Tag Archives: Hamas

Bernie Sanders, Israel, Palestine, and Me

I need to make a few things clear, here.

Today, I saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of: “How to Make Young Liberals Vote for Palestinian Genocide” with an image of Bernie Sanders and a speech bubble that said “Free College.”

This meme is both offensive and factually incorrect. It implies that Bernie Sanders is anti-Palestine. He isn’t. But he’s not anti-Israel either. It is possible to be both pro-Israel and to recognize what’s going on with the Palestinians at the same time, and that as a displaced group, they deserve a two-state solution, which Sanders supports. So let’s go down this list of reasons why I am pro-Israel (and pro-Bernie Sanders) and why I feel a two-state solution is the correct solution here.

  1. As I have said before, you cannot expect a nation not to defend against armed insurrection at its borders. This is especially true when said nation is in a war-torn and violent area, such as the Middle East. Let’s be real, here, okay? If we told the armed forces of Libya to stand down, do you really think they’d listen? How about the armed forces of the Ukraine? Please recognize that saying “Israel has to be the one to stop shooting” is ridiculous on its face. Israel is under attack, both by terrorist groups and by front groups for Arabic nations in the region that want Israel to stop existing. It has a right to defend itself.This does not mean that I support any of the terrorist actions undertaken by Israeli settlers in the West Bank or in Gaza. I don’t. Those settlers should be ashamed of themselves, and they should voluntarily repatriate themselves into the inside borders of Israel. However, it must also be said that…
  2. Palestine is not a real place. It has no historical nationhood. It is not an ethnicity. “Palestine” was a label placed on the area that is now Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, first by the Romans when they occupied it, and more recently by the British when they occupied the Middle East as a functionary of the United Nations. “Palestinian” is a political label, not an ethnic one. There were plenty of Jewish Palestinians right there in the same area as the Arabic/Muslim Palestinians. What the media are calling “Palestinians” are simply Arab Muslims who lived in the same area that is now Israel. Most of them are not from that area; they are from the Arabic nations surrounding that area.
  3. Israel fought wars for that land, won those wars, and by the standards of war recognized around the globe, that land is and has been Israel’s since 1948. At the time the wars were fought, the Arabic nations surrounding the area that is now Israel could have absorbed the Arabic refugees from those wars. They actively refused to.You know why? Because their goal is to make things as difficult for Israel as possible and to, ideally, wipe Israel off the map.
  4. Saying you will not vote for Bernie Sanders for President in America, because he has voted for Israeli funding packages in the past is being incredibly blind. Let’s be clear about this: An American politician cannot make another country do what he wants it to do. There is no magic wand labeled “American President” that can somehow convince Netanyahu and Hamas to work for a peaceful solution here.Nevertheless, Sanders has stated his support for a two-state solution. It is documented that he said this in August: “Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own, and the United States should do what it can to make sure that state has a strong economy. Israel is entitled to live in security, not be attacked.” 

    Can he force Netanyahu to accept a two-state solution? No. Can he force the Arabic world around Israel to accept a two-state solution? No. Can he make sure Israel continues to exist? Yes.

    So what, exactly, would you expect him to do in order to get that two-state solution in place?

  5. I had an acquaintance say “Voting for Bernie Sanders when he has supported funding for Israel is exactly like voting for an anti-GLBT politician when you’re GLBT.” Sorry. No. That’s incorrect. Americans, no matter how much we think we can, cannot make other countries do anything that they won’t already do. Trying to compare a foreign-policy issue (Israel and Palestine) to a domestic issue (LGBT rights in the United States) does not fly. They are not comparable.A person who votes against my rights here at home has power over that situation, and they will not get my vote. A person who states that they think that another country should take certain actions has done as much as they have the power to do, and if I agree with their position, they will get my vote.

This really is not that difficult to understand. What’s driving me wild is how other people think this is simple: you should only vote for a politician who will somehow fix the situation in Israel. Well, that’s fine, but you need to understand that it’s unrealistic. Americans (and people from anywhere else, frankly) can’t fix the problems in Israel. We can advocate for a certain solution, but apart from that, there is nothing else we can reasonably do about this issue. Hamas is part of the problem, and nobody seems to be talking about that. The Arabic nations surrounding Israel are also part of the problem, but nobody seems to be talking about that, either.

Everyone has to own their own responsibility, here. It’s not just Israel’s responsibility. Other nations are contributing to the problem, too. And despite what many Americans seem to think, America can’t make Israel do anything that Israel isn’t already prepared to do.

