On Israel and the endless slap in America’s face.

I often feel that I am absolutely out of words on Israel/Palestine. Out. Finished. Done. The well is dry, and the bucket has a hole.

But sweet baby Moses in the bulrushes, if Israel/Palestine doesn’t keep doing the same ol’ do, forcing me to search around in my bag for a little more verbiage. Woe, as they say, is me.

Of course, woe is them. Woe to the people who are constantly living in that absolutely solvable insanity, an insanity that no one has the stomach to solve. The stomach, the fortitude, the valor, the dash, the enterprise — nobody has it, apparently.

With this latest slap in the American Administration’s face (or, as it’s known in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: This latest incident of stealing land from people who have no home), I find myself almost punch-drunk with the ridiculousness of it all. Since about 1995, Israel has done nothing but piss in America’s cornflakes. And yet America seems pretty ok with that!

What does Israel have on us? Did it give America a wedgie once? Does it have pictures of America at an orgy? Has it squirreled away far-reaching evidence of American involvement in extra-judicial deaths and cocaine-fueled jungle battles? What?

Because honestly: Why on earth is the world’s lone remaining superpower continuing to accept blatant abrogation of international agreements to which both it and Israel have affixed their names? Everything from the UN Declaration on Human Rights, to the Oslo Accords, to the Road Map to Peace, to the Condoleezza Rice-brokered border crossing agreement of November 2005 — Israel pitches a fit, demands concession after concession, condition after condition, and then, without so much as a by your leave, does whatever the hell it wants.

Let’s take a gander at these documents, shall we?

Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 (1948):

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

The Oslo Accords (“Declaration of Principles”), Annex IV (1993):

The economic development programme for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will consist of the following elements:
(1) A Social Rehabilitation Programme, including a Housing and Construction Programme
(2) A Small and Medium Business Development Plan
(3) An Infrastructure Development Programme (water, electricity, transportation and communications, etc)
(4) A Human Resources Plan
(5) Other programmes

Road Map to Peace, “Settlements” (2003):

  • GOI [Government of Israel] immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.
  • Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

Border Crossing Agreement of November 2005:

Israel will allow 150 truckloads bound for all markets to pass through Karni each day by the year’s end, when a new freight scanner is scheduled to be up and running there. The number of daily truckloads would increase to 400 by the end of 2006.

None of that happened. None of it. (For a particularly stark picture of just what Israel thinks of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, go take a look at the UN’s figures on life in Gaza today). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

And yes, should anyone ask, I am fully aware the Palestinians haven’t been angels, either. But you know what? We Israelis are still the ones with the tanks, the functioning government and economy, and the superpower best friend. With great power (and yes, we’re the powerful party here, not the eternal victims) comes great responsibility — and with massive failure to live up to great responsibility comes massive misery.

As an Israeli, I long to see my country live in peace and security. I long to see all that energy that Israel currently puts toward hatred and fear re-directed toward creativity and growth. In the most selfish terms imaginable: I long for it to be a county in which I would want to live again.

But as an American, I grow weary of my word meaning nothing, my government’s commitments meaningless, my nation’s promises little more than ashes. I grow weary of my tax dollars going endlessly to support not one but two hopeless projects: Israel itself (which will eventually be broken by its refusal to bend) and the peace process (forget how much it cost to send Obama to Asia — how much have we spent on shuttles to Jerusalem?). And yes – I grow weary of being slapped in the face, over and over and over again.

If the Obama Administration really, genuinely values the words its various members keep mouthing about the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people, the urgent need for an authentic peace, and the importance such a peace holds for both Israeli and American security needs — then it needs to step up.

It needs to step up, and step on toes, and risk the wrath of certain quarters of the Israeli and American Jewish public, and stop rolling over every.single.time the Israeli government does everything it can to doom any remaining scrap of hope for a durable peace with the Palestinians. The Administration needs to demand action, and there have to be consequences to inaction.

Heartwarming words do not feed children, or heal wounds, or provide shelter. They do not provide the human and national rights they purport to support. They are just words.

And Israel has already shown how little respect is has for words.

13 Comments

  1. JIM RICH

     /  November 10, 2010

    To Whom Considering the water issue on top of the land issue drawing a boarder line agreeable to both parties is not a realistic expectation however much peace is desired. The root problem is “tribal” identity that must be transcended as one’s primary identity. to be a human bening first dissolves all differences and would allow for cooperative living in a single state.

  2. skeptical

     /  November 10, 2010

    I totally appreciate you’re frustrated and all ’bout this conflict but when you write: “Since about 1995, Israel has done nothing but piss in America’s cornflakes”, I immediately completely stop paying attention to anything you are saying.
    I guess it’s hard for you (like it is for most on this subject) to remain evenhanded but this isn’t the way to convince anybody that you are unbiased, objective and worth listening to.
    And the only only only way to communicate effectively on this subject is to acknowledge BOTH sides pain.

