There was a strong thunder in Tel Aviv, this afternoon. Totoootoom. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually jumped from their chair, as I did. Yesterday a terrorist attack wracked a public bus in central Tel Aviv, so people here are rightly edgy, going through some post-traumatic hypersensitivity.
Although a cease-fire has been signed between Israel and Hamas, it seems hard to come back to an approximation of normality. I am sure in Gaza things look much, much worse. Many Israelis are doubtful that this agreement will actually hold back Palestinian factions to resume shooting. Last night, hours after the cease-fire was put into effect, 12 to 20 rockets were again sent from Gaza, which was really disheartening. There was not a word in the foreign press, though. I have checked the major Italian newspapers, the NYT, the Guardian, the Economist.
Today the sky is heavy and cloudy. Here in Israel, there is no sign of celebration, nothing similar to the wave of exultance which flooded the streets of Gaza last night. Rather, there is a tangible sense of pessimism, resignation. Many people would have preferred the operation to continue, in order to strike a definitive blow to Hamas, which in the long term could have been preferable than this fragile peace. It is hard to think that all the fear, and so much blood spilled on both sides were so useless, that no serious achievement can be claimed by either Israel or Gaza. No fundamental change of scenario. Nothing that will guarantee that another round of violence will not burst out soon.
My personal assessment for the past week is also pretty sad. A newly acquired fear of rockets; uncountable hours spent online trying to bring a different point of view (ineffectively); an interview in the Huffington Post; two Facebook “friend” lost, other friendships undermined; lot of anger and spilled bile against the biased or simply outrageous media coverage; some deeper understanding that human beings will do and believe anything in the name of something, whatever that something is (destroying Israel or defending Palestinians).
Collaterally, it also looks like I have become conservative.
Maybe I shouldn’t have taken it so personally. After all, I am not a Jew, not an Israeli, not a Muslim, not a Gazean. I do not have an agenda, I do not run nor support a political party. I am not an activist, nor a pacifist. I am really not someone who is used to go around commenting in the online forums. I am not an authority on anything. Before living here, I did not engage in lengthy conversations about the Middle East. But I think I am someone who aspire to be able to cut down through ignorance. My own first, then if possible and advisable, others (although I hardly reach that stage, since my own ignorance is still monumental).
This last week I have felt pretty depressed, and very much isolated. I understood what it means to be Israeli. I understood what it means when you cannot say anything about what you are going through, without having to apologize and redirect the attention to what is happening to Palestinians. You have missiles in Tel Aviv? Oh but what about the Palestinians. You live in fear? Oh but what about the Palestinians. You had over 800 sirens of red alert in one week? Oh but what about the Palestinians.
Never before had I witnessed and tried to face such unilateral, and unconditional, blame towards Israel. Opinions ranged from “let’s campaign to boycott” to “let’s kill all Jews”, to “Enough of your Zionist propaganda”. Besides, a whole surge of Middle East experts seem to have sprout from all around, even among my friends (especially those who never show any curiosity, never ask anything about my living in here), everyone is so eager to unleash a negative comment. “Everyone knows Israel is wrong”, told me a friend today. The same person who try to stand out for his independent, investigative approach to reality, miserably echoed the a priori of the mainstream. All seasoned with a quote from Chomsky which was actually a misquotation and not even Chomsky’s.
Much of the hatred and resentment is justified as a moral punishment in the name of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Hatred in the name of love, of compassion. Let us all spread another rumor against Israel, so that we can altogether
help Hamas help Palestinian children and make a better world. It went as far as a friend who posted a link to the website of Iran Italian Radio (!) about how the high Rabbinate of Israel supposedly gave incitements to the slaughtering of Muslim children. Someone with a brain and a heart, whom I know personally as a very kind person, actually believed and cared to spread this, to my absolute amazement. I have seen people with a Phd confusing Gaza with the West Bank, in the name of a vague support for Palestinian resistance.
Another upsetting trend, besides the pornography of dead Palestinian children pictures being posterized with great detail everywhere (even on the website of a so-called Palestinian Festival of Literature) has been the casualties score syndrome. A friend whom I hold in the highest respect, an activist and a meditator, cared to write to me: “The death toll is around 90 in Gaza now. What is it in Tel Aviv??“. I was astonished. All of a sudden, deaths were transformed into the score of a basketball match, the currency with which to assert the right and wrongs in the conflict.
Most of the people I have spoken to, are deeply convinced that the low number of casualties in Israel is due not to the sophisticated systems of alert and counter-shoot missiles implemented by Israel, but to the “mercy” of the other side. Everyone tend to minimize on the gravity of 12,000 missiles being shot into Israel in the last ten years, because there were not significant casualties, and because Israel deserves it.
I grew tired of sending out this or that link, to try to explain. It is remarkable that much of this hatred derives from fierce activists, self-proclaimed peace and human rights lovers.
This is a very, very depressing realization.
At least, do the poor Palestinians get anything out of all this well-meant solidarity? Not much, since they are oppressed and despised by their own rulers, those that pro-Palestinian campaigns go to reinforce.
The Palestinian ambassador said: “Hamas has no regrets over the destruction in Gaza. On the contrary. Hamas gets a great deal of economic and political benefit from the terrible destruction because of the large donations that will come from the world and the political image of the organization that stands on the front line against Israel.” (Haaretz, Nov 22, 2012)
I wonder if anyone realizes this.