Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In The Name Of Their Differences

Israelis gather on hillsides to watch and cheer as military drops bombs on Gaza "People drink, snack and pose for selfies against a background of explosions as Palestinian death toll mounts in ongoing offensive As the sun begins to sink over the Mediterranean, groups of Israelis gather each evening on hilltops close to the Gaza border to cheer, whoop and whistle as bombs rain down on people in a warzone hell a few miles away. Old sofas, garden chairs, battered car seats and upturned crates provide seating for the spectators. On one hilltop, a swing has been attached to the branches of a pine tree, allowing its occupant to sway gently in the breeze. Some bring bottles of beer or soft drinks and snacks."

How do I feel about this? Numb. Those people have been more exposed to war and violence than most of the Western world's population - almost constantly for 60 years. I sometimes wonder what the powers-that-were were thinking when they created the state of Israel after WW2... but it can't have been to give the Jewish people a peaceful place to set up their homes. Perhaps the Allies were looking at "the Jewish Question" and had a different solution in mind? In order to give an alien nation - a nation with no current claim to a geographic area, someone on that land - people who have settled there thousands of years since it was last a Jewish state, had to be moved out first... and as we know in South Africa, the rest as they say, is history...

For decades we have heard about wars in Israel... the 6 Day War for one, not to mention the constant trickle of news about car-bombings, suicide bombers, airliner hijackings and terror attacks, the constantly shifting borders, the political rhetoric cluttering the TV and print media since I can remember. Always it was poor Israel this, poor Israelis that... never a sympathetic ear for the other side of the story. It always seemed to me, being a child of the 1980's in South Africa, that the "Christian society" we lived in felt that being Muslims, they somehow deserved the violence and the suffering. As a child though I must admit I didn't really know enough about the world to question that. Recently in South Africa and abroad there has been concern for the people of Gaza as well. This sudden concern with the "other side" is, in my humble opinion, too little, too late. 

Personally I prefer to look at the whole thing more objectively. It takes two sides to make a war - and to keep it going for so long. This ongoing mess is not a foreign invasion. It may have been perceived as such in the beginning, but this is 2014 - people in that area have all been living there for a long time now, looking at each other across the streets, from behind weapons and in political arenas - and they are generations apart from the settlers of 1948. But they've all been raised on war, buttered their bread with it, ladled it over their oatmeal. They've gone to school amid air-raid drills, real evacuations and car-bombings in public market places. They've left school to answer the call to military service, and borne all that this entails, bitter and sweet. They've fought each other on playgrounds and battlefields, and everywhere the knowledge that they are perpetually under some kind of threat permeates the air. You think people don't become desensitized to it? You think they won't stop caring for people they don't know whose limbs get blown off, or people they do know whose sons and daughters and parents are killed? 

In my view, any government whose state is perpetually at war, and remains so for as long as has Israel, is incompetent and unfit - and should resign. 

Vengeance fuels the hate that powers the wars in Israel and the ME. Personally I don't think they will ever stop, because I think they don't want it to stop - but more so because the rest of the world takes sides and adds fuel to one side or the other of the fire. Whether it is for profit or for power or some other motive, the ME will continue to be a cauldron of smoke and fire and blood and suffering for as long as the world tries to force one group of people to live alongside people they absolutely hate and are raised to hate and who raise their children and grandchildren to hate. For this to end successfully and permanently, this first needs to stop. But will it? Can it? 

The whole region is diseased and rank with hate. The best the world could do is to just close that whole area off and wait for them to run out of bullets and bombs - until they decide to stop killing and fighting each other, and until they decide that living is more important than who they are living next door to. 

Until they both sit half-naked in rags, blood-smeared, dining on ashes and, broken, look into each other's eyes and see what they have done to each other - to see how alike they have made themselves in the name of their differences.

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