Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Israel, Lebanon and the Jews

It's hard not to be shaken by what is happening in Israel and Lebanon, no matter where you are.

What has impressed me is the widening rift between both sides. Even most of the Israeli left is supporting the war in Lebanon, while the entire world reacts in horror to photos and stories of civilian carnage in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Hizbollah is being seen as a heroic force by an increasing number of people in the Arab world.

This widening rift was captured for me by two articles. One from a self proclaimed "cappucino drinking Yuppie" in Lebanon who now considers himself a terrorist because of Israel's bombing, and one about a woman who opposed Israel's first Lebanon war but supports this one, because basically, the world, historically, doesn't give a damn about Jews and therefore Israel's only recourse is to aggressively defend itself. Both sides feel that they have no choice but to pursue war.

I support Israel's right to defend itself, but think its choice of military strategy in this war has been both morally and strategically wrong. What's the point of "destroying" Hizbollah if you create a thousand other Hizbollahs in Arab states throughout the mideast?

With this current strategy, and the civilian deaths it is causing, Israel is only providing more ammunition for world outrage. And the world has been quick to blame Israel, and Jews--for all the world's ills.

Here in the Andes, I have found anti-semitism to be thick, and nearly impossible to argue with.
We're not talking anti-zionism, or disagreement with Israeli policies. We're talking old fashioned statements about Jews controlling the world and its finances and Jews being too secretive and refusing to help dying Christians on the Sabbath. .One guy even told me he didn't blame the US for any of its policies because it was really the Jews who were controlling things. He even swore up and down that the problem with George Bush was that he was really Jewish.

Some of these statements have come from locals, others from European tourists.

This is the part I have a problem with when it comes to criticism of Israel or of Israelis. Despite the egregious acts committed in various countries by my own government, most people are quick to separate the American government from the American people. Yet people will actually try to convince me I'm wrong when I point out that Jews in both Israel and the United States have widely different opinions about Palestine. People here seem to feel that they know more about Jews than I do, even though I am a bonafide Jew being Jewish on my mother's side and many of them have only seen Jews in the cartoons waved at street demonstrations or published in newspapers. Because to many I don't "look Jewish" (whatever that means) I have the dubious privilege of listening to all sorts of anti-semitic comments.

Okay so I'm ranting again. I'm ranting because in truth, the entire situation in the middle east fills me with horror and despair, and at times I wish it were simpler and I wish I could jump on the finger pointing bandwagon like so many people on the left who seem to feel that all the world's ills would disappear if Israel would just politely pack up its bags and cease existing, or the people on the right who are convinced its all an Islamofacist plot.

The threads of the current situation in Lebanon are far deeper and more tangled than many of us want to own up to. There are historical reasons for Israeli paranoia and aggression that many Europeans seem to conveniently forget when they start waving their Star of David equals Swastika flags, or make blithe comments like one leftist American friend who said "all the Israelis should just be shipped to New York". (Kind of like the Iranian presidents remark that Israel should be moved to Europe.) And Israelis and Arabs both, blinded by their own historical and ancestral wounds, can only lash out against the other side, in the mistaken belief that by destroying the other, they will have destroyed their enemy.

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