I haven’t been writing as often as I want lately, with many distractions and general fatigue taking the reins. And now that a distraction if historic magnitude has been unleashed I suddenly feel compelled to write in any way that I can.
I live in the southern part of Israel. In the last few days, deadly rockets have been fired toward us from within the Gaza strip. The streets scream all of a sudden with the sound of alarms and explosions during day and especially at night. Even for war-seasoned Israelis like me, the alarms create enormous tension, with life now becoming a stand-by situation, waiting constantly for the next blaring of hostile noises that will send us on our feet and rushing to a sheltered room. In the midst of this sudden war, I am trying to piece together how this came about.
[***note: after writing a little about this on Facebook I realize how such a sensitive issue would cause people to search in my writing for a political opinion and to think that I am taking sides. People naturally assume that, being Israeli, I support some view of this issue resolutely. I try to be non-political in my everyday life, and offer this as my own view of the unfolding reality. If you see a wrong fact in my writing or think you see taking sides, I urge you to write in the comments ***]
In order to take cover in time, the alarms start almost immediately upon spotting a rocket launched and identifying its trajectory and landing destination. This means that the closer you are to Gaza, the less time you have to take cover. I live in a large southern metropolitan called Be’er Sheva, which is far enough from Gaza to give people 1 whole minute between the initial warning and the rockets hitting or being exploded nearby. Being well versed in perilous conditions, life in Israel has not grinded to a halt, but is instead still going, albeit in a sluggish pace. Writing this makes me realize how impossible of a situation this is. I truly think that only Jews would endure this as a kind of normality, having been raised on an ethos of historic survival at the face of adversity and persecution. Yet this is no way to live for long.
Surviving and enduring is made all the more possible thanks to the invention of the “Iron Dome” missile defense system. It accurately sends an anti-rocket missile to attack the enemy projectile ad explode it while still in the air, thus only threatening civilians on the ground with the debris. While the Iron Dome is very accurate, the recent Hamas rocket attack attempted to bypass it by firing hundreds of rockets at a time. This makes it the largest attack by Hamas on Israel, with over 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza up to this point. So far, several rockets have managed to land on buildings and cars, causing casualties and deaths.
The Iron Dome’s explosive protective shield, along with the constant attacks both day and night, have led to a strange and tense maintaining of daily life. Many stores are still open, public transportation is still running and people are still trying to keep their daily routines as regular as they can in the hope it will all be over soon. A surreal mixture of fatigue and sadness colors over the sunny skies. Living becomes an anxious anticipation of the those first notes of the alarm, the dreaded triton of simultaneous ascending and descending notes, meant to spring you to action even from deep sleep. A minute to run for shelter might seem like plenty, but sleeping at night, taking a shower, walking the dogs or just being outside and hearing the sound of incoming attack leaves you with seconds to get up and find a safe place.
I have been through several of these attacks in past years. They regularly followed a similar pattern. Hamas militants would fire rockets from within Gaza towards Israel. At times they would be joined by assailants from Syria, bombing the northern parts of the country. Refugees in camps from Gaza or the Palestinian territories on the east of Israel (known as Area A) would riot, throwing Molotov cocktails and slinging rocks at soldiers. Fights would last from a week to a month and then the sides would reach a temporary cease fire, eventually causing the attacks to dwindle to a halt.
This time around though, things are terrifyingly different. The recent outburst set off a wave of insider terrorist attacks. They are perpetrated by many Israeli-Arabs living within the country.
The New Face of Terror
The Arab-Israelis are Muslims living inside the borders of Israel. They are generally perceived by most people in Israel as willingly Israelis themselves, having a similar Blue ID card as Jewish Israelis. They share a similar legal status as the Jewish Israelis and are entitled to similar opportunities with identical social and state given benefits. They come from several ethnic groups, like Bedouins, Druze and formerly Palestinian. They are all entitled to occupation, education, welfare, social security, medical services and any other state service afforded by the country. Some of them serve in the military; many of them pursue worthwhile jobs in medicine, government and all aspects of living within the country. For most people in Israel, a society made of strikingly different cultures – from Russians to Ethiopians – Israeli Arabs are a familiar face and a neighbor. This is why the recent riots have brought the country, I would claim, to a terrifying and irreversible mayhem.
