I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the situation in Gaza since it began. I’ve been asked by friends for my opinions, I’ve read numerous news articles and op-ed pieces from a multitude of perspectives and I have to say I’m at a loss. When Israel invaded Lebanon a few summers ago I felt heartbroken and betrayed. Maybe that feeling isn’t in place again because I never forgave Israel enough. I never got back to a place were I was in a position to have my heart broken again. I was no longer surprised by their actions. Or maybe it’s because the situation in Gaza just seems so beyond fixing. It’s a tangle is too tight to be unraveled. Or at least, by me, I keep hoping there are still smart idealistic people out there who think they may have an answer. Who still think peace is possible.
It’s not just about peace though. That is not the thrust of the issue. Yes, obviously there should be peace. Yes, cease fire sounds great, ceasing fire, no more fire. But the issues here go so much deeper. On the Palestinian side you have a people who have been so beaten down by generations of poverty, oppression and lack of opportunities that they cannot trust that peace could even exist. And on the Israeli side you have a people also bruised and embittered by constant wars. The pain of the aggressor seems like an oxymoron but it is actually there. It is that pain that allows people to say that it’s okay that innocent people are being killed. It’s that pain that shuts people off to the inhumanity of their actions.
I’m not saying that Israel is wrong to try to defend themselves from the rocket attacks. Israel has to watch out for its citizens. But I cannot condone the finger pointing that is going on. I just cannot watch one more talking head say that it is all Hamas’s fault that innocent civilians die because they are being used as human shields. As correct and horrible as that may be there is still no excuse. Morality, from a religious source or secular, should teach the stronger party to use their strength to lift up the weaker, not use the excuse of the others weakness to push them even further down.
I saw the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir this weekend. It’s getting a wide distribution in the next few weeks and I suspect that many people will be seeing it and getting the perspective into the Israeli psychology that it gives. The film is an animated documentary that follows the film maker’s attempts to remember his own participation in the ’82 Lebanon War and more specifically the role that he played in the massacres at Saaba and Shatila. The massacres were not led by the Israeli army. Yet, they were made possible by the Israeli army. The film cuts very deeply into that wound and lets it bleed. It explores the concept of responsibility of action and mind. We may not be the ones pulling the trigger but we cannot escape the implications of our own actions or inaction’s.
Watching the film and reading the news it is hard not to feel similarly. As a diaspora jew, as an american, I can watch but not watch. I can change the channel, I can ignore. I am not the one being hurt. My country is not involved. Except that we sit off at the sidelines and do nothing. We allow, not just in Gaza but all over the world, mass killings. Even now we are fighting wars and still there is no sign of it as we walk down the streets. There is a moment in Waltz where the narrator is remembering how during the wars he experienced as a child everything shut down, but in ’82, with the fighting up north life continued on. Our 21st century world allows us to live life comfortably unaware or only mildly aware of atrocities. Once you start looking at them though, looking deeply, it is hard to look away. I don’t know the answer to peace. But I do know that as much as I want to look away and live comfortably in my privileged world, I shouldn’t. I do know that I should look closely and ask those around me to do the same. I may not be smart enough or learned enough to solve this, I may never live to see it solved, but I can’t ignore that there is a problem and I can’t blindly support just because I believe in an ideology.