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Gary Varvel cartoon for May 14, 2021. PHOTO BY GARY VARVEL /Special to Postmedia Network

The ink was no sooner dry on last week’s post, “Take a Stand“, when I was faced with the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. I happily theorized from a safe perch, and in theory I agreed with the quote by Elie Wiesel:

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Can’t seem to take sides

It was easier to talk about taking a stand when I could easily point to “other” people who were not taking responsibility. But when it comes to the perpetual conflict in Israel, I can’t seem to take a side – for this is the problem of a false dichotomy; this is the problem of a fabricated dualism.

As I noted last week from Rabbi Heschel, “some are guilty but all are responsible” – it would be as irresponsible to merely take a side as it would be to ignore the conflict. 

If I am to take a stand, it must be with the non-combatants on both sides the shelling.

I can’t stand with Hamas – the terrorist group who appear to be safely harboured in the Gaza strip firing some 4000 missiles in those eleven days of terror – committed to “wiping Israel off the map”.

And I can’t stand with Israel’s policies with respect to Palestinians, and appropriating their land. It appears that Palestine’s only recourse to be heard is narrowly and un-creatively expressed by violence.

A Wicked Calculation

It is a wicked calculation that Hamas is counting on when they use their own civilian population as human shields while it indiscriminately fires missiles on Israel (as the political cartoon above illustrates sardonically).

Meanwhile there are some who think Israel should do nothing to defend themselves. On May 20 Benjamin Kerstein reported:

“Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki went on an anti-Israel rant during a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, saying that Israel has no right to defend itself and accusing it of committing a ‘massacre’ and war crimes — prompting Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan to walk out of the session.”

If you have read my posts for any length of time, you will know that I do not think violence solves anything or invites solutions of any kind. Violence begets violence, and re-energizes a cycle of retaliation, not peace. But I am not so naive to think that any nation would tolerate an entropic “rocket barrage” on their citizens; in the urgency of defence an attacked nation will do virtually anything to stop it.

Just trying to be heard?

When the nightingale isn’t heard, the Molotov cocktail is.

Odysseas Elytis. For more see “The Art of Vengeance.”

Is this Hamas throwing Molotov cocktails just to be heard? Keep in mind that Hamas was birthed in violence when they established their Hamas Covenant in 1988, and they have not envisioned another way of communicating since.

While Hamas randomly lobs missiles to anywhere over their border, Israel may be accused of being overwhelming in their “targeted” response (I put “targeted” in quotations, knowing there have been over 200 Palestinians killed: some have been the Hamas terrorists, but among the non-combatants killed, there have been 65 children, and over 1200 wounded/injured in the counter strikes; so much for “targeted”).

Is there a Moral Equivalence?

In response to Riyad al-Maliki’s remarks, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan stated:

“We see an attempt to create a moral equivalence between Israel, a democracy that seeks peace and abides by international law and a murderous terrorist organization that is committing the double war crime of firing at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”

“Let me share some truths: Hamas targets civilians. Israel targets terrorists,” he said. “Israel makes efforts to avoid civilian causalities. Hamas makes efforts to increase civilian casualties. Israel uses missiles to protect children. Hamas uses children to protect missiles.”

By this reasoning Israel will justify its actions, and this will have no effect either on Hamas’ ruthless raison d’etre, or on the court of public opinion.

Who will stand for the People of Israel?

As all the facts and body-counts add up, there is still one remaining reality concerning Israel: they are surrounded by nations who hate them. Rex Murphy puts it succinctly when he writes:

“Hate in its purest form, with all its undiluted rage and fervour, has too frequently targeted Jews… Anti-Semitism is the primal hate, the deepest hate, and the most enduring hate. It is a fire never extinguished: the embers always remain aglow. It may be stayed for a while, but the flicker of a single event can call it back to full flame.

… Its critics — and they are legion — single out Israel for every flaw, while an empire of tyranny (China) or one of rawest terror (North Korea) summons no mass protests on the streets of the civilized West. For Israel it is always under the moral microscope; for the rest it’s a squint through the wrong end of the telescope.”

Jonah Goldberg adds evidence to this when he observes that Israel appears to be treated differently to any other nation in the world – pointing out that the U.N. Human Rights Council has issued 112 condemnations of Israel since 2015 (by comparison, Russia has been condemned 12 times, North Korea six, and China? Zero).

Read more of his interesting article and the response to it in “Structural Antisemitism“.

Who will Stand for the People of Palestine?

To stand with the Israeli people as a nation to have the right to exist in peace is not contradicted by also standing with the people of Palestine who certainly suffer in the crossfire between the terrorists their government harbour and the torment of their neighbour who shoots back.

If the Palestinian government want its foreign policy set by Iran in a proxy war with Israel and its domestic policy set by a terrorist group like Hamas dedicated only to wiping Israel off the face of the Earth, it is unlikely there will many standing for anything after all the words have been spilled along with so much blood.

What will you Stand for?

In deferential contradiction to Elie Wiesel, I offer this edit:

If, as Wiesel states, ‘we must always take sides, since neutrality helps the oppressor’, then be careful what side you take – because there are often more than two sides. Thinking dualistically will not work here.

Since ‘neutrality helps the oppressor(s)’ – don’t be neutral about evil – no matter who is committing it.

Resist retaliation and reinforce justice.

Don’t be sucked into unquestioned allegiance.

Don’t be silent about terrorism or torment.

Take a stand for the highest ideals.

This is more enigma than dogma