In various locations throughout Israel, Arab-Israelis are rioting and terrorizing the civilian population. What started with peaceful demonstrations by Isral’s Arabs who raised the Palestinian flag in identification with the Jewish state’s sworn enemy, has escalated in a matter of hours to an all-out terrorist battle throughout the country. Bedouin crowds in the south are throwing rocks at cars, pulling people from their vehicles, sometimes beating them severely. Northern Arabs in the mixed-population city of Acre have lynched an Israeli driver, which has been “avenged” the following day by an Israeli lynch mob attacking an Arab. In the mixed-population city of Lod (Lydda) Arabs have created a small militia, terrorizing Jewish neighbors, burning buildings and are currently combating police forces sent to ward off this massive, unexpected insurgence.
The last time that Arabs within Israel have waged violence against Jewish people was over 70 years ago, before the establishing of Israel as a Jewish country and safe haven. My grandparents who arrived here fleeing from Nazi occupied Europe in the late 1930’s would at times recount having to evade gunfire shot from rooftops whenever going outside to buy food. While the current attacks are carried by other groups than those who fired at my grandparents, in the eyes of many Israelis the events cannot be separated. Now, decades of neighborly peace is being wiped out within days. While the terror attacks are carried by a minority of violent Arab youth, to many Jewish Israelis, the face of their neighboring Arab Israelis is starting to change. The friendly Arab doctor, bus driver, vendor and neighbor are being transfigured to that of an enemy, who secretly wishes them dead. The trauma-quenched Israeli, used to thinking of being persecuted, is creating a new cultural memory of the Israeli Arab, no longer as a friend or neighbor, but as a murderous threat from within, a lying wolf in sheep’s clothing; a cancer about to destroy its host.
While not all of Arab-Israeli society agrees with the uprising and certainly not with the terrorist acts, there are several reasons to believe that this new face of terror will not subside smoothly once the riots are over:
- The vicinity of Arab-Israelis to the Jewish population – being the marker of peaceful everyday life, the co-habitation within Israeli society is now a factor that instills fear in the hearts of many. Much like Americans in the 50’s believing their neighbors are communists, the radicalized youth will cause every Arab in Israel to be perceived, if only from afar, as a Hamas supporter and a terrorist. A great number of Israeli Jews have already taken to boycott all Arab businesses in the attempt for a peaceful combating and separation.
- The radicalization of people from both sides and the desire to revenge – while Gaza is the breeding ground for anti-Israeli terrorism, it is bordered and mostly there is not much contact between the populations of each of the sides. With Arab-Israelis, each side’s quest for revenge can be fulfilled by going a short distance. It is absolutely terrifying to consider the kind of societal maturity needed for calming the atmosphere and compare it with the Mediterranean temperament of hot headedness shared by a majority of people in Israel.
- It’s much easier to create turmoil than to maintain peace – especially in a uniquely diverse place such as Israel. With the cohabitation of people from 3 religions, various ethnicities and cultures, countless sets of beliefs and political tendencies, anyone who wishes to set ablaze the sensitivities of a certain group and divert anger towards other groups is like a kid in a candy store. This current civil war is already touted by many as the political work of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is attempting to regain his power by any means necessary.
- While empathy is natural, fear is its destroyer – To harm another being is something we inherently feel to be wrong. This on account of our human ability to emphasize with others. Religion and laws, while attempting to ground this empathy in writing, have grown out of proportion, making many abandon their internal moral compass for the blind following of scripture. In other words, minorities of people who are not sensitive to their own empathy are putting religious and governmental laws above their feelings and letting fear drive their actions in life. It’s revealing that the name for the Jewish ultra-religious sect, the “Haredim”, translates literally as “the fearful”. Fear abolishes empathy. If you fear someone is out to do you harm, you will blindly be willing to inflict inhuman acts over them as a survival instinct.
