‘…ויאמר אלהים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו’
My heart, prayers and solidarity go out to the people of Gaza suffering at this very moment, and to the people of Israel endangered by the recklessness of their government. As Israel escalates its offensive against the people of the Gaza Strip, there are number things that need to be said.
Firstly, there is a massive disconnect between what the American Jewish community perceives the Israeli public’s stance towards Palestinian statehood to be and what the Israeli public’s stance actually is. After listening to a representative from the Likud party (today at the mechina was our political seminar in preparation for the elections in January, during which we heard representatives for various political parties), it’s clear that believing in “two states for two peoples” has a very different meaning here than it does on the other side of the Atlantic. When Binyamin Netanyahu speaks about Palestinian statehood, he isn’t referring to a politically independent Palestinian nation; he’s referring to an “autonomous” political entity – one that still remains at the behest of Israel, economically dependent and politically subservient.
In Israel, the general consensus is that a fully-enfranchised Palestinian state is not only impossible but also completely undesirable. Today, the representative of the Labor party argued that there wasn’t enough money to realize the two-state solution. And when asked this afternoon during the political seminar what he meant by a two state solution, the representative of Likud replied, “You want a Palestinian nation? Did you see what happened in Gaza?” It is important to remember that belief is held by the ruling party in the Israeli government. This is the stance supported unequivocally by major Jewish organizations, such as AIPAC, in the United States. Put simply, for many Israelis the prospect of an independent Palestine alongside Israel is untenable. There is an intense and very open fear that a Palestinian state would spell the end of Israel. Contrary to the statements of Jewish organizations that insist on Israel’s commitment to two-state solution, the current Israeli government – and probably the future Israeli government – is unequivocally opposed to Palestinian self-determination. There’s no such thing as full Palestinian statehood in the contemporary Israeli political vocabulary. Or as they say in Hebrew, אין דבר כזה. What this means for the future of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is that a Likud – Beitenu victory in the upcoming elections will cement the status quo – of apartheid and occupation – nearly into perpetuity.
When I lived in America, my criticism of Israel was always countered with the statement “you don’t know what it’s like to live under the daily threat of rocket fire.” In fact, neither do millions of Israelis. And now that I live in Tel Aviv, it’s still impossible to feel the frightening rockets and murderous airstrikes occurring just an hour’s drive away. With every new report of another rocket attack, my friends here at the mechina check in with their friends and families in south. But while a general air of worry has enveloped our communal apartments, it is nothing close to the death and horror occurring in Gaza. As a friend from the south whose house is within range of the falling rockets remarked earlier tonight, “even in Sderot it isn’t dangerous. It’s frightening…but that’s the point of terrorism.”
It is impossible to compare the conditions in Gaza to the conditions in Israel, for this is not a conflict between two equal sides. While Israeli forces no longer occupy the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Navy and Air Force can attack anywhere at any minute. The assassination carried out today shows that a colonial force does not need to occupy an area to control it. Furthermore, the rocket fire from Gaza is not an act of agression or provocation. It is a reaction to continuing inhumane blockade and a response to the impunity with which the IDF operates in the Gaza Strip. On the part of Israel, this is not a defensive action. It is a war of aggression and an electoral ploy. Once again, the Israeli government is playing politics with the innocent lives of the Palestinian people and its own citizens.