But that’s the rub, as the saying goes “An eye for an eye just leads to a world full of blind people.” It’s rather easy to say, “When they stop rioting, I’ll stop punishing them”, just like it is easy to say, “When they stop punishing us unfairly (in our opinion), we’ll stop rioting.” It’s also easy to say “Can’t we just get along?” and pretend that simply turning the other cheek solves the issue. No one makes that choice after getting BOTH cheeks slapped, none of the parties in this dispute feel like “just getting along” and each feel they’ve been violated. Each is right. Whether you think the Israelis are “more” in the right or not, it is untrue to suggest the Israelis haven’t done wrong here. Whether you hate the Israelis, it’s absurd to suggest the actions of the Palestinians were “in proportion” to the offense. I personally feel the Palestinians have been “more” wrong, but that at $1 will get you $1 of coffee because that opinion solves nothing. It may justify militarism, but it solves nothing.
What also solves nothing is continuing the militancy (on either side). The recent outbreak of violence shows with stark clarity that there is enormous antipathy sewn into the youth in the Palestinian territories. We can say that it’s all brain-washing, but that’s whistling past the grave, some of it is sure, but some of it is also, just like in any dispute, as a result of what has been seen as needless crackdown, needless antagonism (like building additional Israeli settlements on the West Bank or on ground Muslims considered holy). We can say with certainty that firing rockets aimlessly into areas where there are schools, where children play, is seen rightly as unprovoked attacks upon the utterly innocent. All of us can understand the idea of “making war” on those who attack you, few (if any) of the rational among us can justify involving people who have had no choice and no voice, whether that’s an Israeli 3rd grader killed by a blindly fired rocket or a Palestinian toddler killed by an errant bomb, each “fired” with apparent ambivalence.
The powerful actor here is Israel, right now. The nation with the short term upper hand but long term problem, is Israel. Their people fear attacks, rightly, but because of that fear they elect the strong-sounding, if not strong-thinking. It takes courage to turn aside from retaliation. It is the person who lashes out in anger when he is the powerful one with nearly all the might who is taking the easy road. The truth is that Israel must start to consider, as a nation, and as a policy, what it feels the middle-east will look like in 20 years. I fear that Israel will be in flames in 20 years. Contrast that with the situation 20 years ago, and then 20 years before that. 20 years ago was 1995. Things were probably better then than now, in part because Yitzhak Rabin had placed a moratorium on further settlements on the West Bank. 20 years before that was 1975. Israel had just prevailed in a war with Egypt, Syria and, limitedly, Jordan (in 1973). In 1977, Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat won the Nobel prize for peace for hammering out the first permanent peace treaty between an Arab state and Israel.
So, to say that these folks will always be at war with each other, are incapable of finding a peaceful solution is not only untrue and defeatist, it dooms Israel to perpetual war. Furthermore, it ignores that things aren’t “the same” as they’ve always been, but in fact are getting worse. It ignores that the “meeting violence with violence” approach of conservatives not only has failed, it’s made things worse, worse that is unless you’re an Israeli defense contractor (or US defense contractor working with Israel). The truth appears to be that Israel has to decide whether it is going to pull back it’s own knives, restrain it’s police in a manner similar to the calls for, and actions taken to, restrain US police forces as the public sees incontrovertible proof of excessive force and abuse of power. In short, the Israeli people have to decide if they are going to afford the Palestinians the same respect under the law, the same rights as human beings, as they demand for themselves from their government. The reason is not that the Palestinians have earned it, it’s not because they are citizens of Israel (which some would throw out as a reason to not afford them those protections), but rather because, just like we feel about people who aren’t US citizens, certain rights are inalienable, in short are to be afforded to ALL people if we had the power to do so, and among those are the, “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” If Israel is to have peace it must take the first step, and that first step must be providing those who feel oppressed a sense that the rule of law prevails, that when an Israeli soldier or police officer flouts the law, they will be held to account and that Palestinians can get a fair day in court to do so. The rule of law is exactly what the Palestinians are violating with their vigilantism, it is EXACTLY what the Israeli government is complaining about, and if they are not to appear the ultimate hypocrites, they must provide the Palestinians that same protection and remedy. Anything else is complaining about a twig in the eye of another, when you have a log in your own, not because the violence of the Israelis exceeds that of the Palestinians, it doesn’t, but because the POWER of the Israelis to fix things far exceeds that of the Palestinians, and with that power comes the responsibility as moral people, to do so.