Why I Have Been Quiet about Israel

I have never been afraid to express my opinion.  I welcome reasonable discussions and debate about almost anything—food, movies, books, baseball, politics, world affairs, religion, you name it.  I have strong feelings about almost anything and everything, and I usually am not at all hesitant to say what I am thinking.  I like to think that I listen to what others have to say and that I try and be informed about as much as I can before formulating my own opinion.  My values have not changed much at all in the course of my life, so I know my starting point based on those values, but my mind has been changed many times on many issues by listening and reading what others have to say.

But this time I am lost.  I am Jewish, I am proud to be Jewish, and I feel a strong emotional tie to Israel and Jewish people everywhere.  I’ve only visited Israel once, back in 1997, and it left an indelible mark upon me.  I felt a connection historically and spiritually to the place.  I cried when we left in a way that was far different from the sadness I always feel when a trip or vacation ends.  Israel felt like home to me in a way I never expected.  From my research I now know I have family in Israel.  I have friends in Israel. I know how important Israel is to the past, the present, and the future of the Jewish people.

I am also a lifelong progressive liberal (and not ashamed at all of that word) who argued and protested against every US war during my lifetime—from Vietnam starting in 1965 when I was a teenager up through Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2002.  I know that some wars were so-called just wars; defeating Hitler and others who have tried to commit genocide is justified and necessary.  Dropping an atomic bomb on Japan, however, is not something I would have agreed with, if I’d been born at the time.  I don’t agree with capital punishment, even when the convicted person has committed a heinous crime.  I just don’t see killing as a way of accomplishing anything unless and until there is no choice in the name of self-defense or defense of others.

So I have read the news these last few weeks with my stomach churning, my heart breaking, and my brain torn from one side to the other.  Almost everything I have read is filled with one-sided rhetoric. There is no reason for me to recap the arguments; you’ve heard them all before.  People who are defending Israel point me to pro-Israel sources; people who are anti-Israel point me to anti-Israel sources.  I read the New York Times every day, hoping it is more objective than other sources.  People who are pro-Israel say that the Times is biased against Israel; people who are anti-Israel say the Times is biased in favor of Israel.

There are only a few actual facts: Hamas wants to destroy Israel—it says so in its charter; there is a blockade around Gaza that makes escape for those who live there almost impossible and life there absolutely miserable; Hamas is building tunnels and accumulating weapons and shooting rockets to reach its goal of destroying Israel; Israel is fighting back with stronger and bigger weapons and with a defense system that has resulted in many more Palestinian deaths than Hamas has been able to inflict on Israel; Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire; Israel refuses to stop building new settlements; Hamas continues to shoot rockets, knowing that its own people will be killed in greater numbers; Israel knows that it cannot avoid killing them when it shoots its rockets at Gaza.  Neither side can win unless it obliterates the other side, in which case neither side has won.

Meanwhile, people are dying on both sides, no one feels safe, and there is hate being spewed by both sides.  And across the world, there are people protesting, saying things that I’ve not heard said so publicly and proudly in my lifetime: “Death to the Jews, Kill the Jews.”  In one town in France, shop windows were smashed.  Immediately I thought of Kristallnacht.

So why have I remained quiet?   Being quiet did not help the Jews in the 1930s. But why express my feelings when they only provoke more rhetoric?  Why be accused of being either a self-hating Jew for having sympathy for the people in Gaza or of being a Jewish imperialist/Zionist for understanding why Israel feels a need to use force to stop Hamas from trying to kill the Israeli people and their country? The dialogue is pointless.  No one really listens.  They just argue.  They just throw around words of hate.  They just make me feel sick and sad and confused.

I have also remained quiet because I am confused and upset and heart-sick.  I see no hope for any improvement in the situation; I only see things getting worse.  I only see a terrible ending to all this anger and killing and hate, and it makes me despair for my children and my grandchildren, for Jews and for non-Jews, for our world, our planet, our lives.  There is no right, no wrong.  There is just ugliness, blood, violence, and hatred.  There are no words.  I have no words.  I am speechless.  I am silenced.

Please don’t tell me what you think.  Please don’t fill my heart with more hate, with more anger. I’ve heard all the arguments. The rhetoric is all noise to me. Endless Facebook postings prove nothing; people only read what supports their point of view. There is nothing to celebrate. Everyone is wrong; everyone is right. Everyone needs to be quiet, to stop talking, and to start listening to their hearts, hoping with their souls, and thinking with their brains.  If those of us who do not live where the bombs are flying cannot talk to each other with respect and understanding, how is there any hope that there will ever be peace over there or, for that matter, anywhere?

