Because I have so many friends who are in good conscience on both sides of blood conflict, I have today decided to start what I hope will be a 30 day project. The Border Project will seek to examine the Israelistine/Pasraeli conflict in a way that is fairly objective, to the extent that is possible at all given that this entire 60 year argument has put so many ideologues and innocent bystanders alike into the ground. My frustration has also fumed because one of my favorite war bloggers, Gary Brecher, has maintained a notable silence. Well, so much for sitting on the sidelines.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an argument so amazingly complex. In this report, I will be conducting interviews, on and off the record, with the most hard line individuals I can find. If you are a particularly hard line individual (e.g. – you believe “the Jewish pigs and monkeys must be destroyed” or “the Arabs are primitive cockroaches that must be stomped out”) please get in touch with me immediately. I just posted my e-mail in the profile (if you are viewing this on Spectacle Monopolized), or — if we’re Facebook friends — you can just message me. Comments will remain open and unaltered in every way. Why must the voices of the radicals be heard? Catharsis. Until every single angle is allowed to shine through the prism, it seems to me that no progress can be made. If you are reading this blog, especially early on, and feel like complaining that I haven’t given voice to your side, rest assured that I am pretty good at digging up the crazy. After all, I did once interview Shirley Phelps-Roper calmly, a woman who believes that all of the people involved in this story, including me, are going to burn in hell forever and ever and ever.
Over the next 30 days, I am thinking about conducting any number of participant journalism stunts in the beltway area in order to gain greater insight into the conflict. The first, highly uncreative conclusions that I come to are to go to mosques and synagogues and walk up to strangers and ask their opinion. Of course, that might accomplish something known as “creeping people out” or “scaring them.” A couple of years back, though, I managed to dig up some great interviews by just looking around on Facebook, including a Lebanese Army of God (“Hezbollah”) supporter and an Israeli guy who had started a popular Facebook group. His group made what I must admit is a rather unbelievable claim: that people of all faiths in Israel are granted equal status. This is most certainly true in the eyes of many Israeli citizens, but I have a hard time believing that it is the case for those who have lived in the area for some time.
One time while at Virginia Commonwealth University, I met two representatives from the Muslim Student Association who spoke to my class on Islam. Much to my horror, this man and woman slowly explained how they couldn’t in any way those in the Palestinian territories that blow themselves up in public areas in Israel in protest of the occupation. I felt so frustrated and frightened listening to them. After they finished visiting the class, I immediately felt like a coward and a fool for not having told them that their perspective was despicable. I guess at the time, though, I wanted to remain culturally sensitive. But the longer I live the more I come to the conclusion that you can let a good friend down by not letting him know he is doing something violently wrong.
Right now on MSNBC a spokesman from the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews is making the most of paid-for ad time. The organization is showing harrowing footage of rockets leaping into the sky, a dusty trail of smoke following immediately behind them, an old Israeli woman collapsing from shock. These sort of ads are transparently targeted at a Christian majority in the United States. Before we get too deep into all of this muck, I wanted to discuss the tenuous relationship between a couple of social form factors: (1) ethnicity (that is to say, appearance, which, rightfully, shouldn’t matter at all), (2) religion (which, because the vast majority of people adopt the faiths of their parents, is a construct — explicitly or incidentally — of ethnicity). In order to understand the dangerous and notoriously complex dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the relationship between these two form factors must be considered.
Why must they be considered? Let’s take a look.
It’s very easy to consider Judaism in light of an ideology one can convert to (some people hold this to be the case); at the same time, some people consider it an ethnic designation in a distant, elite sense. Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a social group. Indeed, it encourages people to identify with a larger group and helps ensure that capital and resources stay within that group. I will volunteer for the purpose of this article that endogamy constitutes the soft, squishy underbelly of racism. On one hand, onlookers can admire the amorous experience that occurs within any given group. As a cultural strategy, it rests on a few assumptions: children are inordinately impressionable, parents have the most access and ease of influence upon that impressionability, and that impressionability is necessary in order to transmit the most important facets of a culture (say, ceremonies that serve as historical pneumonic devices).
On the other hand, the Cliff Notes for examining any given culture may be marked by skin tone, facial features, physiological appearance. These Cliff Notes constitute very real prejudice, and they represent a short-circuiting of judging one’s unions and alliances based on values. It’s safe to say that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict can be based upon placing group solidarity on a higher pedestal than the value of not abusing others.
In the course of this article, we will be examining the views of racists. Let’s take a look at a Jew who was by Knesset standards considered racist. Meir Kahane placed a distinction between Jews (one might suppose an ideological stance) and Arabism (one might suppose a way of appearing.) Let’s examine a choice line from his classic essay, “They Must Go“:
The complete truth must be told to the masses of good Jews both to justify the need to remove the Arabs and to expose the dangers of the liberal Establishment bloc.
In this sense, Kahane advocated for possible citizenship in a state based upon appearance, not necessarily ideology. Needless to say, there is a pocket of Arab Jews on this planet. Their very existence illustrates just what a towering miasma of complexity this social dilemma is. When you hear someone say (s)he is pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, the question just keeps coming up, what exactly does (s)he mean? Those who paint this as a “Jew v. Muslim” and “Jew v. Arab” question are vastly missing the point and are prolonging suffering for everyone paying with blood and serious labor.
Adding even further nuance to the situation is the fact that there is another pocket of non-Arab Jews that are against Zionism wholesale. There is an even larger argument to be had about what Zionism means in the first place. Some people have even seen it as equitable with Judaism period. The former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King, Jr., believed that treachery to Zionism was in fact treachery to Judaism as a whole. His definition of Zionism being “nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land,” King wrote:
When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews–this is God’s own truth.
Zionism, by King’s definition, poses some interesting historical questions. Here, by my own understanding, is the essential gist of it: Ancestors of modern day Jews lived in and owned the contemporary disputed territory. Because those ancestors were removed by force, that means that the descendants of those removed Jews have an ancestoral right to the land. I have heard Zionists liken this right to that of Americans a couple of generations removed from Italian or Irish citizenship being provided a faster route to citizenship of their ancestors homeland. What strikes me as the immediate and potentially controversial difference is that many, many generations have past. In the meantime, people left and entered the Jewish communities that from time to time would live in modern day Israelistine.
Over the past six months, there have been many incidences that have inspired the right-wing Islamist Gazan group Hamas and Israel alike to claim that the other side “started it.” Supporters of both sides frequently cite the breaking of ceasefires as their rationalization for continued fighting. Virtually every Muslim of whom I solicit opinion disparages the radical injustice of what Israel has done in the past week. The U.S. State Department and the White House have articulated their own very specific desire to see Hamas stop firing rockets blindly north into Israel before anything else is attempted.
Repeatedly emphasizes State Department spokesman the notion that Gaza must stop its firing first. That’s the way its been the past few days.
Salam. Shalom. Shalam. Salom.