Corinne Berzon

Peace? Not a chance

Israel's response to the perpetual threat of annihilation has been to excel at living life to its fullest

Once upon a time I was kindly asked to leave my Jewish high school. It seems that 15 year olds who wear kefiyehs on the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre and question the legitimacy of Israel’s settlement policy pose an insurmountable obstacle to a parochial educational system based on ideological conformity.

Years after my unceremonious expulsion, I attended a university whose student handbook calendar marked May 15th as “Naqba Day”. When Bibi came to speak on campus, riots erupted. My qualms about Israel’s policies towards its Abrahamic cousins were overshadowed by the desperate need to defend Israel’s right to exist. Any criticism I may have had of Israel was quieted by the constant shouts of anti-Semitic rhetoric disguised as political dissent. The battle for Concordia University (a full account of what transpired can be found here) is, in the end, what brought me back to the pro-Zionist fold. I realized that as long as Palestinian leadership remained committed to driving every Jew into the sea, publicly supporting the left would be tantamount to ethnic suicide.

Flash-forward a decade since my riotous college days. Here I am in the Holy Land, a proud, identity card carrying Israeli citizen, occupier of Palestinian land, voter of Netanyahu, wife of a war criminal and mother of potential future war criminals of the Zionist apartheid. How the self-righteous have fallen…  and yet nothing else seems to have changed.

1. World opinion is mysteriously unanimous in its hatred of Israel:

I have kept up with UN resolutions, blogs, NGOs and activism that target Israel, and I can only describe the vitriolic condemnation of the Jewish state as supernatural. How could so many educated and seemingly educated people be so willfully blind to the facts? How can peace-loving defenders of liberal rights unwaveringly support a regime that murders gays, suppresses media, abuses women, brainwashes children and actively seeks the destruction of freedom and democracy? Not to mention heavy pesticide use and other questionable farming practices. There must be some magical force controlling their minds. That is the only rational explanation.

2. Israel is unanimously disharmonious:

Even biblically we were renowned for our stiff-necked stubbornness, but it’s like we have become a nation of contrary, anti-everything tweens on crack. We agree about nothing except that the status quo sucks. Orthodox, ultra orthodox, progressive, secular, women of/for/by/through/in/on/over the wall, queer, straight, Sefardi, Ashkenazi, American, sabra… it’s a full time job just gathering up all the bones of contention being picked at these days.

3. Foreign Jews are supportive of Israel and totally know how to solve all our problems:

“Last year we donated 36$ to JNF, and I don’t understand how you re-elected that Bibi fellow.” “I took a class on Noam Chomsky in college and I think that Apartheid Wall is totally bogus”. Ya’ know what? Oh, never mind. We’ll just smile and nod and hang up a plaque in your name and send our husbands and daughters and brothers off to war. Please tell your kids to enjoy our falafel when they come on Birthright.

4. Palestinians are the world’s most victimized victims, right?

As the only nation to be granted eternal refugee status and lauded as the world’s most tragic victims, our neighbors on all sides are utterly convinced that every time an Israeli sneezes downwind it is cause to go to the Hague. I am not denying that there are human rights abuses, only that these are blown so out of proportion and are so often doctored for the media that they actually detract from the validity of justified complaints. Have you heard the story of the little boy who cried Jenin, Jenin? Furthermore, with more Palestinians living in Jordan than in the West Bank and Gaza combined, not to mention the nearly 1 million ‘refugees’ in Lebanon and Syria, one might wonder what exactly Israel is expected to do when 5 million Palestinians return to a country that they call their homeland but never actually existed. I guess the Jews will just have to move to Uganda or Poland.

