It’s hard for me to say what I’m going to say. I sort of feel bad that I believe this. But I have to say it. When I do so, please remember that these words come from that same guy who, in the 1970’s and early 80’s, was the dashiki-wearing, tabla-playing, Yogananda-loving, Movement Expression-teaching, Dance Home-frequenting, “We Are The World”-singing, John Lilly-adoring, member of the “Unity in Diversity Council”. I love people. I love humanity. I hate violence. I detest war.

For all those reasons, and more, I don’t like the constant violence in Israel. I don’t like rocket attacks from Gaza. I don’t like the “security barrier”. I don’t like the eternal stalemate when it comes to negotiating. I don’t like all the death of innocent civilians. There is a lot not to like and a lot to condemn. There is a lot of blame to spread around on both sides of the conflict. But, in my opinion, when it comes to the IDF actions in the past couple days, the blame does not rest with Israel. For all the violence, and all the war, and all the hate, I stand behind the IDF and the Israeli government. I may be wrong and I may be controversial, but here is why I feel as I do:

Imagine that insurgents were constantly firing missiles into Detroit from Windsor Canada. The US would try to stop them. If members of this insurgent group were elected to lead Canada and then said they wanted to make peace with the US, but one of their negotiating positions was that the US had no right to exist, we wouldn’t put much trust in that neighboring government. Knowing that the missile-wielding Canadians continued to attack the country they felt had no right to exist, we’d do what we had to do to stop them. We’d protect our citizens (even in Detroit) against the attacks.

Suppose, now, that you think my Canadian analogy is silly because we aren’t “occupying” part of Canada. Well… okay. Try this. When the Europeans first came to North America, we did terrible things to the Native Americans. They fought back, as well they should have. For better or worse, the white Europeans won. Now, however, we have been here for a couple hundred years. Personally, I still think that the plight of the Native Americans speaks poorly of we who conquered this land. But, what’s done is done and we can fight for the rights of the Native Americans but, in my opinion, we certainly can no longer say that the US has no right to exist. It’s done. Put the bad things behind us. We need to treat people with far more respect, and give them far more dignity, and cherish their culture as a root of our history. But, if Native American’s decided that the US had no right to exist, and they started firing rockets into our cities, we would do something about it.

Neither of those analogies is particularly good. But they try, at least, to explain why I feel as I do. How I feel is this:

Hamas can very easily put an end to IDF strikes. All they need to do is to remove, from their charter, the notion that Israel must be destroyed. You can’t have a 2 state solution when your fundamental premise is that one of the two states should not be allowed to be a state. Granted, there are Jews who feel the same about a state of Palestine. They are, at this stage in history, equally idiotic.

A “one state solution”, where everyone, Arab or Jew, is equal can also never happen. This is because the current demographics and relative birth rates would cause it to cease to be a Jewish State very quickly. So, the only way that would work is if there was no need to be a Jewish State. But, in a region where this tiny little country is surrounded by Islāmic Governments, where the world has proven that it is quite content with trying out centuries of alternatives for resolving the “Jewish problem”, we Jews MUST have a Jewish State. So, there can never be a single state solution that remains a protectorate for the Jewish people.

What this means, to me, is that Israel must treat itself as a mature sovereign nation. Like all nations, Israel’s number one most important duty is to protect its citizens. The best way to do that is to make peace with its neighbors. But, lacking that, it must defend its cities. I don’t want to see things this way because it saddens me deeply, but the way I see it, Israel has no alternative.

I don’t view the IDF strikes as aggression and I don’t view them as retaliation. As for proportionality, I do believe them to be “disproportionate”. But, again, I see no other choice. A “proportional” response would be to do what Hamas does and to arbitrarily fire hundreds of crappy little rockets into heavily populated civilian areas. That might be more proportional but it would also be stupid. This is not about proportional retaliation, it is about strategically disabling the mechanism by which Israel’s citizens are, by people who use their own citizens as human shields, being attacked. These strikes are about just surviving as a sovereign nation. For all the violence and pain that I so hate, I see no other choice for Israel.

