Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some myths

Succulent wall hanging

Sunday afternoon backyard
Some of the tempting myths relating to the bloody conflict in Gaza/Israel.

Israel has a right to exist, therefore a right to defend itself:
      The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 on already-occupied territory set the stage for the current confrontation. The “right” for it to exist doesn't refer to any moral, ethical, human-rights definition of rights, but to international laws applying to nation states; i.e. it has a right to exist and defend itself in the same way that Canada does. We can, of course, compare the establishment of Israel to the arbitrary use of force that allowed virtually every other state in the world to acquire territory and finally establish the borders of its current state. The Americas, for instance, were occupied territory before colonization; indigenous peoples were forced off their traditional lands at gunpoint.
      The upshot of sanctifying the “nation-state” as a superior and over-ruling concept has trumped, even crushed, all kinds of other sensibilities. It has forced various ethnic groups, for instance, to abandon their traditions and beliefs in the interests of the “common good,” or to wander the earth in search of a peaceful homeland. (Mennonites migrating from Canada to Paraguay makes a good case study of this.) It has spawned apartheid-style relationships in many forms and in many places, creating hot-beds for human rights violations, discontent, poverty and conditions favourable to violent conflict.
      Israel may have a nation-state right to exist, but its record by human rights principles does not favour its right to exist as a creditable and recognized nation.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people:
      This myth sounds so self-evident that the National Rifle Association and the lobby against gun registration in Canada freely use it, and many obviously embrace it without further discussion. The truth is that accessible weaponry represents a means and a temptation to violence that wouldn't exist if it wasn't there. Simply put, there are two options where serious conflicts arise: negotiate/compromise, or the zero-sum game we call war. It's easy to demonstrate that where the means for lethal force are absent, negotiation is far more attractive than it would otherwise be. Picture a Palestine where all borders, all weapons suddenly evaporated and then imagine how people would behave knowing that force would not be an option as a route to peace. Knowing that no rockets would be coming, no gunfire, no tanks, no bombs.

Israel's right to exist is embedded in prophecy and is the will of God:
      The declaration that the State of Israel is somehow predestined by the will of God is so absurd that it defies all credulity. Declaring this presupposes that there are ethnic groups whom God favours over others, sites and territories on earth that the Creator loves more than others and most deplorably, that God condones the killing or displacement of innocents so that the chosen ones may prosper and be safe. What is most astounding is that Christians who have, metaphorically, been schooled at Jesus' knee would not see the irony in holding such a position. Christ's message clearly aims toward the breaking down of gender, ethnic, racial distinctions and according to my reading, he would have been appalled to see people condoning the sacrifice of innocents for the advancement of a particular ethnic group.

Supporters of the Palestinian's rights are anti-Semitic:
      This card has been played ad nauseam and—apparently—very successfully. Israel declares itself to be a legal “state,” and the actions it has and is taking in and against Gaza and the West Bank are therefore actions of a legal state. Israel is not asked to answer on the basis of its predominant ethnicity for its atrocious behaviour, but as a state, which it purports to be. The United Nations has challenged Canada on its dealings with its indigenous population, not as European colonialists but as a state, one that has obligations under international consensus. So the state of Israel can be challenged on West Bank settlements, for instance, without drawing the accusation of antisemitism.

      The Harper government has routinely declared itself to be unequivocally in support of Israel's right to pursue its aspirations—by whatever means it finds necessary. I don't know what myths our government is primarily influenced by, but to be so unapologetically and arbitrarily one-sided on the Israel/Gaza/West Bank tensions shows a shallow and uneducated clinging to fantastical conventional “wisdom.”
      If only Harper would take the time to sit down and read a book, or call some of the Hebron CPT volunteers and ask them what they've experienced, then some of our prime minister's mythical view of the world might be illuminated by at least one, small shaft of light.


  1. Right on George. When will we begin to try to be logical at least? It seems that, on many issues, many of us are much more guided by illusions and myths than by reality and justice. But throughout, the Bible we reads challenges us to be guided by justice and mercy.

    1. Thanks for this, Hugh. Those poor people caught between futile Hamas attempts to wage war and Isreal's refusal to offer Palestinians anything that bears a resemblance to legitimate compromise, Civilians longing for a peaceful life are just out of luck.