Monday, June 07, 2010

להיות עם חופשי בארצנו

I have, alas, been crazy busy and have not had enough time to adequately follow the news of late. (I also have not done any of my research yet for the primaries tomorrow—my first time voting in California, for what it's worth.) So, I do not have a good grasp on the whole Israel flotilla incident. And while I don't think it's ideal that I haven't followed the incident, I think it's OK.

So long as I don't make uninformed pronouncements of who was right and wrong and, more specifically, how Israel is without blame without knowing the story.

I am not saying Israel isn't blameless in this context—I just don't know. I'm saying that it drives me crazy when the Orthodox Jewish community goes all up in arms and calls everyone else in the world anti-Semitic for condemning Israel without knowing the facts, and I think the vast majority doesn't bother to learn the facts.

I can wholeheartedly support the state of Israel and its right to exist—and I do—without thinking every single action Israel does is correct. Or at least without assuming that.It's great to be part of the dialogue and to defend Israel if you know that Israel deserves to be defended and, of course, on the whole I support the state of Israel, but Israel should not be blindly defended just because it's the Jewish state. It's run by people, not by God.

"Now is the moment to acknowledge that the 62-year history of Israel, like the history of the Jewish people and of the human race, has been from the beginning a record of glory and fiasco, triumph and error, greatness and meanness, charity and crime," says Michael Chabon's op-ed in The Times.

(Also interesting was the fact that the info about Chabon under the article reads, "Michael Chabon is the author of 'The Yiddish Policemen's Union.' " It's true; he did write that book, which, like the article, is about Jews. But he also won a Pulitzer for another novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which you'd think would also be mentioned.)

Though I found Chabon's insistence on Israel's blockheadedness and Jews' stupidity harsh, and I don't agree with everything he says at all, I think he has a point. We don't become a lesser religion if we admit we're not all geniuses and Israel doesn't become less of a country if we admit it's not flawless.


At 6/9/10, 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why don't you go learn the facts first before creating a post like that. Israel is the victim of a smear campaing aimed at questioning its very right to exist. When a Jew posts columns like you have it gives the impression that the Jews doubt their moral superiorty in this conflict, and that becomes a slippery slope. In this particular case, a boat full of extremists, terrorists and Hamas sypathizers with ties to the Turkish PM decided to create an international incident by ignoring a blockade put in place by Israel and Egypt. The blockade was created to stench the flow of arms (ie, Kassams-you know those things that have been terrorizing your brethren in the Negev for years) to Hamas controlled Gaza. Israel offered to allow the boat to stop first in Ashdod so that the IDF can confirm that there were no weapons aboard. The extremists on the boat had other plans ans so the IDF was forced to stop the boat (as the coast guard/security services of ANY sane country would do). Once aboard, the IDF soldiers were lynched by the extremists on board. Press reports fail to highlight how this whole blockade was instituted against Hamas, a terrorist organization that is responsible for thousands of jewish deaths and hundreds of Fatah deaths. I could go on... but please be very careful when joining the chorus of anti-semitism. What we are seeing today is similar to the deligitimization of the jews' right to live in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1930s, there were also jews who agreed with the prevailing sentiment against jews. We have no excuse to repeat those mistakes now.

At 6/9/10, 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember that your sister works with Middle East stuff... Just saying, that I fear I have failed in my mission of making people as informed as I am in terms of the Middle East. Just saying, I think this means we have to talk more... Also call when you get a chance and I will give you the whole story about the flotilla.

The short story: no one was right. And guess what, there are ties to terrorists... surprise. I will connect those dots when you have a minute.

At 6/9/10, 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot argue that the media is kind to Israel, because, let's face it, it is not. However, that does not give us the right to assume that the media is always incorrect and that Israel is always right no matter what happens. We as Jews often claim to occupy the moral highground when it comes to Israel, and that is not always our place. I am not implying that I do not support the state of Israel because I wholeheartedly do, but that does not mean that the state and its very human government is infallible. Questioning the government and its decisions does not make one an anti-Semite. The two are not linked. In fact, I would be loathe to live in a world where people did not question government decisions. A society like that breeds governmental abuses. Again, I am not saying that I think that Israel does many things wrong, but it does some things wrong and it is unhealthy to ignore that and not reprimand it when it does things that are not right or moral. Because, sometimes it, like any government, slips up.

Now, in terms of the flotilla. I think Israel acted appropriately and I will explain why, but keep in mind that it is a complex issue and there are many, many factors at play. I will give you the short version.

Six boats were joined together to create the humanitarian aid flotilla organized by the Free Gaza movement. The International Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a Turkish based relief organization, helped lead this flotilla (I will return to them later).

As the flotilla neared Israel last weekend the IDF warned them that they needed to enter Israel through the Ashdod port and could not enter Gaza directly due to the blockade. There are many questions about the legality of the blockade as well as the fact that the boats were not in Israel's waters, they were in international waters which means, according to international maritime law, that Israel did not really have a right to board the boats, they should have waited until the boats entered their waters. The legal question is not one that should be written off so easily.

Five of the boats complied, but the activists on the sixth, the Mavi Marmara, refused to be redirected to Ashdod. The boats were carrying building supplies and other types of aid such as tents. These types of materials have been used by Hamas to create bombs. The activists were convinced that Israel would not allow these materials in because they knew that Hamas uses them as well. And to be honest, Israel does not have the best track record in letting materials in, for good reason. So, as the IDF boarded the boat, to force it to redirect to Ashdod, the activists attacked. Using metal bars, knives, guns they attacked the soldiers. Ten people died in the ensuing battle to restore order. They said from their outset that they wanted to break the siege on Gaza and they planned to do so, no matter what. They wanted to make a statement, not merely deliver aid.

Oh, and by the way, the IHH has been exposed for ties to Hamas.

At 6/9/10, 8:53 PM, Blogger Shira said...

I didn't do a write-up about the flotilla, but I collected a bunch of links explaining the whole situation along with interesting tidbits, like 40 Al-Qaeda members coming along for the ride. Read through them, see what you think. Personally I think it was a set-up and Israel got ambushed.

At 6/10/10, 10:11 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Anon 2/3 & Shira, thanks for the info. And Anon 1, you're right that especially considering the people I obviously could have asked, I was lazy in not doing my homework (though quite frankly, I have been insanely busy lately, which is what happens when you take two intense two-week courses immediately after returning from a whirlwind East Coast trip that immediately followed finals). Yes, Anon 1, I should have done a better job informing myself.

That, though, is pretty much the only thing I agree with you on. My point still stands. My point was that no one should posit that Israel is definitely in the right without doing the research. I was not negative toward Israel at all (what part of not being positive and supportive necessarily means negative?), but I refuse to defend Israel before knowing the facts. And I think far too many people in the frum community do that.

I do not have a responsibility as a Jew and as a Zionist to believe that everything Israel does is necessarily correct, and I think it does a disservice to us all to do so. Let's not whitewash the things we could do better as a community and as a state; let's work to fix them. Like I said, I'm not saying Israel was wrong here; I'm just saying that on the rare occasion, Israel can be wrong and we should recognize that rather than unconditionally defend. Much like we should recognize that our communities, too, are not infallible.

We are not helping anyone when we lie to ourselves. Wholeheartedly supporting the state of Israel but merely noting that it is possible that its actions may not be 100% correct all the time is hardly being anti-Semitic—and I think that term should not be carelessly bandied about.


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