The last time this happened, in 2008, Princess Little Tree and I staged a BedPeace event to help bring awareness to the violence and bloodshed. We were never under the delusion that we actually accomplished anything. But we learned a hell of a lot from all the phone calls we made and research we did, and in the end believe we may have also inspired a few others to do the same. The learning is the key to ending this madness once and for all. [That footage is easily viewable on YouTube: Search for “Ed Hale and Bed Peace” etc.]
You’re right of course. It’s NOT fair, this latest skirmish between the Palestinians in Gaza and the government of Israel. Israel, being one of the world’s major super-powers and tiny little Gaza being not much more than a primitive but polished up refugee camp. Having seen both myself, the overt differences between the two are mind boggling. Big cities in Israel look and feel like Mediterranean versions of just about any other metropolitan city of the modern world; and the trash laden Gaza Strip looks like not much more than a glorified refugee camp circa the 1800s or even the Bible era in certain areas.
Israel thankfully has an extremely advanced missile defense system — nicknamed The Iron Dome — that shoots incoming missiles out of the sky before they land, essentially rendering air attacks of puny rockets futile; Gaza has none of the above, so citizens just hide in a corner somewhere hoping and praying that the newest missile that hits doesn’t hit them.
Of course that’s a completely useless and arbitrary tactic. Each and every Israeli missile fired IS going to hit and kill SOMEBODY, usually someBODIES as the case has been over the last few weeks. Today it was three young children ages 8 to 10 all from the same family up on the roof feeding the pigeons. Yesterday it was a group of four young boys playing on the beach, hence all the attention yesterday’s death toll received. The day before, it was some random moms, dads, uncles, aunts, children, etc. That’s just how it is in the Gaza Strip when you’re being bombed by Israel. This explains the shockingly out of balance numbers we hear about every day in this “war” –Israel deaths – 1, Palestinian deaths – 230.
Israel claims the reason for such skewed results — not much of a “battle” as much as a spanking by Israel — is because “Hamas fighters hide among the Palestinian civilians”. In other words, Israel can’t help but kill civilians every day because as they’re attempting to target these fighters who are firing these rockets into Israel, they’re having to fire upon innocent civilians. It’s the nature of these kinds of battles claims the Israeli government.
We as objective and compassionate observers have no reason to doubt what the Israeli government and military claims. We also have no reason to believe that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians or deliberately trying to kill them. Not only is it an abhorrently unethical act not apparent or inherent in their nature — who better to understand the plight of a displaced and oppressed people than Jewish people? — but it also works against their greater goal of creating an eventual peace between themselves and the Palestinian people they will always be forced to live with by necessity, simply because of where they decided to plant this “new home for the Jewish people”.
Nope. It truly does not seem likely that Israel itself, as a government or a nation, is intentionally killing innocent men women and children. But regardless of intention, it is a very real side effect of their military campaign. Every day more and more innocent civilians die. Israelis on the other hand go about business as usual. Javelin is there now. Presently in Jerusalem. “You wouldn’t believe how normal peaceful calm and quiet it is is here,” he wrote us yesterday. “The Israeli people have a remarkable gift at dealing with these things as if nothing abnormal is going on at all.”
“Well of course they do,” a friend of ours replied. (This was a group chat, all of us actively involved in the Peace movement in one way or another) “THEY don’t have anything to worry about. Their houses aren’t being demolished. Their children aren’t being blown to bits everyday.” And that’s very true. They’re not. For the average Israeli, they’ve become so accustomed to hearing that “Gaza is throwing some rockets over our way today, so stay in your home if you can” that they’ve developed a subconscious protective shield about the whole issue. Besides the fact that they KNOW that no actual bombs or rockets are going to hit the ground or go off anywhere near them due to the Israeli government’s advanced defense system. This would definitely make it easier to sleep at night. Banks are still open. Schools are still open. Marketplaces still open. In Gaza on the other hand, today during a brief five hour “humanitarian ceasefire” was the first time in two weeks that any banks were open.
