[pullquote align=right] One can contextualize without rationalizing; in fact, one must do so.
[/pullquote]We often think the world is falling apart. Mostly it is hyperbole. Sometimes it feels like it might be real. Anyone who cares about Israel/Palestine; the land, its people, it mythos, is living in a state of shock. Each day brings more violence. In absolute terms perhaps we should be more cautious. There are numerous parts of the world where these things happen every day, and have been happening every day for years. But we don’t pay much (or enough) attention to those parts of the world. But we do pay attention to this real estate. We expect better. And we are consistently disappointed.
[pullquote align=left] Jewish media and social media almost totally lack contextualization.
[/pullquote]Like all of us, I watch this unraveling in Israel/Palestine, the erasure of any sense of human decency, the return to almost tribal warfare, and am horrified. Wanton shedding of innocent blood can never be justified. But what I find troubling in my reading of these events in the Jewish media and social media is the almost total lack of contextualization. One can contextualize without rationalizing; in fact, one must do so. All events are born from a context. On the Jewish/Israeli side I am naively surprised that few seem to be voicing the notion that this is all taking place in an occupation and, more accurately, in a particular transition of occupation. What I mean is that the Israeli electorate elected a government that will not even utter to word “occupation” and consistently acts in ways that fortify that denial, even as it tacitly proclaims otherwise. I think we are in a transition from that “occupation” to de-facto-annexation. The settlers know this, the government (right and left) knows this, and the Palestinians know this. Historians teach us that the proper historical question is not why things happen but why they happen when they do. Yes, these are inexcusable acts of violence. Yes, these are expressions of rage and hatred. And yes, they are happening now for a reason, even if that reason may not be directly motivating the perpetrators.
[pullquote align=right] “Occupation” is not even a subject in Israeli conversation anymore.
[/pullquote]The fact that the context of occupation/de-facto annexation, what Israeli historian Oren Yiftachel calls “a unitary space representing a system of creeping apartheid,” is hardly mentioned should not come as a surprise. As one American Facebook friend who is visiting Israel wrote to me privately today, he is surprised how “occupation” is not even a subject in Israeli conversation anymore. The occupation has all but disappeared – and thus de-facto annexation is what is occurring. This all speaks to the death of a two-state solution, first because Israelis do not seem to want it or think it is possible (whatever they may say in polls, that is not how they vote), and second, Palestinians no longer believe it.
[pullquote align=left] Is it all Israel’s fault? No. But as the occupiers Israel has an obligation.
[/pullquote]The horrible bloodshed we are witnessing (why now!) may be in part of the beginning of a different kind of “managing.” Frantz Fanon argued in his Wretched of the Earth that the colonized will always be one step away from rebellion and we should not be surprised when it happens. And the colonizers will always need to use violence to manage the colonized (this is not to say Israel is colonialism, but only to compare the hierarchy of power in colonialism and occupation). In the film “The Battle of Algiers” there is a scene where a French officer faces critical journalists in a news conference and is asked about the French army’s violence toward the Algerians. He responds, “Do you want the French in Algeria? Because if you do, then this is how we have to act. If you want us to leave, then just tell us.” The Palestinians will continue to act violently, and the IDF will continue to respond violently. That is what colonialism/occupation is about. Those are the rules of overlords and the subjugated. This is the country Israel has chosen to be until it chooses to be otherwise. Is it all Israel’s fault? No. The Palestinians are certainly to blame and continue to make poor choices. But as the occupiers Israel has an obligation. The occupied are not obliged to end their occupied status; the occupiers are. And if that burden falls on the occupied, it will be done through violence. PM Netanyahu says “we will defeat this terrorism.” He is wrong. He can suppress it, but he cannot defeat it as long as occupation/annexation continues. It will just return again in another form, as we have seen again and again. And again we will be surprised.
[pullquote align=right] It is hard to be contextual when blood is flowing in the streets. I feel that as much as anyone.
[/pullquote]Aside from his great accomplishments, David Ben Gurion made three significant miscalculations, the consequences of which we are experiencing today. (1) He thought Diaspora Jews would immigrate en masse; (2) He thought the Haredim would secularize in one or two generations; (3) He thought the Arabs, or most of them, would leave and choose to live in an Arab country and not a Jewish one. He was wrong in each case.
[pullquote align=left] We do not to want to be murdered. And we do not want to be murderers.
[/pullquote]I know it is hard to be contextual when blood is flowing in the streets. I feel that as much as anyone. But treating the symptom of a systemic problem is not a solution, it is an excuse. You can be sure many more building tenders will be approved in the West Bank, more settlements will emerge from the rocky landscape. This violence will be politicized on both sides. It already has. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing again and again and thinking the results will be different. Both sides are insane. Both sides are suffering. Today we Jews are experiencing this acutely and we all mourn the shedding of innocent blood. We do not to want to be murdered. And we do not want to be murderers. But tragically, the situation invariably makes us both. May the God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar have mercy on us all.