So get off your BDS high horses and look at reality, please, because there are three basic options and none of them lie in the hands of an American politician:

  1. A two-state solution is reached, and Israel and the Palestinians have a truce. Israeli settlers are withdrawn from the newly established Palestinian state’s territory and repatriated to other areas in Israel, and Palestinians stop attacking Israel with guns, knives, and rockets.
  2. Israel throws all Palestinians out of the area claimed by Israel and the Arabic nations absorb the refugees, as they should have done back in 1948.
  3. Israel ceases to exist and the Arabic nations around it overrun it and kill all Israelis.

That third option? That is never going to happen. Jews all over the world need a place that is a refuge in times of trouble, where we won’t be carted away to extermination camps again. That place is Israel.

So pick one of the other two. But get this straight: you have no influence over what happens. 

And neither does Bernie Sanders.

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Gaza update: Five-day ceasefire extension.

I’ll just leave this here. 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28782224

Let’s hope the ceasefire continues and that somehow we get what needs to happen out of it. 

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http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/palestinians-quit-gaza-talks-israel-show-24917164

Apparently another ceasefire is in effect for 72 hours from Sunday morning at midnight.

Hamas wants an end to the blockade in order to extend this truce. Israel wants Hamas to disarm and won’t lift the blockade due to the risk of arms smuggling if they do.

And, of course, there’s still that little problem where Hamas wants to eradicate Israel and all Jews.

So I’m not celebrating yet, and I’m not holding my breath.

 

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I would love to be wrong, but…

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28687379

There has been a ceasefire since Tuesday. In Cairo, there are attempts to extend it into a long-term truce.

Israel is willing.

Hamas is not.

I would love to be wrong here. I would love for Hamas to prove me wrong here. I would love for my friends to be able to say “I told you so.”

But the other day I said that Hamas will not negotiate. And of the two parties involved here, they are the ones refusing to negotiate or extend the truce.

I wish they would prove me wrong.

I do not approve of what they’re doing. I do not approve of them firing from civilian areas and using civilians as human shields (never mind that it doesn’t meet the UN definition of using people as human shields by force; they fire from civilian areas and thereby make those areas into targets). I do not approve of Israel not trying to find better ways to handle this problem than firing back into civilian areas, but I understand why they’re doing it. I get it that Gaza is a heavily populated area and that civilians have no place to go, but Hamas had the construction materials to create bomb shelters and instead they used that material to create tunnels under the border into Israel. So don’t tell me that they couldn’t have taken care of this. They could have. They chose not to. If they were a legitimate government, they would have built bomb shelters for their population. Instead, they fire off rockets from residential neighborhoods.

As I said, there is no 100% clean place to stand here. But Hamas is not a government. Sure, the Palestinians elected Hamas to run the country, but Hamas is not doing that. They are not providing food, water, shelter, or safety for the citizens of Gaza – quite to the contrary. So don’t tell me that they were legitimately elected and that therefore they are the government of Gaza. They’re not behaving like a government. If they were, they’d provide their citizens with food, water, shelter, jobs, air-raid sirens, and bomb shelters. They’re not doing any of that, now are they? No. They’re behaving like what they are – a terrorist organization propped up by Qatar and other Arabic states that want Israel wiped off the map. They are putting the citizens of Gaza on ground zero and ignoring the real human consequences while exploiting those consequences for political gain around the world.

Also, let’s not forget that the Arabic nations were entirely supportive of Hitler’s efforts to eradicate the Jews. That’s also an issue here. History does not go away just because the current situation is horrible.

Again, the Palestinians are caught in this crossfire. That is horrific and unacceptable. But let’s also be clear here: Hamas has the ability to stop this, and it is refusing to do so.

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About Israel and Palestine and Hamas.

I know that for many people in the blogosphere, the issue of what’s going on in Israel is black-and-white, a struggle for freedom by a subjugated people against a big bad nasty evil government that has superior firepower and military strength. Subjugated people in the form of Palestinians in Gaza: check. Evil government in the form of the Israeli government that is dropping bombs on innocent civilians in Gaza: check. Hamas as freedom-fighters for the subjugated Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank: check. That’s the narrative. Oh, and let’s add in here: Israeli government refusing to negotiate with those freedom-fighters, which makes it even worse and more despotic and so forth. Check.

If you read most news right now, that’s the story you’re being told about what’s going on in Gaza.

But let me ask you this: does the fact that nearly all of the nations which surround Israel (except for Egypt and, possibly, Jordan) want Israel wiped off the map because it is a Jewish state matter in this black-and-white debate? Hamas is yet another iteration of Arabic terrorism against Jews and another attempt to eliminate Israel as a nation. Does that matter? Does it matter that Palestine was offered 95% of the land they wanted as well as independent statehood, and rejected it because the offer did not include the elimination of Israel as a nation?

