Parroting old slogans in a new Middle East

I woke up the morning after the Israeli elections to find my Facebook notifications flooded with messages from fellow liberals and “progressive” Jewish organizations who, like kosher Chicken Littles, were screaming Oy vey! The sky is falling!, “What a disaster!”, This marks the end of peace!” and “No hope left for a two state solution!”

I wondered what planet they were living on. How can they still parrot the same old slogans when faced with the reality of a new Middle East in bloody conflict with a sadistic medieval force that threatens to raze every nation in its path? What peace can they possibly be talking about?

I’m also a liberal.  I also don’t care much for Netanyahu.   I too find him arrogant and, regrettably for any politician, without the necessary diplomatic acumen.  And, like them I rooted for Herzog.  However while, I certainly do share their disappointment in the outcome, I don’t share their delusional certainty about the willingness of any politician, be it Bibi or Herzog, to relinquish any territory when faced with the bloody internecine warfare that all of Israel’s neighbors are now either drowning in or threatened with.

Here’s what I am certain of:  As a mother, grandmother and humanitarian, I can’t imagine what it feels like to live in a country the size of Lake Ontario that’s surrounded by these new ISIS hordes of primitive thugs, intent on pillaging and raping every country in their path.  I can’t imagine what it feels like to share a Northern border with Syria where they are busy massacring, beheading and butchering young children, women, men and anyone who doesn’t revel in the same level of depravity that they do, and where dastardly deeds are executed with an orgiastic gusto and salivating brutality unheard of since the Nazis. I can’t imagine living alongside this failed state where chemical weapons, whose fumes don’t stop at the border, are launched against innocent civilians by all factions and where well over two hundred thousand men, women and children have been slaughtered without more than an occasional “tsk…tsk” from the international community.

I also have no idea what it feels like to have Hamas lie in wait to start the next war in the South. Instead of building a functioning civic society when Israel returned every inch of Gaza, they prefer to aim rockets at Israel and build tunnels (using child labor) from which to launch terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Hamas isn’t exactly benevolent to their own people either. They imprison unwed mothers together with their babies, execute gays and dissidents, persecute Christians and use their population as human fodder for their fanatic nihilistic beliefs.

Even Egypt can’t control their crazies. As a result ISIS is now in the Sinai.  Despite the fact that President Sisi sealed the border with Gaza; bulldozed Hamas’s tunnels; tosses human rights into the garbage; jails anyone who gets in his way and runs a government as rife with corruption as Mubarak’s, the world doesn’t utter a peep against him.

I find myself asking those of you who are moaning that this election signifies the end of peace, “Why are you so unwilling to extend any responsibility to Israel’s neighbors who are currently in bloody warfare with each other?  If this situation is dire enough for many Israeli leftists to lose faith, why can’t you, who live in the galut, at least examine a few of your own convictions?”  After all, they know that Israel gave back Gaza in return for nothing but rockets, tunnels and wars.  They realize that, if they had relinquished the whole Golan, they’d be that much more vulnerable to the inferno that has swallowed Syria. They also know that Hamas enjoys popular support on the West bank (which is a mere nine miles from Tel Aviv beaches) and that rockets launched from there would be infinitely deadlier than those from Gaza. So, again, I have to ask “What planet do you currently inhabit?”

Is Israel, like any other country, imperfect? Yes!  Have they made mistakes?  Yes!  Do I like the settlements? No!  Would I like to see a peaceful resolution with our Palestinian neighbors?  Of course I would! But unfortunately it may have to wait till this regional civil war is over, the dust settles and we see whether moderates or fundamentalist forces the likes of ISIS and others prevail.  Do I like Netanyahu? Like I said…no!  But is this entire mess his fault? I can`t rationally say that it is.

Can we at least agree that, despite living in a terrifying neighborhood, Israelis have managed to invent new technologies, create music, raise families and maintain a flourishing democracy?  And, despite being threatened by fanatic crazies who are now leaving swaths of devastation in Syria and elsewhere, (for whom the ultimate ticket to heaven would be the Jewish State) Israel just held open and fair elections where the Joint List of Arab parties emerged as the third largest in the country.  I find that not too shabby for a little country that’s been slandered as an ‘apartheid’ state.

It’s extremely puzzling to a growing number of disillusioned liberals like myself, how progressives and feminists can blithely howl for boycotts against Israel yet not protest countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and other regimes who chop off hands, keep women under lock and key, behead or hang gays, dissidents and anyone who disobeys governmental, whims, dictates and religious taboos. Tragically, as a Jew none of this blanket condemnation from the world surprises me anymore.

What does surprise me, however, is how so many of my liberal Jewish landsmen can defend everyone’s human rights, except their own.  With everything that’s now happening in the region, their claim that Netanyahu (even with his lack of diplomacy) is the main obstacle to peace seems more than a tad delusional.  What is it about self-flagellation that gives some of them such pleasure?

My advice is to stop whipping yourselves for a moment, take off your rose-colored glasses, and look at that part of the world as it really is.  There’s a sense of freedom that comes with critical thinking. It’s also quite liberating to admit that occasionally – on certain issues – the right is right and it’s the left that’s actually out in left field.  Don’t worry. You won’t burn in secular hell or turn into Mitch McConnell. Like me, you’ll still keep your convictions about climate change, human rights, feminism, gay rights, poverty, evolution and other just causes.  It’s not an ‘all or nothing’ deal.

There’s a Yiddish expression that accurately describes your unwavering demands on Israel. “Oyf yenem’s hintn iz gut tsu shmaysn”.  Colloquially translated it means “It’s painless to whip someone else’s behind”.  Also, “Be careful when you follow the masses because sometimes the ‘m’ is silent.”

About the Author
Hindy Nosek-Abelson is a Toronto based Canadian writer, blogger, translator and not-for-profit professional who has worked with Jewish and non-Jewish social service and political organizations in the field of development and PR for most of her life. She also a translator of Yiddish songs and poetry whose lyrical translations have been published, recorded and performed internationally.
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