A Letter From Israel

I received this email from MG reader Dalit, who lives in Tel Aviv. I am posting it here, with her permission, followed by some comments.

Dear Laila,

My name is Dalit, I’m an Israeli woman living not far from Tel Aviv. I’m a mother of two children, a high school teacher and a Ph.D. student. My thesis is about Moroccan women. This is how I got to know your blog, I am fascinated by your writing and follow your blog for more than a year. The last days I feel confused and frustrated: This war in Lebanon, stupid as all other wars, is taking the lives of innocent people – young and old, children and mothers, civilians and soldiers. The question I can’t find the answer to is “WHY??” Why so much hatred and anger? Why so much destruction? Why the killing?

I lived in Israel almost all my life. I am sorry to say that I can’t remember a moment without a fear for my life (or any other lives). We are under a war condition for the last 57 years, threatened by Arab countries and by terror. Can you imagine the feeling sending your kids to school and feering the bus will explode? Going out to dinner knowing the restaurent is a terror target? Losing your freedom in day-to-day life just because human life is not important to a suicide-bomber?? WHY?? Why do I have to feel threatened all the time?? Is it just because Muslim and Arabs (not all of them, I know) think I don’t have the right to live here???

This story began more than 50 years ago, when the state of Israel was created. Islamic organizations – Hammas and Hizballah for that matter, and Muslim leaders – Akhmadinajad, Nasrallah and many others, do not recognize our right to exist! Their goal is to destroy “The Zionist Entity”, the state of Israel, me and my family. This is the purpose of this war previous ones too.

Watching TV stations and reading newspapers all over the world doesn’t give a full picture: They only look for destruction, blood and suffer[ing], without going into a full investigation of the situation. I suggest a reading of Nasrallah’s doctrine, the Hammas’ treaty and even the Muslim Brothers’ treaty. It will give you and idea of their Jihadi goals: the full distruction of Israel and Zionism.

And by the way: I never saw thousands of humanists protesting all over the world when a suiscide-bomber killed 30 people in a hotel in Natanya at Passover night some 4 years ago… or when 23 were killed in a restaurant in Haifa one Saturday at lunch time, or for that matter all those hundreds (!!!) killed in busses. Among them where more than 50% children – Is this not considered Murder? Is it not War Crime?? Where were all of you people then??? Or maybe because we are not Muslims killing us is O.K.? And protesting against violence is only for Muslims or Arab pain? Or maybe not, because I can’t remember such eagerness to protest when Muslims where killed in Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan… or non-muslims in Tchad and other places in Africa, India…

I’ve had enough of wars and human suffering in this area (and all other places too.) Do you really think I’m not intitled to a normal, modern regular life in my own homeland?? I would really like to keep in personal touch with you and have your reaction to my ideas.

Thank you,

Dalit

Dear Dalit,

I want to thank you, very much indeed, for writing in with your thoughts. I am afraid I don’t have an answer to the question of Why. There are so many reasons given for this war–retaliation, deterrence, revenge, political advantage. None of these constitutes sufficient justification for all the carnage we have witnessed.

No, I cannot imagine what it is like to live the way that you do. By the same token, however, I cannot pretend to know what it’s like to have lost a home in the Nakbah of 1948 and to become a refugee in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the world. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be pregnant and die while giving birth at a roadblock. Or what it’s like to have to miss my exams and lose a year of schooling because a decision was made by an Israeli general to seal off my town. Or to be blown to smithereens by a ‘precision-guided’ bomb while having dinner inside my home. Or to have to spend six hours in the dead of heat waiting in line to go through a crossing. Or to be at the mercy of an eighteen-year-old soldier who just arrived in Israel two years before from Russia or Ethiopia or New York, and who now has power over whether or not I can get to work. Or, for that matter, I cannot imagine what it’s like to be at the mercy of Egyptian police at the Rafah border crossing, or a Lebanese administrator at refugee camp, or an Arab Israeli contractor at a building site. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be a Palestinian, and be at the mercy of all these people. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be a prisoner in my own homeland.

I think the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs are far too preoccupied with where their next meal is going to come from to worry about Israel. And yet to read your lines, I get the impression you believe that many Muslims are singly preoccupied with denying Israel’s right to exist. But does Israel recognize the right of Palestine to exist? Does public opinion in Israel fully support the creation of a state for Palestinians? In order to integrate and live peacefully among other nations, I think all sides–Palestinians and Israelis–need to recognize that other peoples have the same, inalienable right to self-determination.

Regarding the coverage of the carnage, are you saying that there is a worldwide conspiracy to show only the killing of Lebanese civilians in order to make Israel look bad? But, Dalit, look at the numbers: 508 Lebanese civilians, 46 Hizbollah guerrillas, 26 Lebanese soldiers, 80 Palestinian civilians, 79 Hamas fighters, 36 Israeli soldiers and 19 Israeli civilians. Is it not fair to say that the killing has affected far, far many more Lebanese? So why shouldn’t world coverage show the killing of Lebanese civilians? (By the way, here in the States, media coverage has been extremely focused on Israeli suffering. The cover of the New York Times as I type these words, for example, shows Israeli civilians at a shelter in Haifa. Yesterday, it showed Israeli soldiers on patrol. This weekend the NYT magazine will have a piece by Bernard-Henri Levy defending Israel. All this while another 40 Lebanese were killed, in one day. And on and on.) From where I sit, all of this fighting, regardless of what all the parties are saying, will eventually end up in negotiations. So why not stop the killing now and go straight to the negotiating table?

In the early days of MG, I used to occasionally comment on the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories, but I stopped after a while because it seemed useless. There is an infernal cycle of violence that shows no signs of breaking, and any kind of commentary invariably turns into an arbitration game. I am not King Sulayman. I cannot arbitrate. I was too aggravated to write about the violence, whether it was a suicide bombing or a state bombing. But things reached a boiling point for me with the escalation of last month, and I began once again to write about the conflict.

I think the reason that there has been a worldwide outcry over this particular war–more than others in the past–is that people have not failed to notice the parallels between the war in Iraq and the war in Lebanon. In the case of Iraq, the United States invaded on the pretext that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; it refused to allow weapons inspectors to do their job; it bombed much of the infrastructure and killed thousands of civilians; and then, after the WMD failed to materialize, got stuck with an insurgency that has turned Islamist, even in a country that was staunchly secular. It did all of this on its own, with support from Britain and Israel, and despite objections from the rest of the world community. The same appears to be happening now with Lebanon. Israel bombed Lebanon and destroyed its infrastructure on the pretext that two soldiers were captured by Hizbullah fighters. This was a relatively small border squirmish, and could have been taken up with Hizbullah, as indeed happened a few years ago. The sweeping destruction of the country, and the murder of hundreds of civilians, have resulted in a huge surge of support for Hizbullah in Lebanon–among both Muslims and Christians–because Hizbullah is seen as the only buffer against Israeli bombs in Lebanon. So we see the same pattern here, with Israel acting alone, and with support from Britain and the United States, while the rest of the world community is unable to do anything to stop the war.

Nasrallah cares about one thing only: Nasrallah’s political survival. He will not stop at killing Israelis–whether Arab or Jewish or Druze–to get to his goals. And he should be stopped.

And while he screams that his country will be wiped off the map, Olmert is slowly but surely wiping Lebanon off the map.

I say Amen to your wishes that this senseless war will stop. Thank you again, Dalit, for reaching out and sharing your thoughts.

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