Yaba Yaba

what? another blog? you must be joking.

who’s side are you on?

with 4 comments

I had a long chat with Mark today, and with a few other friends. Cooled me down a bit, and helped me understand why I’m so angry. It has also raises a few questions.

When something horrible happens, we feel empathy with the victims. Since we usually do very little to help, we also feel guilt. When I observe the anti-Israeli reactions in Europe, I wonder: are you dealing with the issue, or are you dealing with your guilt? Its really quite simple to answer, all it requires is a bit of honesty. Just write down what you’ve done about the situation, and what are the probable consequences of your actions. Not what you would wish the consequences would be: what you believe is their real most likely effect. Don’t tell me, this is between you and yourself.

Remember one thing: however dire the state of affairs, there is always a course of action which offers a chance for positive change. This, for me, is the axiom of human existence. The circle of hope. Without it, we might as well all blow ourselves up. If the tally for your chosen action does not fall within the circle of hope, abandon it and look for a new path.

Mark was disturbed by people’s obsession with categorising fellow humans, for him (and for me) this is hard to understand, and the root of great evil. He said: I observe people all the time, always looking for the common. I recalled how history and science have shown that it is normal people who commit the greatest atrocities, and that the first step that enables this is xenomorphism (my term, don’t know what would be the proper one): defining a group as “others” who pose a threat. Once you divide the scene into “us” and “them”, and identify “them” as a threat, you can do anything to them. Resolution and reconciliation will start from breaking down this dichotomy. A Palestinian from Ramallah will not bomb Gaza, even if he opposes Hamas with all his heart. Likewise, an Israeli soldier will not shoot a setteler even if he sees him as the cause of all his troubles. You do not kill your own. Peace can only come from the acknowledgement that we have one land, one fate. It could be manifested in two states, that’s detail. But it has to rest on an appreciation of the common, and the unique.On an acceptance that all tears are equal, all blood weighs the same. If its all one bug Us,then violence is not an option.

That’s when I realised how wrong the protests, and the media coverage, are.

It doesn’t matter if you’re marching “for Israel” or “for Palestine”. Either way, you’re marching for the dichotomy. Reinforcing the image of two tribes. One good, one bad. I don’t care who’s the good and who’s the bad in your story. Its just a bad story.

Then there’s the issue of Hamas. The resistance movement. Even the BBC, which has been amazingly restrained and thoughtful in its coverage, often talks of Hamas’ “resistance”. This puzzles me. I thought “resistance” implies some acts of resisting the occupying forces. So where where the Hamas resisters when the Israeli army combed the streets of Gaza? Surely, if they would have offered any resistance, they Israeli army would have suffered more casualties. As I undestand it, most of the 10 Israeli soldiers killed where victems of accidents and friendly fire.

Yes, Israel has the right to protect itself, the Palestinians have a right to resist the occupation. Over the last three weeks neither right was exersiced.

Update, 21 Jan:

Bob from Brockley has a good roundup on the comedy of British anti-Israeli protest. My favorite is the chair of Sheffield Palestinian Solidarity tearing down a placard that reads “no to IDF no to Hamas”.


Written by yishaym

January 19, 2009 at 2:55 am

4 Responses

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  1. Who’s side are you on?

    Well if you aren’t for you who would be?

    This whole self-hating Jew thing wears real thin. It doesn’t impress anyone.

    No, it drives people away.

    If you aren’t for yourself no one else will be.


    January 21, 2009 at 4:38 am

  2. Thanks Steve, not sure who or what you’re refering to. I’m actually a bit of a Narcissist myself.

    But if I am for myself only, what am I. If not now, when?


    January 21, 2009 at 10:10 am

  3. I’m on justice side. and humanism. my side.

    i’m not bothered about being jewish – apart from the european jewish history (with which consequences i have been living personally), and so feel responsible to do whatever i can so that it will not repeat itself in any degree TO ANYONE,
    and i care about israelis (not the state of israel – not at all, apart from the landscape and places and weather of my childhood and most of my adulthood, which i terribly miss). but i care about some very good people trapped out there, my friends and my family, who cannot live a normal life until this bloody occupation will end.
    this is another part of “my side”, apart from simply being a human being, therefore trying to be humanistic.

    so, in line with your “axiom of human existence – the circle of hope” (which i really like!), i am checking my actions and finding that my actions to fight against the occupation in any way i can – campaign, protest, demonstrate, organize, AND BOYCOTT are effective by: a) preserving my humanity as long as i’m not a bystander, which gives me some moral standing, i believe, but more than that – gives me energy and empowerment to go on to b; and: b) have become and will become more and more effective in their impact on the occupation, until – hopefully one day – israelis will realize its not worth it and will withdraw from the west bank and gaza and let the palestinians exercise their own self-determination with all that this includes.
    this is how i and friends around me act in the name of hope and for hope.

