Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Only Volunteers

It’s so much easier to live in a black and white world.  It’s so much easier to point fingers and stick to the party line.  It’s so much easier to use a book flap to condemn the novel, to view the pictures without reading the attached articles.  It’s so much easier to stand on the sidelines and dictate the plays, so much easier to determine right and wrong when you don’t have to live with the consequences.  It’s easy to say killing is always wrong, Israel is always wrong, Israel is always right, they were evil, or they were humanitarians.  It’s easier to pick a side and ignore the fog, easier to self-select the details you listen to while screaming out for justice based on lines drawn in the sea.   

It’s easier to place blame and side with the appointed victims.  But what happens if there are no victims, only volunteers? What do you do when the situation is hazy and layers with complexity and fear? How do you know where to stand when enemies don masks of goodness and terror shows up with a bouquet of roses? How do we tease out truth from fiction, separate motive versus results?

I'm not very political.  I don’t watch the news and my favorite section of the newspaper is the Art & Books section.  I get New York Times breaking news alerts to my cell phone and after checking out the title, I usually hit delete.  I care about the world we live in, but when it comes to staying informed, I find myself unsure of whom to trust, whom to watch, who to read, whom to align with.  However, I’ve decided that as a responsible citizen, an adult-ish woman, a Jew, an American, a Canadian, and a human being, it’s time for me to step up and at least read about the world I call home. I still am far from knowledgeable and if you asked me to find Turkey on a map, you could take a nap while I searched.  However, I have to say that this Israeli Flotilla raid and the worldwide response hardly surprises me. 

I’ve never been to Israel. My grandparents rallied for it’s existence, and my mother is an El-Al frequent flier, but I personally have never kissed its soil or floated in the Dead Sea.  And on principal, I am against death and killing and violence.  So it would be easy to point my finger at Israel and say ‘How could you? What were you thinking? You are no better than the terrorists you’re trying to keep away!’  It would be easy to stick with my black and white set of rules and condemn from afar.  And I would be in good company, backed by much of the world. But I would be wrong.

Yes, death is always a tragedy and yes, I’d bet that there were intelligence failures on the part of the Israelis.  But please can we zoom out and look at the entire picture? 

Bring it closer to home.  Imagine the ships headed toward Ellis Island, packed with supposed ‘peace activists’ who belong to a known terrorist support group.  Picture the ships loaded with supplies for terrorist cells tucked within our borders.  Are we really claiming that we would smile and wave to the passengers from the shorelines, and allow their cargo to pass into our country without investigating?  I can’t board a plane without having my shoes x-rayed, and I'm a citizen.  Who are we kidding? Why do we blame Israel for protecting with force while we breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t at our shores? Why the double standard? Israel is a country smaller than California, and yet, it still isn’t the underdog we root for.  Why? Is it because they stand proudly and refuse to accept pity? Is it because they reject the title of victim and take action rather than posturing and discussing while suicide bombers infiltrate and buses explode in the streets?

 Victims garner sympathy.  They need protection and support, are allowed to shrug their shoulders and lament “Why me?” They can cloak their mistakes in powerlessness and evade responsibility by naming evil.  But we don’t live in a black and white world.  Amidst the gray, all are victims, and all are volunteers.  I can’t know what happened aboard the ships, and without being a witness, I can’t know for sure all of the details.  But it seems that Israel wasn’t out looking for blood.  It seems that the intention was one of monitoring and surveillance, an attempt to maintain policy while still allowing for essential supplies in Gaza. 

There’s the story that gets ignored: in an Israeli hospital, wounded Israeli soldiers were treated alongside flotilla passengers.  Israeli doctors worked to save all patients, regardless of citizenship.  And in the roar of worldwide criticism, supplies from the ships were delivered to Gaza today, minus the weapons that were confiscated. Why don’t we applaud these actions?

Daniel Gordis writes, “There’s only one country anywhere on the planet about which there’s a conversation about whether it has a right to exist.”

 I think it’s time to change the conversation.  Lets debate safety, analyze policy, and brainstorm freedom tactics.  Let’s admit mistakes and improve methods.  Let’s discuss peace.  But let’s stop holding Israel to an impossible double standard.  Let’s stop pretending we don’t understand the impulse to do whatever is necessary to protect our citizens.  Let’s stop pointing fingers in order to maintain our orderly, right and wrong, black and white perspective.  Let’s cry for the wounded and mourn lost lives.  But let’s allow Israel to exist without having to mount a defense.  Let’s remember the fear and violence that Israelis must live with on a regular basis.  Let’s keep in mind that terrorists seldom respond to rationality and that it’s tough to find compromise when Jewish extinction is the desired result.  Let’s sift through the gray, note the small kindnesses, and work for a better tomorrow.

 It’s easier to point fingers and cast blame.  But easier doesn’t mean it’s right.

NY Times: Israeli Raid

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