So my silence does not signify indifference or apathy; it signifies confusion and a willingness to listen and think and hope. You cannot listen when you are talking.  You cannot think when you are just spewing rhetoric.  You cannot hope when you are angry.  I am listening.  I am thinking.  I am trying as hard as I can to hope.

31 thoughts on “Why I Have Been Quiet about Israel

  1. I suggest you start reading the Washington Times and put the NY Times down for a while. You will get a much more balanced view. I know you probably hate OReilly but watch him on Fox at 8 pm given time you will likely see he too attempts to only state verifiable facts.
    Just a thought cuz
    Love
    Bruce

    Sent on the new Sprint Network from my Samsung Galaxy S®4.

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  2. I just finished crying because we lost our 33rd young man. Then I went to the computer and found your article.
    Since I live here and know what is happening in intimate detail, I can tell you that it is frightening to see how anti-Semitism is raising its ugly head throughout the world. There is so much falsehood.
    My job is not to convince anyone of the truth. My job as a Jew is to bring forth light to a world of darkness and make it a better place. Amy, you always know where to find me, your new friend in Israel.
    I will leave you with some important thoughts. The first is the miracle that occurred this week; the discovery of many many terror tunnels that were going to be used for a Rosh Hashana massacre. Hamas was planning on sending over 1000 terrorists dressed in IDF uniforms into Israel to go on a killing rampage. There have been over 50 terror tunnels found so far. Those tunnels went right to kibbutzim. Under playgrounds, schools and homes.
    Hamas is using children to shoot soldiers and Hamas terrorists are strapping infants on to their chests while they shoot soldiers. These accounts are coming directly from the soldiers.
    Israel has painstakingly and continues to drop leaflets, make phone calls, text and warn to get out of the building where weapons are being hid. They are intentionally hiding missiles in UN schools, hospitals, and are using woman and children as human shields. The warnings to get out only hurt Israel. Because of it, soldiers were ambushed and killed. The Hamas, after getting warnings instead place (force) women and children into locations that need to be evacuated.
    Despite it all, we are still sending in humanitarian aid, food, medicine, supplies, oil every single day and have not stopped. It is a regular thing that Israel always does. The world and the media refuse to discuss the killings in Syria (700 just last Friday alone). It is modern day 1939 all over again.
    I used to be a die hard Liberal so I understand where you are coming from Amy. I also understand why you cried when you left Israel. You have a connection that goes beyond words.
    I will leave you with this article.
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/15390#.U9JjWoCSyI1 (a mega terrorist attack was thwarted-a miracle)
    May we see peace very soon.

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    • Thank you for your thoughtful response. I do appreciate your perspective so much. You are there, and I am not. Those of us not in harm’s way have to listen carefully to those who are. I have little doubt as to Hamas’ goals and its tactics; it’s the innocent civilians I worry about. And I believe Israel does not want this war, yet I also know that warning people to leave is not effective when they really have nowhere else to go. It’s just tragic and a knot no one seems to be able to resolve. I weep for all the deaths. All of them are so ultimately unnecessary if only people could find peace and reason.
      Thanks again for your thoughts, and I wish you and yours and all people everywhere safety, security, prosperity, and peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there. First off, I want to thank you for putting together and running this blog. My father, Dennis Brotman, sent me the link a while ago, and reading through it has been fascinating. The Israel/Palestine issue is a particularly hard subject to even broach, especially in the Jewish community. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the Jon Stewart bit from a few nights ago that hit the nail painfully on the head. I wanted to let you know about an organization called the Jewish Dialogue Group, which specializes in running moderated, non-confrontational discussions within Jewish communities about the issue. I have been to a few of their discussions, they do a great job of opening up spaces that allow people to express themselves without fear. Here’s their website: http://www.jewishdialogue.org/

    – Brian Dilks-Brotman

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    • Brian, I am so glad to have you here and glad that you are enjoying the blog. Our family’s story is fascinating, and meeting your father and all the other cousins was wonderful. I hope to meet you as well.

      And thanks so much for the link—I will definitely check it out. I am searching for places to share and learn without all the anger and rhetoric. I really appreciate your thoughts and your help.

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  4. Hi Amy. I read your post and wept a little. I think we have very similar view on life, though I’m probably best described as a Presbyterian aethist, or perhaps just a humanist. I also watch and read and despair. Even here in my little corner of the south Pacific the rise in anti-semitism is noticeable, as is the rise in fear of young me who “look” Muslim. I also have nothing to say that can meaningfully add to debate — because there is no debate, no reason, no logic. Just fear and hatred. I wish I could offer some comfort — to you, to myself. But the best I can offer is solidarity and, I hope, empathy with you right now.

