consider that your analysis is fundamentally flawed by a failure to distinguish between reality on the ground (mainly Palestinian reality) vs what you call "perception". Sometimes people's perceptions are accurate. Have you ever been to the West Bank or the hell-hole of Gaza? Ever been to the Lebanese refugee camps? Ever even been up to the Galilee to see how the so-called "Israeli Arabs" live? Do that and then maybe you'll know what reality is.