Sunday, July 16, 2006
G.I. Yossi vs. the Israeli left
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 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:
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.