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I can taste the fear
Gonna lift me up and take me out of here
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry

Who’s gonna throw the very first stone?
Oh! Who’s gonna reset the bone?
Walking with your head in a sling
Wanna hear the soldier sing

Working for the Church
While my family dies
Your little baby sister’s
Gonna lose her mind
Every spark of friendship and love
Will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone”

I can taste your fear
It’s gonna lift you up and take you out of here
And the bone shall never heal
I care not if you kneel

We can’t find you now
But they’re gonna get their money back somehow
And when you finally disappear
We’ll just say that you were never here

Been working for the church
While your life falls apart
Singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart
Every spark of friendship and love
Will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone”

– “Intervention“, The Arcade Fire

I’ve heard it said that it is now too late to attempt a nuanced position on Gaza. I reject that entirely. I am not going to justify any violence on either side, but I will attempt to bring forward a balanced perspective. It can never be too late for understanding. If anything, it is more necessary now.

Outrage on the part of private citizens against Israel has often come side-by-side with accusations of bigotry and anti-Semitism. One writer goes so far as to categorically state that any anti-Israel statement is at its core anti-Semitic. The problem with this is that by examining the original definition and intent of the term “Semitic”, we discover that it encompasses a wide assortment of people, including both Jews and Arabs.

How can anyone be considered anti-Semitic unless they hate both sides? Well, apparently the term “anti-Semitic” is far more exclusive than its opposite. In 1879, Wilhelm Marr, a German journalist founded the “League for anti-Semitism”. He just hated Jewish people, so, low and behold, a new term (with a specific meaning and intent) entered the public lexicon. Since then, any anti-Jewish talk is anti-Semitic and vice versa.

As far as definitional misnomers go, equate this the same as if anti-Welsh meant “anti-British”, but “anti-British” only included Wales. Pretend for example the confusion that an Englishman would experience when he is told that he is being “anti-British” because he made some sort of joke about the proliferation of consonants in the Welsh language.

No one is being anti-Semitic if they choose to side with the Palestinians. Palestinians are Semites, too.

Choosing a side doesn’t make you a bigot, either. Unless you defend your position with vitriolic hate and a feeling of ethnic superiority you are not a bigot. Plenty of rational individuals with limited or no biases to either group have chosen to support one side over the other. It’s not bigotry. It’s not anti-Semitism.

And what of those Jewish figures who choose to condemn Israel’s actions? Are they “self-hating Jews”? It sounds pretty ridiculous when you say it like that. But those are words that float around. I have to reject the concept that a Jewish person must support Israel in all times, in all cases.

The first reason is obvious: not all Jewish people live in Israel. There are more Jewish people that live outside Israel than in.

Secondly, even if you feel some great affinity to a country, you do not have to summarily accept every act that country’s government commits. In a democracy you have a civic responsibility to hold your government accountable. And if you don’t live in a democracy, you have not just the right, but the duty, to rebel. I love Canada, but there are some acts that if committed would leave me no choice but to respond.

It still shocks me that anyone could choose a side to support, even those intelligent, rationalising individuals I mentioned before. I’ve never felt that war ought to be condoned unless it is the absolute last resort. There might be just a handful of instances in the history of the world where war has been rightfully applied. Often, though, it is to respond to war, and it has been done after all other avenues have been exhausted.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause have equated Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Strip with war crimes, disproportionate violence and, evoking hyperbole, a holocaust.

The hyperbolic use of “holocaust” is just that, it is hyperbole. The Israelis are not trying to erase the Palestinians. They haven’t given them much to build a life with, but they aren’t trying to remove them from the face of this planet. The fact that the occupied territories have had Israeli soldiers stationed there since 1967, simultaneously while the population of Palestinians has continued to grow, shows that genocide is hardly on the minds of Israel.

Yes, in terms of the firepower and size of the Israeli IDF, Israel’s actions will always be disproportionate. This does not guarantee them anything, though, as history has shown in Vietnam and Afghanistan. As long as Israel occupies the occupied territories there will be many young Palestinians who will be drawn into a life of subversive violence. No number of tanks will change that, unless that number is zero.

Until we have a clearer understanding of what is going on, save the efforts of Joe the Journalist nee Plumber, we won’t be able to verify accusations of war crimes, including whether white phosphorous has been used as a weapon.

Supporters of Israel have cited the missiles being fired at Israeli settlements as proof that the Palestinians are not interested in peace. The Israelis fear for their lives and act accordingly; nothing more, nothing less. Well, I think the fact that more than 60 years later the Palestinians do not have a state should be sufficient proof that they are interested in peace. Peace can not be brokered by the barrel of a gun, though. It should be clear to any impartial observer that we have two groups of people that want the same thing.

Israel wants a secure homeland for the Jewish diaspora. They want a democracy in the middle of an authoritarian region to serve as a beacon of hope. Memories of the Holocaust linger fresh in the minds of all, young and old. Israel has built itself like a lion to protect itself, lest they be turned into lambs at the teeth of a wolf again.

Palestine is nowhere. It has been erased from the map, but not the collective memory of the people it has left behind. The Palestinians sit, waiting, on the least desirable pieces of property, and still they don’t belong to them. Where is their homeland? A quiet fire burns, occasionally sending out sparks. It burns not for blood, violence, or vengeance. Vengeance has long been removed from the list. It burns instead for pride. Something to keep warm in the cold, forgotten.

Many people (including numerous friends of mine) have chosen to support one side over the other.  I choose to support no one. My conscience nags at me that both sides commit needless acts of violence. How could I support either? What I do support is a long-lasting peaceful resolution. When that comes I’ll be the strongest supporter. Let’s hope that today’s announcement of Hamas’ ceasefire and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza is the start.

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One thought on “gaza violence: no sides, no illusions, just wrong

  1. I’m happy to see that I am not the only one not taking sides. Like yourself, I agree that neither side is justified in what has occurred in the past 60 years (in terms of violence).

    I often wonder why people are so eager to pick sides, especially when they have no connection to the issue. Makes you think, if individuals that are completely removed from the situation are readily willing to state their allegiances, no wonder the problem has inflated to the point of eruption.

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