This post is by Moriel Rothman and originally appeared on J Street U‘s site.
There exists in Israel a powerful fear. It’s a legitimate fear, the traumatic societal residue of exploded buses and falling rockets, hitting Israel against the backdrop of the Iranian threat. But this fear has grown and spread, manipulated by leaders whose pursuit of security has made Israel far more insecure. Israel’s most powerful threat is not aÂ boat fullÂ of angry activists or a community of hateful bloggers. Israel’s most powerful threat is not Syria or Hamas or Hizbullah or even Iran. Israel’s most powerful threat–and Defense Minister Ehud Barak agrees–comes from the lack of progress toward a two-state solution and peace.
An Israeli friend told me recently that my mabat chitzoni, or outside perspective as an American, prevented me from understanding the conflict. Perhaps he was right: maybe I don’t understand why Israel blocks certain foods and toys from going into Gaza because of my mabat chitzoni. Maybe that’s why I don’t get how Israel’s policy of forbidding exports from Gaza helps prevent imports into Gaza. Maybe it’s my mabat chitzoni that sees the blockade failing to accomplish any of its possible strategic goals: facilitating the release of Gilad Shalit, encouraging the people of Gaza to rise up and overthrow Hamas or stopping rockets from coming into Gaza. So maybe I wouldn’t have been disturbed by the events on the Mavi Marmara–carried out in order to defend a strategically backwards and morally bankrupt blockade–had it not been for my mabat chitzoni.
Where are the statements of remorse for the lives lost? Â Where are the statements of concern for the children of Gaza? Not for the leaders of Hamas, and perhaps not for those who voted for Hamas, but for the children. Have we so hardened ourselves that we’re unable to feel pain for any but our own? How much will the other side have to suffer for the blockade to end?
So perhaps it’s myÂ mabat chitzoni that fails to see any way for Israel to remain a Jewish, democratic homeland unless there is a two-state solution and a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians. Perhaps myÂ mabat chitzoni can’t imagine the international community continuing to support Israel’s occupation and blockade. Perhaps myÂ mabat chitzoni enables me to see the Palestinians as human beings who deserve food, water, safety, freedom of movement and independence. Just like us.
Israel is mired in a spiral of violence, fear, hubris and confusion. Some argue that it is not appropriate for those approaching the issue from aÂ mabat chitzoni to criticize, challenge and meddle. And if Israel were only hurting itself, this argument might be compelling. But Israel is not only hurting itself, Israel is hurting the Palestinians -who also continue to hurt themselves and the Israelis in a myriad of ways. Moreover, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hurts the potential for international stability and peace. It is not only appropriate, but obligatory, for those of us with aÂ mabat chitzoni to criticize some of Israel’s actions. The AmericanÂ mabat chitzoni, coupled with the US’s international power and its strong alliance with Israel, is crucial to securing Israel’s future. Obama must live up to the promises he made one year ago in Cairo, and bring peace to the Middle East. As much as it pains me to criticize my brothers, it would pain me more to leave them alone.
Moriel Rothman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. He is the new President of the National Student Board of J Street U, and is a rising senior at Middlebury College, in Vermont.