In my dreams, I can see a better way in Gaza.
Palestinians spent weeks engaged in a “Great March of Return,” a series of protests at the Gaza-Israel border that have included gunfire at Israel Defense Forces soldiers, throwing rocks and rolling burning tires at the security fence.
Palestinians have been wounded and killed near the border. The number of dead is hard to bear, too painful to focus on – it’s in the dozens as I write this. Army sharpshooters have been deployed on the Israeli side, writing this chapter of our history in bullets.
It’s all such an unfortunate, sad mess. Besides the compounding tragedy of the situation, the optics for Israel are not great: guns against protestors.
But if there’s any theme to the current decade – a landscape of digital “friends” we never talk to and a president who can speak more in values than in facts – it’s that optics are not always reality.
The truth is not always the stuff of our first gleam on approach.
The truth is that at least some of the protestors – maybe a lot of the protestors – are probably not seeking to come over the fence to sit down and hammer this all out over coffee.
At least two more Hamas tunnels into Israel have been discovered in recent weeks. Such tunnels have been used to move weapons of war. Hamas has also fired projectiles into Israel in recent weeks. And Palestinians have recently sent burning kites over the border from Gaza to touchdown in Israeli wheat fields, according to media reports. It wasn’t that long ago that at least some Palestinians were stabbing Israelis at random.
If Israel is on edge, taking no chances with Palestinian intentions, it’s for a reason.
Palestinians at the border, viewing Israel as an occupier, put their lives on the line to “return.” Israel, defending itself from those who would attack it, cannot abide an overrun border.
Thousands gathered at the fence, getting ever more comfortable, inching closer – how could that be allowed to happen? It can’t be allowed to happen. Israel pulls the trigger, breaks the heart.
The prime minister of Belgium has called for an international inquiry, led by the United Nations. Must be nice, judging the conflict from that comfortable perch of privilege. Surrounded by France, Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the Belgians are definitely in a place to school Israel on angry mob border etiquette.
It’s suicide by cop, really. Police know this well. An individual loses interest in his life. He wants to make a statement. So he puts himself in a position of extreme risk, even forces a police officer’s hand. We don’t blame the police officer. Maybe society is to blame.
And maybe we are, all of us. The United Nations, Egypt with its own limits on Gaza, the United States, Israel and, it’s painful to say it, quite a bit of blame for the Gazans themselves.
It’s a new story, this tension and depressing outcome at the border, but we’ve also heard this story before.
It’s a story of Palestinians calling for a “return” that would be the end of Israel. It’s a story of Jews being forced into a domineering role that they never wanted. Terror tunnels, rockets and defiant crowds at the border, ignoring Israeli pleas to stay away, these methods all seek the same result. It’s all in search of Israel’s end, something no nation would agree to. It’s something the world’s only Jewish nation, born three years after the final days of the Holocaust, must never agree to.
Dreams are nice, so let’s go there. Let’s go to a fantasy world where instead of throwing rocks, Palestinians at the border hold signs calling for a two-state solution. Maybe those signs are there, but in the pictures I’ve seen, I’m not finding them.
In this other world, protests at the border aren’t simultaneous with tunnels and projectiles, coming from a place that has historically called for Israel’s destruction.
This is a world where Egypt doesn’t feel a need to create a buffer zone at its Gaza border, in the wake of a 2014 Gaza-sourced terror attack that killed Egyptian soldiers. No, Egypt feels no need to demolish hundreds of homes and other buildings along the Gaza border in recent years.
In this other world, Palestinians hold Hamas accountable for a good helping of their troubles. They educate – or ostracize – their neighbors who call for Israel’s destruction, or who speak of violence against Egypt.
These Palestinians seek peace, a negotiated settlement, one that recognizes that Israelis can’t be expected to give it all up.
I’ve written in a prior editorial that we must recognize Palestinian pain if we can ever expect them to truly hear our side of the equation. And now there’s even more of it, more darkness for more families.
We can see the pain. We can recognize it.
But recognition has got to be a two-way street.
Rob Golub is editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.