While reading about the ongoing and escalating conflict in Gaza, I was reminded briefly of an old German advertisement skit in which two couples are walking towards each other in a park. In passing, one of the boyfriends accidentally bumps the other’s girlfriend. The second boyfriend – incensed by the first’s action – walks up and shoves boyfriend one’s partner. As their anger escalates, the two men take to trading punches against their respective girlfriends. A later scene shows one of the couples (the woman decked out in a variety of casts, braces and bandages) again walking through the park and another couple accidentally bumps into them…
It’s hard to pick a side in Gaza and say, “these people have the moral high ground” in the whole conflict. While it is true that the relatively objective hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ has chosen a side by attacking Israeli military websites and condemning their aggressive actions, I can’t help but notice some hypocrisy in the defense normally mounted for both sides.
While Palestine comes crying to the United Nations about being oppressed and how Israel is being so aggressive, they’re firing off rockets towards Tel Aviv. As supporters of Palestine decry the movement away from peace-talks by the increasingly incorrigible Netanyahu, the Palestinian population’s support is shifting from Abbas and his semi-legitimate government skeleton to Meshal, the leader of Hamas. The pop songs playing in the street praising the militant Hamas sing: “Don’t let the Zionists sleep! We don’t want a truce or solution! Oh Palestinians, you can be proud!” Hardly a tune the international community could sing along to.
Israel is of course no better, plus or minus a few degrees of moral elevation. In defense of their illegal and expansionist settlements, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Ayalon justified his own country’s actions saying, “In 1967, there was no Arab nation or state by the name of Palestine,” as if not having a recognized government makes it okay to invade neighboring regions. But that wouldn’t be contentious and offensive enough by itelf, so Ayalon had to go further, claiming that “Israel took over the West Bank from Jordan in an act of self defense.” It’s not unlike how I eat chicken to promoting vegetarianism.
The main differences I see in American Politics, aside from the obvious ethnic and religious sectarianism, are twofold. First, the Jewish lobby is one of the most powerful in the country, while the Palestinian lobby is virtually non-existent. Second, a large number of conservative American politicians are Christians; specifically evangelical Christians of the Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins school, in which the second-coming of Jesus won’t come about until all of the Jews return to Israel, as its own state, and peace is achieved in the region. They literally cannot wait for the apocalypse, so they’re trying to “help it along” by making the book of Revelation from the Bible a reality.
So as Israel poises its soldiers and its weapons for the war that they appear all but eager to start, and as the Palestinian people deliver their no-compromise message of hatred through words and actions, there might be a few things we as Americans can do to alleviate our bias and perhaps some of the pressure.
A lot of Israel’s aggressive foreign posture relies on American support – an invasion of Iran (which seems to be a distinct possibility) would be impossible by Israel without Uncle Sam’s help. American support, in turn, is reliant on said Jewish Lobby and theological politics. If we can take religion out of the political sphere and try to understand the conflict from both perspectives at the legislative level instead of just the Israeli side, the biased impression of the conflict will fade, as might the desire for the United States to immerse itself in the quagmire or ancient self-entitlement that the West Bank and Gaza seem to have drowned in.