This blog should have started on December 28th, 2008, the day the revoltingly named Operation Cast Lead began.
I had observed with a growing sense of horror the drumbeat for war in Israeli society. It reminded me of neoconservative hysteria in the run-up to America’s most recent war on Iraq. I had read with alarm the media reports in Ha’aretz and Yediot Ahronot about the political considerations of the main cast of characters in Israel’s domestic arena—Olmert, Livni, Barak, Netanyahu—and their rational calculations that an irrational war could boost their electoral hopes. And I argued, pleaded, begged my family members and friends to support the signing of a new ceasefire agreement with Hamas to end the rocket fire on Sderot and Ashkelon. “The ceasefire has been working!” I argued, “Southern Israel is quieter than its been for years.”
Alas, these arguments fell on deaf ears. In the following weeks, nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 320 children and 109 non-combatant women. Gaza was, and is, in ruins. Individually and collectively, we had failed as human beings.
I say the blog should have started then because the nine months since have been extraordinary in historical terms. Israel has experienced an unprecedented decline in its public image. A new president took power in the US with the promise of significant changes (which did much to create a now thoroughly degraded hope). A Likud-led coalition, which includes terrifying, racist elements, took power in Israel. A political battle between these two great allies ensued. All of this would have made for great blog material.
Although the battle of ideas in the Middle East rages on, I believe something substantive is changing. The fundamentalists of Israeli society are becoming victims of their own success, which has cast them into the limelight. YouTube is filled with videos of innocent Palestinian villagers being beaten and mobbed by Jewish ultranationalists. Israelis are forced to argue disingenuously that the roughly $500 million dollars they spend each year on the settlement project has no impact on the “peace process”. Judge Goldstone, a widely respected war crimes investigator, a Jew, and an ardent Zionist, publishes his investigation into Operation Cast Lead that accuses Israel of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. Suddenly, Israeli officials think twice before international travel.
In the context of never-ending violence in the Middle East, I suppose this time in history is as appropriate as any to start writing publicly. Although there has been, in my view, a substantive shift in the debate on Israel and Palestine, the change has been too small for comfort. The injustices loom large and are still defended vociferously by shockingly large numbers of my compatriots.
It is time to add my voice to the quietly growing number of Israelis, Americans, and Jews worldwide, who are ready for the serious introspection necessary to debate our identity and national aspirations in a twenty-first century in which we are now oppressors.