8/21/11 update: Please click here and here to read up on Saturday night’s J14 rallies (including some great pictures), here to learn about on-going rocket fire into Israel (one man killed), and here to learn about the on-going Israeli attacks on Gaza (14 dead, and extensive damage to basic infrastructure).
Busy days for me — all good things: a big boy’s birthday party, a little girl’s end of summer lunch out, some work, some tutoring, all good — but for me it’s been and will be wrapped in the shadow of the events in southern Israel and Gaza. Death and blood, blood and death, hate and fear and the everlasting whining grind of mindless destruction.
I keep feeling that I need to keep my word and write about the events, the blood and death, the implications and possible outcomes, and I just can’t get over the sense that it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot.
And I frankly don’t know where to start or where to begin.
There are civilians dead in Israel; there are soldiers dead, too. There are civilians dead in Gaza (including a two year old), as well as militants. There are people desperately wounded one on side of the border, and on the other as well. There are soldiers dead in Egypt, no less, dead because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the implications of a breakdown of Israeli-Egyptian relations are mildly terrifying. It’s Friday there now, and Israelis in parts of the south are spending the day running from rockets; people all over Gaza are doing the same (only they have no where to run). One side’s weapons are more deadly than the other’s, but it’s that side that getting the world’s attention and sympathy. Some of the leaders of Israel’s J14 social protests decided to cancel the rallies planned for Saturday — only to have rank-and-file protesters raise a hue and cry, and now the demonstrations are back on.
Aside from the speed with which all the violence unfolded (siren on top of siren, death on top of death), that last item is the only thing that’s even remotely new (well, I guess the Egyptian soldiers being killed is kind of new, but they died caught up in the same-old-same-old). The notion of Israelis refusing to back away from their legitimate demands in the face of an instantaneous escalation of violence is almost unprecedented. It may just be flat-out unprecedented.
I feel overwhelmed and dizzy. When you look at the Palestinian attacks in southern Israel, it’s apparent they were well-planned. When you look at the speed with which Israel reacted, it’s apparent it was well-planned. There is readiness for war on all sides, and when one side delivers, the other obliges. Of course, this is just as it has always been, and about twice a year, Israel announces that it will be wiping those terrorists off the map for real this time. Until the next attack, when no one seems to notice that the last massive bombing of Gaza did no good.
The only people served by any of it, of course, are those who want nothing more than to see the two peoples hate each other unto eternity. Your Netanyahus, your Liebermans, your Hamas leadership, possibly the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee which Israel says was responsible for the attacks but which, for the record, denies involvement.
Those who would see no more blood on their front pages or front doorsteps are not served. Those who want to educate their babies not to hate but to build. Those who would like to feel safe walking down the street, or free to visit loved ones, or to build a house or get good medical care or tell the world who they really are — erase the stereotypes and the caricatures and just live and die as free people — none of them are served by this.
My gut response is to bury my head in my arms and feel the despair wash over me. What has happened in the last 24 hours is every bad story ever told out of Israel/Palestine, on steroids. It is very hard to not feel like what we are seeing now is just the beginning of something much, much worse, something that will spin and spin and spin out of control until all and everyone are ruined in its ferocity.
But when I lift my head, I see one ray of hope: Those Israelis who are refusing to back down — are refusing to do the very thing that Netanyahu surely wants them to do — and will be back on the streets, in silent memorial and also in powerful presence, on Saturday night. They will go out, they say, to silently honor the dead. But by doing so on the streets they have claimed, these Israelis — my Israelis — are saying loud and clear: We will no longer let you tell us what the truth is.
The balance of power lies with Israel, and has since somewhere in 1948. There was a war between two desperately needy nationalist movements, and my side won. Today, if we want to see an end to this kind of madness, we have to be the side to stop it. We are the side with the power. We are the side with the power.
I have some small, slim, narrow hope that those folks who have been pouring into Israel’s streets for more than a month may finally be the ones to make the leap for us (and I’m encouraged that I’m not the only one). These Israelis may finally be the ones to say: Enough. We must stop that — because we must do this.
Prayers and hope and endless, endless, bottomless love tonight to my Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters. Please, please: Save us from ourselves, save us from each other. Please — do not let this butchery and chaos sweep us all away.