June 20, 2002
A Yahrtzeit With Some Hope
We are closing in on the 20th anniversary of Ariel Sharon's last war -- as we are in the middle of Ariel Sharon's new war. That war, too, was built on a conceptziyah -- the Hebraicized term for grand misunderstanding. That conceptziyah -- a Christian-controlled Lebanon with Israel as major regional player -- was stillborn as the Israeli-installed Christian president of Lebanon, Bashir Gemayal, was assassinated three days after taking office. That war, too, was started as if there was no choice, when there was ample choice. A year long cease-fire was broken by Israel's invasion after Israel's ambassador in London was shot (he survived and came out against the war). Eight hundred dead Israeli soldiers later, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdraws from Lebanon, having utterly failed to remake Lebanon into a pro-Israel ally, or even to improve the security on the northern border.
I am an alumnus of Sharon's last war, and I saw the maps on the first day of the war. Those maps clearly put the lie to the loudly stated claim that the IDF would stop their incursion 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the Lebanese border. The friends I lost in that war did not die because they were defending their homeland. They died because of the imperial dreams of the one who would be king. "Arik, King of Israel," they now chant in Rabin Square.
The new-old "conceptziyah" of Sharon's latest war -- planned and outlined well-before the horrific month of despicable homicide bombings -- is the destruction of the Palestinian Authority. Again, a war presented to the Israeli public as if there were no other choice -- and the grizzly pictures of the inhumane reality of the suicide bombers seemed to support this claim -- was a premeditated exercise in reoccupation. Now that the terrorist center in Jenin is destroyed, and the infrastructure is destroyed (a terrorist infrastructure of guns, bombs, high school records, consumer goods, parked cars) and the Palestinian security apparatus is destroyed -- a homicidal bomber walks into a club in Rishon L'Zion, and murders 16 more people, and another one detonates himself and his car next to a bus full of passengers. And the Sharonists chant as one: "See, we have to punish them, we have to reoccupy them, we have to exile them." Have we learned nothing? The state of Israel is chained to its occupation of the Palestinian Authority by the shackles of the settlements. This war-of-choice was fought, ultimately, from out of the settlers' ideology, which has hijacked all definitions of Zionism and support of Israel, especially in North America.
And yet, perhaps the greatest tragedy of all, is that everyone knows how this cruel and tragic game ends. The solution is already written. It was almost signed in Taba -- before Yasser Arafat and Sharon decided to engage in this latest dance of death. Some day there will be an agreement, and a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. The question is: how many more Israelis and Palestinians must die before we get there? How many more generations of Jewish and Palestinian children must be brought up on hatred before we get there? And once we get there, how long will it take before we will ever be able to live with each other?
There is hope. Sixty thousand Israelis gathered in Rabin Square calling for Israel to "come back to ourselves." Thousands walked through the streets of Jerusalem demanding an end to the occupation. The reservists whose vision of Israel is that of Rabin and not that of Sharon -- and certainly not the vision of ethnic cleansing supported by Effi Eitam -- refuse to fight in the settlers' war. Reservists, with long histories of battlefield bravery, who are able to distinguish between self-defense and occupation. There is a large and growing number of Israelis who want to return to building their own state, bridging their own wealth gap, writing their own future, rather than destroying the hopes of the Palestinians for a state of their own.
We need to listen to those other voices that come out of Israel. The voices of peace, reconciliation and justice. We should join our voices to their voices so that once again being pro-Israel means being pro-peace, and supporting coexistence between the state of Israel and a viable Palestinian state.