Among my friends and acquaintances are the full spectrum of opinion on the war between Hamas and the Israeli government. My Facebook feed is a dotted with blue/white, and red/green/white. Many of the flag wavers do not justify mass bombings of civilians, but some do.
I find such full-throated support for any-means-available tactics odious. How can anyone justify the mass killing of civilians? How can anyone dehumanize one side so that their deaths and their suffering do not count? However, because these are people I respect and love, I know that there is a justice-logic that they are operating under. Though I do not share that logic, I will struggle to understand how it is built.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not neutral on the broader struggle in Israel/Palestine. The disproportional military response of Israel is immoral and a violation of international law. On top of that is the systemic injustice. Palestinians live under an apartheid system. I support their right to full human rights, not because they are Palestinian, but because, under the current system, they are oppressed people. I pray for a one-state solution in which all humans in Israel-Palestine have equal rights. But I understand that that solution is not up to me. It is up to the Jews and Palestinians who live there.
I do recognize my responsibility as a US citizen whose taxes pay for much of the carnage. I want an end to US military aid to Israel. I understand the role of the United States in Israel, has been more than “ally.” Over the decades Israel has served as a client state for US foreign policy goals, not just in the Middle East, but in Latin America, South Africa, and elsewhere. When I learned, in the early 80s, that in exchange for US support, Israel funneled US funds to Guatemala and Argentina—death squad regimes that, in addition to terrorizing their own people were also anti-Semitic–it was a turning point for me in my understanding of the abuses of nationalism. Those leaders who trumpeted Jewish nationalism did so to shore up their domestic support, while taking actions that destroyed people abroad that they pretended to represent.
Unlike my blue/white and red/green/white friends, I won’t be raising any flags. In my head, I see nationalism as the root of the problem. We cannot get to justice if we think some people are more worthy than others. If I examine my heart, however, I realize I am not above nationalist emotions. I am Jewish. I want my people to have learned from the Holocaust that Never Again means nothing if it is not for everyone. I do get angrier when I see Jews oppressing other people. That is a form of nationalism. I want us to be better.
Photo: the peace before me as I write. A salt marsh at sunset in Massachusetts.