Thursday, August 10, 2006

My change of heart

"We’re a left-wing Zionist movement, and we believe that Israel has the legitimate right to defend itself We’re not pacifists. Unlike in Gaza or the West Bank, Israel isn’t occupying Lebanese territory or trying to control the lives of Lebanese. The only occupier there is Hezbollah, and Israel is trying to defend itself.”
-- Yariv Oppenheimer, the secretary general of Peace Now

This best explains my own position on what Richard Avrech is calling the Tammuz War. When Israel was an occupying country fighting against a civilian population, I sometimes found it hard to sympathize with the Israeli position. The Palestenians had been vanquished, utterly and completely. Why was it necessary to remain, with tanks and soldiers, in their towns and villages? Though I never endorsed Palestenians violence, or supported Palestenian terror I could, with only a bit of honest contemplation, understand why the Palestenians felt suffocated. After all, I reasoned, if a platoon of Martians suddenly invaded my block, and imposed curfews and other restrictions that made it hard for me to educate myself or support my family, wouldn't I also eventually take to the streets? Wouldn't anyone? Surely, the tough Israelis, the new-Jews who pride themselves on their brains and their muscles wouldn't tolerate a Martian regime for very long. No one would.

But the Martian analogy doesn't explain the current war. As even the secretary general of Peace Now acknowledges, Israel wants nothing to do with the Lebanese. We don't covet their land, and we have no wish to impose our rule over the Lebanese people. Hezbollah's campaign against Israel is not rooted in justice, but in hate. With Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now? Why are soldiers being kidnapped if the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah stand for something other than the total destruction of Israel?

Have I reconsidered my previous support for peace efforts like Oslo and the withdrawal from Gaza? No. Israel had to try, and by trying Israel reaquired the moral high ground, which is something almost as valuable as a lasting peace. Moreover, the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have been succesful. But do I support additional withdrawls from the West Bank? No, not until Hamas recognizes Israel or the Palestenian people remove Hamas from power.

The war in Lebanon has forced me to reconsider some of my underlying assumptions. Once I believed that the average Palestenian wanted what all of us want - to raise families, to make money, to live peacefully and securely - and this belief was rooted in evidence: Poll after poll in the mid 90s told us that that a majority of Palestenians opposed suicide attacks, and supported efforts to bring peace to the region. In between suicide attacks the polls showed that most Israelis agreed.

Now, unfortunately, hearts have heardened. The peace boat has sailed, leaving us all behind.

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