Joint voices

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Yair Lapid is a journalist here in Israel. He has a weekly column in Yediot Aharonot's weekend newspaper. He's witty and talented and I love reading his commentary of the Israeli way of life. This includes, of course, politics and current events (because we're always in the middle of something). Below is my translation of this weekend's column. The accuracy of his facts is debatable, but his question is very much on key - I for one would love a true answer to it.

The Riddle of Hate / Yair Lapid

A hundred years of conflict, 6 and a half wars, milliards of dollars gone with the wind, tens of thousands dead, not including the kid that lay next to me on the rocky beach of lake Kiron in '82, both of us watching his guts spill out. The helicopter took him and to this day I don't know whether he died or was saved. All this, and you still can't understand.

And it's not just what happened, it's also everything that didn't - hospitals that weren't built, universities that never opened, roads that weren't paved, 3 years taken from the lives of millions of youngsters in favor of the uniform. And despite everything, we still haven't a single clue to the solution to the riddle from which it all began:
Why do they hate us so?

I'm not talking about the Palestinians this time. Their conflict with us is intimate, focused, it has a direct influence on their lives. Without getting into the question of who's right, obviously they have very personal reasons not to tolerate our presence here. We all also know that in the end, that is how it will be resolved: personally, between us and them, in blood, sweat and tears which will stain the pages the agreement will be printed on. Until then, this is a war you can at least understand, even if no sane person is willing to accept the means being used.

It's the others. You can't understand them. Why does Hassan Nasrallah, along with his tens of thousands of supporters, dedicate his life, his visible talents, the fate of his country, to fight a country he has never seen, people he has never met, an army he has no reason to battle?

Why do children in Iran, who can't even locate Israel on a map (mainly because it is so small), burn its flag in the town square and offer to commit suicide for its demise?
Why do Egyptian and Jordanian intellectuals incite the innocent and helpless against the peace accords, though they know that calling them off will take them back 20 years? why are the Syrians willing to remain a miserable, depressed third world country, for the dubious right to fund terrorist organisations that will probably eventually threaten their existence? why do they hate us in Saudi Arabia? In Iraq? In Sudan? what have we done to them? how are we relevant to their lives at all? what do they know about us? and why do they hate us in Afghanistan? they have nothing to eat there, how do they have any strength left for hating?

So many answers to this question, and still it remains a mystery. It is true that it is a religious matter, but even religious people make their choices. The Koran (along with the Sha'aria - the Muslim equivalent of the Jewish Halacha) contains thousands of rules, why are we the ones that keep them so busy?

After all, there are more than a few countries that have given them far better reasons to be angry. We are not the ones that started the Crusades, we weren't the ones controlling them during the colonial period, we never tried to convert them to Judaism. The Mongolians, the Seljuks, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans and the British, they all conquered and wrecked and pillaged the entire region. We didn't even try, how is it that we are the enemy?

And if it is sympathy with their Palestinian brothers, where are the Saudi tractors building Gush Katif? what happened to the Indonesian delegation building a school in Gaza? where are the Kuwaiti doctors with the up-to-date surgical equipment? there are so many ways to love your brother, why do they prefer to help him hate?

Is it something we are doing? a thousand and five hundred years of anti-semitism have taught us - in the most painful way possible - that there is something about us that bugs the world. So we did what everyone wanted: we left. We made our own tiny country, where we could hound each other without bothering the others. We didn't even ask much for it. Israel spreads over less than 1% the size of Saudi Arabia, without oil, without minerals, without settling on the land of an existing state. Most of the cities bombed this week weren't robbed from anyone. Naharia, Afula and Carmiel didn't even exist until we founded them. The other Katyusha rockets hit places no one ever questioned our right to them. Jews were living in Haifa by 200 B.C. and Tiberias was the place where the last Sanhedrin sat, so you can't claim we stole them from anyone.

But the hate continues. Like there couldn't be a different fate. Active, toxic, never ending hate. Last Saturday the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, again called "to act for the disappearance of Israel", as if we were bacteria. We are so used to it, we don't even ask why.
Israel isn't hoping that Iran would disappear, it never has. As long as they wanted, we had diplomatic relations with them, we share no border or even bad memories. And still they are willing to confront the entire Western world, to face embargo, to damage their quality of life, to crush what little is left of their economy, and all this for the right to hate us with passion.

I am trying to recall and can't: have we done something to them? when? how? why did he say in his speech that "Israel is the main problem of the Muslim world"? over a milliard people live in the Muslim world, most of them in appalling conditions. They suffer from hunger, poverty, ignorance, bloody conflicts from Kashmir to Kurdistan, from dying Darfur to beaten Bangladesh. How are we the main problem? how exactly are we getting in their way?

I refuse to accept the argument that "this is how they are". They've said it of us so many times, that we have learned to suspect this phrase. There must be another reason, some dark secret which made the residents of southern Lebanon decide to set a quiet border on fire, to abduct the soldiers of an army that has retreated from their territory, to turn their country into a pile of rubble at the precise moment they have finally put 20 years of disaster behind them.

We are used to telling ourselves all sorts of educated statements- "it's the Iranian influence", or "Syria is stirring things up behind the scenes" - but that explanation is too easy. Because what about them? what about their thoughts? what about their hopes, loves, aspirations and dreams? and what about their children? when they destroy their children's lives and send them to die, are they satisfied with saying it was all worth while just because they hate us that much?


Blogger Bash said...

I like this Lair Lapid. The world should read much more from him..

24/7/06 1:47 AM  
Blogger a sane voice in a mad world said...

Lair Lapid, we don't hate Jews. We don't want them pushed into the sea.

We just do not buy the Zionist lies.

You present some warped facts. The Zionists did not make a small country out of a vacuum. There were people living in Palestine who were displaced, who were terrorised, who were killed.

We see Israel as yet another outpost of European colonialism.

And we see Israel as wanting to dictate terms on military superiority. We see the much-trumpetted peace offers as regularising land grabs, creating Bantustans, keeping the Palestinians under the thumb.

As victims of colonialism, as people who have faced superior military foes, as those who now understand what the West, particularly the US, wants, as those who can see Israel either as a tool of US policy for domianting and controlling the ME, we side with the oppressed.

As for the Jews being victims in the past, we sympathise with you on that. The Holocaust was not done by the Arabs or Muslims. If the Zionists wanted any compensation or any homeland for that, it should have been claimed from Europe, or the US, not from Palestinians.

And did you see that Israel was allotted the entire coast of Palestine.

The bombings and the killings and the use of weapons using White Phosphorus and depleted Uranium and Napalm derivatives, and eevr more sophisticated new devices, send a clear message that the state of Israel knows it is illegitimate, and intends to continue its existence on violence.

29/7/06 9:08 PM  
Blogger a sane voice in a mad world said...

and as for retreating from their territory, you forget the Shebaa farms,

and you forget that the ambush was on a military target, not on civilians.

And the Israelis hold Lebanese prisoners.

29/7/06 9:27 PM  

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