So there’s a real difference in how both sides of the conflict are able to deal with it AND what kind of feelings they will be left with once it’s over. Israelis will understandably feel annoyed, like one who gets back from a day at the park when there is one too many pesky gnats or mosquitos flying around. Palestinians on the other hand will feel devastated. Their lives destroyed. Their homes destroyed. Everything they own destroyed. Their children and parents and siblings unfairly taken from them far too soon, their lives snuffed out in an instant, randomly and arbitrarily. And so the wheels of the conflict will continue to spin, even after the trading of rocket fire ends. Because vengeance will burn in the blood and hearts of everyone who lost someone. And it will only be a matter of time before little ones grow up to be big ones who have only one goal in mind: to seek revenge for the death of their brother or sister, or mother or father, or aunt or uncle, or husband or wife.
This is a war that has raged on for far too long. We all know how it plays out. Even those of us thousands of miles away with no skin in the game know the drill. A few weeks of trading rockets and missiles back and forth. Eventually it will just peter out. A limp peace will be brokered. Both sides tired — Gaza tired of so many dead and Israel tired of so much international rage thrown at them from all over the world. Israel will suffer one or two dead at the most with little to no damage to its towns and infrastructure. Gaza will report hundreds or thousands dead, it’s towns and infrastructure demolished and once again go back to looking like even more of a war zone than it already does.
There are a TON of questions that can be asked about this latest skirmish between these two warring tribes. It’s a battle that’s been raging for millenia. No matter what country you’re from on planet earth, and no matter how far removed from the area geographically, you’re all too familiar with at least one story — if not many — about the Israelites fighting with the Philistines or the Jews fighting with the Palestinians. Everyone has their opinions. Some more educated than others. Most not very educated. Truth be told, unless you’ve been there, and unless you’ve spent countless hours studying the history of the conflict and the history of the peoples involved in the conflict, it would be very hard to understand it, or have an educated opinion about it.
Both sides have been wronged. And both sides have been wrong. Both sides have tried to reach out in peace and both sides have instead decided to attack out of anger hate rage greed or ego. It’s a ghastly affair and to a large degree it’s not either side’s fault. Great Britain and the United States have had just as much to do with the unfairness and deception attached to the whole mess as either the Jews or the Arabs. And therein lies one of the biggest problems. From the very beginning, it started out as a noble cause but in practice quickly became a very bad idea. The history of Zionism and the eventual formation of creating an Israeli state smack dab on top of a place where a whole other people already lived for hundreds of years was just a very bad idea. Only money, and lots of it, can create such historically horrible scenarios. And usually there always two sides to these scenarios… the people with the “lots of money” and the people without the “lots of money”. Think European settlers in the Americas supplanting a whole continent filled with millions upon millions of native peoples. Israel isn’t the first time we’ve seen this movie play out.
But what’s done is done. One thing we learn here on earth when and if our goal is to get to the very bottom of a story and not get hung up along the way by side-picking is that once a people with loads of money decide on something, history quickly plays to their side of the story; and the people without loads of money either die off, get killed off, quietly go away or a combination thereof. Kudos to the native Palestinian people who are still living in what we now call Israel for still being there. It hasn’t been easy. We must remember that it took over 400 years for the European settlers who established The United States and all the other countries in South America to kill off the majority of the native Americans who populated that region for over 10,000 years before they knew such a place as Europe even existed. Fought hard they did. But in the end they just had no chance. The Europeans were the minority for many years, but they were way better capitalized. Just as Israel is today.
One often hears American Jews being the harshest about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. The other day some uneducated douchebag who lives in Florida said on Facebook, “Israel should kill every single one of those dirty Arab bastards and their “moony god””. What exactly he meant by “moony god” only he and his simple brain knows. But this wasn’t the first time I heard this kind of heartless evil language from an American Jewish person. Israeli Jews are much more sympathetic and understanding of the Palestinian people. They’re their neighbors. They live side by side with them. Work side by side with them. Often live next door to each other in the same neighborhood. They can’t afford such misguided ideas. They understand that these people, as tenacious and pesky as they might be at times, are still people. And honestly, when you go there and you’re walking about shopping or just doing your business, you can’t tell the difference between a Jewish Israeli or a Palestinian one. I made the mistake countless times, speaking Hebrew to Arabs or attempting to speak (the five words of) Arabic to a group of Jews. Both groups have been living in the area for thousands of years. (though this point will be strongly debated and argued by both sides of the issue if you dare utter it aloud… So be forewarned.)
