Friday, March 26, 2010

Us and them

There has been much tension lately between the United States and Israel. While the tensions between both new governments, the right leaning Bibi wing and the left seeming Obama government, seems to center around the peace process and controversial building in Israel. However, I’ve found there to be a certain attitude present in Israel. The atmosphere has been very anti-Obama. Throughout the years the United States has continually been a big player in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations however this time around there is a growing hostility towards this interference. While many US presidents have looked the other way while Israel has been building in the settlements, I think that the clash between a government in Israel supporting more settlements, and a government that understands their threat to peace, is creating tension. Yet, here in Israel there is a growing atmosphere of “finger-pointing” at Obama. It’s his fault that tensions are high and he is forcing Israel to make concessions it shouldn’t have to make. I’ve read articles accusing him of purposely creating stress in order to force a kadima government, to strengthen his ties with Arab countries, or simply because he’s an antisemite. It seems as though Israel is innocent of guilt, and the problem lies solely with the U.S and Obama administration. The “other” is the problem, not “us”.

Where is this atmosphere coming from?? I think it has something to do with what I’ve been feeling lately- this “syndrome” I’ve received since living in Israel- the feeling as if there are only two types of people in this world: Jews and everyone else. The Jewish bubble creates the illusion of dominance and even isolation. It affords us the thought that our decisions affect only us, and therefore are only ours to make. If we want to keep building in Jerusalem and in the West Bank… well, why can’t we? Why should the U.S dictate our destiny, after all Israel is a democratic and free country like anywhere else and therefore our problems are our problems and no one else’s.

It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into this viewpoint and to see the United States or wherever else, sticking their hands in our cookie jar, in our dirty laundry. While on the surface this idea is empowering it misses and even undermines the entire concept of peace. In order to reach for peace, we much dance with the “other” and welcome them in, in an effort to understand them fully and completely. Especially in a place like the Middle East, where all actions and political decisions reverberate throughout the entire area and to the entire world.

While of course we can’t also undermine our own democratic political system, we must also understand that the world is not split into “us”es and “them”s. Our peace is Palestinian peace and in the end a step closer to world peace. We can’t see the United States, or Palestinians as enemies, or even allies. At the end of the day, Jew or not, we are all still people and the villain isn’t disclosed from this equation. There are no Dr.Evils in this world because we are all so much deeper than these stereotypes. Human nature is capable of much more complexities than we analyze from the surface.

Perhaps I am naive in my love of peace. Perhaps I am silly for placing peace as my ultimate good. However, if this is so, I’d rather be naive than fail to see the real multiplicity of the world. When we see the situation in black and white, Jews and others or Israelis and Palestinians, we lose touch with what actually is real and drive ourselves into deep potholes. To simply scratch the surface and allow stereotypes to dictate us is safer than full understanding, but makes peace look impossible. Someone once told me that when they see places like Ramla or areas in Jerusalem where coexcitance is present, they feel as though they have stepped into a possible future. It’s only when we put ourselves in boxes and bubbles that peace seems so unobtainable.

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