This is a cross post from Marc’s Words
When I was younger I wanted to be a Paratrooper in the IDF, I wanted to wear the red beret more than anything else, I wanted to join the ranks of the chosen in Israel, to be at the tip of the spear. The British army held no appeal, I felt with all my heart that Israel was the place for me, that Israel was the only place for me. Palestinians didn’t figure in my thoughts at all. It never occurred to me to think about Palestinians nor about the occupation, they simply weren’t on my radar.
When I was in the army it was a shock to meet Palestinians, to see how they lived and to see how we treated them. The image that I had of Israel was simply cracked, if not broken. In London I used to get so angry with reports on the BBC that I would actually shout at the television. When I was in the army it surprised me to see that the BBC didn’t report a lot of the killings that happened in the West Bank, I found that by and large the coverage was very fair.
After my tour of duty in August 2004 I was so conflicted with the Israel that I had seen that I had to remove myself from the scene. A month after finishing my service I was back in London trying to understand what it was that I had accomplished during my time in the Paratroopers. It had been a tough 2 years, I had invaded the homes of people who were never considered connected to terror movements in any way. We went into their homes simply because we needed their windows to look out upon the city.
I had fired rubber bullets and thrown stun grenades at civilians simply because I had been ordered to. At the same time I had arrested more deadly terrorists than I could accurately keep count of. My unit had killed and/or arrested people who had nothing on their minds but killing Jews in the most gruesome ways possible. I found it almost impossible to reconcile the bad I had done along with the good I had done and had no way to judge which was which. I had served the country which had adopted me with open arms and done so with all my heart and all my soul.
I went back to London with my eyes open with regards to Israel and wishing that I could close them again. I wished that I could work for hasbarah groups in support of Israel but I no longer knew where I stood and found it impossible to simply argue in favour of the country I had put my life on the line to protect. With that in mind from the moment I left after my service I knew that I would come back. It was a temporary leave of absence that I had taken in order to get my thoughts in order, to clear my mind.
It was 6 years after my departure that I found myself back in this strange country and although the raw wounds of my service had turned into scars I still found it difficult to formalise how I felt about Israel with regards to the fact that it simply is not the perfect, utterly moral country I had once assumed it was. The truth is that Israel is more than happy to continue occupying Palestinians forever. It is policy to move Jews into the West Bank and has been for decades and it doesn’t look like that is going to change any time soon. The Israeli army and to a lesser extent settlers behave as they wish in the West Bank while Palestinians are subject to limitations on their lives and their freedom whether they are terrorists or not. These are clear facts, I have provided no links, if you care enough search Google and find the information for yourself it isn’t lacking nor are the facts on Palestinian freedoms disputed.
What is disputed is the reasons why their freedoms are withheld and here we arrive at what has been crystallising within me. In my post army days I wished that Israel would simply leave the West Bank behind. I saw it and continue to see the area as an albatross around our collective necks that is dragging us down into immorality. I hate the fact that entire generations are growing up in the West Bank, that it is all they have ever known and that they are growing up feeling that occupying Palestinians is a part of life.
We have gotten into a mindset over here that building more homes in the West Bank and moving more Jews in there somehow serves as a punishment for Palestinian terror, it does not, it simply takes us further away from ever finding a way to live in peace with Palestinians and sends Palestinians into the arms of Hamas and other extremist groups. Further settlement and current settlement is something that I am strongly opposed to and will continue to oppose.
People who are against Israeli occupation of the west Bank shouldn’t ignore the failures of the Palestinian Authority. The continuing outpouring of hatred and loathing that shows not just individual failings but institutional ones make me feel that Palestine simply would be a launchpad for attacking Israel. I think that the frustration felt by groups such as Shalom Achshav and +972 is leading them to ignore the signs. Were Israel to withdraw from the West Bank tomorrow there is no real doubt as to what would happen. The 2 incidents that occurred in the last week alone, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the mother of the terrorist who murdered the Fogel’s being broadcast on Palestinian TV make it very clear just where Palestinian society stands.
There are certainly grounds for hope, the fact that an Israeli soldier recently left behind by his unit during a mission in the West Bank was escorted back to his unit by 2 members of the village he was left in is an amazing example of the way things can go. I hope those Palestinians aren’t punished, I hope that they receive some form of recognition for what they have done.
I don’t feel that it is a contradiction to campaign against Israel policies in the West Bank and at the same time to call for the PA to stop educating their populace to hate Israel, Jews and to celebrate murder. This is where I stand, it is a thin line I guess since most people expect you to be whole heartedly pro or against but at the moment all I see is wrongdoing by both sides. Hopefully we will be able to get to a place where everyone backs away from the abyss, though I don’t see it coming in the near future.
As for Zionism, well, I am an Israeli citizen and that is more than enough for me.