During my lifetime there have only really been two things that divided friends and family. The first was the Vietnam War. I was on the political left side of that one. My parents, and most of their generation, were on the political right side.
Those of us against that war were accused of everything from being communists, to cowards, to outright traitors to our country. It was the age of "America: Love it or leave it!"
Many of my generation did just that, leave it, fleeing to Canada or Europe or just going underground until the whole thing blew over. It was the most divisive and painful national event since the American Civil war a century before.
Now we have another one, only this one is not our doing, but another country's. Still it once again is pitting friend against friend, family against family, community against community. And yes, it's in the Middle East. But it's not Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria or Iran. It's Israel.
I have Jewish and Israeli friends... some whose fingers are now hovering dangerously over the "unfriend" button with my name on it. Not because I am pro-Hamas or a closet anti-Semite. I am neither. (You'll simply have to accept my word for that. It's all I can offer as proof.)
What got me in this trouble is simply seeing matters differently than those who, for religious, ethnic or familial reasons, have a dog(s) in the current events in Israel and Gaza and the occupied West Bank. They are circling the wagons, are hyper-defensive and increasingly angry at those of us who just don't see it their way.
Like with the Vietnam War, offering opinions about what's going on that decidedly un-Holy Land, is dangerous. The safest thing to do is to be certain before you open your mouth that you are with fellow travelers on the subject. Because, if you're not, you're in for being accused of an array of horribles; you're an anti-Semite, an apologist for terrorists or just plain uninformed.
If you take Israel's side then you are an enabler of war-crimes and a racist regime.
Well, I am none of those things. I am a former journalist who worked during an era when trying to sort things out in a fair and objective manner was the prime directive. Anything less was a mortal sin.
So this is how I see it. And if you don't like it, well, I'm sorry. But I believe I am being as objective as it is humanly possible to be.
Israel's position is that it was just sitting there, minding its own business, when Hamas started shooting missiles into Israel. I don't think that's true. Israel was minding business, but not minding its own business.
First let's dispose of the kidnappings. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by someone, likely Palestinians. Israel immediately blamed Hamas, though never produced credible evidence. Then some fundamentalist Jews kidnapped and killed a Palestinian kid -- tit for tat in the land where both sides live by the Old Testament's "eye for an eye" rules.
The missiles started flying from Gaza shortly thereafter. It's easy to conclude that the kidnappings were the spark. But you'd be wrong. The kidnappings alone would not have ignited the fires that blaze now. No, there was a lot of ignitable gas in the air long before those events.
You have to divide Israel's Palestinian operations into two halves; Gaza and the West Bank. They are different, yet based on the same template. It's the way American politicians and settlers dealt with Native American tribes long ago. We of European origins saw ourselves as the superior culture. We wanted and needed the lands Native Americans were living on. They had to go.
So, with a mix of false promises, covert and overt violence, we took what we wanted, moving the Indians onto easily controlled reservations. They were either herded there under the gun, or lured with the promise of being granted their own lands. But those promised lands continued to shrink and shrink as our settlers moved in. The rest is history.
Tiny Gaza has become a classic reservation for Palestinians. It is small, crowded and geopolicially isolated, and its population is restricted—actually imprisoned—within its fenced and mined borders.
The West Bank, on the other hand, is a work in progress. The false promise of their own Palestinian state has lured Fatah into trading peaceful compliance to Israeli occupation for the hope of negotiations leading to their own state. But, whenever those negotiations get anywhere close to defining that state's borders, Israel uses one pretext or another to torpedo the process.
Meanwhile, while the kabuki dance of negotiations go nowhere, new Israeli settlers move deeper and deeper into the West Bank, setting up settlements that effectively dismember the West Bank and along with it any realistic hope of a unified and sustainable Palestinian state.
I got in trouble with one Israeli friend last week when I used the term "stealing Palestinian land." She accused me of incitement and said that before I used such inflammatory terms I should consider how Israel come into possession of that land in the first place. I replied that, yes, I know, the 1967-war when Israel was attacked by virtually all its Arab neighbors. Fine. I get it. It's occupied territory gained in war. But we were blindsided by Pearl Harbor, fought Japan and won. Did we keep Japan? No.
I repeat, Israeli settlers who have moved and are moving into settlements deep inside the West Bank are stealing Palestinian land. There is simply no other way to see it, and still be intellectually honest. (The settlements clustered along the 1967 border are another matter, and should be open to a fair acre-for-acre trade in any final agreement.)
A two-state solution was promised. The captured land —the West Bank—was to be the new Palestinian state. But, while Israel was allegedly "minding its own business," over the past three years the number of settlements and settlers on the West Bank has exploded. The number of Israeli settlements being started in the West Bank more than doubled during 2013, the Israel central bureau of statistics has said. Work began on 2,534 new housing units in the settlements in 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012. (Chart Here.)
One Fatah negotiator said that negotiating with Israel over land is like negotiating with a guy over a pizza while the other guy keeps eating the pizza.
Recall that the next time you hear some Israel politician claiming that all Israel was doing was minding its own business when Hamas started shooting missiles at it.
Like I said, Israel was indeed minding business... and a dirty and duplicitous business it is.
That's it. That's what I see when I look at the facts. So unfriend me if you want. Just don't accuse me of bias.