Israel, Palestine, And The Extreme Activist

I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to keep my mouth shut. I’ve heard too much dogmatic stupidity on both sides of the issue to invite those responses once again.

But then #HitlerDidNothingWrong trended on Twitter yesterday thanks to some “peace activists.”

Now, let me first get a few things out there. The way Israel treats Palestinians is abhorrent. That a people in the 21st century are treated without rights and dignity is a stain on the world’s consciousness. That Israel and the United States oppose Palestinian statehood, despite the vast global consensus, is embarrassing. The disproportionality of violence is nothing short of brutal. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are indefensible and a clear affront to peace. Netanyahu is a thug, seemingly unwilling to compromise. The embargo is another brutal way of subjugating Palestinians to a lower class. And my own government’s fervent support of Israel is troubling, if not just flat out confusing.

Now, here’s the thing. I get all of this. I am the first to defend the Palestinian cause, and I have done so in many an argument. I can’t stand extremism, and I have definitely seen it on the Israeli side. But all that being said, I have seen extremism on the other side of things. I have heard some of the most ridiculous comments regarding the Holocaust, Jews, and Israel that I have had to come to the defense of the state of Israel.

This recent trending of #HitlerDidNothingWrong shows some of the problem. Yes, I know it’s definitely not representative of most Palestinians who are just interested in peace. But this extremism is still there. Anti-Semitism still exists (a Parisian synagogue was firebombed just yesterday), as does a refusal to accept a Jewish state. And I’m not convinced that some of these notions are not present among Palestinian leadership and neighbouring Arab states. We all remember the three no’s of the Khartoum Resolution (no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it).

I have a lot of trouble with anyone on either side of a debate that is unable to see the other perspective. There is a lot of that with Palestinian supporters. For all of the people calling for a stop to Israeli aggression, there is a seeming inability to recognize the impossible situation that Israel is put in and an inability to recognize the dangerous actions of Hamas.

Israel has a right to exist. Everyone needs to start there. It follows, then, that if Israel has a right to exist and all of its neighbours have some deep-rooted animosity towards it, the country is in a pretty precarious position. Israel has been on the receiving end of many unprovoked attacks. How is it supposed to respond? Can you really blame Israel for building up its military and seeking assistance from the world’s most powerful country? What else is it supposed to do?

Then you have Hamas. Many of those calling for a stop to Israeli aggression don’t really seem to grasp what Hamas is doing. Let’s look just at today. A ceasefire was brokered by Egypt. For six hours Israel halted its attacks on Gaza. Hamas, however, sent dozens of rockets into Israel, seriously disputing the notion that if only Israel would stop attacking Palestine, there would be peace.

While there is obviously thousands of years of history and complications, this recent flare-up of violence can largely be blamed on Hamas. Three Jewish teens were recently found killed in Palestine. In response, Israel arrested some suspects. A Palestinian teen was also brutally murdered by some Israelis in “response” to the killing of those three teens. In response to the arrests of these murder suspects, Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel.

Again, what is Israel supposed to do?

What is especially frustrating about Hamas is that it benefits from Israeli attacks. Nothing draws more support for Hamas than when Israel starts bombing Palestine. They use their rocket attacks to draw Israel into a conflict. Hamas is never going to win a military battle against Israel, but they can gain popular support by putting Palestinians in danger. It doesn’t justify Israel’s disproportionate response, but what I am saying is that Hamas is not benign. They have a lot of responsibility in this, which the pro-Palestinian crowd is typically reluctant to admit. To them, Israel is bad and that’s the end of the story.

All of this leads me to be very pessimistic about the whole situation. If the end goals of the two sides are very different, how is peace even possible? Extremists on the Israeli side (which, sadly, are those in power) are not about to give Palestinians full rights in a unified and fully democratic state, just as they are not willing to compromise on a two-state solution when they are busy settling the West Bank. So in that way, the end goals are not the same. And similarly, Palestinian leadership does not seem interested in letting Israel exist peacefully as a Jewish state. If they did, they would not break today’s ceasefire, launching rockets at Israeli cities in an unwinnable and ideological war.

While I am definitely a huge critic of Israeli foreign/domestic policy, I have just become increasingly annoyed at those I am supposed to agree with. Among this group, I have noticed a reluctance to criticize Palestinian/Arab leadership and the role that they have played in this conflict. As well, there is a reluctance to accept the difficult position that Israel is in. There is either a naive utopian vision where, if only Israel would lay down its arms everything in the Middle East would be better, or a much darker vision, where Israel is not a part of the Middle East picture at all. This is troubling, as Israel is the most democratic and functional state in the region (something the anti-Israeli crowd again doesn’t want to admit).

I don’t have a solution to the conflict. All I know is that Israel is acting unjustly, and Palestinians are, once again, at the disproportionate end of violence. What I also know is that smart enough people who criticize Israel are, for whatever reason, often unable to criticize Hamas and the role that Palestinians have in this recent violence. While it’s easy to just say that everything is Israel’s fault, that ignores the reality and complexity of the situation. People getting killed is a terrible tragedy, and until all of us step back from dogmatic extremism, people will continue to die. That means that pro-Israelis have to accept the plight and rights of the Palestinian people. And it also means that pro-Palestinians have to accept Israel’s place in the world and support leadership that actually seeks peace.