- Organized religion engenders volunteer stupidity – The ultra-religious are anxious to follow leaders. They are the first to abandon original thinking from fear it will lead them to temptation. Instead, they blindly follow imams and rabbis, awaiting their every word for direction as the word of god. The ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel are known for their opposition of the Jewish state on account of it being secular, and in the last days some of their youth have been protesting, raising the Palestinian flag. As long as organized religion is accepted as a separate cultural system with its own educational institutions, the potential for inner war steadily increases.
The Fantasy of Coexistence and Civil War
By its sheer newness and shock, the Arab-Israelis’ sudden terrorizing of Jewish Israelis will bring about a massive cultural change on the whole region. Human beings are eventually nothing but primates with the ability to symbolize and abstract. We are still prone to act based on the most primal drives to avoid pain and receive joy. As a survival tool, Israelis have been learning for the past decades how to mentally classify potential threats, like people who dress overly warm in the summer and have an Arab appearance, for fear they might be a suicide bomber. We have become weary of being in crowded groups of people whenever the political state is tense, for fear of being targeted. And now, the emergence of terrorism from the Arabs living within the country and their affiliating themselves with the Hamas is causing many Israelis to classify all of them as a life threatening element – a danger to survival.
And it’s not only that we will classify them as terrorists. Many people might take to equate the idea of “terrorists” with “freedom fighters”, or “soldiers” of sorts. No. Israelis have grown to classify the terrorist flanks within the Palestinians, I will claim, as nothing short of monsters. This perception was planted by the Palestinians doing and by them alone.
The Ramallah lynch is branded in many Israelis’ memory as the revelation of the Arabs’ true face. Two Israeli soldiers who lost their way and reached a city under Palestinian command were driven by the local police into – not outside – the city’s police headquarters. They were thereupon beaten and stabbed to death by policemen and by members of the crowd. Pictures like these and other miserable incidents forced Israelis to see Palestinians as blood thirsty villains and to classify them as a real and immanent threat to their lives. And now the Arab-Israelis within the country are starting to be placed into the same mental category.
As fear is the destroyer of empathy, many attempts of restoring coexistence will not work against the last few days’ terrorist acts from at the hands of local Arabs. That is, the majority of Arab-Israelis, while desiring peaceful lives, would ultimately suffer the misconducts of their youths who are joining hands with the Hamas. For Israelis – any threat to their existence is perceived as real and possibly delivering genocide, torment and exile. And this state of stress cannot linger for long. Living alongside your destroyers is a waking nightmare that no organism can bare. With the ability to arm themselves, it is almost an assurance that many people in the country will take actions against one another.
The striking inevitability of all this is enough to search for an invisible hand who is deliberately fanning the flames for its own benefits. As shown, many people are already revealing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions in creating a civil war scenario. While there is much truth to this, I would like to examine all the possible reasons for what is currently happening in Israel, and suggest ways in which events could unfold in the near future.
Who is to Blame? Reasons and Outcomes
As the news coverage worldwide (and some of it within Israel) would have us believe, the current attacks are just a continuation of the arguments over settlements and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. In actuality, while these factors underscore much of the tension in the region, it has little to do with real instigator this time around. I will offer explanations to how this insurgence started and unfolded until now, with an explanation for each culminating step on the way.
- The independence of Israel and Palestinian segregation – The creation of the state of Israel has been a bloody battle I which the Palestinians lost and were evacuated from their homes, mostly driven into refugee camps. The neighboring Arab countries, like Jordan and Lebanon, took in some Palestinians into their border and refused to accept more. All attempts at reaching an agreement with Palestinian leadership and decide on a fixed border, being either a 2 nation-state, or a single nation state, has been refused. Since the 1990’s the Israeli government was led by a right-wing party, forcing peace treaties and negotiations to find a solution to dismantle the refugee camps to come to a halt.