For those reasons, I support the IDF. I know this is a controversial position. But I stand with Golda Meir when she said: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.” Israel is being forced to act violently – not for retribution, not out of hatred – just to survive.

If the Palestinian people come to the negotiating table, with the desire to see a 2 state solution where both states are poised to thrive, I will celebrate it with great joy. If Israel then acts irrational and aggressive I’ll be the first to condemn it. But as long as the Palestinian people have democratically elected Hamas to represent and to govern them, and as long as Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of the State if Israel, the IDF has no choice but to defend Israeli citizens – and I have no choice but to support them.

This does not make me any less a lover of peace. It does not make me a supporter of violence. What it does make me is a supporter of a tiny sovereign nation whose citizens deserve to thrive. For both sides, giving up some things they want may feel like “sewing in tears”. But, 2 peaceful states will surely feel like “reaping in joy”! Sadly, until Hamas, and hence the Palestinian government, is willing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation, the only sewing will be in the tears of violence and there will be nothing to reap.

If you disagree with me, I want to hear from you. I want to hear from you politely and respectfully. If I do, I promise to respond with equal respect.

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Comments
  1. Jan Tullis says:

    Hi Steve. One question. Why would this be a controversial position? A country protecting itself?

  2. In your piece you conflate Hamas with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government. Hamas broke away from the PA and rules Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, which is the internationally recognized Palestinian government, continues to govern the West Bank. There are no missiles being launched from the West Bank. Fatah and the Palestinian Authority renounced violence and recognized Israel’s right to exist twenty years ago. The Palestinian Authority currently provides security for Israel and the Palestinians. Still, the Israeli occupation continues. Settlement building on confiscated Palestinian land continues.

    You write that “If the Palestinian people come to the negotiating table, with the desire to see a 2 state solution where both states are poised to thrive, I will celebrate it with great joy. If Israel then acts irrational and aggressive I’ll be the first to condemn it. But as long as the Palestinian people have democratically elected Hamas to represent and to govern them, and as long as Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of the State if Israel, the IDF has no choice but to defend Israeli citizens – and I have no choice but to support them.”

    The Palestinians have come to the table with a desire for a two state solution. Their position is that they want an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The borders of the state would be negotiated based on the 1967 borders. Border adjustments would be made to allay Israeli security concerns and to accommodate some of the large settlement blocks. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized. This position is generally consistent with US policy and the proposals that have come out of the Quartet (United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia).

    Israel has acted irrationally and aggressively. Netanyahu has refused to endorse the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations. He has also refused to halt settlement building. He has refused to produce a map or a description of his vision of what a final settlement might look like. Instead he demands that the PA return to “negotiations” with “no preconditions”. That is a ploy to continue talking and stalling, while gaining more time to establish “facts on the ground”.

    By continually humiliating and weakening Abbas and the PA in that manner the Israelis strengthen Hamas. The solution to Hamas is not attacks on Gaza, which don’t work anyway. The solution is to reach an agreement with the PA for a Palestinian State. That would be an offer Hamas would not be able to refuse.

    Near the end of your piece, when you write, “Sadly, until Hamas, and hence the Palestinian government, is willing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation, the only sewing will be in the tears of violence and there will be nothing to reap”, you are conflating Hamas and the Palestinian government. I believe the argument about Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist is a red herring. The PLO, which had been reviled until 1979, recognized Israel in an instant as part of the Oslo agreements. Hamas would have to respond to a serious agreement in a similar manner.

    You write, “I stand with Golda Meir when she said: ‘We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.’ Israel is being forced to act violently – not for retribution, not out of hatred – just to survive.” Hamas and their rockets do not pose an existential threat to Israel. They are not challenging Israel’s survival. Israel is a regional power with nuclear weapons. Hamas has, as you so aptly put it, “hundreds of crappy little rockets”. So, even if you disagree with all that I’ve written, Israel does not need to kill Palestinian children just to survive.

    Of course every country has a right to defend itself. Who could argue with the fact that we wouldn’t tolerate Canadian missiles raining down on Detroit. I would, however, hope that before we killed any Canadian civilians, we would have explored every nonviolent alternative. I do not believe Israel has done that.

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