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Citizens Say, ‘Enough!’

Apathy or Genocide for Gaza?

by ERIN NIEMELA

Does this war make me look fat?” That’s the question on Rachel Weinstein’s mind according to her August 3, 2014 blog for The Times of Israel. Al-Jazeera stopped naming deaths of Palestinians and Israelis after July 24th, “given the volume and speed at which casualties were reported by Gaza health authorities.” Three fatal Israeli military strikes have damaged or nearly damaged UN schools while killing numerous Palestinian civilians seeking refuge. The families of 64 IDF soldiers mourn their lost loved ones. Yet, Rachel Weinstein is worried about whether or not she and her friends are eating too much chocolate. The struggle is real, as they say. If Weinstein is a dipstick for Israeli political involvement, this is very, very bad for peace.

But, it gets worse. Weinstein may represent the apathetic nature of Israel’s citizens, but on the opposite end of the involved-in-politics spectrum sits Yochanan Gordon’s question: When is genocide permissible? Gordon’s August 1, 2014 blog post for The Times of Israel, “When Genocide is Permissible,” subsequently (and thankfully) deleted by The Times, but not before those inevitable screen grabs, outlines the prerequisites for approved genocide of the Palestinian people. Outrage ensued on the international front, and Gordon issued an apology: “I never intended to call to harm any people although my words may have conveyed that message.”  Sure, because genocide just happens. Without words or warning. Like an earthquake.

So on the one hand we have mainstream published Weinsteins who are worried about whether or not they should go “war shopping,” as she calls it when warning sirens in Israel cause citizens to increase food purchases. On the other hand we have mainstream published Gordons who give Israeli as well as Hamas officials all the textual ammunition they need to continue killing civilians without interference under the pretense of “existential threat.” It’s no wonder the dominant global conflict management spectrum is limited to bomb or do nothing.

Dear Israeli citizens: It’s not either/or. There are other options for ending this violence and building sustainable peace – and you’re in charge. If you find the Weinsteins annoying and the Gordons disgusting, it is your moral obligation to drown out these genocidal and apathetic voices with your own and restrain your government’s use of force.

Listen to people like Gershon Baskin, Co-Chairman of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information and peace advisor, who offer reasoned discourse amidst the bloodshed. In his July 23, 2014 editorial for the Jerusalem Post, he writes, “Israel can bring down Hamas by force and even kill all of its leaders, but the next generation of leaders will fill the void very quickly and they will be even more full of hate and rage than their predecessors.” This is simple enough: There is no snake’s head. There are only starfish arms.

Dear Palestinian citizens: You’re also in charge. Don’t ever let Hamas or the Palestinian Authority forget it. When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled – until the grass rises up and wraps around their legs and pulls them down. Here Baskin get’s it right again. The only way Hamas can be truly defeated, he argues, is when “the Palestinian people themselves decide to get rid of them.”

Dear Israeli and Palestinian citizens: You can count on one another.  Pull the reigns back on those who would do violence in your name with your voices, your wallets and your refusal to cooperate with or justify violence. Join the more than 56,000 people on social media who have said, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” Seek out Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilders, such as the Parents Circle-Families Forum, bringing together more than 600 Palestinian and Israeli families for peace and reconciliation. If you’ve regrettably participated in the violence at some point, there’s also space for you – join Combatants for Peace, a movement for Israeli and Palestinian fighters who choose to see one another with their eyes, not their scopes.

Your governments do not speak for you. Your few Weinsteins and Gordons do not speak for you.  Bombs and bullets can never speak for you – they can only silence. Together, your demands for peace and reconciliation are more powerful than any hellfire missile and more defensive than any iron dome.

Dear American citizens: Don’t think we get to just sit here and do nothing (or bomb) either. Our government sends millions of dollars per day to Israel’s military to pay for this bloody party. While Weinstein is war shopping, so is Israel – with our tax dollars, to the tune of billions per year. We can make Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding efforts far easier and more effective when we force an end to our government’s gunrunning.

Yes, there are, unfortunately, some Weinsteins and Gordons. But there are so many more voices of reason for peace. We don’t need a “humanitarian pause.” We need actual humanitarians – everyday citizens who work together, rise up and shout “Enough!” to the gunrunning, bloodshed, enmification and apathy. We can end the violence for good and build peace forever – but we have to work together to control those fat, grey leathery legs of war.

Erin Niemela (@erinniemela), PeaceVoice Editor and PeaceVoiceTV Channel Manager, is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University.