The author is a Los Angeles-based writer and web producer. He is also the creator of the popular weblog Citizen of the Month.
By Neil Kramer
I was honored when Tara asked me to write a post about my feelings on the current violence in the Middle East. As a Jewish man, an American and a supporter of Israel, my political views are quite different from hers. But the two of us have one common denominator -- neither of us enjoys seeing people dying and suffering in war.
I see a lot of anger when I read politically-oriented blogs, each side accusing the other of atrocities. I'm not a political person. I write a personal blog where I mostly write humorous stories. In Tara's last post, she displayed a painting by Felix Vigil that was titled "The Storyteller." I like that term. Consider me a storyteller.
What can a storyteller say about the Middle East that a politician or historian cannot? In a way, I think a storyteller is the most important critic of all. A storyteller knows that storytelling is everywhere and everything. The fighting in the Middle East is not over land or religion. It is fighting over storytelling.
This story being fought about in the media and blogs is based on a Biblical classic: David and Goliath. Unfortunately, you and I may have different versions of the story. Your version might be about this aggressive, warlike country named Israel. Settled illegally by a haughty people, they pushed innocent farmers from their homes and started an aggressive campaign to win land from all their neighbors. Whenever there is the slightest provocation, this mighty Goliath lashes out, killing anyone in its sight -- men, women and children. Whenever the civilized world tries to stop the insanity, Israel is backed up by its big brother, the United States.
When I read the comments on some blogs, I repeatedly hear this story. It's not the story I know and believe. It's like I've walked into an incomprehensible foreign movie without subtitles.
My David and Goliath story is quite different. Mine is about a people who have been pining away for their ancestral land for 5000 years. A people who were treated horrendously and viciously for centuries everywhere they went. After millions were murdered, the powers-that-be agreed to partition British land to form a home for Jews and a home for Palestinians. This tiny Jewish state was immediately attacked. Then attacked again. This David is surrounded by a multitude of Arab countries that hate to see a non-Arab country in their midst. Both Iran and Hezbollah say they will fight until Israel is eradicated. It was Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, that attacked Israel by sending in missiles and kidnapping soldiers. This is my David and Goliath story.
The recent conflict has very little to do with the Palestinians. It is about the non-Arab Iran wanting to win favor with the Arab Muslim world by arming Hezbollah to the teeth and provoking Israel. If this works, Iran wins favor. There is also a side benefit -- it makes the international community set aside key issues about this despotic regime that is developing nuclear weapons.
Suddenly Iran and Syria are not the villains anymore. This David and Goliath story casts Israel as the bad guy. If you ask some European school kids today, they think Israel takes up half the Middle East, rather than the tiniest slice of land with a small population. Yes, I know they are the "Western" country with the biggest military might in the Middle East, but is their aim anything other than to protect themselves?
I find it astounding that Israel's "Western" status makes their hardships and casualties seem less important to so many other Westerners. You don't believe me? On Thursday eight civilians were killed in Israel by Hezbollah missiles. But did anyone write any poems for these people? Were poems being written when buses were being blown up in Tel Aviv and body parts of Israeli children were flying onto the streets? Since Israel is the big bad Goliath in this story, the death of Israeli children just doesn't have the same impact as that of Arab children.
To me, this stinks of a condescending attitude toward the Arab World, as if Israel should know better than to hurt civilians during warfare, but terrorists -- well, that's just how they are!
I remember reading a lot of angry comments when Israel started building a wall. Israelis were called "racists," even though the wall actually was effective in stopping suicide bombers. Do you lock your door at home if there is a spree of robberies in your neighborhood? Are you being racist?
I appreciate the story many of you tell, where Israel is the Goliath. I still believe that Israel takes every precaution not to injure civilians during war, but I would be a monster if I didn't feel for the plight of the dead and displaced in Lebanon. But where is Iran or Hezbollah in this story? Are these provocateurs secondary characters? Do you feel comfortable telling a story where democratic Israel is a bigger villain than a despotic regime or a terrorist organization?
Stories are partly constructs of the imagination and the same situation can be written in hundreds of different ways. If I try to appreciate your David and Goliath story, I would like the same respect for mine -- because I rarely hear it being told in some circles. In all the talk of violence and death, will I be the only one to lament Israel's dead?