An attack during the attack: An Asian American in Israel and his view on the Gaza war
August 7, 2014 12:00 PM
In my California, home of the severe drought, I grew up listening to the Beach Boys and the dream of an "endless summer."
I can't imagine this summer in Israel and Gaza, home of what appears to be the "endless war."
Actually, thanks to the media reports, I don't have to imagine the war. I see it played out on the news, where the real "negotiations" seem to be taking place. Hamas' rockets into Israel; Israel's massive counterattack in populated areas, including schools.
Was it all about the missing teens, Hamas' launchers and its tunnels of war?
Everyone seems to have a cover story to justify the violence meted out.
At this point, the score is not good. More than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority civilians, are dead. Israel claims 67 casualties. It's enough to keep the politicians addicted to war entrenched in their positions. But even one death has been too many.
As I write, we are in the tail end of a cease-fire and at the beginning of some preliminary discussions. I hope we go further down that peaceful path.
But at this juncture, there doesn't seem to be light at the end of that tunnel.
Not yet, at least.
When the current iteration of tumult over Israel and Gaza began, I contacted an old friend of mine, an Asian American and a former partner with a major law firm. He married his college sweetheart, an Israeli, and has relocated permanently to Israel to be with her family.
The harassment of Hamas, and Israel's massive counterattack, coincided with an attack of his own--on his heart, what my friend described as a "mild myocardial infarction."
He e-mailed me:
It was an existential moment. And I'm in good shape, but apparently not so in the wiring. So I hope you guys in the States are seeing what drecks of humanity Hamas is. I know that Israel takes a beating from the lib/leftist/Jon Stewart crowd. But if they even half approached the facts with some measure of objectivity, they would see that Hamas has to be taken out. Otherwise, life beats on.
Even though I didn't expect to hear a few verses of Pete Seeger from my friend, his hard line was still a surprise.
Whatever Netanyahu was doing in Israel to whip up support for his actions seemed to be working on the country.
My friend's e-mail continued:
The public is solidly behind Bibi [Netanyahu]. Kerry is being mocked mercilessly. Ha'Aretz, the leading leftist newspaper, came out solidly against Kerry and Obama. Obama is seen as naive and ineffectual - ask yourself this: has he had any major foreign policy victories that you can remember?
Little by little, Hamas's luster is wearing off. They are terrorists, out for themselves and not the people who they sacrifice all too easily. Bombs in UNRHWA schools, mosques, private homes, hospitals?
What has been illuminating to me is the myopic, double standard of a large part of the "liberal" world: They complain of the disproportionality of Israel's actions in Gaza where a relatively few (1300) have been killed in 3 weeks and then forget completely about the carnage in Syria, Iraq, etc. It seems that the reaction to Jews/Israel define people's perspectives. I'm heartened by the 57% of the US that supports Israel's right to defend themselves against the rockets and the tunnels. The average American instinctively knows that Israel is fighting a frontline war for shared democratic principles with the US.
When the first cease-fire was announced and then broken almost as soon as it began, my friend was not optimistic and predicted what would happen.
I doubt whether the cease-fire will hold. Hamas will throw up some rockets. The most that Kerry can do with it is to use the lull for humanitarian purposes - resupplying schools with food, water.
He was right.
My friend's view of the future:
Hamas will hold out until at least the 34th day. Why? Because it will be one day longer than the 2006 Lebanon War. Hamas wants to declare that it outlasted the Israelis and fought longer than Hezbollah. There may well be an eventual two-state solution. But it won't depend on what happens to Gaza. Hamas can't be part of the equation. Kerry is like a bumble bee, buzzing here and there hoping to fertilize some developments. But until the parties decide they need a solution, he is irrelevant.
I hope he's wrong.
In the meantime, the war has become a kind of litmus test among friends. My pro-Israel friends have become even more hawkish. Some make sense. Other friends remind me that the Palestinians are also, by continent, an Asian people, being oppressed and bullied.
Where do you stand?
I've found it isn't really whether one is pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. Nor is it about who is oppressing whom, though the fact is, despite Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, a blockaded Gaza with border restrictions essentially remains "occupied."
It's not even whether one is conservative or liberal.
It's really just about hawks vs. doves.
And so far the hawks are winning.
When President Obama said this week that he had "no sympathy for Hamas, but sympathy for the ordinary people of Gaza," it was a newsworthy statement. After weeks of unquestioned support for Israel, both rhetorically and financially, he began to show an important recognition of the humanity of the Palestinians.
This week, Obama also spoke of "formulas" that are available to reach that goal of a two-state solution.
"But they're going to require risks on the part of political leaders," the president said. "They're going to require a slow rebuilding of trust in the aftermath of the violence we have seen."
The leaders of both sides aren't used to taking risks for peace. Both sides preferred the violence to restock the hate that fuels the endless war.
In the Middle East, all the players seem inclined toward the "long game." It may mean the best we can hope for is to manage the hate and intolerance, and simply trust that "this too shall pass."
I'd rather they give peace a real chance.
* * *
Leave a comment