by: Shani Chabansky on November 12th, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Today, once again, I am reminded of how the United States is an isolated, self-interested bubble. As a consequence, I am also reminded of just how little I can do to heal and transform Israel/Palestine from my privileged, yet limited station in the Bay Area. After my week-long glimpse into the despair facing the Israeli center-left, it is growing even more difficult to turn this desperation into action.
Listening to the news on the way to work today, I was swept up in US domestic melodrama, like David Petraeus’ resignation as chief of the CIA, due to his extramarital affair. Just before turning the radio off, the US-based international news and analysis program The World briefly brought me to Israel.
A Syrian mortar shell crashed in the Golan Heights, which Israel countered by launching “warning shots” into Syria. This marks the rupture of a decade-long ceasefire between the two nations. Only after launching a counter-attack did Netanyahu initiate the process of determining whether or not the Syrian strikes were intentional, or simply spillover from the Syrian civil war. And an upsurge in missile attacks from Gaza into neighboring Israeli communities catapulted Israel’s notoriously deadly round of retaliations. Israel is now reconsidering the possibility of using targeted assassinations.
When it comes to how Israel responds to attacks, message received: fight first, think later.
Initially, this news concerned me because of Israel’s upcoming elections. Thanks to Obama’s reelection, Netanyahu is under more pressure than ever to prove his commitment to Israel’s “security.” So I am worried that he will become even more hawkish than ever, which could have dire consequences for everyone in the region. It could also mean the reelection of Netanyahu, or worse.
But a look into alternative Israeli media sources revealed a reality even more troubling than Israel’s possible retaliations against its neighbors. Not only is the mainstream media conveniently ignoring Palestinian fatalities, I was horrified to find out that while the mainstream Israeli media focuses on relations with Syria and negotiations with Hamas in Gaza, Israeli citizens will not know about how police fired tear gas into a Bedouin elementary school, simply because the structures were built illegally.
Increasingly, I am realizing that there is so much more to the task of healing Israel, Palestine, and their neighbors than the noble struggle towards ending the occupation. Israeli foreign policy needs to change, that much is clear. But the increasingly racist internal dynamic of Israeli society must also be addressed.
Now, more than ever, I am doubting the power of the written word. As a budding writer/activist focusing on Israel/Palestine, I am beginning to ask myself very difficult questions. While Israel picks and chooses from its infamous “box of tools,” I need to consider my own such box.
It is not enough to condemn Israel for its behavior, or to pressure it into re-initiating peace negotiations and to end the illegal settlement construction and the destruction of Palestinian homes. I must also look Israel’s institutionalized system of racism feeds into its citizen’s ignorance and apologies of the behavior of the Knesset and the IDF. Words can be so powerful in their simultaneous permanence and intransigence. However, in moments like these, in which a nation’s drone strikes, mortars, and missiles are juxtaposed with the thoughts, words, and actions of an individual, I must take a deep look at my own choices, and I must ask myself: What am I doing?
Shani Chabansky is an editorial intern at Tikkun and former editor of Leviathan Jewish Journal. She recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in both Anthropology and the first inaugural class of Jewish Studies.