I am critical of Israel not because, as others would claim, she practices malice such as racism, genocide or imperialism, but because of the tough moral evaluations that she makes in her policies, which are meant to practice and enforce the protection of the productive lives of Israeli citizens. The Jews in Israel and the Jews who support Israel do not enforce the equivalent of apartheid — to say so is to misframe the context of the Middle East conflict and to miscalculate the agenda, intentions and practices of the State of Israel.
A key practice to use to gauge whether your understanding of the Middle East conflict is accurate is if you have run into passionate vilifications of a hyperbolized people. This conflict has a history too long and murky to cast one side as a hero and the other as a villain. The Israeli embargo on Gaza since 2007 and her bombing of Hamas targets in spite of Hamas leaders’ use of “human shields” are two of many issues that look to the naïve observer as human rights atrocities, are they not? It is important to explore the context of these policies in order to understand the decisions that Israel makes, and in so doing steering clear of vilification.
In 2006, Israel gave the Palestinians of Gaza sovereignty. They were then given the opportunity to participate in a democratic election. Amidst war and terror tactics, Hamas established political power over Fatah. Wary of bomb manufacturing and bomb smuggling, Israel established an embargo on Gaza, strictly monitoring what went into Gaza in order to make sure Hamas was not receiving materials from Iran to build rockets (amongst other war materials), which they now fire into major cities such as the southern suburbs of Tel Aviv and the outer suburbs of Jerusalem.
However, the embargo has many negative repercussions on the lives of the Palestinians unaffiliated with Hamas. Because trade is intensely regulated, Gaza’s economy suffers. Also, because materials that can be used for infrastructure, such as metals, cement and electrical materials, are withheld from entering Gaza, important establishments such as mosques, hospitals, apartment buildings and schools cannot be built, or, after Israeli air strikes, rebuilt. But still, in this situation one must remember that Israel is making the decision to protect her citizen’s lives and her infrastructure from decimation by the rockets that could be made of the withheld materials or smuggled from Iran.
Much intelligence goes into each targeted Israeli airstrike. Before each airstrike, leaflets are dropped informing the Palestinian people whom the Israeli Air Force will target, urging Palestinians to stay away from majorly populated areas and from certain locations over a certain amount of time. However, Hamas uses human shields in order to force Israel to make a very tough decision. Israel must decide whether the death of the Hamas target is worth the lives harnessed by the Hamas leader. Hamas does this to both protect their leaders from assassination and to create a P.R. nightmare for Israel if Israel follows through with the airstrike. According to Israeli policy, these deaths are at the hands of Hamas, done to her own people.
It must be understood that peace is very difficult to negotiate, and Israel has used the most trusting tactic for bipartisan compliance to no avail — unilateral actions. In 2006, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers and tanks then went on to raze and destroy all of the remaining Israeli settlements within Gaza. This decision was made unilaterally, meaning that Gaza was given sovereignty without conditions. The more conservative factions of Israeli politics dissented, claiming that without a bilateral agreement between the Palestinian authorities within Gaza and the Israeli government, no progress would be made toward peace. Over the following weeks Hamas populated the empty land that were razed Israeli settlements and constructed rockets and launching apparatuses. Subsequently, Hamas fired rockets into Israeli cities such as Ashkelon and Sderot — two well populated areas with schools, temples, hospitals, homes and administrative buildings. Israel has no intention to segregate from racism, to massacre from genocide or to clear populations in order to expand her territory. She only wants to defend herself from being “pushed into the Mediterranean.”
Russell Levine ’14 is a senior philosophy major from Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.