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'Us', 'them' and the disconnect between Israelis and Gazans

For the last five days, Gaza has come up in just about every conversation, Facebook status and thought I have encountered. Today, as the fourth daily siren rang out in Tel Aviv, the response of locals seemed much more fluid and far less fear-ridden than that of Thursday’s unexpected alarm. Neighbors ushered each other towards  basements and shelters, wondering aloud about how long it would be before the tell tale “boom” would sound.

As a novice to situations such as these, I am filled with a wash of contradictory emotions.

I feel frightened, not so much by the actual physical presence of danger but by the panicky roil that grips me whenever I think about the sirens. Having spent most of my life far away from the Middle East, the possibility of of these events seemed as far away as an alien invasion.

While I do not generally like to think about sides, these past few days, as one would expect in times of conflict, seemed to sharpen a sense of us versus them. Who that “us” is and who the “them” are are questions that I can’t seem to get a handle on.

At the same time, I am filled with curiosity about life in Gaza. I have never been to Gaza myself and have little clarity about what the place looks, smells and feels like. Obviously, the gaping disconnect between Israelis and Palestinians only contributes to the “us” and “them” notion that keeps the situation rooted in the trenches.

This video by Suroosh Alvi, posted in July by Vice News, is aimed at giving a sense of what life is like under Hamas rule in Gaza. On the way, it also provides images of daily life in the strip.

Click here for more +972 coverage on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

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    1. Laughing Out Loud

      Who’s the “Us” poncho?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Who are us and who are them. Great question that I wish is asked more often. The day you are ready to visit Gaza, let me know I will go with you and show you around. After 14 years, I am due for another visit.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      Do you remember about a year ago, Israelis and Iranians organized a campaign in each of their respective countries to demonstrate and to wear buttons/t-shirts/etc of “I Love Iranians” (in Israel) and “I Love Israelis” (in Iran).

      The military campaign is a couple days past taking out rocket arsenals. Like after a week in 2008, military commanders are declaring (when they are candid) “we really don’t have any critical military targets now”.

      “We love Gazans” (It doesn’t have to mean and abdication of Israel’s right to defend.)

      It can stand alone, part of the math. A critical function.

      Reply to Comment
      • I second Richard Witty.

        The notion of “combatant” and “enemy resource” expands as strikes succeed. Air surveillance will derive new “secondary targets.” I think this will go on until military intelligence can’t believe its own designations anymore. Which is not declaim that real long distance missles were indeed taken out.

        I would conjecture that upon hearing an air raid siren, the “us” are all those fearful of destruction by the sky.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      Us are the people that will mourn your death if a rocket hits you.

      Them are the people that will hand out candy if it happens.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      I think what God (and reason) is waiting for is for us, by example, mourning (literally) for ALL.

      If all we do is express compassion for a soul’s passing, that in itself will be a good, enemy or not.

      If it also convinces “them” to express compassion for our families of families passing, that will be a greater good.

      There is a large amount of glee expressed in some quarters (very very sadly) when Gazans are killed.

      Please let’s distinguish ourselves by our behavior, by our kindness.

      Enough is enough already.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Let’s keep us safe from their rockets and then we can be as compassionate as possible. Let’s not distinguish ourselves into oblivion.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Witty

      Are you not safe?

      3 of 4.5 million (.0006 %) have been killed, something like 100 out of 4.5 million (.002%) have been injured, something like 1000 out of 4.5 million (.02%)have property damage. Lots of people are scared obviously, children in particular.

      But those are very very low percentages. Even if you stayed above ground when the sirens sounded, the likelihood of harm (short of from the sirens themselves) would still be in the remote range.

      In contrast 100 of 1.5 million Gazans have been killed (.007%, also remote), but maybe 2000 have been injured (.13%, very low but not remote), and maybe 6000 have had property damage (.65%, not remote), and a significant minority of the 1.5 million have been close enough to an explosion to have been jolted into plausible preparation for death, fear.

      Let’s not FAIL to consider others.

      As much as it is the norm of modern societies, “I will not kill” is a much more honorable attitude than “I’ll kill as many as it takes in anticipation for me to sure that I won’t be killed”.

      Rise to it already. Don’t search for the moral bottom, search for the moral best.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        No, we are not safe. We are not safe when rockets are falling randomly in the middle of our cities. Which part of us having to build Iron Dome to shoot down rockets raining down on our cities is confusing? Which part of sitting in bomb shelters is confusing when considering how safe we are?

        Let’s not FAIL to consider ourselves first and then we can worry about others.

        The norm in modern societies is ‘I will not murder’, not ‘I will not kill’. That is also the commandment in the Bible. Also, most ‘modern’ societies don’t have rockets falling on their citizens. I wonder how their morality would develop were that to be the case. How is it even remotely reasonable to judge Israel by the standards of societies that have not had any real sense of personal danger for two generations? It isn’t even the same moral universe.

        Let us search for at least a reasonable starting point for morality and not sit in ivory towers throwing moral feces at those that have to deal with real dilemmas of life and death.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Witty

          I hear your fears.

          The reality is that Israeli deaths over the past weak have decreased net, due to the reduction in auto accidents.

          Please be careful to not exagerate your fears into permission to harm, you know “murder”.

          Reply to Comment