- Hamas – The Palestinians have been under the regime of several terrorist groups, the most prominent of them all being Hamas. Most Hamas leaders have made clear their objection to the existence of Israel. Hamas is an active terrorist organization and has been firing rickets from inside residence buildings and schoolyards, sending suicide bombers and using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
- Israeli military response – In retaliation to Hamas attacks, Israel’s military has actively secured and locked the Gaza border with Israel. It engages in both aerial and ground deployment of soldiers into Gaza to capture insurgents from Hamas and other combatant groups.
- Palestine living conditions – being the longest standing refugee camps in world history, large parts of the Palestinian population are tied between supporting Hamas from fear and supporting them out of genuine agreement with their cause. Living conditions in Gaza’s refugee camps are lousy, although the upper echelons of Palestinian command and their supporters are enjoying a high standard of living, existing mostly off of funds raised for their people and by monies sent from supporting regimes in Arab countries abroad. Many Palestinians have work permits inside Israel and are demanded to return by curfew hours to Gaza.
- Islam and Judaism – most Arabs are religious people. This is sometimes understated and must be emphasized. The Abrahamic religions are extreme subjugating forces in the world and Islam is the most fundamentalist, allowing its believers very little room to stray from doctrine. It has a special place for Judaism in its writing, treating Jews as “Dhimee” – or as sub-humans. Judaism is also intolerant of other religions, yet not as specifically, but by looking down at them as being unconnected with god. Although the state of Israel is mostly secular, with the exponential birth rate in the Jewish orthodox household being the highest in the world (with an average of seven kids), this is expected to change by 2060.
- The coronavirus – The passing of 2020 have left many feeling miserably secluded inside their home, with a great deal of people losing their jobs and some losing close family and friends. With that, the corona pandemic felt and still feels for many people like an unrealistic hindrance; a burden existing in fantasy without any semblance of realness. The year 2020 have left people outraged and discombobulated, wanting to express themselves in any way possible.
- Social Media and General dumbing down – The coronavirus forced expressing ourselves into the realm of the screen. We have begun living our lives in front of phones, computers and television. The desire to socialize has been transformed into a symbolic act of simulacra in what is known as social media. In writing what we think, people everywhere and in Israel as well have begun straying farther and farther from the mess of tangible truth and into the territory of idealistic-speech. This involves seeing the world through the clichés and slogans in our heads, put there by a removed relation with reality; and also through the loss of voice and nuance engendered by writing’s replacing of talking, making us hear others only as they sound within our own minds. Judgment and negativity abounds. Protests and fighting are another way of trying to reclaim the outside space, to make fit with an idealistic, inner narrative.
- Benjamin Netanyahu – Israel’s PM for the past two decades has been avoiding impeachments, indictments and reportages for as long as he has been in power. A divisive power within Israeli society, he has also been a promoter of settlers’ rights for grabbing more lands – a most instigating factor in Israeli-Palestinian relations. His most current allegations is that he is in fact a gun dealer, using his role as leader of a militarized country to sell nuclear submarines to high powered individuals. For the most of 2020, protests have been held in front of the Netanyahu residence in Jerusalem as well as in other locations throughout Israel, calling for his resignation.
- The failed Israeli elections – the democratic elections in Israel have resulted in the inability to form a government. Netanyahu’s Likud party and the other elected parties were on a race to reach an agreement with enough members of other parties sufficient to create a new government. Netanyahu’s opposition in parliament was negotiating the creation of a block large enough to finally establish a new government ((the ‘Shinui Government’) – of which he will be left out. On April 6th they seemed to be on their way to creating a joint Israeli and Arab party government, while Netanyahu, with only 24 hours until the expiration of this time, seemed unable to find enough partners to form his own majority government.
