Friday, January 09, 2009

David Kersh on Gaza

My friend David Kersh sent me an email on Gaza. David is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent and cultured (in the absolute best sense of the word) people I know. I was moved by what he wrote and asked if I could post it here.

On Gaza

I am an American Jew. My life began on 6/6/1967 at exactly the same time the six-day war began, which in many ways sparked the present conflict. At one point in my life, I spent six months (lots of 6’s here) in Jerusalem, where I felt utterly homeless, wondering where the Jews like me were. I did find a couple of them- my two Argentine roommates. One of the most awe-inspiring and refreshing memories of an intense 6 months in the holy land was discovering The Marx Brothers' Night at the Opera one late Friday night at the Jerusalem Cinemateque while everything else in sight was closed down for Shabbat.

The situation in the Middle East is not so cut and dry. I am tired of being silent.

I read article after article and get the talking points made by each side, and I can somewhat modify my perspective in the course of a day. And yet I just can’t accept that macho man (and woman) Israeli military force is a solution to the “problem.”

I look at the troubling photographs of dead Palestinian children, I see the poverty-stricken Gaza streets, and I am also troubled that, yes, these same photographs become part of a Hamas PR machine to get the West to side with them.

I am sickened by the one-sided perspective of the American political class who can only sympathize with Israel and only gets their side of the story.

I am sickened by the contextually false and empty comparisons of bombs coming from Canada and Mexico and how we would surely and without a blink respond to this by crushing them with all our might.

I am bothered by Israel the Victim.

I am bothered by progressive Jews who would otherwise deplore violence in all other situations but who can so easily rationalize the Israeli aggression.

I know former Primer Minister Menachem Begin was part of a terrorist organization, but that was okay, of course, because it was a Jewish terrorist organization.

I get it that Palestinians were treated like shit by the Egyptians and the Jordanians before 1967, and that the Arab world treats them like unwanted step children, and that supporting the Palestinian cause serves their purpose of having a common enemy of Israel so they can keep their repressive regimes in tact.

I get the role of Iran in this geopolitical equation, and don’t want Iran to get any stronger.

I get it that the Palestinians would be better off if they had a Gandhi running their show, and that they have been unable to get their act together.

I read somewhere that Hamas was created by the US and Israel to counter Arafat and Fatah, which does not surprise me one bit.

I am sure that Israel was not negotiating in good faith, and that the Palestinians were not negotiating in good faith either.

I get it that Hamas probably wants more Palestinians to die because it benefits their campaign, and that they are all a bunch of no good thugs and killers.

I am bothered that, according to the American political class, Israeli children are “traumatized” by having to endure unexpected home-made rockets from Hamas, but Palestinian children living under occupation, seige or blockade are not traumatized living in such dire circumstances.

I believe each side has a different starting point for the conflict and of who started what and where.

I am bothered by a lack of nuance, of depth in understanding the complexity of the situation by the American political class (except for good ole Kucinich).

I believe the line between defense and offense is fuzzy.

I can find nothing to love or look up to in any of the repressive Arab political systems in the Middle East .

I sometimes comprehend the desire my fellow Jews have for a Jewish homeland, though never at the expense of another group, and never as a place for me to call home.

I know I am probably naïve, and my fellow Jews in Israel will think I don’t know what the hell I am talking about because I am not there, on the ground. And yet, I just can’t accept that macho man (and woman) Israeli military force is a solution to the “problem.”


Liam said...

That's a great letter. I'm so tired of hearing that if you don't support this war you're anti-Israeli or pro-Hamas. Nuance goes out the window. It's the same thing pro-war people said about us in 2002-03. If we had problems with the invasion of Iraq, we were unpatriotic or pro-Saddam.

cowboyangel said...

No, not much nuance. Hardly any attempt at objectivity or historical context.

I think David does a good job of showing how being concerned about what's going on doesn't mean you think Hamas is great. Too many people act as if this has always been the terrified people of Israel versus Hamas. Hamas is awful. But there's so much more to what's going on.

John Schertzer said...

A thousand praises. I might say something trite like "my feelings exactly," but the truth is that David goes a long way to help me think through and "exact" my feelings about the situation. Thank you. Take a bow.

crystal said...

Good letter.

cowboyangel said...

>David goes a long way to help me think through and "exact" my feelings about the situation.

Good point, John.


Thanks for the comment. I'll pass these along to David.

Jeff said...

That's a very bold statement by your friend David, especially in light of his own background and heritage. I think he sums up the frustrations and inner conflicts a lot of us feel about this issue, even if we haven't literally had as much skin in the game.

It has always been a human problem and a human "nakba" (catastrophe). The thing is, as time goes by, this is becoming less and less of a strictly Israeli/Palestinian problem but a problem of worldwide dimensions.