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May 25, 2021

No Tears for Israel or Palestine: Did the Oppressed become the Oppressor?

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

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As of this writing, the world is witnessing the latest fratricidal lunacy between Israel and Palestine which is following the doleful but familiar themes.

One group does something mean and stupid, in this case, Israeli settlers attempting to steal more Palestinian land. Hamas responds by futilely shooting rockets into Israel which brutishly overreacts with enough firepower to sink an armada. Both sides play the victim card to the hilt and work hard to dehumanize the other while wrapped in the cloak of moral self-righteousness. Neither antagonist cares how many women and children are killed by their rockets or airstrikes.

Thomas L. Friedman, whose classic From Beirut to Jerusalem is required reading for anyone who wants a clear understanding of this issue beyond the noise and nonsense, observed that “When it comes to discussing the Middle East, people go temporarily insane.” Over the past decades, millions of Africans have been murdered and mutilated by other Africans. Minorities in Myanmar, India, and China are ruthlessly suppressed, if not systematically subjected to genocide. Our “ally” Saudi Arabia, which also receives billions in American military aid, has helped slaughter over 100,000 Yemenis. What do American activists say about such atrocities?

Nothing.

Sure, they might shed an obligatory tear but soon forget. On the other hand, when the Israelis and Palestinians kill dozens or hundreds of each other, everyone erupts in a paroxysm of outrage. Otherwise, they show little interest in the Palestinian cause. And I believe that if the situation was reversed and it was the Israelis being oppressed by the Palestinians, none of these high-minded activists would care.

I stopped supporting both sides years ago. Israel and Palestine remind me of two drunks having a fistfight in a back alley and enjoying every minute of it. While I hardly condone Israel’s actions, as a Jew who knows its history, I am obliged to understand them. Israel might be the only nation that lives with the existential terror of being wiped off the face of the earth. Such a fear is not abstract but lies deep in the gut of every Israeli. This communal dread is the basis for their ruthless assaults on Gaza whenever Hamas is dumb enough to fire rockets into Israel with the intent to kill Jews.

Obviously, such a reaction is the result of one whopping case of Holocaust PTSD, an affliction that affects societies as well as individuals. The Palestinians, with some justification, wonder why they have to pay for the crimes of the Germans but ignore that at times, they and their Arab “brothers” have, since Israel’s founding, used the language and adopted the attitudes of the Third Reich. During World War II, Haj Amin al–Husseini, the religious leader of the Palestinian majority, spent World War II in Berlin aiding and abetting Hitler’s plan for the Final Solution of the Jewish people. If you tell a people who were recently exterminated that you intend to drive them into the sea, don’t be surprised if they try to stomp you into the ground in order to prevent such an outcome. I have witnessed comments about Jews on social media from Palestinian sympathizers that could have been written by Joseph Goebbels.

Israel is also the only nation that has to prove its existence, even after 73 years. Apparently, it has no right to exist because it was founded by military conquest. That definition applies to nearly every country on earth including the United States. In fact, Israel was founded by UN Resolution 181 in 1947 that divided what is now Israel and the occupied territories into a Jewish and a Palestinian state.

Israel, the size of Vermont, was then attacked by five Arab armies and outnumbered on the field 15-1. Contrary to common misinformation, the United States declared an arms embargo and gave no substantial military aid to Israel until 1970. Both sides in the ’48 war committed atrocities. The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians was matched by the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Muslim nations as retaliation for the creation of the Jewish State. One piece of irony is that at this same time, Jordan’s King Abdullah occupied the West Bank for himself. There is no way Jordan (which fought a decisive war with the PLO in 1970) would have even considered an independent Palestinian state adjoining them.

In answer to those who condemn Israel as an artificial creation of European hegemony; Syria and Lebanon were artificially created by the French while Jordan and Iraq were artificially created by the British. All four were the result of the notorious Sykes-Picot agreement forged during World War I.

The Israelis and the Palestinians are stuck with each other, two dysfunctional Middle Eastern tribes. The tragedy is that both are unwilling to understand the mindset of the other. To the Palestinians, the Israelis are foreign colonizers. To the Israelis, they are coming back to their ancestral homeland after 2000 years of brutal exile. Both hold claim to this microscopic section of the globe.

In the end, Israel is a warning for all of us of how easy it is for the Oppressed to become the Oppressor, no matter how noble their intentions or how justified their grievances.

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