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My people, who say yes to death

Guernica Mural in Pais Vasco, Spain. (photo: Zarateman / Wikimedia Commons)

A survey conducted in Gaza this September showed that a majority of its residents would prefer Fatah to Hamas if elections were held. Early this month President Mahmoud Abbas spoke again of a two state solution and even hinted at compromising on the right of return.

What could Israel do in light of this but start a war? Israel can’t deal with peace. It has become a war machine, and I’m not referring only to its over-militant decision makers and those who take their orders. Decades of media bias and dogmatic education managed to turn its citizens into a blinded mob that always support violence: today’s Haaretz poll shows 84 percent back the current offensive. A foreign television crew with which I work interviewed passersby today on the situation in Gaza. “We know they die by the score there,” one Tel Aviv resident told the camera, “It’s not that we don’t know. We just don’t care.”

Of course Palestinians can be extremely militant and violent. You would be too, after decades of enslavement, and if you believe you could overcome such wrath, well then, you’d be like the majority of Palestinians. As for Hamas, I am not fond of them one bit — notice this piece begins with my faith in a survey that showed it weakening. The thing is, it is (or was, until recent events) weakening.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Right is only becoming more powerful. True, it lies, diverts attention, misinforms and uses fear-mongering to gain power and support. The media effectively dehumanizes Palestinians and fosters our sense of victimhood, and the media is run by powerful people with links to Jerusalem high brass, but the simple people have heads on their shoulders and hearts in their chests. They too share responsibility. We have all been failed by the Israelis in recent days, again, all of us – the world, the Israeli Left, and especially the Palestinians.

The Israeli Left does still exist, and bravely struggles in the face of mounting de-legitimization, but it may finally be declared too small to count. Now that Labor leader Shelly Yachimovitch expressed full support for Netanyahu and Barak’s actions, only the tiny Meretz party (with three seats in the 120 seat Knesset) and the mixed Hadash party (only a minority of whose voters are Jewish) remain to offer an alternative. Both have openly opposed the military offensive.

In Jewish tradition, a dairy dish into which a piece of meat fell remains kosher, so long as that piece of meat is less than sixty times the size of the full dish. It is “batel b’shishim” – “cancelled out by sixty.” The community of Israelis who seek justice, life and human rights isn’t yet the sixtieth part of this country’s population, but alas, we don’t count for much. I would advise those who are unsure of how to feel about the current events not to decide their opinion based on our existence and our actions. Israel does not deserve to have us as a fig leaf.

We Israelis deserve the eternal war we live in. We deserve our murderous government, which is now sailing to the safe port of reelection on a river of Gazan (and some Israeli) blood. We deserve all that for saying yes to death again and again, but the Palestinians, who suffer of the same Bibi’s whims, don’t. They actually reach out for peace, both on the popular level and in formal speeches. Well, maybe not anymore. Not at the moment, not even if the ceasefire does come tonight. Yet another opportunity massacred.

Can we change? Should we never say die? Should I ask all of you, my readers around the world, to put pressure on us, to deny us business and culture so that we are forced to evolve? I don’t know anymore. Do so but without great expectations. It’s up to world leaders to make the difference here, and they need to treat us with enormous toughness, which they hardly seem inclined to show. So it remains: there is no way out, there was, but there isn’t now. A good night to everybody from Tel Aviv, and may the memory of the victims be blessed.

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    1. AYLA

      thanks, Yuval. That’s all I’m going to say right now.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Dave

      Yuval, can you post a source for the poll you cite showing Fatah ahead of Hamas in Gaza?

      Reply to Comment
    3. JustKiddingNotReally

      Gaza is run by Hamas – remember? Remind me when the next elections there are? Oh that’s right – NEVER, unless the IDF reconquers and hands it back to Abbas. Are you going to support that operation, or campaign for BDS when it happens? Really? Well in that case it doesn’t seem like you have anything constructive to offer. Just more masochistic projection, devoid of historical perspective, in the form of “you would be too” – ignoring that Iranians, Syrians, Kurds, Burmese, Indians, American Blacks, and countless others have ALSO lived under a much harsher boot without becoming genocidal death cult societies. If you’re not willing to do the bare minimum and actually look at a few control groups – you’re not making a serious moral judgment of the other side, or doing justice your own.