One point that does seem valid though is this: Just what ARE the Jewish people supposed to do if Hamas or some other small band of thugs in Gaza or the West Bank decides to fire a bunch of rockets into Israel proper? Are they supposed to sit back and let them fire their rockets? The United States wouldn’t. Hell, I couldn’t even guarantee the safety of a man who broke into my own home and pulled out a weapon, let alone fired it. So this dog eat dog, attack and attack back mentality that’s haunted humankind since the beginning of recorded history is not unheard of. Nor is it that incomprehensible. Hamas did fire first. And unfortunately they just happened to do so from the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians live.
The real question we should be asking ourselves is why won’t the people of Gaza rise up and boot Hamas — and every other terrorist-prone organization — out of their towns and villages? Why let them stay? Why elect them to government? Why even tolerate them at all? If this is their method… fire some rockets into Israel KNOWING that they’re going to get shot down and thus not actually do anything, and then in return the whole of Gaza is going to get the shit bombed out of them…. why allow Hamas to stay in your town? “That’s the best you have? That’s your best idea? Fire some worthless rockets and then run and hide among the people, putting all of our lives in danger? Screw that! We have a better idea: get the hell out of here and don’t come back. Please. Thank you.”
See, I know what you’re thinking, many of you. (Even Jewish people like Jon Stewart are now publicly criticizing Israel for how ridiculously unfair this whole thing seems.) It IS unfair. And It IS freaking sad. And It IS freaking heartbreaking. I’m with you. I hear you. I read your comments and your essays and your Tweets and your status updates. I get it. I was THERE. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s a fucking human rights disaster, Palestine is. Israel a paradise; Palestine a garbage dump with no running water. And yes it’s even more disheartening to hear about 300 innocent people dying in less than two weeks — especially considering how they’re dying — getting blown up by rocket fire and missiles blasting their houses to smithereens. It sucks. Truely. But who’s fault is it? Who started it? How did it start?
Israel didn’t just arbitrarily decide to start bombing the people in the Gaza Strip for the hell of it. They, like us, have their own lives to live. They, like us, would much prefer peace to war. They, like us, hate the idea of the whole world thinking they’re evil murderers and pointing the finger at them. But they, like us, also have the right to live in peace without having to constantly worry about some missile flying over the wall and landing in a crowded marketplace in the middle of a sunny day and killing fifty or more people. They, like us, have the right to protect and defend themselves. And that usually means war. Like it or not, for better or worse, protecting and defending ourselves usually implies killing some people.
Let’s go faster now… Let’s streamline it for a bit with no concern for grammar, rhetoric or composition. Just to vent and brainstorm and get some ideas out on the table.
Okay so one idea would be the above mentioned “Gaza needs to tell Hamas to get the fuck out of here and never return”. That would certainly be a start. Of course Hamas does a lot more than just attack Jews. That’s how they got into power in the first place. They raise money from all over the Middle East and they use it for humanitarian purposes. They build schools, promote education (one can only imagine how one-sided and indoctrinated those educations are… but still, SOME kind of education is better than NO education), they help feed and clothe and house people. So Hamas is not all bad. BUT… a few good deeds does NOT justify even ONE bad deed. And firing rockets into your neighbors yard with the hopes of killing them is certainly a BAD deed.
So the Palestinian people — in both Gaza AND the West Bank — need to get Hamas out of the mix. Whatever it takes. And we all know how difficult that’s going to be. It’s akin to asking your mother in law to leave your house after she’s all moved in. Hamas moves in, brings a wad of cash and other necessities of life with them AND promises to “rid our land once and for all of these evil Jewish occupiers who have been abusing and oppressing us for decades”. Sounds great! Yay! But let’s get real for a second. Yes life has been hard since the formation of Israel in ’48. Yes a shitload of homes were bulldozed even though you and your whole family lived there. Yes thousands of acres of olive fields were destroyed and you were forced from your land. Yes you had to run and hide for fear of your life. Yes you’ve lost loved ones and friends and your heart burns with anger and thoughts of revenge. Yes it seems totally unfair and colonial and bought and paid for by the wealthy elite of planet earth. Maybe it’s all true. Maybe it’s not.
BUT THERE’S NOTHING THAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT NOW. Number one. And number two: there are always three sides to every story. As we all know. At least those of us who know anything. That “third side” of the story is the subtle mysterious truth sitting somewhere in between one side and the other. Reconciliation is all about forgetting and forgiving. At least forgiving. Even if we can’t ever forget. And hell, in certain cases it’s best NOT to forget. One can rest assured the Jews are never going to forget the holocaust of World War II. And maybe there are tens of thousands of Palestinians who are never going to forget what it was like when they were first asked to leave their homes, or pushed out of the door of their own orchard at gunpoint, or hearing that their best friend “died in a strange accident” at the hands of a bunch of Jewish kids down the block or one of the many infamous Israeli military groups that have come and gone through the years.
