Tonight my neighbor A asked me "do you have a position on Palestine/Israel?"
It was such a great question. I'm glad she asked! It gave me a chance to think about and articulate my perspective. It's not a subject I spend a lot of time talking/thinking about. Maybe I should...
Sacramento Area Peace Action is actually putting on a speaker series on Palestine. Next Tuesday the 19th is the next to last event. (More about that below.)
My answer to A is as follows:
So I am not pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, per se. I'm pro-peace... meaning I'm an advocate of finding a solution that creates social justice and quells violence for both sides. And no matter what, I believe that the US has no business funding a violent, inhumane, and illegal occupation.
To tell the truth, the more I learn about Israel/Palestine, the more I realize how much I have to learn. My general position is that it's NOT okay the way Israel (through the massive support of the US) treats the Palestinians. Regardless of the history of the region and picking sides and all that, the fact remains that Israel's occupation is illegal according to international law. It's also inhumane and against international conventions to do what Israel did by blockading Gaza earlier this year and not allowing humanitarian aid and basic supplies in. Palestinians don't have the same rights as Israelis. Palestinians routinely have their crops, their homes, their businesses destroyed by Israeli tanks and machines. They have to go through checkpoints all the time, as if they're criminals or foreigners. I heard a personal story of someone who was with a woman who could not get through the border even though she was in labor, and had to be driven hours out of the way to receive medical care. These kinds of things happen all the time.
That said, I'm not really well-versed even in modern Israel/Palestine history, let alone the thousands of years of history surrounding the different groups in the region. To be totally cliche, some of my best friends are Jewish, and are supporters of the state of Israel. I have no opinion on what kind of political structure should be in place... I just know that the Palestinians should not be being treated the way they are. Also, I know that the violence keeps festering because it is perpetuated by both sides. Neither side is right in resorting to violence, regardless of whether one uses tanks and the other uses car bombs.
In my non-professional opinion, the most destructive thing that causes breakdown in the dialog about Israel & Palestine is the flawed and overly-simplistic framing of the issue in the US media. Generally Palestinians are portrayed as anti-Semitic terrorists, whereas Israelis are innocent freedom fighters defending their homeland. There are so many fallacies in that. To begin with, an act is only called terrorism when it's a non-governmental group perpetrating it. Also, Israel is not exclusively Jewish; neither is Palestine exclusively Arab nor Muslim (some people don't even understand the difference between Arab and Muslim). And finally, Jerusalem and the entire country of Israel - is the historic homeland of BOTH groups.
Here's info about the Sacramento Area Peace Action event:
Tuesday, May 19, 7pm, Palestine Speaker Series: Current Realities/One State presented by Dr. Jess Ghanam, clinical professor of psychiatry and chief of medical psychology at UC San Francisco. Dr. Ghanam is on the board of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program and on the national board of Al-Awda the Palestine Right of Return Coalition. 909 12th St, Sac. Info: 916-448-7157, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://sacpeace.org/.