      Reply to Comment
      • If you visit Iraq or Turkey or Iran you will find people who are all too keen to tell you that Kurds are violent terrorists and to paint their liberation movement in terms of blood lust and vengeance. First Nations people in the USA were painted in the exact same way when they were trying to resist what they suffered during the expansion – have you forgotten the image of the scalping redskin? People believed that. That was held to be gospel truth. As for the Free Syrian Army, it has hardly been fighting the Assad regime with rose petals and cups of tea, and unfortunately it has committed a few vicious crimes of its own. There are precious few freedom movements in this world that haven’t had violence and vengeance as a feature, because this is what happens when people suffer. We need to be attentive to that instead of writing off whole societies as a ‘death cult’, because living in those environments there is no guarantee that we would be any different – and to be frank, if you are an Israeli, citizen of the most militarised country on earth, you’re not in any position to talk about other societies having a predilection for violence.

        Reply to Comment
        • AYLA


          Reply to Comment
        • JustKiddingNotReally

          None of your comparisons help your argument.
          (1) The Kurds – once they got autonomy in northern Iraq, they DID NOT start a terror campaign against the Arabs who had ethnically cleansed and replaced them under Saddam, even though they suffered and died in much greater numbers than the Palestinians. The Kurds very quickly built a prosperous mini-state because they made a CONSCIOUS CHOICE to value something other than bloodletting. Comparisons to Turkey and Iran don’t make sense because Kurds there do not have autonomy – contrast to Gaza Strip. If they were granted land by Turkey and Iran, they would do as Iraqi Kurds have done.
          (2) First Nations – when they were in the process of losing land, yes, they killed civilians, because they were at war. But now that they’ve lost that war decisively (a la 1948), and the USA is peppered with little Gaza Strip reservations, do you see Apaches and Navajos shooting rockets at Phoenix? NO – and again, even though the death and displace FAR EXCEEDED the Palestinians’.
          (3) Syrians Sunnis – did not take revenge, in peacetime, against Alawis, despite decades of totalitarian repression, and again, despite massacres on a greater scale than the Is/Pal conflict. Now they’re fighting for their lives – not something Gazans have to do.
          FACE IT: Hamas+Gaza could simply recognize the quartet’s conditions, stop attacks, and they’d be left alone. Israelis would be perfectly happy to forget about them. They CHOOSE war because of a fanatical religion, a sense of lost honor, and plain old hypernationalist irredentism. SIMPLE TRUTH.

          Reply to Comment
          • JustKiddingNotReally

            If you’re one of those “well how would YOU feel” people, all it takes is turning your brain on for 5 minutes and looking outside of Palestine to realize how mindless and foolish your position is.

            Reply to Comment
          • While some Native Americans might agree that reservation life has similarities to the Gaza Strip (the activist Jimbo Simmons, for example, who joined the last freedom flotilla out of a sense of solidarity) I doubt they would ever make a direct comparison between their present-day existence and that of Gaza. They aren’t penned in like cattle and unable to export anything, unlike Gaza, which is not autonomous in the slightest. Isolated, yes. Autonomous, no. Your portrayal of life under the KRG as somehow prosperous and an answer to Kurdish hopes doesn’t tessellate either with the street protests in Suleimaniya or the dissatisfaction of Kurdish independence groups. Same with your attempts to depict other liberation movements as avowedly pacifist with remarks like ‘they didn’t take revenge in peacetime’, as though ‘peacetime’ is synonymous with the apathy that comes with repression and terror and as though ‘wartime’ legitimises any desire for vengeance that emerges. You are sanitising other liberation movements for the sake of providing a foil to the Palestinian struggle, which makes your whole argument very puzzling: implicit in your comments is the suggestion that if only people would embrace peaceful means, they could have whatever they wanted. You yourself are obviously no pacifist, and it seems strange that you would place such confidence in non-violent means for achieving other people’s rights when you have no qualms about using force to secure your own interests.