Also, please note the distinctions between “Israelis” and “Jews,” as well as the distinctions between “Hamas” and “Palestinians.” If you fail to make these distinctions, I’m going to dismiss what you have to say. Not all Israelis are Jews. Not all Jews are Israelis. Not all Jews who are Zionists are okay with what’s going on in Gaza. Not all Palestinians are supporters of Hamas.

This is not a black-and-white issue. It can’t be.

There’s also the fact that Hamas is hiding munitions in civilian spaces on purpose, to create civilian deaths when Israel moves to eliminate those munitions, as good, bloody, splashy, horrific PR for Hamas’ side.

I am NOT okay with civilian deaths in Palestine. I am not okay with death generally. I am not okay with war. But I don’t see a way out of this that preserves Israel as a state and also preserves the lives of the people in Gaza unless Hamas agrees to stand down and get out of Gaza, which it’s already made clear that it will not do.

I also see this as fundamentally different from other scenarios where a small group of “freedom fighters” fight against a large, established nation. Normally, that nation is not surrounded by other nations that want it to disappear. Israel is. You can blather on that Hamas is fighting the big bad Israeli monster, but that monster pales compared to the monsters Israel has to fight (every Arabic nation except Egypt and possibly Jordan, for starters).

Let’s be clear, here: Hamas is not a set of freedom fighters struggling to liberate a subjugated people. It is an opportunistic terrorist group that is using a subjugated people as cannon fodder to make itself look like a set of freedom fighters. The Palestinians are the main victims here – that’s not in dispute. But Hamas also has Israel over a barrel because Hamas will not negotiate.

Meanwhile, the international community is coming down on Israel for not being open to a peaceful solution. Well, until Hamas (and the neighbor Arab states surrounding Israel) give up their demand that Israel cease to exist, there can be no peaceful solution here. And folks, that is not Israel’s fault. If I told you “The only negotiation token I’ll accept is if you agree to commit suicide and cease to exist,” it’s not your fault if you reject it. You would be crazy if you didn’t.

There is no good, 100% clean place to stand here. I cannot support the elimination of Israel. But by supporting Israel’s right to exist, I appear to also support the deaths of Palestinian civilians who have been placed in harm’s way by Hamas. I do not support their deaths. But those who support the Palestinians also, by definition, appear to support Hamas.

Let’s be clear here. Hamas is to blame for this entire situation. It is Hamas and its supporters who could easily end this if they would accept the presence of a Jewish state in the region and a two-state solution for Gaza and the West Bank. It is not the Palestinians’ fault. They don’t deserve what’s happening to them. But what is happening to them is Hamas’ fault (and the fault of all of its supporters in the area).

So, don’t be a supporter of Hamas, please. If you are, I will think less of you. Support the Palestinians all you like and I’ll agree with you. I support a two-state solution in Gaza and the West Bank. But be aware that Hamas does not support a two-state solution, and it never will support a two-state solution. And factor that fact into your position when you post on this topic.

So, given that Hamas will not negotiate – keep that in mind, now – and that their ultimate goal is the elimination of Israel as a politically recognized state – again, for Hamas this is not negotiable – what, exactly, would you do as the Israeli government? Before you answer, consider that most of the Arabic states that surround Israel also want Israel wiped off the map. Also consider that many Israelis are not Jews.

Tougher than it looks, isn’t it?

Please stop making sweeping condemnations of Israel for what’s going on in Israel. Yes, what is happening to Palestinians should not be happening. Yes, it’s awful. But the fact is, Hamas will not negotiate, and Hamas is setting Palestinians up to be targeted by using civilian locations like schools, and hospitals, and mosques for the storage of arms and armaments, while also telling Palestinians to ignore Israel’s bombing warnings and refusing to give Palestinians any sort of safe shelters (although it could have and has not). Short of a full-on ground invasion of Gaza and the arrest of every last member of Hamas (which is kind of like trying to spear every last bit of Jell-O with a fork – try it sometime), what else is Israel supposed to do here? Roll over and die? I have not seen any viable suggestions, only condemnations. A suggestion that they should negotiate with Hamas fails from the get-go because HAMAS WILL NOT NEGOTIATE HERE.

So given that Hamas will not negotiate, what’s your solution? When you have one, let me know.

And in the meantime, please acknowledge the full reality of the situation, instead of supporting a terrorist group that created this situation in the first place.

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I can’t be thankful today

27 Tamuz 5774

The Israeli leadership has just admitted that they knew from the start that Hamas was not behind the kidnapping of those three Israeli teenagers. Most likely, it was an independent cell of terrorists who did not care about the repercussions of their actions. 

