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Israel and Palestine: a thought experiment

There have been an awful lot of interesting (and some aggravating) posts on the current Mid-East crisis that I’ve read in the last few days. I’m picking up a common thread from those that support the current Israeli actions in Lebanon and Gaza that I would like to comment on. (Don’t forget about Gaza – that one is even more complicated.)

The idea is that I might not have the right to comment on Israeli actions because I have never been in the shoes of an Israeli citizen, living under the threat of an attack at all times. It is obvious that this is both a dodge and true at the same time. It’s a dodge because the same people that write this will in the same paragraph write that they want Israel to totally destroy Hamas and Hezbollah [edit – please scroll down the link to the comment by “Mark”. The link that I posted is actually to this comment, not the article to which it is affiliated, unfortunately it does not automatically scroll down like I thought it would. canadi-anna has rightly taken me to task here for misrepresenting her argument, which I did not intend to do at all. My apologies.], which if my reading comprehension is correct, is also commenting on the situation. And it is true in that I do not have any idea at all what it must feel like to live like that.

Since I am one of those that have been critical of Israel’s actions, I should try to answer the question – “how would I respond if I was an Israeli citizen?” And since I don’t have any experience to go on except to know how I react under low levels of stress, I’ll have to simulate, but here goes.

There is a good chance I would know, or know of someone that was killed by a bus bomb or while serving in the army. I know that I would be furious and I know that I would be scared. I know that I would say irrational and unhelpful things in my fear and I know that I would do irrational and unhelpful things in my fear. I also know that I would, above anything else, want it to end.

Okay, so I’d be angry and scared. Scared shitless most likely – I’m like that. However, being outside of the region, and not being so emotionally tied to it, and not (yet) scared shitless, I can view things a little more dispassionately and I think that dispassionate review of the situation is what is in fact required.

Naturally, those that pose these questions of us Israel-critics (for want of a better term) seem unlikely to flip the question around and ask how they would feel if they were Palestinian. It’s a useful exercise – try it. Since I’m good at following my own lead, I’ll take that one on, too.

If I was Palestinian, I might be the second or third generation living in a refugee settlement without power and little or no water. I would likely have no job and come from a family in which no one has ever had a job. I very probably would know or be related to someone killed by Israeli shelling or rockets. (Body counts vary, but a rough estimate for the number dead during the recent Intifadah are about 3500 Palestinian and 1000 Israeli.) What’s more, in all likelihood, I would have little or no hope of ever seeing any change in the situation for me or my kids. I’d be angry, scared, and hopeless. I might be angry at my government enough to do something aside from tossing protest votes at Hamas, but when the only alternative offers more of the same (with a smiling American stamp of approval), that is unlikely. It’s more likely that if this world offers no solace I might make plans instead for the next one.

And when those proffering the next world speak in the language of 72 virgins (or white grapes), I might just listen. (For what it’s worth, I’d be a pretty churlish dead guy if it turned out to be grapes. I would haunt mosques. Unless they were really, really good grapes.)

Now, having seen how either side in this conflict has the right to claim Victim Status and to act in anger, can we set aside the “blow Israel / Hamas / Hezbollah into the sea” crap and start looking for possible solutions?

Especially since we know that if a military solution was possible it would have been solved long ago.

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3 thoughts on “Israel and Palestine: a thought experiment

  1. before hisbullah and hammas was the plo, in the south of lebanon, destroying hammas or hisbullah is a bad idea of many bad ideas that comes out of israel lately, lets not forget something worse always comes after in the middle east.

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  2. I don’t ever remember Israel launching suicide bombers or other terrorist attacks against anyone. iSRAEL has tried various attempts at peace but always end up being attacked. As I said earlier, Hamas, Hezbollah and others will settle for nothing less than the destruction of the Israeli state. When children are taught from the earliest age to hate Jews and to hate Israel, when suicide bombers are idolized as heroes and saints, how do you fight against that? All you can do is defend yourself with whatever means possible until they back off. But the problem is that they never back off.

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  3. Anon1: Absolutely – killing off one group without solving the underlying issues serves no purpose aside from preparing the ground for another group to move in.

    Anon2:
    I don’t ever remember Israel launching suicide bombers or other terrorist attacks against anyone.
    This is putting the cart before the horse. Suicide bombing is a tactic. It is a tactic used by those that are outgunned, outmonied, and outmanned. It is dirty, awful and something I never want to ever have to deal with, but it is nothing more than a tactic. Killing civilian populations in order to achieve military or political ends is ages old. Not nice, but very well established. More Palestinian civilians are killed yearly by Israeli soldiers than Israeli citizens by Palestinian bombs. The difference, the only difference is that the Israelis wear uniforms. If you want to argue against killing civilians, there is more than one horse in thie race.

    When children are taught from the earliest age to hate Jews and to hate Israel, when suicide bombers are idolized as heroes and saints, how do you fight against that?
    Now this is a very good question. I would suggest that first you don’t fight against it by doing everything you can to justify the hatred and thereby validating it. The support for these groups will begin to wither away when the people they draw support from regard them as fringe loons. And this is only going to happen when the population becomes empowered to control their own future.

    But the problem is that they never back off.
    Exactly. All a military solution will offer you is the opportunity for another military solution down the road. The only military solution possible in this situation is the “final” one – and even then it’s not even final. The Israelis could kill every single Palestinian and they would win the territories, but they would still have neighbours that might not appreciate their actions and they would end up looking for military “solutions” all over again. No, this road is full of dead-ends.

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