This is a cross post from the Times of Israel by Marc Goldberg
With the South of Israel once again being pounded by rockets emanating from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert becoming increasingly active as a new front against Israel I find myself once again evaluating my political position. It seems that my belief in peace and a better world is constantly being put to the test by those who seek nothing more than to watch the world burn.
When I made aliyah in 2001 I immediately began Ulpan Etzion which was then located in Baka, Jerusalem. I had the distinction of being a part of the smallest intake that Ulpan Etzion (running since before 1948) had ever taught. The reason was the Al Aqsa Intifada raging all around us. Not many people were inclined to make Aliyah while there were bombings, shootings and a general nightmare going on all around.
Ours wasn’t the only trouble going on in the world. I watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers live from the common room on Ulpan and reasoned to myself that I was in precisely the right place, at the right time and by going into the army was doing exactly the right thing (right being a subjective term). Ultimately at that time I had no interest in peace, I wanted war, I wanted to fight! These people who were coming and blowing up buses needed to die and I wanted to be in a unit where I could kill them. This was as far as my politics went.
Once I was in the army and had my first taste of dealing with Palestinians I found myself to be on shaky ground when it came to ideology. I hadn’t put much thought into how Palestinians lived or who they were. I tended to talk about Palestinians as “they”, lumping them all together in one big group. Once I had met people there and started talking to them, not to mention experienced taking over the homes of people who were not considered to be terrorists in any shape, size or form I took on a more nuanced view of things.
People who were so inexpressive as to use the terms “them”, “they” or “The Palestinians” ceased to carry any weight with me in conversations about the conflict. Such was the beginning of my feeling that it was time to get out of the territories.
It was the smallest thing that really made me think that the end to occupation needed to come. While guarding Tapuach junction near Nablus I saw teenagers from nearby settlements waiting for the bus. They were walking around and weaving between the lines of Palestinians waiting to get through the checkpoint as though they didn’t exist.There is a feeling of power that comes from being around so many utterly hopeless people, to know that these people are the vanquished and you the vanquisher. It isn’t what ensuring our security is all about I didn’t want future generations of Israelis to grow up with their regular lives being about moving among Palestinians as though those people were ghosts. It leads to an inability to view these people as real at all, as people who have their own dreams and desires and problems and are just as deserving as anyone else to be able to see their dreams fulfilled.
I found it impossible to find a bridge between the things that I had seen and done and the country that I had known before. I left Israel knowing that I would return but unable to remain until I had found the perspective I needed. The Israel that I had known was utterly moral whereas the Israel I had served wasn’t interested in morality but in killing terrorists. If innocent people died in the process (which they certainly did) and if the regular lives of people were wrecked in the process (which they were) then so be it. It took time to adjust to being the one wrecking people’s lives and watching the innocent get killed in aid of the greater good.
Eventually, back in London I did find my perspective, came to terms with the fact that Israel isn’t the shining light within the world but a regular country with extremely tough problems to deal with. I stopped viewing the Israeli Army as a moral force and started viewing it as an Army and I stopped looking at the Palestinians at all. The clear truth is that I am an Israeli, to that end I want what is best for my people. I believe that leaving the West Bank is in the long term interests of Israel and therefore that’s what I want to see. There are some other things that I would like to see too. I would like to see some interest from the PA in having their own state. I would like to see Palestinian activists campaign as hard as Israeli activists for Palestinians to have their own state. The fact that I can’t see these things makes me fearful for some kind of settlement between us.
Now, while subject to attack I feel that Palestinians need to have their own country more than ever and I feel that they are further than ever from having one. Ruled over by one government that can’t stop trying to kill Israeli civilians and another who isn’t angered enough by Israeli human rights infringements to take every measure possible to remove an Israeli presence from the West Bank it appears as though the status-quo is set to continue indefinitely. Naturally the biggest losers will be the Israelis and Palestinians caught in the crossfire. Were does this leave my political opinion?
Absolutely no idea!
As I finish writing my friend Elad who is here with me in the bunker asked me to translate the post to him, this was what he had to say:
Marc what you don’t understand is the fact the “The Palestinians” excuse me, the Palestinians leaders, don’t want a country they want us not to be here. They shout this from every possible mode of propaganda open to them, they are telling everyone that this is what they want no one is listening. We are taking steps such as freeing prisoners who murdered and killed Israelis to take steps forward and what are they doing? Nothing, they aren’t taking steps to normalise the situation between us and if they really wanted a state there would actually be one in existence for years already.
I ask you, do you think that we enjoy being occupiers? Do you think that if the Palestinians wanted this situation to end it would continue?
We pay for the occupation of Palestinians lands all the time with money, with lives. What should be is that we both have our countries but it can’t be that way…they don’t believe in it they want everything and they’ll be left with nothing.