A Brain’s Vent: Israel and Palestine

By Aaron Dewitt, written in 2004

As the old adage goes, honesty is the best policy. The reader should know that this piece is as honest as I, the author, could make it. These are my honest opinions, subject to change, and every word is written without any intention of appeasement towards any party.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is an emotional issue for me. This fact undoubtedly shades my judgment. My attempts to reconcile my reason with my sentiments have left me confused. I should start by describing my primary feeling when concerned with Israel. If one were to ask me what it is like to be in Israel, or what Israel means to me, the only appropriate answer I could give would be a smile. Israel gives me a feeling that I cannot verbally describe; it is simply a smile.

I am frustrated. In Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men, the author seeks to explain Israel’s behaviour against Palestinians by comparing Israel to an abused child who grows up to abuse others. I do not believe this is correct. I think the Israeli psyche is better understood when one considers that the nation was born in a posture of self-defence. This posture has traumatized its development. I am in disbelief when I see Israeli government policy become blatantly heinous. Recognizing the government’s odious actions is especially frustrating for somebody that wishes to advocate for Israel. However, not to necessarily condone or defend all actions, but perhaps certain actions are more easily understood when one considers that the government is in a state of ceaseless paranoia.

I used to think I was completely unbiased towards Israel and its affairs. After all, I have lived my whole life in Canada. Although I have been raised as a Jew and a Zionist, my parents are well educated and have taught me to believe that clarity and politics never coexist. I now realize that not only am I not an impartial third party, but I was (am) naive. Israel is a country like any other. Its government has made mistakes, both internally and externally, and it will continue to do so. It is a common misconception that Israeli society is homogeneous. It is not all Jewish and Israeli Jews are not one big happy family. There are tensions between the secular and the orthodox, between the Ashkenazi (European Jewry) and Sephardic (North African/Middle Eastern Jewry), between the sabras (native Israelis) and recent immigrants, and between the Ethiopians and whites. There are Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, Palestinians, Druze, and Bedouins, to name a few, and there are degrees of tensions between all parties. It is said that every Israeli can hold his/her own in a political argument. Every Israeli government has been a coalition, meaning no single political party has ever had a majority in the Knesset. Israeli government policy is rarely unopposed by the Israeli citizenry.

There is little doubt in my mind that there should be a Palestinian state. There is no doubt that every new Israeli settlement in the West Bank serves only to aggravate the situation. There is no doubt that the wall, which, if reasonably built, may have been a viable security option, has otherwise served only to demonstrate the Israeli government’s greed. The Israeli government shares the responsibility for the deplorable living situation of most Palestinians. I am frustrated.

Why do many consider the Israeli camp as being fluid, being completely responsible, its leadership (or change therein) being that which makes or breaks every accord? Why is Palestinian representation so static? In the early nineties, Israel recognized the PLO as the Palestinian ruling body. Aid was given to Palestinians as well as the ability to self-govern, yet little changed. In fact much of the aid money either went to fund military training camps for children or into certain people’s bank accounts. There still exists a whole system of propaganda in Palestinian schools, where hate towards Jews is part of the curriculum. Clearly there has always been a lack of infrastructure in the West Bank, and it was irresponsible of those who provided aid (namely the United States and Israel) to not insist on accountability for pecuniary allocations.

In short, it is everybody’s fault. But the blame lies mostly on the respective governments and their inability to have a certain degree of foresight and priority.

It all seems very damning. Sometimes I feel guilty for loving Israel. Sometimes I feel I am putting a selfish need for a Jewish homeland ahead of humanity. The justification for a Jewish state (that is, a place of sanctuary for Jews everywhere) perhaps takes a cynical mind, even more cynical than that of the protester. It is not prudent to think that Jews are safe everywhere in the world. Though I think it unlikely that anything of Nazi proportions would ever happen towards the Jews in western countries, anti-Semitism will never fade and Jews are still openly persecuted in many nations. Israel is tiny and the world is large. I know it is convoluted and confused; there are so many factors involved, many that are not addressed, and many that are too subtle to change with such grand implements as accords and treaties and documents of all sorts.

I am for humanity. I am for justice. I am for Israel.

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