5. Mean people with masks and guns fire stuff at Israel:

PLO, PFLP, Abu Nidal, Fatah and now Hamas. We may not have enough water, affordable housing, bike lanes or recycling bins, but we have always had enough enemies to spare. Now we have one particularly nasty enemy to whom we gave a significant portion of our hard-earned war-won land. Now that they have land, power and international recognition, Hamas has gotten a bit big for their britches. When they aren’t busy robbing UN coffers and murdering their own people, they like to shower us with missiles and rockets. Along with the somewhat less internationally recognized really really bad boys who prefer to blow up buses and cafes filled with innocent people, Hamas doesn’t seem to give a hoot about Kerry’s pipe dreams of peace. Meanwhile in the West Bank, Abbas is just content to sleep on a bed of corruption and greed, rolling around in the silk sheets of American approval like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal. And we’re supposed to negotiate with these d-bags?

In short, nothing has changed and we have nine months to give peace a chance and Bibi let a bunch of murderous lunatics out of their well-deserved cages. I am no great authority, but here’s my take on the matzav:

It seems like yesterday we were all running to our safe rooms as the Iron Dome was deployed overhead. It seems like last week that every time I heard an ambulance I wondered how many people had been killed this time and I would sit in the back of the restaurant to avoid shrapnel from the next suicide bomber. So please forgive me for rolling my eyes in incredulity at this peace plan.

I hate that we have released these scumbags, but I know Bibi and he’s got them in his sights. Remember the guys we let free for Gilad? Not many of them have escaped the sniper’s scythe. I’m sure these new guys will get their just desserts as well. Nothing in Israel is ever as it seems.

As for peace, I honestly don’t believe it will ever happen. I think peace in Israel is a sarin gas fantasy, a wish upon a shooting katyusha. For ten years I have regarded our neighbors and fellow countrymen with the utmost respect. I have never felt awkward or afraid around people who speak our other national language. But I know, deep down and in every fiber of my being, that they feel wronged by the Jewish presence in their land. We will always be the interloper. They will always be the victim. We will always scramble to defend ourselves and wish we could all just get along. They will always pray for the day when the Jews are no more and Palestine is theirs from sea to sea. Even our big bad army is hesitant, preferring to wage war door to door like carolers in December. Theirs is unhesitant and bloodthirsty. We respect life and loathe this new role that hangs over us like the sword of Damocles. We who were always bookish and persecuted are now forced to man checkpoints and shout orders and point automatic weapons at often innocent people. We hate war, but are forced to excel at it out of necessity. We are Dylan’s neighborhood bully.

And yet, despite our newfound militancy we are not a brutal people. We love and laugh and don’t take ourselves too seriously, despite the gravity of the matzav. Israelis have a dark sense of humor. Nothing is sacred because if we can’t find the funny we would all fall apart. I remember in 2003 I used to take a bus to Hebrew U. every morning. My mom was scared because things kept exploding. My response was that statistically the bus line I took had already blown up twice in six months during the exact hours I usually rode it. What were the chances it would happen again? That improbability was comforting, but I never read a book or slept on the bus.

The dichotomy between living in fear and living to the fullest is a very Israeli invention.This fatalism is our version of joie de vivre. It is what makes Israelis clap at Iron Dome interceptions and then return to the beach. It is what keeps restaurants and open markets bustling despite bomb scares. It is what allows us to get married and have children who will inevitably stand at checkpoints and fight wars that will bring no peace. It is what makes us imaginative and daring and courageous and funny. After all, the show must go on.

There has never been a generation of Israelis who have grown up without the constant threat of annihilation and I sincerely see no end in sight. It doesn’t make me happy, but this is the situation so I don’t despair. Israelis don’t despair. Even though nothing ever seems to change and war is always just around the corner and even our allies are our enemies, we keep smiling and living. These new peace talks will fail, just like all the others have. But we will keep smiling and living because the alternative is despair, and as Golda Meir once said: “Pessimism is a luxury that no Jew can afford.”

About the Author
Corinne Berzon is currently getting her PhD in bioethics. When she is not reading dense philosophical texts or dancing around the house to dubstep with her three daughters, she teaches yoga, runs in no particular direction and watches inappropriate television with her husband; Corinne loves Israel, but remains deeply and darkly cynical because it is more entertaining than the alternative.
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