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    • Solidarity means a lot. It means that there are others who also see this cycle of hatred and violence as nothing but destructive. I do appreciate your support—and a view from NZ is certainly one that we don’t get here in the US. Thank you.

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    • Three points. 1) Dropping 1 atomic bomb to warn the Japanese was already enough but the US went ahead and dropped another. 2) There were other alternatives to dropping the bomb to end the war. 3) The dropping of the atomic bomb was also meant to be a show of force to warn Communist Russia. But as the author mentioned there is simply no real answer. Both sides have their rational. The US should not have and the US should have.

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  5. I can only thank you for writing this. You are right, it’s very hard to have a disscusion about this topic. Even among jews who live in Israel there are many opinions and we’ve seen a split between some parts of our society lately due to this argument.

    I do think that Israel is fighting a war she has to fight if it want to exists (I’m not sure you’ve read about the operation Hammas planned for Rosh Hashana by using the tunnels but it invovles the kidnapping of hundreds of civilians), but I truly wish no civilians would get hurt and that someone would find a solution to all those Gazan civilans which are obviously are in a worse situation than we are. I really believe that war has no winners, only loosers.

    I hope you agree that Hammas itslef deservs no simpathy, what they are causing to Gazan civilians and to the Israeli civilians is pure Terror, one which I don’t wish to my haters. Having to wake my 2yo in the middle of the night and running to a shelter is our reality.

    Other than that, the hate that I see from all sides (not only towards jews but also towards arabs instead of toward Terrorists, similar to what you’ve seen after 9/11), is probably the scariest thing out of this all situation, b/c hate can lead us to the lowest places of humanity.

    I hope that some they people from both sides will be able to listen and have a conversation.

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    • Thank you, Ayala. I always want to hear what those in Israel have to say. I know that Hamas deserves no sympathy. As you said, it’s the ordinary citizens in Gaza I worry about. I will continue to hope for peace.

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  6. Reblogged this on Richardson's rummage and commented:
    This is about as close as anything I’ve read or heard to expressing my own consternation over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and so many others. Like this writer, I keep hoping, amidst deep feeling of despair, that as a people we will wake up and face together the very real problems we have created as a species, problems like global warming that we may not be able to reverse at all and that we most certainly can only solve cooperatively.

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  7. Your fifth paragraph (“There are only a few actual facts:”) summarizes the heart-rending situation well. My daughter and I were discussing it just this afternoon.

    May there be peace among the nations and peoples of the world and between us all in our spheres of influence. Bless the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, the friends, and all those who mourn.

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living

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    • Ariela, that means so much to me, coming from you, my cousin. Hearing from those who are in Israel and those I know helps me to stay grounded and to find hope. May all be well with you and yours, and may peace come soon.

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  8. Amy,
    You have expressed my thoughts so well: I have no need to repeat them. The only hope is to create a story of empathy for going forward. To continue to retell the past wounds will continue to bring us to the same place-and there is no winning in this place. I know there are voices like yours struggling to be herd over the louder explosions of hatred. And the voices come from all sides. I think if we are to do anything it may require that the silence of the moderate voices not continue-we need to raise our voices in such a way as they can be heard over all the posturing, hatred, vitriol and zero sum negotiating.
    Perhaps your readers can look at this weblink: http://www.newstoryleadership.org/
    for an approach and a way to engage and break our silence.

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    • Thanks, Andrea. You are right that we need to find other like-minded people to form our own collective voice. There are pro-Palestinian rallies, there are pro-Israel rallies. There needs to be a rally for Reason and Peace. I am not an organizer, but somewhere someone should be taking leadership on this. Thanks for your comment and for reading.

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    • Also, that organization looks very interesting. I will have to read more to see whether that is a good place to find leadership on this question.

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  9. I agree with you Amy. I think it is a LOSE LOSE situation all around. It is very complicated situation and as I am neither Jewish or a resident of that part of the world, I hope that a resolution is found someday soon and everyone stops dying in this perpetual war.

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  10. Thank you for posting. I strongly agree with your post besides one statement, that “Neither side can win unless it obliterates the other side, in which case neither side has won.” I believe in a peaceful solution.

    Fear is rampant but many, like you, remain hopeful and willing to listen. After much listening and introspection, I believe the answer to discussing this conflict without being branded a “hater” is recognizing the justified fears of the involved parties and steering conversation towards considering solutions that alleviate these fears. I am actively working to find answers to this conflict using these methods.

    Keep up the good work.

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    • Thanks, Dave. Of course, my point was the same: I said neither said would win if they obliterate the other. I too hope for a peaceful solution. I think your insight about recognizing the fear each side feels is a very important one. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.

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