While it’s true that the United Nations has issued over 230 resolutions with respect to Israel just since 2003 in regards to potential human rights violations — far more than any other country on earth, and six times that of the second placed country, Sudan, it’s also true that no one can recall how many suicide bombs have gone off in some square in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (because there have been so many…) or how many missiles have been shot over the wall from the Palestinian side into Israel in an attempt to kill or frighten them (again because there have been so many). Both sides have been wicked and cruel and played unfairly. And most of the time these skirmishes — and that’s putting it lightly –(these are out and out wars with horrifying consequences, at least for the Palestinian people) — are caused by someone on the Palestinian side firing rockets into Israel. Israel rarely attacks first. Rarely. Not “never”. Yes we all remember the Six Day War. Point being that If one is Palestinian or just a supporter of Palestinian people THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE LEARNED HERE from these statistics. Eventually they’re going to have to learn. Or eventually there aren’t going to be any Palestinian people left. That’s the cold hard truth of it.
Life isn’t fair. There. Now you know. Good people don’t get special treatment. They’re not immune to bad things happening to them. The universe doesn’t reward us for being good. The universe seems to be as cold and ruthless handling human beings as it is to the rest of the animal kingdom. Israel — a special country for Jewish people (whatever that means… it’s difficult to understand at times for a variety of reasons, for it isn’t a nationality, nor is it a religion for many who claim to be “not religious”…) exists now. It’s strong. It’s powerful. It has access to loads of money. In addition to the fact that it still receives even more money from the United States and American tax payers every year. There is no beating Israel. Praying isn’t going to defeat them. Good deeds aren’t going to defeat them. Denying their right to exist isn’t going to defeat them.
Can they make some improvements? Yes, certainly. Lots of them. And eventually they just might if they ever start to feel safe. In the meantime, even IF one believes that their policies are inhumane and unfair with respect to the Palestinian people, attacking them militarily is not only barbaric and unethical, it’s also futile. It’s only going to cause another world war. And at this stage in the game, with the sides so lopsided in Israel’s favor, fighting a war against them would be downright stupid. (Yes it’s reminiscent of Chechnya and plenty of other heartbreaking examples of poor people oppressed by wealthier people…) At some point Palestinians need to grow up and decide if they want to evolve and progress in the modern world, or if they want to slowly die off from poverty, despair and the occasional airstrike.
If they have a grievance with the present government that controls them and their lands — they do, plenty of them, and justifiably so, then they need to address those grievances democratically and non-violently. It is the ONLY way they will ever make progress. The United Nations has already voted to approve Palestine’s desire to become a country unto itself. Something that should have happened decades ago. But that’s water under the bridge. This is a HUGE deal. A big win. Something that can only be fantastic and do wonders for the Palestinian people. Of course Israel and the United States vetoed the UN’s vote because they’re evil imperialists who control the entire world due to having the most money and the most weapons currently; but eventually world opinion is going to trump even the United States’ UN vetoes. That we can all be sure of.
The Palestinian people can help speed this process along by showing the world that it is indeed ready to become a real country and not a primitive band of terrorists tossing bombs over walls into their neigbors’ yards. (Yep, even if you dispute the wall in the first place… Protest, demonstrate, march, sit in, occupy, write letters, hell light yourself on fire if you have to ala Tunisia or Vietnam-era Buddhists, but whatever you do, stop making war. There’s no way in hell anyone is going to take you seriously as a viable country if you keep on doing the same thing you’ve been doing all these years. Voice your opposition to Israel’s occupation of the so-called Occupied Territories; but do so peacably, elegantly, with grace AND strength. Study history and note how other countries of oppressed peoples have eventually won independence in the modern era. The simple truth of it is: if you aint got mo money, then you need to have more grace style charm and class than your opponent. Human beings will occasionally forgive being poor. But being poor AND being murderous, not likely.
Even the most compassionate among us will never fully support a people who commit violence as their primary tactic to secure their rights and independence. So what Palestinians need to do is step into the 21st century and start playing 21st century ball.