    i agree with you: without hope – but without ACTION too – there is no meaning to our life. (and this is how i felt in the first days of the horrendous israeli attack on gaza: too terrible, therefore no more hope, therefore no point in doing anything and no energy even to protest = complete surrender).

    i believe these actions are what i can do to help the victim: shout and scream on any israeli-government representative and any israel-supporter to make them STOP attacking gaza in the immediate term, and working with all my ability against the occupation and the siege of gaza in the longer run – this is how we can help the victim. practically – its sending money for medical equipment and keeping in touch with people in gaza to empower them by show of solidarity, and putting pressure on israelis so they will put pressure on israel’s governement to end the occupation, and this can be most effectively done by boycott: the sooner israelis will feel the pinch of the boycott as the price they pay for the occupation, the sooner they will want to end the bloody thing.

    and it DOES matter whether we’re ‘marching “for Israel” or “for Palestine”.’
    this is not true that this is in “Either way, […] marching for the dichotomy.”
    there is no dichotomy here at all: we’re marching in solidarity with the victim and against the aggressor, and if i personally would have the energy and time i would march the same for the tamils against the sinhalese in sri-lanka and for the poor people of the democratic republic of congo against the bloody international companies and their corrupt leaders, and for the women and children in the sweatshops in india and the peasants of bolivia and mexico, and the iraqies and afghanis and iranian, and, and,….
    [in one of the demonstrations for gaza in trafalgar square a few weeks ago a guy walked around with a placard reading: “stop the massacre in gaza and sri-lanka”. i thought its the best placard around.]
    the fact that i know more about the situation in palestine and israel and feel somewhat obliged to choose this conflict over others. its closer to home.

    yes, you are right – there are two tribes in the israeli-palestinian story if you look at it from a national perspective like most people do.
    i accept to look at it from that perspective ONLY on the level of fighting for the right of self-determination (i’m using this code term so as not to go into the details of all it entails), which is a HUMAN right.
    other than that there are two sides, not two tribes – the side of the common people and the side of the leaders and the geo-political and economic interests.

    you say that the worst atrocities are perpetrated by “common people” – i don’t agree: ‘common people’ normally just want to live peacefully, normal life. atrocities are always initiated and organized by governments and army commanders (who also used to be ‘common people’ once…) who then manipulate the current ‘common people’ into perpetrating these atrocities. no israeli guy would have gone into gaza on his own and started shooting people unless he is a psychopath, without the israeli government organizing it.

    and yes, you are right – it is indeed a bad story, the national story. but neither of us choose it and/or the reality in which we live – so as long as people think they need national identity and that is how they choose to determine themselves – we have no choice but to respect and accept it in hope that afterwards more people will see the senselessness of it.

    also, whilst this is a bad story all right – it does matter who is the bad in it if we accept the reality of the national dichotomy: the fact that its israel, my country until 11 years ago, who is the ‘bad guy’ – matters very much. it places a responsibility on each and every one of us, every israeli, to make a clear stand against doing bad.

    … i bet you didn’t mean SUCH a long comment… – i’d better stop now.

    all the best.

    Tirza Waisel

    February 7, 2009 at 11:17 pm

  4. Thanks Tirza,

    I agree with almost everything you say. I also felt paralysed, de-voiced – if there is such a word – during the recent clash, and I whole-heartedly identify with the call for ACTION. It is our right, our duty, and our only remedy. However, we need to be careful about the actions we choose. Sometimes, we embrace one only because no other presents itself. That is not freedom, that is despair. If you believe boycott is the RIGHT thing, do it. If you think its “a crude measure, but the only way we can express ourselves” as a friend told me, I urge you to reconsider. As for myself, I don’t believe in pressure. As my grandmother used to say, honey attracts the flies much better then vinegar. I don’t believe in pressuring Hamas by starving Gaza, I don’t believe in pressuring Israel by boycotting its goods.
    Most of all, I agree with your distinction “other than that there are two sides, not two tribes – the side of the common people and the side of the leaders and the geo-political and economic interests.”
    That is the essence of the message I was trying to convey. That is the message we should all focus on. Any “pro-Israeli” or “pro-Palestinian” rally is marking the orthogonal split.

    p.s. and yes, http://www.whoprofits.org does provide some valuable food for thought. Still, it doesn’t change my stance.


    February 9, 2009 at 2:30 am

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