Sunday, July 16, 2006


G.I. Yossi vs. the Israeli left

overall, just to preface, i quote bz in his post over at jewschool, that no matter who ultimately is at fault, and who started it, and who should stop bombing first:
I think we can all agree on one point: THIS SUCKS.
and while i'm trying to figure out where i stand on this big complicated mess, i guess i'm most angry about my powerlessness to do much of anything to affect the situation and quicken the end of the violence, outside of prayer. as well as curiousity about why the israeli left has been largely silent, and whether that means that as a progressive american jew i should be silent as well?

obviously, my first questions is whether i can separate this latest series of unfortunate events from the broader history of the arab-israeli-palestinian conflict? should i even bother to try?

the wall, the economic strangling of gaza via closures, the road blocks, the refugee camps, the terrorist bombings, the 1948 war, the 1967 war, the partition plan, the role of arab countries in fomenting the camps, etc... all directly or indirectly play a role in the current crisis. but it doesn't answer my question.

israel is a small country. in jewish-israeli society everyone is connected to everyone else (think 2 degrees of separation). everyone does a stint in the military after high school, before college. when a young israeli soldier is kidnapped, the average israeli instantly either imagines him/herself in the same circumstance or its happening to their son or daughter.

israeli "unilaterally" pulled out of southern lebanon in 2000 (and gaza in 2005). in the israeli mindset, the lebanese pullout was supposed to appease hezbollah and the other millitants who had been firing rockets into israel. so now, with hezbollah firing more rockets into israel, the thinking is "see, we tried to do the right thing and play nice, but obviously, you people only understand violence, so alright, you asked for it, no more mr. nice guy."

also, with the katyusha rockets having a longer range, areas that had seemed "safe" from low-level rocket attacks, are suddenly targets. haifa, which by being 20 miles south of the lebanese border, had been out of range, is now in the same category as kiryat shemona and other towns closer to the border. 10 miles had made the difference here. only 10 miles. israel is very small geographically. about the size of new jersey.
This conflict is not about lines on a map; it’s about intimacy. “Everyone is in everyone’s face here,” said one official. The analogies made for Americans are these: Israel is the size of New Jersey, Gaza is the size of Delaware, and the West Bank is a third of Rhode Island. This is about legitimacy and safety, and until both sides achieve some modicum of well being, or deterrence, there will be no peace.
this feeling of being under siege, fed by echoes of the holocaust (i.e., "we will not be lambs led to the slaughter, damn it!") creates what a friend of mine has dubbed the "g.i. yossi" phenomena. all american jews know it -- the mythic israeli macho soldier wearing sunglasses, cigarette hanging from his lips, black machine gun around his soldiers.

the perfect antithesis to the woody allen nebbish that we all know as the impotent jewish male. (16 year-old billy jacobson from secaucus, new jersey on his nfty trip to israel never had a chance... rachel millerberg always went for 18 year-old uri from the army instead).

white jews may not be able to jump, but if you mess with us, we'll sic the mossad on your ass. ever try messing with an el-al security officer as you're waiting in line to board your plane? bad idea....

i admit it, even as a crazy lefty, that persona has appeal. what jewish boy doesn't grow up idolizing sandy koufax and hank greenberg? or want to become adam goldberg in the "hebrew hammer"?

in any case, i read today in yedidot achranot's website that there was a rally of 1000+ people in Tel Aviv last night:
They keep telling us that there is a consensus in support of the war, and that's not true. They keep telling the citizens that this is the only way, and I think that there is another way," said Abeer Kopty of Mossawa, The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel.

The organizations Ta'ayush, Yesh Gvul, The Women's Coalition for Peace and other left-wing groups have joined forces "to voice a different opinion against the war and in favor of negotiations," she explained.

Eitan Lerner, who took part in the rally, said: "Israel is entering another cycle of fighting and continues the foolishness of exaggerated aggression. I came here to protest because there's a link between starving and oppressing the Palestinians and the bombings in Lebanon."

"It's true that what Hizbullah did was unacceptable, but Israel is overreacting. Since when is the entire population to blame for all this?" he asked.

Rela Mazali from the New Profile organization explained: "This is a stupid, unnecessary and evil war. Our leaders could have prevented it. eventually the hostages will be released through negotiations, but hundreds will be killed along the way in Lebanon, and I don't know how many will die here. I think that we must make our voice heard."

Manal Amuri from Jerusalem called on the Israeli government to hold talks with Hamas and Hizbullah. "The Israeli aggression leads to an overall war no one wants. I think that Israel should negotiate with Hizbullah and Hamas and release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages. This way this story will come to an end."

"What Israel is doing now resulted in the death of civilians, innocent children, and it serves no purpose except for the government's vindictiveness. I think it's good we're showing that there are Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel who oppose the war."
i don't know what the answer is. i doubt that this rally will accomplish anything. i feel for the israelis, the palestinians and the lebanese. i'm eternally optimistic for nations to finally beat their rockets into ploughshares and their uzis into pruninghooks.

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