Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Churning Butter

There's a story I came across recently. I'd heard it before, and it made very little sense. But this time I thought of the Beinart piece. And then something I'd heard long ago, "the only rational position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is an irrational optimism." Following recent news, it seems more important. The story begins with two frogs in a bowl of milk. The milk is deep enough and the bowl is high and steep enough that things are clearly hopeless for the two frogs. Already you know how improbable it is, and why I've hated this story. Of the two frogs, one is very smart. Seeing the situation to be hopeless, it allows itself to drown. The other frog is so stupid, it strives furiously until, eventually, its treading churns the milk to butter.

Israelis boarded a Free Gaza ship. A few Israeli soldiers have been injured, and at least 10 anti-Israel activists have been killed. Perhaps as many as 60 have been injured. There are many, many things to say. Too many. A friend posted an article to facebook in which Glenn Greenwald writes:
As Americans suffer extreme cuts in education for their own children and a further deterioration in basic economic security (including Social Security), will they continue to acquiesce to the transfer of billions of dollars every year to the Israelis, who -- unlike Americans -- enjoy full, universal health care coverage?
And that's part of the problem. No, neither Jews nor Israelis are to blame for the lack of an adequate American healthcare system. Despite whatever else Greenwald might say in the article that's absolutely right, it's outrageous and offensive to suggest this, and fuck him.

Hussein Ibish is better. He's wrong to so completely dismiss "Tohar HaNeshek, the 'purity of arms' that the Israeli military boasts of." But he is deeply impressive when he points out:
Flotilla organizers are no doubt shocked, horrified and appalled by the way this has turned out. But if they were engaged in classic civil disobedience, their action has actually produced some version of the intended result. If the point is to provoke a reaction, and indeed an overreaction, to make a point, they have succeeded beyond their wildest imagination.
In fact, the activists were not engaged in "classic civil disobedience." See the discussion here and follow David's link to see the videos here. When the Israelis boarded the ship, they were attacked, and they responded to lethal force with lethal force. As military personal, their capacity to cause harm greatly exceeded that of the activists, but military and police forces always rely on an advantage in force (especially when outnumbered) to prevent escalations. Still, the confrontation stems from the blockade of Gaza. I could, in turn blame that on the rockets from Hamas, but however nuanced I want to be, I refuse to shift blame for these deaths from Israel. However, antisemitic and outrageously one-sided Free Gaza has been, it's close enough to civil disobedience that I can only blame Israel for these deaths.

There is, however, a not-so-nuanced point I do insist on: Nothing can "delegitimize" the idea that Jews have the right to self rule. I am not any less of a Zionist because of this tragedy. Only, I must try harder to churn butter.

No comments: