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War and Peace

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Here’s an interview worth reading of Peter Beinart:

My basic bedrock assumption is that the fate of these two peoples are intertwined. Neither of them are going anywhere. I understand the tremendous sense of fear and rage that would make many Israelis want their government to go into Gaza. There are parallels to the way many Americans felt after Sept. 11. But those emotions did not serve America well. Israel has been blockading Gaza for many, many years now and has bombarded Gaza many, many times. If that were an effective strategy, then what happened this weekend would not have happened.

It’s not rocket science. You can kill members of Hamas and you can destroy their weapons and their munitions. But in the process of doing that, you create much more misery and hatred among people who will then grow up in the shadow of that misery and hatred and want to fight you. People are creative, and so they’ll find a way of getting more weapons.

Ultimately, Israel doesn’t have a military problem. It has a political problem. It has a human problem. And the problem is that you have these millions of people—most of them are not from Gaza. Most of them are the family of refugees that were forced out of their homes in Israel when Israel was created. And if they don’t have the ability to live a dignified, decent life, then many of them are going to try to make sure that Israeli Jews can’t live safe and dignified lives. That’s the way human beings tend to be, all over the world. And if you think of the fate of Israeli Jews and Palestinians as intertwined, I think it leads you to a very, very different way of thinking about ultimately how you deal with Gaza.

Although obviously the situations are radically different in countless ways, it’s worth thinking about the fact the tens of millions of people who inhabit Trumpland aren’t going anywhere. And there’s no “two state” solution for that problem, either.

Judaism, for me, fundamentally at its core, is about a tension between a religion that’s based on the metaphor of family—which I think is a bit different between Christianity and Islam, because we read, in the Book of Genesis, a story of a family that in exodus becomes a nation. So, we grow up with this idea to think of Jews as having familial obligations to one another. And yet Judaism also has a universal ethical message about the dignity of all people. And so maybe everybody in some way or another is balancing that tension, but for me, it’s fundamental to the way I think about this issue. How do I maintain a special obligation to my people but not at the cost of my ethical obligations to all people, and especially the Palestinians, because the Jewish state has inflicted such terrible trauma on them and continues to?

Sometimes there are moments when it seems like that tension can be resolved in creative ways and even in beautiful ways. And then there’s times like this, where the tension seems just overwhelming. I feel the imperative to speak critically about Israel’s role in what happened here—this didn’t happen [because] Palestinians are just some terrible other form of human beings. It’s fundamentally the result of the fact that the Palestinians have endured so much horror and trauma that they’re responding in this case in really, really terrible ways. I’m trying to balance that with a sense that I’m not losing touch with the necessity of solidarity. So, how do you show solidarity to a community that you are a part of, that you’re deeply, deeply connected to, and yet also be critical of it? In certain moments like this, I’m just struggling with it. We as a family have been talking about it all weekend. And it’s been really hard for us.

Nationalism, and especially but not only nationalism that is intertwined with religion — “America is a Christian nation” — is ultimately not compatible with a just society. The modern world is an ongoing demonstration of that.

On a related note, something I’ve always found completely ridiculous is the need of university administrators to issue statements about current political events, as if anybody has any desire to hear from them.

I think it better that in times like theseA poet’s mouth be silent,

for in truth

We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please

A young girl in the indolence of her youth,

Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

Yeats, “On Being Asked For a War Poem”

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