Sunday, August 3, 2014
David Grossman: Stop the Grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian Violence // RAPHAEL AHREN : Why is Israel so afraid of the Arab Peace Initiative?
Inside the bubble, who can fault Israelis for expecting their government to do everything it can to save children on the Nahal Oz kibbutz, or any of the other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, from a Hamas unit that might emerge from a hole in the ground? And what is the response to Gazans who say that the tunnels and rockets are their only remaining weapons against a powerful
In this cruel and desperate bubble, both sides are right. They both obey the
law of the bubble — the law of violence and war, revenge and hatred.
But the big question, as war rages on, is not about the horrors occurring every day inside the bubble, but rather it is this: How on earth can it be that we have been suffocating together inside this bubble for over a century? This question, for me, is the crux of the latest bloody cycle.
Since I cannot ask Hamas, nor do I purport to understand its way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my own country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue, without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas, without attempting to change our explosive reality? Why, for these past few years, has
avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors
of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure
Hamas? Why have you ignored, for 12 years, the Arab League initiative that
could have enlisted moderate Arab states with the power to impose, perhaps, a
compromise on Hamas? In other words: Why is it that Israeli governments have
been incapable, for decades, of thinking outside the bubble?
And yet the current round between
and Gaza is somehow different.
Beyond the pugnacity of a few politicians fanning the flames of war, behind the
great show of “unity” — in part authentic, mostly manipulative — something
about this war is managing, I think, to direct many Israelis’ attention toward
the mechanism that lies at the foundation of the vain and deadly repetitive
“situation.” Many Israelis who have refused to acknowledge the state of affairs
are now looking into the futile cycle of violence, revenge and counter-revenge,
and they are seeing our reflection: a clear, unadorned image of Israel as a
brilliantly creative, inventive, audacious state that for over a century has
been circling the grindstone of a conflict that could have been resolved years
If we put aside for a moment the rationales we use to buttress ourselves against simple human compassion toward the multitude of Palestinians whose lives have been shattered in this war, perhaps we will be able to see them, too, as they trudge around the grindstone right beside us, in tandem, in endless blind circles, in numbing despair. I do not know what the Palestinians, including Gazans, really think at this moment. But I do have a sense that
is growing up. Sadly, painfully, gnashing its teeth, but nonetheless maturing —
or, rather, being forced to. Despite the belligerent declarations of hotheaded
politicians and pundits, beyond the violent onslaught of right-wing thugs
against anyone whose opinion differs from theirs, the main artery of the
Israeli public is gaining sobriety.
The left is increasingly aware of the potent hatred against
— a hatred that arises not just from the occupation — and of the Islamic
fundamentalist volcano that threatens the country. It also recognizes the
fragility of any agreement that might be reached here. More people on the left
understand now that the right wing’s fears are not mere paranoia, that they
address a real and crucial threat.
I would hope that on the right, too, there is now greater recognition — even if it is accompanied by anger and frustration — of the limits of force; of the fact that even a powerful country like ours cannot simply act as it wishes; and that in the age we live in there are no unequivocal victories, only an illusory “image of victory” through which we can easily see the truth: that in war there are only losers. There is no military solution to the real anguish of the Palestinian people, and as long as the suffocation felt in
Gaza is not
alleviated, we in Israel
will not be able to breathe freely either.
Israelis have known this for decades, and for decades we have refused to truly comprehend it. But perhaps this time we understand a little better; perhaps we have caught a glimpse of the reality of our lives from a slightly different angle. It is a painful understanding, and a threatening one, certainly, but it is an understanding that could be the start of a shift. It might bring home for Israelis how critical and urgent peace with the Palestinians is, and how it can also be a basis for peace with the other Arab states. It may portray peace — such a disparaged concept here these days — as the best option, and the most secure one, available to
Will a similar comprehension emerge on the other side, in Hamas? I have no way of knowing. But the Palestinian majority, represented byMahmoud Abbas, has already decided in favor of negotiation and against terrorism. Will the government of Israel, after this bloody war, after losing so many young and beloved people, continue to avoid at least trying this option? Will it continue to ignore Mr. Abbas as an essential component to any resolution? Will it keep dismissing the possibility that an agreement with West Bank Palestinians might gradually lead to an improved relationship with the 1.8 million residents of
as soon as the war is over, we must begin the process of creating a new
partnership, an internal alliance that will alter the array of narrow interest
groups that controls us. An alliance of those who comprehend the fatal risk of
continuing to circle the grindstone; those who understand that our borderlines
no longer separate Jews from Arabs, but people who long to live in peace from
those who feed, ideologically and emotionally, on continued violence. I believe that Israel still contains a critical mass of
people, both left-wing and right-wing, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs,
who are capable of uniting — with sobriety, with no illusions — around a few
points of agreement to resolve the conflict with our neighbors.
There are many who still “remember the future” (an odd phrase, but an accurate one in this context) — the future they want for
and for Palestine. There are still
— but who knows for how much longer — people in Israel who understand that if
we sink into apathy again we will be leaving the arena to those who would drag
us fervently into the next war, igniting every possible locus of conflict in
Israeli society as they go.
If we do not do this, we will all — Israelis and Palestinians, blindfolded, our heads bowed in stupor, collaborating with hopelessness — continue to turn the grindstone of this conflict, which crushes and erodes our lives, our hopes and our humanity.
David Grossman is the author, most recently, of “Falling Out of Time.” His other books include “To the End of the Land,” “Death as a Way of Life” and “The Yellow Wind.” This essay was translated by Jessica Cohen from the Hebrew.