            Reply to Comment
          • JKNoReally

            Oh, there are street protests in Kurdistan? Dissatisfaction? Sounds just what Islamic Jihad is all about. And now you’re inverting Gaza’s history in an effort to distinguish the Native Americans. Syria was a bad comparison to begin with – I’ll give you that. But there are still plenty of examples of people who do not start irredentist terrorist wars in response to displacement. Finding one or two other examples of people who’ve behaved like the Palestinians under similar circumstances doesn’t take away from the fact that irredentist wars are a CHOICE, not a ‘natural reaction’. And no, I’ve said nothing about peaceful means being able to achieve “rights” – because I’m not talking about means, I’m talking about ends. The end – reconquest of Israel, is not a moral objective and has absolutely nothing to do with human rights. There’s a reason Hamas constantly obscures this goal – its because they know that the vast majority of civilized world won’t swallow it – only twisted fringe weirdos.

            Reply to Comment
          • nuMEXICAN

            ‘mini-gazas peppered in the US’– i’ve never thought of the reservations that way… it brings it home.

            Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      Less than one sixtieth of the size of a dish = batul beshishim.

      I’m horrendous at math, but am sure that well over one sixtieth of the State of Israel’s population is against the war. Did the poll that Haaretz took include Palestinian citizens of Israel or were only Jews asked? And if the latter, why? The left needs to think as one bloc irrespective of religion instead of continuing to respect political customs laid down by bigots.

      Reply to Comment
      • Clarity

        It isn’t very clear, but his sentence actually means that the Left is over 1/60, but they are still few.
        I think you are absolutely correct concerning the Left’s policy.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Ed Frias

      Yuval Ben-Ami supports these thugs.
      Hamas imam says “KIll all the Jews”
      Jan 24, 2011
      A clip from a full-length anti-Israel movie that shows a Hamas funeral where the preacher exhorts Allah to kill all the Jews.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Charley

      Lobbing over 700 missiles this year alone & Israel started the war? You are a comedian.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Try counting Palestinian deaths, not missiles. Then it will be more clear who starts the wars.

        Reply to Comment
          • History

            And why don’t you compare the number of Jewish deaths in the ME from 1800, with the number of Jewish deaths everywhere else (in Europe, perhaps)?
            Afraid to see that Jews in the ME were relatively well treated?

            Reply to Comment
    7. Danny

      Be careful Yuval, or you’re liable to receive a really angry tweet from ‘the shadow’.
      But seriously, Israelis are fast becoming that which they despise most – Nazis (yes, I used the N word!) Maybe not the Nazis of the holocaust (though I’m a firm believer that that is not an impossibility), but rather the rabid, foam-at-the-mouth anti-semites of early 1930’s Germany, where Jews were encouraged to “self-deport” from Germany using incentives like kristalnacht and the like. That is what is happening today in East Jerusalem and area C in the West Bank. In Gaza, we are witnessing the slow liquidation of the world’s last concentration camp. As a Jewish Israeli, I can’t help making these associations, as the reality of what Israel is becoming is getting painfully clear from day to day.

      Reply to Comment
    8. great article, Yuval, it sums up the desperate situation Israel brought upon itself. only a big change from within could have an effect, but that would mean saying goodbye to zionism and that’s as big a problem as taking the lunatics out of the West Bank.

      Reply to Comment
    9. That’s a false color version of Guernica you’re showing; color is part of the artist’s chosen vocabulary. Not certain its the time to show false anything right now.

      If Fatah (was) ahead in Gaza polling, it suggests that much of the population wants out of the distribution networks controlled by Hamas under scarce resources. The easiest way to lessen Hamas control over resource distribution is to open the economy to imports/exports, and foregin aid given directly to those in need. This cannot happen under the siege.

      The Israeli State ever seems to think there is only one reality–that what it says must be. Until the State realizes that autonomy of the other is necessary to ultimately remove (most) violence, these cycles of deprivation and assault will continue.