Go on, read the link. I’ll wait.

Done reading?

I am ashamed of my adopted state. I am angry with Netanyahu and his government for perpetuating a lie. And I am furious that this was used as an initial justification for attacks on a civilian population. I am enraged that this put peace talks in jeopardy.

Gratitude isn’t really in the cards in the face of this disgusting revelation. I just feel sick.

I’ll see you all on Sunday. Maybe by then we’ll know more and I’ll have calmed down. But the fact that my challah came out perfectly seems very… trivial, in the face of this knowledge.

Shalom ba’olam. Sooner, rather than later, please.

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Gaza

23 Tamuz 5774

Sometimes it’s hard to sort out fact from propaganda.

Here’s the issues I know about in Gaza at this point. Please correct me with documentary evidence if I’m wrong on any of these things, because this is only what I’ve been able to find out from various news sources. And please be aware that we are NOT discussing the behavior of individual Israelis or Palestinians (and yes, both sides apparently have cheering sections that celebrate the deaths of people on the opposing side – which is frankly appalling and shameful).

In this post, I am only talking about the interactions of a sovereign state, Israel, with a terrorist group, Hamas. (Anyone who comments accusing me of anti-Arab or, for that matter, anti-Islam bias will be blocked and their comment deleted. Hamas is not all Arabs or all Muslims.)

1. Gaza, for its residents, is very much like the shtetls in Poland were for the Jews. This is obviously not an acceptable situation. Yes, it is an apartheid state. Yes, a two-state solution where Palestinians establish their own sovereign state is the most optimal solution.

2. Hamas is not Palestine or all Palestinians, and people need to stop equating the two because they are not the same. Palestinians are people who currently live in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist group masquerading as a government. It does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and has, in at least one documented instance, stated that its goal is to destroy Israel and kill all Jews (if it can). Since that is its goal, and since it does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state, it refuses to enter into any negotiations for cease-fires or other solutions. 

3. Israel, as far as I know, warns both Gazans and Israelis when bombs or rockets are incoming and warns them to get to safety. In Israel, there are bomb shelters for people who must leave their homes, provided by the Israeli government. Meantime, in Gaza, Hamas tells people to ignore Israeli warnings, while not providing any shelters for people who are going to be bombed. Hamas also stores its munitions in schools, hospitals, and mosques, making these civilian spaces into military targets.

To me, at this point, from where I’m sitting in the safety of my home in the United States, it looks like Israel is doing the best it can to eliminate Hamas military stockpiles while trying to get civilians on both sides out of the way of the conflict. It also looks like Hamas (not the Palestinians) is doing the best it can to make that impossible while painting Israel as a bully and Palestinians as innocent victims. I agree that the Palestinians who have died are innocent victims. But Hamas could make this stop by coming to the negotiating table, and it isn’t doing that. Therefore, the innocent victims are victims of Hamas.

It is not blaming the victim to hold Hamas responsible for deaths it could have prevented by either providing shelter or, I don’t know, storing its munitions in military spaces instead of civilian ones. Hamas is not the victim here. Palestinians are.

Tell me, how is it that Israel is the bad guy when it delivers warnings to Palestinians in Gaza that they need to evacuate areas that are going to be shelled? How is it that Israel is the bad guy when Hamas is apparently routinely using schools, hospitals and mosques as munitions storage (Israel does not)? How is it that Israel is the bad guy when it warns its people to get into bomb shelters when Hamas rockets are on their way, while Hamas does not warn any of the people living in Gaza that they are in danger, or even worse, tells them to ignore Israeli warnings of impending bombings?

Hamas is a terrorist group that is not taking any precautions for the people it claims to be governing in Gaza. It is Hamas’ fault, not the fault of the Palestinians, that so many Palestinians are dead. Hamas could stop what’s happening by agreeing to a cease-fire and negotiations. It is not doing that. It is, in fact, creating the problem by letting Palestinians in Gaza die when it could a) stop making them into targets and b) start warning them when they have become targets.

And yet people still tell me that I’m blaming the victim when I say these things. They say that it’s all Israel’s fault for shelling Gaza. They give me images of places being shelled by Israelis and make fun of my position that Hamas is at fault for this. “Aw, lookit the poor little Israeli murderer with his eyes full of tears as he shells Gaza with his bombs, look how sorry he is to have to do this” was one such salvo.

