Jean Barker

Fighting talk

2014-08-08 09:10

Jean Barker

There seem to be two schools of thought in the USA when it comes to the Middle East, and war in Gaza: Firstly, there are those who believe the Israeli military should do whatever it wants to defend itself, no matter how many people it kills. And secondly there are those who don't watch the news. Sometimes the first group are also the second group.

Even people you'd expect to have a nuanced point of view often disappoint you here.

I was eating dinner with a very clever man a couple of weeks back, when the war was escalating, shortly after Hamas broke a ceasefire. He's Jewish, in a deep but relaxed sorta way that involves eating pork. I don't know why I mentioned the war. Perhaps because it was a big part of my week and I was so sad about it and desperate to talk it out.

The conversation went something like this:

Him: “They need to stop bombing Israel. That's all. Israel has a right to defend itself.”

He was almost shouting, but not quite. A little surprised, I said I felt that the situation was a tad more complicated than that, historically, and added: “Well, I think Palestine feels it has land rights issues that need to be addressed.”

“Israel gave them 80% of the land!”

Who is “them”, I wondered? And if I look at the maps, what I see is something that looks a lot like the apartheid government's homeland planning – little landlocked splotches of Palestine within a giant Israel. From what I know of history, Palestine wasn't “given” much, and the whole mess was created by colonial powers acting their own economic interests after WWI and again after WWII, and Palestine's existence was historically denied to the people who called themselves Palestinians, or came to do so, depending who you believe.

“I just feel like the more people die in Gaza, the less likely long-term peace becomes,” I said.

“They were warned to leave,” he replied. I murmured something about “And go where?”, because Israel's PR people like to say this too. But when refugee camps get bombed, staying home to die makes a lot more sense than packing first.

At this point, I am ashamed to say that I simply surrendered via a conversational segue. Something about Sichuan pepper. I say “ashamed” because those people aren't just numbers.

To me, Palestinians are not Hamas, even though Hamas were voted in. Saying that would be as deeply unfair as equating Americans and Bush, or South Africans and the ANC, or Israelis and Zionism.

American friends who feel differently than most Americans seem to don't post about it on Facebook, allowing the pro-Israeli camp to dominate our timelines. This gives the possibly false impression that everybody is in agreement that anything - even bombing hundreds of civilians to kill a few terrorists in areas with an average population density greater than that of New York City - is justified in order to defend Israel from low-grade rockets that mostly miss their targets.

Sure, Hamas are a bunch of violent religious lunatics, although not as violent as  people who quote this outdated, now rejected 1988 covenant which  Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called "a piece of history and no longer relevant" in 2010, would like you to believe. Pro-bombing advocates ignore that it's no longer even Hamas policy.

I don't stand on any “side” of the conflict. There are no sides in a mess like this anyhow. But I have felt obliged to make the case against killing Palestinian people because it's the easiest way to kill Hamas militants. I'm tired of hearing only Israel's side of it day in and day out from Americans and their extremely one-sided mass media. Though I pray the ceasefire holds, I don't know how it can, when a recognised state radicalised by grief and religious fervour has been left with so little to lose.

The lighter side

For a painfully funny take on the situation, check out Russel Brand's video about Fox News' coverage of the conflict. Here's part one, and the almost as funny second part in which Fox's Ken Doll Sean Hannity tries to respond and gets his ass hilariously kicked by the comedian.

- Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

Send your comments to Jean


News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel  |  middle east peace  |  gaza

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