Saturday, January 10, 2009

In Someone Else's Shoes

Remember to follow the links -- some friends on the blogosphere have truly good points to make. Visit Marlin Vis' entry if you/I were a Palestinian (also pasted below). Worth a read. (And if you think it's two one sided check out his following entry. Warning: contains religious language--hope you can deal with it.)

Folks are stuck on their ruts right now. Some because there's no option left to them (i.e., Gaza residents), some because they can't see the good options they have (i.e., too many Israeli decision makers, Palestinian militants and average Joe's in the streets of Tel Aviv and Ramallah.).
The last group are those who are seemlingly irreversibly actors and proponents of death until the end. I am sure this includes some extremists in jihadist groups and Hebron settlers among others.

If we--outsiders--lose the ability to think out of these ruts, then we are useless.

Marlin's text follows---------------------

If you/I were a Palestinian.

The current situation in Gaza has once again brought the Israel/Palestinian conflict on to the world’s center stage. And once again we are presented a variety of images of Palestinians and Israelis. Who are these people? And if I/you were a Palestinian or an Israeli, then what would we be about in the midst of this ongoing, bloody feud?

Good to think about, I think. Let’s first consider the Palestinian. If I/you were a Palestinian, then what?

Yossi Sarid, an Israeli news commentator and former politician, recently entertained this question in an article with Haaretz, Israel’s leading news-providing organization. He began by quoting one of his students, who, according to Sarid, had expressed rather conservative, accepted opinions - that is, opinions tending slightly to the right. Most Israelis lean to the right. It’s always a matter of degree. Sarid wrote that this student’s response “succeeded in surprising me.” He then went on to explain why. “Without any provocation on my part, he (the right-leaning, Jewish student,) “opened his heart and confessed: ‘If I were a young Palestinian, I'd fight the Jews fiercely, even by means of terror. Anyone who says anything different is telling you lies.’"

Okay, fine and good, and fairly typical as to how many Israeli Jewish people put themselves in Palestinian shoes. About 10 years ago Israel’s current defense minister, Ehud Barak, expressed the same sentiment. Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy had asked him then, as a candidate for prime minister, what he would do had he been born Palestinian, and Barak replied frankly: "I would join a terror organization."

I once had a young Israeli soldier tell me that if he were a Palestinian he’d “strap on a bomb belt and walk to Tel Aviv.” The fact is that this soldier’s confession, as well as Sarid’s student’s emulation, and even Barak’s frank admission, does not represent the normal response from or feelings of the vast majority of Palestinian youth. Forget everything else and simply look at the way most Palestinian young people live their lives. Like their parents and grandparents, they are not fiercely fighting the Jews, are not joining terror organizations, and are definitely not strapping on bomb belts and walking into Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or anywhere else for that matter. What most Palestinian youth are doing is what you or I might very well be doing if we were doing our best to resist what seems like a natural response for a people oppressed, hopeless and without power. They are surviving. They are trying to get an education, a job, a leg up, or they are desperately trying to find a way out.

It doesn’t matter what I/you think we would do if we were Palestinian. We are not, and if we were then we would do exactly the same as they. We would struggle against our oppressor. We would resist in everyway possible, and yes, some of us would be violent, but the vast majority of us would not. Just as the vast majority of Palestinians are non-violent, even passive in the face of a relentless, “seemingly never ending,” belligerent occupation.

Furthermore, if I/you were a Palestinian, we would vote for change just as the Palestinians did in 2006. And, I might add, just as the citizens of the United States did in 2008. No, I am not comparing the Democratic Party in the United States with Hamas. I am a Democrat, and about half the time I’m even proud to admit it – although a little nervous given the labeling which goes on in the States these days. For the record, half the time is a slightly higher rating than I’d give if I were a Republican, which is the only reason I’m not. If you asked the average Palestinian if he/she was a member of Fatah or Hamas, he/she would say that most of the time he/she is neither, because neither party represents him/her. The primary reason that Hamas won in 2006 was because the Palestinian people wanted to let their leaders know that they wanted change. The change they wanted was NOT a shift toward violent resistance, something I am sick and tired of hearing from folks who wouldn’t know a Palestinian from an Iranian, and who assume every Muslim is the same. Every exit pole conducted in 2006 concurred with this analysis. The change the Palestinian people wanted was any change from what they had, which at the time was a Fatah party rift with corruption, cronyism and ineptitude. Nothing was going anywhere fast, and the people decided to “throw the bums” out! The mistake the Palestinians made was to believe that the leaders of the free world – that’d be us, by the way – really believed that democracy worked. Had we given the process a chance then we might be seeing a different Hamas then we are seeing today. But we’ll never know because we never gave democracy a chance.

So if I/you were a Palestinian, then we’d be in the very same place AS the Palestinians. We’d be struggling to survive. And quite frankly, like the Palestinians, we’d be losing.

1 comment:

Elrig said...

One day after this post, I read the following in the Washington Post (where the readers are getting tired of the bias):

On Jan. 1 and 2, you ran op-eds by four authors -- Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson, Ephraim Sneh and Robert J. Lieber -- all coming down solidly and uncompromisingly on Israel's side in the current situation. Maybe a wise, objective and well-informed judge would conclude that the preponderance of right is on Israel's side. I don't know; I am not wise or objective, and I don't have all the facts.

I am a 73-year-old Jew living in comfort in America. Yet I can understand that if I were a 20-year-old in Gaza, hearing how my grandparents once had a decent life in what is now Israel, I might take a rejectionist position and be for Hamas. You should strive for balance.-John Levy(St. Michaels,MD)
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