Monday, November 19, 2012

The Road They Didn’t Take

Thoughts of mortality, of committing thousands of young men and reservists to war, ought to trouble and concentrate the mind. Worrisome, then, are the loose lips of Israel’s top brass like Eli Yishai, who stated Saturday, “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages”. Disconcerting too are the attitudes of Michael Ben-Ari, who stated he wants to see 2,000 killed in Gaza, and Gilad Sharon, son of Ariel, who wrote in The Jerusalem Post the following:

We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing.

Their detached attitude to combat, the blasé stance on the sanctity of life, the ease with which they would commit their nation to a war of destruction and desolation, is wicked, callous, and truly frightening. It can’t help but bring to mind, during this month in which we mark the conclusion of the First World War, Wilfred Owen’s take on the Binding of Isaac, “The Parable Of The Old Man And The Young”. After the angel of the Lord appears before Abraham and commands him to offer up “the Ram of Pride” over his threatened son, Owen’s verse takes a grim turn:

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one

Four years ago, Israel was on the verge of a ground war with Hamas and other militant organisations based in the Gaza Strip after a significant uptick in rocket attacks upon civilians living in the Negev. In the elections that followed Operation Cast Lead – which halted the showers of explosives, at a cost of thirteen dead Israelis and 700 dead Palestinian non-combatants – Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud gained fifteen more seats and formed a government of parties opposed to peace, or to use the father Benzion’s adage, in favour of an accord that they must know the Palestinians would never accept.

To say that history is repeating itself, or is in danger of doing so, would be facetious and a little cheap. Yet the familiarity of the position Israel finds herself in – at war with Hamas once more, no closer to an agreement with the PLO, and weeks away from a general election – should certainly sharpen the focus of the Israeli voter and give them just cause to reflect on the Netanyahu administration’s failings.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don’t Let These People Go!

TEL AVIV – During the holiday just past, Israeli and American Jews alike commemorated the Exodus from Egypt, and in doing celebrated and discussed the all-important themes of liberation, struggle, and freedom. At a time when the delicate democratic system Israel’s fathers constructed is threatened by enemies external and internal, it is worth noting especially with Passover in mind that Israel remains a kind of beacon in a wider region largely untouched by liberty’s lovely light.

Israel is so much of a sanctuary, in fact, that still today many mimic Moses’ trek across the Sinai – taking their lives and the wellbeing of those they are forced to leave behind into their own hands – in search of shelter and comfort in the Promised Land. But it seems as though the present Israeli government, in addition to patches of wider society, have a blind spot regarding the suffering and emancipation of those forced temporarily to leave some of Africa’s most destitute nations for Israel.

Their plight has been brought into focus by a scoop in last Thursday’s Ha’aretz. Dana Weiler-Polak reported that of the thousands of requests for refugee status submitted in Israel last year, only eight were approved, noting that “long, exhausting interrogations, finding contradictions at any cost, investigations with foregone conclusions and contradictory responses” have become an inherent part of the refugee screening system designed by the Interior Ministry.

Executive Director of Hotline for Migrant Workers, Reut Michaeli, went so far as to say that the asylum system in Israel is set up with the goal of “rejecting asylum requests by refugees in a systematic manner”, leading to the “immoral deportation of refugees to places where their lives are in danger, in opposition to Israel’s international commitments and despite the personal history of the people and society in Israel”.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011