Public Comment

We Have Lost Our Way

By Julia Chaitin, PhD
Tuesday June 08, 2010 - 01:10:00 PM

 I have been trying to get my head around what happened on the Gaza flotilla, with no success.


When I turned on the Israeli news at 6:40 a.m. on Monday morning, knowing that the flotilla must be nearing our shores, the broadcaster's first words were a knife to the heart: "Something very bad has happened. The commanders knew ahead of time that this was a lose-lose situation…" I could not help but wonder why the naval commanders (and obviously the higher-ups in the government) would knowingly go into a situation that was "lose-lose." I could not help but wonder why, once again, we had thrust ourselves into an impossible situation, endangered so many lives, perpetuated violence and severely damaged our relations with the world community in a nonsensical effort to enforce the unjustifiable blockade of the Gaza Strip.


I can turn off the radio and television and internet, but I cannot turn off my thoughts about all that has happened this week. My thoughts revolve around the steady stream of disturbing news and articles, interviews, photos and videos broadcast on the radio, television, internet, and youtubes. Each new photo, video, interview and article purports to give the "facts" of what happened in the dark, early morning hours of Monday. Each new photo, video, interview and article from outside of Israel puts the blame on my country. Each new piece of news from inside of Israel puts the blame on the 'terrorists' on the boats, on the Hamas, on Iran, and on the Turkish government. Each new 'fact' widens the chasm between Israel and the rest of the world.


Over night, our world has turned into one angry and volatile demonstration. It is impossible to count how many people from how many countries are marching, shouting and demanding Israel's blood for the attack on the 'peace ships.' I cannot count how many Israelis are draped in the Israeli flag, portraying the citizens on the boats as 'terrorists', calling Hanin Zuabi – an Arab Knesset member who was on board the Mavi Marmara – a traitor and calling for her blood. We cannot measure how much anger and hatred has resulted from this terribly destructive fiasco. And we do not know how long it will take to dissipate, if it will ever really dissipate.


The attack on the flotilla, and all that ensued (whether or not the citizens on board attacked first, second, or later is of no importance) has shown us, once again, how the blind perspective that force can solve the problem has made the problem uglier, deeper, more senseless.


With all this darkness, the attack on the flotilla has had one good effect:  It brought the blockade of the forgotten Gaza Strip, from the land, the sea and the air, into the homes of billions/millions of people around the world. More importantly, it brought this immoral and inhumane blockade into the homes of millions of Israelis, who, for the last three years, have chosen to ignore this destructive act that our government has inflicted on an innocent population. This may be the light at the end of the tunnel(s). This might be the beginning of the end of a government and military policy that was borne in vengeance, and has been carried out with a vengeance.  


In these dark days, I have tried to understand how my country has so terribly lost its way. From my perspective, for the last number of years, but most especially since the Gaza War, we have rushed to stumble in the darkness because: 


We (Israelis) constantly push ourselves deeper and deeper into this black hole called "the conflict." It consumes us, shutting out any other way to see our relations with the Palestinians.


We can no longer see any option but the military option.


Anyone who does not agree with the government and/or military policy is perceived as a traitor. Democracy is to be feared and freedom of speech has become profanity.


Any call for human rights is seen as a call against Israel.


We are obsessed with the quality of our hasbara (information/explanations) to the rest of the world concerning our actions. We are obsessed with trying to understand why our hasbara is ineffectual. We are obsessed with explaining our unexplainable behaviors, instead of being passionate about changing them. We spend our resources on embarrassing hasbara instead of using our energies to look for ways to end the conflict that offer the promise of peace, justice and security to Israelis (and Palestinians).


We are alienating country after country. We are isolating ourselves in the world, creating new enemies everyday, forgetting that we belong to the world, and that we cannot survive in this world on our own, without friends.


We are so obsessed with our own victimhood, that we do not see how we are victimizing others. We see threats and dangers at every turn, and dismiss our actions as self defense against the evil forces that would destroy us. We are militarily strong, but psychologically very, very weak.


We have become so indifferent and blind to the suffering of the Palestinians that our hearts have turned to stone.


I search for the magic wand (knowing this to be a childish fantasy) that would make my fellow Israelis (ordinary citizens and 'leaders') soften the stone, open the borders, gather in the friends, embrace our Palestinian cousins, spread the rights. I unsuccessfully and naively search in the darkness for this wand, only to realize that if it ever existed, it has fallen into the depths of the black hole of guns and warships and airplanes and helicopters and rockets.


From my home near the Gaza border, I hear the drone of the army helicopters, the booms of the artillery, the sirens from the Qassam rockets. I try to remember what life was like when the borders between our two regions were open and we Israelis and Palestinians traveled freely between the two. I vainly search the horizon for Israeli peace trucks and ships that herald the end of the blockade and for the beginning of a new era that offers us a life of peace and security that we Gazans and Israelis need and deserve so desperately. 


Julia Chaitin, Ph.D., teaches in the Dept. of Social Work - Sapir Academic College and lives on Kibbutz Urim, Hanegev, Israel.