Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word

We are not ants

Image credit: Amuzujoe via Wikimedia Commons
Image credit: Amuzujoe via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I conducted my own private war. The fire ants that we had, as a kibbutz, exterminated, were back. The hot autumn weather – in the mid-30s (well over 90 F) – confused them into thinking it was still summer, and suddenly the crumbs around the edge of my kitchen sink were alive and biting. Watering thirsty plants lured me into their vicinity, and the result was burning, red welts.

I’m not proud of the fact that I use poison in my home to eradicate them. Even as my raised vegetable beds remain organic, I spread ant-bait pellets on the dry ground near them and run ant-killing gel into the cracks they use to infiltrate the house. Let’s face it: It’s them or me.

Is there an analogy here? The answer is no. Because we are not ants. We are all human beings.

So when I hear the words “It’s them or us,” spoken in the heat of anger over the atrocities perpetrated on innocent civilians, I have to ask: Who is them? Do you mean the young men who were brainwashed into thinking that killing Jews was better than sex? We exterminated quite a few in the first several days, fighting hand to hand in the border communities. But just as many got away.

Do you mean all members of Hamas, those who can now be branded “terrorists”? That alone will mean pinpointing and killing thousands. It would take years.

Or do you mean the entire Gaza strip must be rid of all habitation? And you don’t care whether that means killing more people, deporting them or putting them out to sea on boats.

In some ways, it would be easier to flatten all of northern Gaza and dig out its tunnels than to come up with a real solution that would allow both Gazans and Israelis to rebuild their lives and live in peace. We would have to find a way to let them erect new buildings without using the cement to reinforce tunnels below, to let in supplies while demilitarizing the entire strip of land. This is an endeavor we have failed at, miserably, for the past two decades.

I have to ask: Who is them?

I watched Bibi and the Goofus and Gallant twins (Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Defense Cabinet member Benny Gantz) giving a joint press conference, all dressed in identical storm-trooper black. Where the other two were stilted but looked sincere, Bibi was at his allegorical, flaming best. “We are the light; they are darkness,” he proclaimed, adding biblical quotes about smiting our enemies. This is dangerous stuff, even if G-d did talk to you alone, out in the desert. As Bob Dylan put it so many years ago: “You never ask questions, when God’s on your side.” Bibi did take questions, but told us they would only be answered after the war.

And the Gazan version of “Them or Us?”

G-d is on their side, as well. We Israelis – we Jews (though the dead included Arabs and Thai agricultural workers) – are faceless enemies meant to be executed, preferably in a horrifying, gory manner.

Make no mistake, those of you in Europe and colleges in the US waving signs that say “Free Palestine” (I hope you know what that means). The terrorists who broke through the border fence did not set out to fight for their country. They were on a holy war to free El Aqsa. Ignore for a moment the fact that the Al Aqsa Mosque is run by an independent wakf – a Muslim, religious council. Indiscriminately killing people near the border was simply the first step in their holy war – their jihad. It was a twisted take on the religious concept of jihad – converting people to Islam by the sword. And let’s face it, after killing thousands and taking hundreds captive, the Hamas has not managed to change the situation in Al Aqsa one bit (nor to convert one Jew to Islam). Nor will they.

If there is an analogy here to the ants, it is in the fact that they are here to stay

Let’s hope that those ascending the Jerusalem mount for Friday prayers say a prayer for peace. Muslims who relate to Jews as fellow human beings know that when we pray, we both pray to the same god.

If there is an analogy here to the ants, it is in the fact that they are here to stay. When fire ants invade, the only solution is to take quick action and to be vigilant. At the sign of one ant, the gel comes out and pellets are scattered. But the lull is temporary. I know they will be back in a few weeks or a few months.

When it comes to Gaza: Israelis and Palestinians are both here to stay. The good news is that we’re both human. That means we can learn to live side by side if we so wish. Unlike with fire ants, inflicting pain on other beings is not a biological prerequisite. And we must remain, for the time being, vigilant. That is, if we want to prevent the next killing spree, the next loss of life from rockets, bombs and artillery, then we must be vigilant – on both sides of the border – in respecting and preserving the dignity of human life. I understand that will mean removing Hamas from power, along with its perverse ideology based on hatred so extreme, it invested in arms, motorbikes and body cameras for its terrorists to enable them to send videos of bloodshed back to Mom and Dad, rather than in industry for its civilians. It will mean dealing with the extreme factions in our own government, asking others if they did their utmost to preserve civilian lives.

It is easy to take sides in this conflict. Stand with Israel. Free Palestine. It’s them or us. We are light, they are darkness. As long as we continue to see the issues in black and white, to insist on our humanity at the expense of theirs, the war will remain a terrible tragedy, our wounds cannot heal, and we will be revisited, again and again by bloodshed. The good news is that our drama is not preordained. We can, with some humble humanity on both sides, prevent the next round.

As hard as it is right now, I refuse to stand for one side at the expense of eliminating the other.

I stand for peace. Kill fire ants, not innocent people.

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
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