    • It is hypocrisy to claim someone else cannot be “evenhanded,” when you yourself will not give them the benefit of the doubt by repeating the complete article. That statement is borne of frustration, but it is a fact: Israel, for all the time they have spent at negotiating tables, dragged there by the United States, has seen fit to do nothing but make promises it does not intend to keep, then lecture us about our history. I fail to see how that invalidates anything that may be said afterward.

      • skeptical

         /  November 10, 2010

        okay, listen if you feel like having a conversation with yourself go ahead and do it, it might be more fun than it looks, but if you want to engage the other side (Israel) this isn’t the way to go about it.
        Even if you really do believe with all your soul that “Israel has seen fit to do nothing”, you must realize that most israelis honestly feel that they and their country have made painful compromises.
        And until you acknowledge that, and in the same vein, as soon as israelis acknowledge the compromises that the palestinians have made, there will be a understanding and communication which maybe can be built upon.

        • This isn’t a pissing contest — it’s not who is more beset by whom. It’s a question of bringing an end to a conflict that has gone on for far too long, and has a simple enough solution, should both sides choose to put down their slings and arrows and acknowledge that it is a stalemate, and their best option is peace.

          And don’t confuse the government’s stance with the will of “most” Israelis. While there are hard-liners who would like nothing more than to simply eradicate the Palestinians, I think it is safe to say that the average Israeli would like to go through life without the constant fear of being bombed on a bus or shelled or having their homes destroyed by rocket fire. Any concessions made have been token, and have not lasted long enough to be realistic. There was no reason for the moratorium on settlement building to expire, especially as progress was being made in the talks, but expire it did, and the talks ground to a halt. Then the Israeli government could claim that it “tried its best,” when that was not the case.

      • @skeptical – I don’t normally reply in my own comments section, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that I’m not trying to engage “the other side” — I’m engaging my own. I’m Israeli. If you’d like to know my background and credentials, you can read the intro to this: https://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/israelpalestine-a-reading-list/ and https://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/re-post-reason-12087-that-i-hate-the-occupation/ (and any number of other posts, scattered about the place. Click on “Israel/Palestine,” to your right).

        Also, before this conversation goes much further, I would suggest you look at my commenting rules on the About commenting page.

      • skeptical

         /  November 10, 2010

        EmilyHauser: I appreciate you responding. I do realize you are israeli but I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.
        What I’m trying to get at is that when you are involved in this type of conflict and somebody makes a blanket statement that doesn’t acknowledge at all the pain of the other side, there is no longer a dialogue going on. It’s just talking to yourself and people who think exactly like you do.
        I’ll admit I was nitpicking though but I really don’t see how this matters if you are israeli or nigerian?

        NefariousNew: I know this isn’t a pissing contest. It’s just rare to read anything written by one side in this conflict that actually acknowledges that both sides have gone through pain and compromised. For instance, israel evacuating gaza was an example of compromise. The palestinians in the west bank cooperating with the IDF and effectively policing themselves was also compromise.

  3. dmf

     /  November 10, 2010

    keep yer head up ee…

  4. Katherine

     /  November 10, 2010

    Thank you, thank you, for this post.

    I travelled to Israel and Palestine this May. I saw and heard what life is like for the Palestinians, and spoke with people who have more patience, forgiveness, and hope than I can imagine being able to muster up.

    And ever since there’s been this hard knot of seething rage in my stomach, against Israel and Israelis, that shows up whenever I think about the region, and a hope that Israel’s behavior comes back to bite them, hard. That doesn’t help anything, and it isn’t fair, and intellectually I know that there are Israelis who don’t agree with what their government does. But it’s now my default reaction to any report from the region,

    So every time I read something that reminds me there are Israelis who strongly oppose their government’s actions, it does me good.

  5. When a bully gets away with it for so long, they become brazen; that’s what Israel has done to Palestine. Israel holds all the cards — no amount of worldly outrage has change life in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Palestinians continue to struggle every day, the black market goes on unhindered, and Hamas continues to stockpile political and physical ammunition. It as if they are two wrestlers, locked in a mortal struggle, neither of whom shall yield, braced against each other, struggling to the death, as the crowd roars approbations and agony. Only they can break their mutual grip, but neither seems capable, for lack of will or fear of shame. At some point, someone will have to intercede.

  6. debbie

     /  November 10, 2010

    People often ask whether things will ever change in the Middle East, but I wonder whether, Rabin’s attempts aside, meaningful work for peace ever really got started. I recently read Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock, published in 1993, and the Israeli/Palestinian complaints read as if they’d had been voiced earlier this year. I’m now reading Antonia Fraser’s memoir of her life with Harold Pinter, and their discussions during a trip to Israel in 1978 reflect the same arguments that are now taking place. It’s really tragic.

    • dmf

       /  November 10, 2010

      the other day I was talking to an old IRA solider and he was telling me how the ANC helped them to come to terms with peace and how the IRA was then working with various Palestinian groups to do the same, and he told me that the past was not to be given too much weight in such matters b/c it would be some context of recent events that would turn the tide. He was more optimistic about peace in the Middle-East than he was about the recent elections here, make of that what you will.
      needless to say this will drag on a bit and is not worth losing any night’s sleep over..

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