- Shiekh Jarrah Neighborhood – On April 9th, the Israeli court made several decisions to evict around 300 Palestinian residents of a Jerusalem neighborhood from their homes. This after several Jewish settlers have took over one of the houses in the neighborhood, claiming it was historically theirs. The decision to evict hundreds of residents has sparked Arab and Palestinian demonstrations throughout Israel. The initial protest was broken up with the use of excessive police force.
- Ramadan – Islam’s most sacred month of the year started on April 12th. All the time riots between radical Arabs and Jews have increased in Jerusalem, with the local police firing stun grenades inside the Al-Aqa Mosque. Riots ensue in other mixed population cities within Israel, like Jaffa.
- Jerusalem Day – On May 9th, Jerusalem day took its annual place. The police, led by Commissioner Amir Ohana, who is Netanyahu’s assignee, enter the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Arab-Israeli protestors raised the Palestinian flag in several locations in Israel. The message to Israelis was that Arab-Israelis support the extermination of Israel. Israelis watching the protests on the news and in cities are enraged and form counter-protests.
- Gaza Attacks – On Monday, may 10th, Hamas begins firing rockets towards many locations in Israel from inside the Gaza Strip. The attacks are unprecedented in scope and range of the rockets launched, reaching as far as the most populated central cities within Israel, like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This is an ongoing state of stress for most residents, as I wrote, with the bombs falling indiscriminately upon buildings and cars, hurting and killing civilians.
- The Arab-Israeli Riots – The most alarming and novel element of this war, for many people, is the surprising insurgence of Arab Israeli youth claiming to identify with Palestinians, engaging in terrorist acts throughout the country. The possibility of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” people amongst neighbors is unlikely. A real danger of a civil war is at hand. With the capturing of a mixed-population city like Lod, many fear that their city is next.
The possible outcomes depend greatly on the perpetrators of this mess.
If the Prime Minister is to keep his throne, it appears that the safety of the people of Israel is greatly compromised. Netanyahu utilizes fear and subterfuge to remain in power, by inciting different sides within the country against one another. In a diverse place like Israel, this is an easy feat to do.
Sadly, I now believe this is what will take place:
Netanyahu will ride this wave of fear and hatred to bring about a new election, in which the most right-wind parties in the country will take hold of the parliament. With fear being maintained and the military and police forces called out of action to increase tension, many civilians would resort to arming themselves with personal weaponry. The Israeli population will become even more segmented and torn between cities and political affiliations. Guns will become popular and will be used in terrorist acts. Mass shootings will grow to levels reminding of those in the US. The political system would shrink to include only 2-3 parties, with the method of elections switching to a personal vote.
The vacuum of leadership will continue and ridden by the neighboring Arab countries to attack Israel and attempt to bring it to its demise. At the present time, Syria and Lebanon are already firing rockets from the north. Along with this, Arab-Israeli insurgents will continue to try to terrorize Jewish Israeli civilians, burning their places of work and attempting to take over whole neighborhoods and cities, in an attempt to assist the enemy countries.
The Israeli Arab conflict would enable Netanyahu to enrich his friends in the arms and technology industries and to use Israel as their experiment lab. With his eye on the US’ exploitation in its occupied lands, he will collect on every American firm willing to invest by stealing the natural reserves still left inside the country.
How futile it is.
Even writing this I feel I have unloaded a burden more than attempting to offer a solution. It seems like everyone has their opinion as to what needs to be done, and not many taking responsibility and pleading ignorance.
In practicing my Buddhist side, I do not wish to see someone different in anyone else. I can only muster hate in the face of seeing anyone who abuses animals, on both sides. My conviction in helping animals makes me look at Facebook more than ever in search of lost dogs who fled their homes from fear of the sirens and the bombs. This at least makes me tolerate the current routine of bombs and alarms going off every several hours.
Bombs don’t discriminate.