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Dispatch from Jerusalem: Violence And The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

When the Germans cast their votes on March 5, 1933, 43.9% voted for Adolf Hitler's NSDAP. This party, though clearly anti-Semitic, did not win this election, the last German election before World War II, based on promises to exterminate Jews. … Read More

By / May 23, 2008

When the Germans cast their votes on March 5, 1933, 43.9% voted for Adolf Hitler's NSDAP. This party, though clearly anti-Semitic, did not win this election, the last German election before World War II, based on promises to exterminate Jews. People voted for them because they were sick of their shattered economy, sick of the humiliation after a war that was lost, and sick of the failed leadership of the Weimar Republic. And well, sick of the Jews, too, but that goes without saying.

The civilized countries of the world tried to negotiate. They compromised, they turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the outrageous steps that were being taken by the Nazis with increasing audacity, steps that an idiot could tell would lead Europe and the rest of the world straight to hell. It took almost nine years for the civilized countries of the world to unite and get their act together, but by then the Holocaust was consuming tens of thousands of Jews a day and most of Europe was occupied by a death cult. It took another three years before Germany and its allies were defeated. By then, 72 million people were dead. Read that again: 72 million.

The victory over the Nazi evil was accomplished by an unflinching determination,
which in practice meant a willingness to sacrifice massive numbers of soldiers. Just paving the way for D-Day killed 12 000 men, with another estimated 10 000 allied soldiers killed on that one day.

But more to the point, the victory was accomplished by holding the Germans and the Japanese responsible for their leaders. Women, children, and other non-combatants were seen as legitimate targets by the Allied forces. In order to break the morale of the German and Japanese soldiers, systematic bombing of civilian targets was adopted. Hundreds of thousands of German women and children were killed in the name of the civilized nations of the world. Two atomic bombs were dropped on civilian targets in Japan just to make a point. It sort of took the fun out of winning, but the objective was accomplished: Unconditional surrender.

Bekitzur, as they say here in Israel, in short: If you get into a conflict with an enemy that is hell-bent on your annihilation, you win only by repaying the courtesy. You kick their ass until they cry uncle. First of all, however, you need to believe in the fundamental righteousness of your cause. You have to not just think that you are right: You have to know that you are right.

In the renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, both sides, as well as
US-representatives, have repeatedly said that the conflict can't be solved through violence. This is nonsense, of course. The Arab/Muslim world doesn't have the means to solve it through violence, though they have tried (and failed) repeatedly for the past 60 years. Just a couple of weeks ago, PA President Mahmoud Abbas explained to the Jordanian daily Al-Dustur that he is opposed to ”resistance” (Palestinian code for terrorism), not because it's wrong, mind you, but because he doesn't think the Palestinians can succeed. He didn't, however, rule it out as a future option. Israel, on the other hand, doesn't have the will to solve the conflict through violence: The Jews can't stomach the utter carnage this would entail. Not even after the slaughter of eight Yeshiva students in the heart of Jerusalem on March 6, the subsequent celebrations in Gaza, and the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida's extending honor to the perpetrator, does official Israel react with more than stern condemnations. Israel seems unable to tell friend from foe even when the friend is bleeding to death in a Synagogue and the foe openly celebrates this in the street. But let's not fool ourselves: This conflict can be solved through violence like any other conflict. It's usually how conflicts are solved.

So what is violence? How can we understand it? ”When a people uses violence, it is
an instrument, a tool by which to try to pry loose resources unobtainable by other means,” Roger Friedland and Richard Hecht write in their book To Rule Jerusalem. ”But violence is also an expression of commitment, a demonstration of what one holds most dear. Violence leaves bloody traces: wounds and corpses. It marks a community's values on human bodies, through blood sacrifices that only make sense in terms of the purposes for which the were offered. Violence is a language; force simultaneously a physical and a moral phenomenon. Efforts to decompose it must inevitably crumble.”

When the Palestinian Arabs cast their votes on January 25, 2006, 44.45% voted for Hamas. This party, though clearly anti-Semitic, did not win this election, probably the last Palestinian Legislative election before World War III, based on promises to exterminate Jews. People voted for them because they were sick of their shattered economy, sick of the humiliation after several wars that were lost, and sick of the failed leadership of the Fatah party. And well, sick of the Jews, too, but that goes without saying.

(Above: Scenes from the funeral of the victims of the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva; Photography by Paul Widen.)

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