Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Big Lie -- In Action

I was browsing on the Temple's Facebook page a little while ago, and saw this entry. I repeat the posting as I copied it from the screen (although, without the photo and the catchy "Ha'aretz" logo, I recognize that it isn't really as exciting!)because I find it important information of which we should all be aware:

"Israeli soldier killed by Palestinian officer in West Bank knife attack - Haaretz - Israel News
Israeli soldier killed by Palestinian officer in West Bank knife attack -News and commentary relating to events in Israel, the occupied territories, and the world, along with an archive of past issues...."

I thought to myself: "I bet THIS doesn't make the news this evening!" Since, of course, the national news will likely be pre-empted by breathless local reportage of the snowstorm, even though all of Thursday's closings will be old news by then. But then, again, a story like this RARELY makes the national news in our country, anyway!

I am teaching our 9th graders about Israel in religious school this year. They are good kids, a bright class. Yet it is AMAZING not only what they do not know on the subject of Israel, but how markedly different their view of the whole Israel/Palestinian issue is because of that lack of both knowledge and experience.

My parents lived through the time when there WAS no State of Israel. They lived through the Nazi Holocaust of WWII, the revelation of the deaths and depravity. Their parents (since my parents were tweens and teenagers when this happened, and so were themselves somewhat lacking in the depth of appreciation of the moment) cried for joy at the UN Partition vote of 1947 that paved the way for the creation of the modern State of Israel, and saw it as a miracle, a phoenix rising from the ashes of the crematoria (and remember, they were remarkably assimilated Jews, with only a small family link to the death camps -- think how those with deeper personal losses, or deeper spiritual and religious attachment must have felt!).

I, myself, was a child when the linkage between the modern State of Israel and the Holocaust was replaced by the ecstatic joy of the massive victory of the 6 Day War in 1967. It wasn't until later that I fully realized the significance of hearing my first joke from Johnny Carson's monologue (it poked fun at the Egyptian Army for being run through by the Israelis). But at roughly the same time I was becoming aware of my Jewish identity, and learning to express it positively at Camp Harlam as a camper, it suddenly was COOL to be a Jew -- because of Israel's victory. Television commercials encouraged Americans to visit Israel -- we all learned "Bashanah Haba'ah" as the theme of those commercials. Israel, and by extention, Jews and Judaism, were "cool."

No longer was Israel seen as a state born of an attempt to rid the world of Jews. Granted, it took a massive military victory to make Israel appear "cool" to western sensibilities, and we somehow allowed ourselves not to be concerned by that truth. But cool Israel was, and we Jewish kids got to go along for the ride!

But what we missed, in retrospect, was significant -- so much so, that we and Israel are paying for it still. And it was far greater an issue of gaining our cool by military means, at the same time our country was rebelling against American soldiers being in Viet Nam! In the great victory of the 6-Day War, Israel lost her cachet as the "underdog," the "little country that could in the face of all odds," even, dare I suggest, as "victim" (although, assuredly, she continues to be victimized to this day!). Which meant, that it was only a matter of time before some other group picked up the mantle and ran with it, thereby earning the West's concern.

In the great victory of the 6 Day War, Israel also inherited, and underestimated the severity of, a massive refugee "problem." All those Arab refugees from the 1948 War of Independence, (some of whom, we must admit, were chased from their homes by the fledgling army of the newborn State of Israel, but most of whom left at the request of the attacking Arab armies, who wanted them out of the way so they could "push Israel into the sea" and promised to return to them even more than they left behind), rather than being assimilated into the surrounding Arab countries over that 20 year period, had, in fact, been kept in refugee camps by their Arab brothers. Their brothers and sisters treated them like dirt, and kept them as political pawns. And they built most of those refugee camps just across their borders with Israel.

So in taking land felt to be desperately needed for Israel's defense, in a defensive, if pre-emptive, war against a very real threat from her neighbors, one which brought great credit to the country in world eyes, Israel inherited what came to be known as "the Palestinian refugees." Some Israeli leaders, even in 1967, saw the political and demographic time bomb, and recommended immediate return of most of the land taken, and the refugees that lived there. But their view was not accepted as Israeli policy, at which point the Palestinian refugees became the centerpiece of the new propaganda war of victimization.

No one makes a better underdog than homeless refugees. And who was in control of the camps now? Israel. Didn't matter that someone else created and promulgated those camps against all common sense and decency. Since possession is the majority of the law, Israel was now perceived to be the oppressive bad guy, and the Palestinians were the new lovable victims.

Long before the US was thrust into the "War on Terror" on 9/11, the Israelis have lived under the constant terror of Palestinian terrorists, an outgrowth of the farming of the desperation of life in those refugee camps. Yet still Israel is seen as the aggressor, and the Palestinians as victims. Wave after wave of rockets can be fired by Palestinians from Gaza, onto apartments in Israeli towns inside the "green line" (and therefore, unquestionably on Israeli soil), and the world says nothing. But let the Israeli government act in legitimate defense of her citizens to stop those rockets, and she is labelled as a militant and unprovoked aggressor, an army attacking innocent civilians.

This is the "news" our current teens live with on a regular basis. I cry that they get no ability to be "cool" through a natural connection to the Jewish state like I did. I fear that imbalance in what they learn through the media will make them far less likely to be strong supporters of Israel as adults than were their parents and grandparents. Which is why, as hard as I push for Jewish summer camping, I push even harder for our young people to have a first-hand Israel experience for themselves!

And if that was the end of the post on my Facebook page, it would be a sad enough reverie that it inspired. But these were the first 2 posts in response to it, which also appeared exactly as reproduced here, on my page:

"Magued Hanna likes this.

Safwan Zaza -- Hmmm is this going to be an excuse for a massive death campaign that'll erase half of the West Bank's Palestinian population similar to the one we witnessed in Gaza recently? No seriously it's a great excuse :)) ... My condolences to his family and loved ones, he was just doing his job."

And suddenly, we are reminded even more that this is not merely a philosophical concern, but a very real one. Under what other circumstances would anyone feel comfortable clicking the "like" button in response to a soldier being killed? That is an outrage on everyone's sensibilities regarding the value of HUMAN life!

And then, to read the historically WRONG and totally cynical second response, knowing that IT is far too likely to be the tone of the day in our global society, is enough to make a caring person cry out in despair.

Don't get me wrong -- the Israeli government is not always right in what they choose to do, in my eyes. I am educated enough to know that not every Palestinian is a terrorist, and a caring enough person to cry when innocent Palestinians are killed and injured, and lose their homes, just as I am when the same things happen to Israelis, or anyone else. I believe that peace -- in the form of a 2-state solution that requires mutual recognition, respect, and cooperation -- is the only viable long-term solution.

But, with each passing day, it becomes harder to explain why this is, except to those who already "get it." Victimization and the "Big Lie" are much easier than doing your homework, visiting the area, and drawing your own, sometimes difficult, conclusions, and therefore the vast majority will merely accept them.

In the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves!

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