Wednesday, June 25, 2008

good news & bad news in the bbc

Two articles caught my eye in the BBC newspaper this morning: the good news is that New Zealand signed a land deal that gave back "huge tracts of land" (as the BBC put it) to the native Maori people. This is exactly the kind of thing that needs to happen around the world, especially in the United States.

The bad news is that Israel again blockaded Gaza to imports and all vehicular traffic. A cease-fire was signed 6 days ago between Israel and Hamas, but Israel says the Palestinians broke that by a militant group firing a rocket. The Islamic Jihad group claiming responsibility for this attack said it was in response to the killing of two Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers, reported in the BBC yesterday or the day before.

The blockade means that no material aid goes into Gaza, which is currently one large prison for the people who live there. It is fenced in with barbed wire and soldiers, and access is only given to Israeli military, journalists and diplomats. It is supposedly "Hamas which controls Gaza," but the truth of the matter is that Israel controls Gaza, keeping its inhabitants locked inside. This is eerily similar to the camps within cities in Nazi Germany into which Jews were locked in WWII. While this was a grave injustice in WWII, it does not give Jews the right to do the same thing to others in the name of their own "security."

One more thing: the BBC says right off the bat that the cease-fire was between "Israel and the militant group Hamas." Who seems more militant to you: the group with the 5th largest standing army worldwide that keeps a military border around an entire section of a foreign country, or a group that is defending itself from military occupation? Which seems more militant to you: soldiers entering an illegal occupied territory (the West Bank) and killing two civilians, or a small group of angry and desperate people inside a closed military zone with lack of access to food and other necessities, who fire a homemade rocket aimlessly toward their enemies? (I assume since the article says nothing about any deaths or injuries that this rocket didn't actually hurt anyone, and I know that Palestinians have no professionally made rockets, let along bombs to go inside them.) Why does the BBC label Hamas a militant group, but not Israel (or the United States or Britain, for that matter)?


Anonymous said...

Or how about, "a country that is defending itself from being 'pushed into the sea' or from suicide attacks on its civilians?" Do you think the Israelis just woke up one morning and out of the blue decided to start implementing draconian measures? Sounds like you've let yourself be swayed toward one side in a very complicated and tragic situation. As long as you are looking to play "good guys vs. bad guys," you will do nothing but pour more fuel on the fires of grievance, hatred, and mutual retaliation. What do you, as a Quaker, have to bring to this situation above and beyond oppositional political rhetoric?

Unknown said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous, although it's always nice to have a name to go with comments.

I agree that Israel does at times suffer attacks at the hands of Palestinians, and I in no way want to downplay this. When I was in Israel/Palestine a few weeks ago we visited with a settler woman who had lost her son to a suicide bomber. I have a young son myself, so this was particularly painful to hear about. I grieve with her and I hope her grieving will fuel her desire to end the violence to all people in her region, rather than creating more hatred within her.

At the same time, I feel your comment about a country being pushed into the sea is not very well founded. First, it is the Palestinians who lived there in recent history and whose country was given by the world to another people group. In Palestine before the turn of the 20th century there were Jews, Muslims and Christians living in relative harmony with one another (as much harmony as there is anywhere). A case could be made that it is the Palestinians who are being pushed into the sea, especially since Gaza is right up against the sea.

This is not to say that Palestinians are all "good guys," as you put it, and that Israelis are all "bad guys." Quite the contrary. I think that most of the people in each group are just ordinary people trying to live out their everyday lives.

Unfortunately, however, what is reported in the media is slanted toward the Israelis, so I am giving a different perspective, helping people see it from the other point of view. If the United States was suddenly given, by the UN, to some religious group--say, Jainists, for a random group that doesn't have a homeland--and suddenly a bunch of Jainists started moving in and taking American land by force (which is rather unlikely for Jainists...), do you think Americans would be called "militants" or "terrorists" for trying to protect their land? This is not a situation of good guys vs. bad guys, but it is a situation where one group has power and is abusing it to create an extremely unjust situation in which to try to live. I do not support retaliation with violence by any means, but I can see why people would do it.

You seem to assume that the suicide attacks and pushing Israel into the sea started in a vacuum, that Israel's policies against the Palestinians had nothing to do with it, and I would challenge this assumption. It seems to me that these attacks came as a direct result of the clash of political interests between the two groups. Israelis have done their share of terrorist acts as well which could be cited as instigations leading to Palestinian violence.

You are right, however, that either way you look at it it's a difficult situation. I don't mean to say there are simple answers, or that one side carries more or less blame.

What I am saying is that currently, Israel is in power and has the power to repeal laws that undermine any sort of Palestinian civil liberties, or enforce laws that are put in place to uphold those liberties.

As a Quaker what I am attempting to do is make sure the voices of those who are being oppressed are heard. I am also in the beginning stages of becoming a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, as you no doubt noticed if you've read more than this post. It is my hope that in working as a CPTer I can bring hope to Palestinians to fight injustice nonviolently, so that Israelis have no valid reason to hurt and oppress them. If this could happen, hopefully the world community would see this injustice and pressure Israel to change its policies.

I would ask you, Anonymous, the same thing: as a [fill in the blank since I know nothing about you], what do you have to bring to this situation above and beyond popular media's political rhetoric?

Anonymous said...

Cherice, I don't have time to comment extensively, but I applaud your response. Yes, the Jews in Europe were the most hated and persecuted people I know of in all time. Then a guilty world gives them a nation of their own and they develop an entitlement mentality. Yes, they deserve compensation for Christian sins over the centuries, just as American Indians and Blacks do. But does this entitle them to take the homes of the Gazan and West Bank Palestinians in violation of the UN charter? I don't think so--but to be elected to high office in the US, one would have to support the very pro-Israeli, pro-settler policies.

Gr. Ralph

Anonymous said...

Zionism wasn't even popular amongst most Jews when the Balfour Agreement was drawn up. Part of the reason for the creation of Israel is that the governments of nations like mine (Britain) reflected the anti-Semitism of their populations and found WWII a great excuse for shuffling off as many Jews as possible to Somewhere Else.

The whole history of Israel/Palestine since then has been a tragedy for everyone involved. There's no peace or security when you're relying on a wall to keep the poorest section of your population out, and denying them citizenship even when they were born there; there's no peace or security when you're caged in without access to work or crops or family or equality. No-one there - not even the most privileged - is not affected in some way by it all. And outside the area, there's such a big split between those who think that any criticism of Israel's policies is automatically anti-Semitism and those (often Jews) who'd like to be honest about their feelings about Israel's policies without being anti-Semitic (public spats come up regularly between them in the British press). It seems like it's hard to discuss the situation at all without bypassing the head and heart and going straight to the centres of primal fear.

The BBC has been continuously criticised by Israel for taking the Palestinians' part in their news coverage. In my 12 years in the US, I often heard people talking about how Britain's "leftist" (read: mainstream) news media favoured the Palestinians. On the BBC's website, you can often see people's complaints that articles are slanted towards the Palestinians.

No-one gets any satisfaction from this situation. No-one is winning. Everyone is losing. It's the cross-border, trans-religious groups doing peace work that give me hope. When we can stop screaming at each other and see each other's humanity, there's hope.