      And, as I’ve said before, if you can’t release autonomy among your Arab citizens, who will you be able to do so among those beyond the checks of citizenship?

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        What was wrong with the original Guernica that it had to be fiddled with like this? And who was the person with that kind of hutzpa? Mind you his family put his signature on a car and allowed it to be named after him, so no need to break one’s head over hutzpa.

        Reply to Comment
    10. XYZ

      I envy Jewish “progressives”. It must feel very good to think you are always right, that the truth is only with you, and to believe the vast majority of your fellow citizens are an ignorant, barbarian rabble. It must feel very good to claim that as Yuval says “True, it (the ignorant Right) lies, diverts attention, misinforms and uses fear-mongering to gain power and support.” knowing that those on the Right view the Left and the “peace camp” as being the ones doing those things like claiming “Arafat is for peace, Arafat is a changed man, Arafat opposes terrorism”, etc, etc. It is reassuring to live in a world where, as Yuval says “They (the Palestinians) actually reach out for peace, both on the popular level and in formal speeches” even if this isn’t true, particularly in the minds of those who actually have power in Palestinian society”. It is pleasurable to adopt all the propaganda statements put out by the Arabs that sound peaceful and to censor out of one’s minds those that aren’t, which often come from the same people at different times.

      I, for one, am pleased that the Israeli people are showing healthy insticts by doing what, unfortunately, has to be done, in spite of being subjected to decades of phony “peace propaganda”.

      That’s the darned thing about democracy, isn’t it? EVERYONE, even non-Progressives get a vote.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        You put it in a nutshell, XYZ, calling “healthy instincts” what sane people call psychopathy.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Sane people call it self-preservation while psychopaths lack it.

          Reply to Comment
        • History

          You are quite right.
          Unfortunately, as Trespasser here so readily demonstrates, most psychopaths believe themselves to be completely sane.

          Their ability to speak and write with charisma and fluency, which makes them sound so convincingly reasonable, often has the side effect of convincing themselves that their lies are truths.

          Normally, I would sympathize, for it is extremely difficult to realize that the ideologies they have been raised with are extreme, and that their opinions are insensitive to people who are dying, to families ripped apart, to people who are directly influenced by the issues which they so blithely discuss.
          On this matter, however, it is difficult to sympathize – with ‘people who say yes to death’

          Reply to Comment
    11. Dries van den Poel

      If you do not hold the thorn apple in your hand, it cannot hurt you.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Nikki

      excellent piece. thank you for your contribution.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Krater9

      It is really hard to get past the first sentence.. What difference does it make whether polls have Fatah or Hamas ahead if Hamas has absolutely no intention of ever holding elections while holding onto power using repression? The rest of the article suffers from similar delusions.

      Reply to Comment
      • RichardL

        Well that has to be one of the most useless critiques ever. Why not write what you appear to be saying: “I don’t like what is being said here so it must suffer from delusions”.

        Having read the whole of your article Yuval I share your despair and your lack of expectations. But we must not give up, and perhaps we will be still there when a solution finally comes.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          If your expected solution is admission of refugees inside Israel and/or withdrawal beyond 1967 borders than I’ve got rather bad news for you.

          Palestinians already wasted 3 generations waiting for it, and could waste another 30, as far as anyone is concerned.

          Reply to Comment
          • Handala

            No Justice, No Peace…and the former won’t be achieved until “trespassers” go back to where they came from no matter how many generations it takes!

            Reply to Comment
    14. Stephan

      Yuval, I understand you are not happy with Israel’s policy so far. Okay, fine.

      What do you propose?

      It’s so easy to criticize but not so easy to provide solutions.

      Give me solutions not issues!

      Reply to Comment
    15. ahmed safwat

      i hope there is more people like you in both side
      yes the extremists are on both side and have the upper hand and we are in this since ever
      every side has story ,blame the other side , justifying his action , increasing the hatred
      it’s so clear that the military solution ain’t working and killing won’t solve the problem isn’t that the time for different approach more less violent

      Reply to Comment
      • AYLA

        Ahmed, thank you. from Israel.

        Reply to Comment
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