But here’s the thing none of them are paying attention to: they are only looking at the immediate, short-term events. They are not looking at the longer historical arc or the long-term results. The fact is, even if Israel stopped shooting and shelling and withdrew from Gaza, even if Israel made a public, formal statement through Prime Minister Netanyahu that Gaza is now a sovereign Palestinian state in Israel’s eyes, that would not end this conflict. Because Hamas wants the conflict. It wants the bad press. Hamas will not stop firing rockets into Israel because Hamas wants Israel destroyed. And yet when I say these things people shrug it off as if Israel had all the power in this situation. Let’s be clear here: It doesn’t. If it did, this conflict would already be over.

Opposing Hamas is not anti-Arab or anti-Islam. Opposing Hamas is not opposing the rights of the people of Gaza, or of Palestinians more generally, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Opposing Hamas is opposing terrorism.

Of course, I want sane and logical solutions, but ideology doesn’t allow for that, now does it?

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For We Were Strangers in Mitzrayim

11 Tamuz 5774

Trigger warning: This is about the boys who were killed in Israel and then in Palestine just recently, whose deaths have caused such a furor that Hamas and Israel are exchanging massive firepower at each other right now.

I don’t quite know what to say. I’ve hesitated to write anything for more than a week, for various reasons.

We were strangers in Mitzrayim. This is a hell of a way to demonstrate that we remember that. Actually, it’s about the farthest thing from a demonstration of remembering it – it’s demonstrating that we are forgetting it.

What we are seeing is former victims now becoming bullies. This happens a lot with children. The bullied kid gets big enough that he begins to bully.

By the way, I don’t care who started it. Neither should you. That isn’t the point. The point is that children were killed, mostly by adults, because some people decided it was okay to throw their weight around and bully someone weaker.

I think it’s horrifying. I think it’s horrifying that Hamas operatives felt it was okay to harm children. I think it’s equally horrifying that Jewish extremists then felt it was okay to retaliate against children. Nobody’s hands are clean in this situation. Nobody gets to say “but they started it.” That’s a childish excuse and it doesn’t hold water even on the playground or in the sandbox. It certainly should not hold water in an international conflict.

As far as I know, none of the boys involved were part of any political movements in Israel or in Palestine. None of them were soldiers (most of them weren’t old enough). None of them signed up to be sacrificial victims. And none of them deserved what happened to them.

The Israeli boys were killed by adults. The Palestinian boy was killed by a gang of teenagers, from what I understand, and his cousin was severely beaten by three Israeli police officers (who were also adults).

Why? I cannot come up with a good reason why. It’s the playground bully written large. It’s the fight for control of the sandbox. It’s senseless. And the reasons given by either side are also senseless (and often very childish).

As a new member of the Tribe (almost) I also didn’t know if I had any right to write about this. I’m not a Jew, yet. I’m only Jew-ish. I’ve never been to Israel. I’ve never been in the thick of this situation. But I’m taking on not just the Jewish belief system but the entire tribe, right? So I’m going to go with “I have a right and a responsibility to write about this because I will be a Jew, and soon, and this is part of what I’m accepting as the burden of being Jewish.”

Moving on.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. So why do we keep on doing it? Why is it that we keep on trading bomb for bomb and life for life? What is wrong with us? Are we so married to our ideologies and our territoriality that we aren’t willing to see the people on the other side of the firing line as human beings? Do we not remember how it was in Egypt and in Babylon? Do we not remember what it was like being second- or third-class citizens? We talk about it every year on Pesach to keep the memory fresh. Has everyone already forgotten for the year? Do we only remember it during the spring?

There has to be a solution that provides both for Palestine and for Israel. There has to be a two-state solution, where we respect boundaries and borders and stop insisting that everyone else should stay out of our sandbox. I don’t think that what’s going on right now in Gaza and in Tel Aviv is what G-d wanted of his children (and what drives me the most crazy about this? It’s just a continuation of sibling rivalry – Isaac and Ishmael – bickering over whose idea of G-d is going to be more important). This is insanity, folks.

None of those boys should have died. And none of them should have been “avenged.” And the people who carried out the revenge killing and beating are equally guilty and should be held equally responsible for what they did as the Hamas terrorists should be for what they did to the three Israeli teenagers.

Because this? Is not the act of a nation that shows mercy to the stranger. Not at all.

I can’t say it’s not what I signed up for. But I am going to say that it’s not what I was hoping to see in the people I’ve chosen to join. Because we can be better than this, and we should be better than this. And if that knowledge doesn’t frame our discussions and our negotiations, even in blog posts, then we’re no better than the Egyptians that enslaved us.

For we were strangers in Mitzrayim, and we are admonished over and over again in Torah to remember that, and to be gentle to the stranger. Now the Palestinians are the strangers, and we really ought to be better than this.

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