Israel – Its the message that is important not the medium or the
By Yoram Getzler. I just read reviews of three recently released films focusing on the reality of our occupation and presence in Judea & Samaria. This provided the inspiration and opportunity to engage in a review of these policies in Judea & Samaria.
However we manage to see our presence there as justified, and even necessary, it does not change the demoralizing effect it has among many Israelis, diaspora Jews and just plain strangers. Along with other news, I feel it is important to share some concerns and thoughts especially the “price tag” attacks by Jewish youth against Arab and Jewish targets, and attempt to explore the significance of these actions and revelations.
There has been a consistent rejection and denunciation of these “price tag” attacks, by the leadership of Israeli citizens living in Judea & Samaria. What is lacking is the understanding that by the very nature of our presence as an occupying power these expressions of violence are to be expected. After all although we feel ourselves to be a chosen, special people, this experience of rule over others shows us how much we are ultimately, “only” human. While I do believe that we are an extraordinary community, there is no guarantee that we will all rise above the ordinary. We must realize that all of us will not always attain and maintain the high moral ground appropriate for a “nation of priests and prophets”. There is no inoculation against the psychological effects of unlimited power. Here we have another proof of the wisdom that :”power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. I believe the issue here is understanding the true cost of our policies of maintaining control of Judea & Samaria,and its non-Israeli inhabitants, of being the absolute power in the lives of other people. I am talking here of the moral and spiritual consequences rather than the economic, political or international ones
Each of the three films reviewed recently which depict the ugly embarrassing reality of our enterprise of territorial occupation focus on a different aspect.
“Testimonies” (http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/a-sad-basis-in-fact-1.407095?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.212%2C2.215%2C) “offers a powerful testimony of the day-to-day effects of the occupation. One by one, the actors face the camera. Each is filmed in a different place, against a different landscape. The landscapes are simultaneously threatening and stunning. ..Though each actor tells a different story, each delivers it looking directly at the camera – directly at the viewer. And each recounts, in a precise and matter-of-fact way, a difficult incident experienced by the character he or she is portraying.” On a fundamental level I believe this should be understood as a natural consequences of putting ordinary human beings; Jews and/or Arabs, Americans, British, Russian Bolivians etc et all, in difficult, dangerous conflicted and impossible situations rather than hearing it as a denunciation of one or another of the peoples involved. The first instinct is to attack the message and the messenger. “How dare s/he make public these ugly and difficult consequences of an occupation I personally question. Does s/he not realize that we must protect ourselves, whatever the price? And anyway its all their fault for threatening us, and its all our land. Look at all the other more violent occupation experiences by the US, Britain, France, Russia etc.”…and so on.
Two other films are being viewed at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. (http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=254911) One of them, Five Broken Cameras,was made by Emad Burnat, a resident of the West Bank village of Bil’lin, “a point of protest over the security fence for the past several years. It documents on video the town’s campaign of legal action and weekly demonstrations against the West Bank security fence and Jewish settlements being built on village land. The Jerusalem Post article asks: How badly does Israel comes off in this one? Think Bull Connor’s cops in Birmingham, Ala. We witness a protest leader, a local resident known as Phil who just minutes earlier was yelling at villagers to stop throwing stones, struck in the chest by an Israeli tear gas canister and killed during one of the weekly protests.We see an IDF soldier calmly aim and fire a rubber-coated bullet at close range into the leg of a protester who already has been arrested and handcuffed and is waiting to be loaded into a van.” Again, I think that the really important significant message here is the unintended consequences of our occupation of Judea & Samaria, our ancestral heart land, is destroying our heart.
The message I am hearing loudly and clearly is the cost to Israel and the Jewish people in the coin of our souls, the instinctive goodness in many of us, of our morality, of our intended message to humanity. These films may make a statement to the viewers in Utah or Canada, France or Japan of the evil of the Jewish people, but for us they deny us the excuse that we did not know, did not see, did not intend for the innocent to suffer. We must confront the choices we are making; the immoral and unjust repercussions of our desire to honor our past, that results in our dishonoring our present.
I think it is also important to remind ourselves that the heart of Zionism was about our returning to history, to our once again being responsible for our actions and their consequences. As sovereign in our own land we can no longer say “The gentiles made us do it”. True sovereignty says “I take responsibility for my actions”!
The second film reviewed that will be in the competition at Sundance is The Law in These Parts offers a much different look at essentially the same issue. The film is an interrogation — literally — “of the military-run legal system of justice that Israel established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the 1967 Six Day War. Some of the revelations are shocking. One judge acknowledges that “of course” he knew about torture, contradicting the findings of various Israeli investigative commissions. The director, Alexandrowicz, takes us inside the meet ings where they developed the legal justifications for controversial practices such as indefinite detentions and land confiscation for settlements.”
Not very pleasant or inspiring viewing.
Again I think there two important messages. First and foremost we Israeli citizens, the Jewish people, can no longer claim that “we did not know”. The sub-text is we individually are compelled to take responsibility, both individually and nationally for the injustices that are perpetrated in our names, with our taxes, shaming the name of our people nation and religion. Here too, we must face the facts, these actions, these policies are the “natural” outcome of our presence and rule over the people. It has nothing to do with the land. Its about the people, ours and the “others”.
The call is to realize that this is the price we are paying for the “whole of the land of Israel”. This is the cost of our focus on satisfying some needs related to our distant past. There is another component based on the need to defend ourselves from those sworn to destroy us. But here we have a choice. Minor as it might be, to at least lessen by volume the damage we are causing ourselves. The more Israeli civilians inject themselves into the midst of a hostile population the more, by volume, we are forced to engage in these ugly actions. The more we are allowing ourselves to be forced into shameful, immoral, and unethical behavior.
In defense of the enterprise of Israeli civilians establishing communities in Judea & Samaria one of the most often used arguments is; “no ordinary nation gives up on its history its glorious past, or its heart land”. Probably true, but by most of these same peoples self view of reality, the Jews are not an ordinary people, we are a special people, even a chosen people.
Part of the discussion left exposed like the elephant in the corner is that of “washing our dirty laundry in public”. It is here that an important element demands investigation and consideration.
For those interested I recommend a video of a discussion on the limits of criticism with Yossi Klein HaLevy http://www.hartman.org.il/Blogs_View.asp?Article_Id=772&Cat_Id=343&Cat_Type=Blogs
I am asking/demanding that The People, The Electorate take a hard look at the moral cost to themselves and the nation.
But I perceive the people as exhausted, after the orgy of violent murder in our streets, add to that the emotionally difficult withdrawal from Gaza and its violent emotionally draining results including the Goldstone report; and confronting the “Jewish” issue, seems to be just too much at the moment.
…and all this to a people who essentially have not had a national much less martial tradition for two thousand years.
The question that should be asked, and must be answered has to do with the choice of : Sanctity of the land or of the people, of the peoples ideals, the peoples soul, of the peoples God, or of the hills rocks, valleys shrubs and trees of our ancestors.
Judaism is about a promise, of the ideal potential of humanity and creation. About Messiah Time. The perfection is about the lion and the lamb. About the reconciliation of opposite and conflicting impulses. About bringing down the perfection of heaven to earth.