Just over a week ago, Neurotic Iraqi Wife vented her frustration at Israel's incursion into Gaza. Among the tragedies in Gaza was the death of a school friend of hers, which prompted her to direct one of her blog posts, The 21st Century Murderers... to "everyone who thinks the Gaza massacre is justifiable." She wrote,
'Im not saying Hamas is right. Im not a supporter of Hamas or any organization that deals with violence. But at the same time THIS SHOULD STOP. IT SHOULD STOP NOW. What did my school friend do? What was his fault? Why did he die? He died as a result of this inhumane war. BOTH SIDES ARE WRONG.
I don’t give a damn why this war started in the first place. Nothing, nothing whatsoever justifies kids dying. NOTHING. This post is for every single ignorant person who supports Israel’s current actions. And then you sit and wonder why do people hate us? Why do people dislike us. This is exactly why. You sit and wonder why people want to kill us? All these kids, the kids that have been orphaned, the kids who woke up having no family around will grow up thinking of ways to take revenge. And you wonder why suicide bombers do what they do in your part of the world. Bloody hell even people in other countries are asking to go fight in Gaza...This is exactly what happens as a result of unjustifiable violence.'
It turns out that several "ignorant persons"who support Israel's actions stopped by to explain why in Neurotica's comment section. First out of the gate was Tex who asked,
'What do you want Israel to do Neurotica? Open their borders to the palestinians and let the murderers flood across and murder all their children and kill every last living jew? Would Israel then be justified in defending themselves? Should Israel pull out of the occupied territories and let them govern themselves? Oh wait...they already did that and the thanks they received for forcing their own citizens to give up their homes was what? Thousands of rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately at civilians.'
Programmer Craig added his two cents soon afterward,
'By the way, Neurotica... every Palestinian blogger I know of has been preaching hate and violence against the Jews (or "zionists" as they call them) for years. Every single one. How am I supposed to sympathize with people like that, when it seems they got exactly what they wanted? You say that the people in Gaza aren't all like Hamas, and that is undoubtedly true, but where are the voices of those in Gaza who DON'T want war? Why aren't they being heard? Why aren't they on the news? Why aren't they on they internet? You say those people are important... shouldn't they be front and center in the Arab world, then?'
'I think a caring heart "gives a damn" why this war is started. How do you fight wrong/evil if you don't? You're not saying "Hamas is right" but can you say they are WRONG?'
Since Neurotica published her essay there have been 80 comments attached to it, far more than I've seen on her blog in the brief time I've been reading it. To her credit she responds... up to a point. Yes Hamas is wrong but Israel should target the militants, not the children.
But it's pretty well known that Israel targets the militants, even going so far as to warn civilians to clear out before the shooting starts. Hamas has made a practice of setting up its rocket launchers near schools and hospitals in order to win the information war with footage of massacred women and children. Neurotica seems reluctant to believe it, reluctant to accept the possibility that Hamas is to blame for Palestinian deaths. The best she can do concede that Hamas and Israel are both worthy of blame, and refusing further comment she throws up her hands and says,
'Whether people agree with me or not is not the point here. How can we stop the massacres thats what is important right now. Im leaving it at that.'
Although Neurotica seems predisposed to believe the Arab media take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she was willing to acknowledge, in a more recent post, that there is another side to the story.
'A few days ago I had to attend some family lunch that my parents were hosting. I wasn’t really up to it but I had to go. As we sat down chitchatting, a few mobile phones beeped simultaneously. “Please donate to Gaza at such and such banks” One of the ladies read the message out loud. She then threw her phone in dismay at the table. “Why should I care about Gaza” She said “While my own country is suffering. What did the Palestinians do for us Iraqis when my people were getting killed by the hundreds” She continued. “Let them go to hell.”
I was in shock. “But Khala (Aunti), these are humans dying, not animals. Surely you can be more compassionate” She had a very hard look on her face. She took out a cigarette, lit it, inhaled, then exhaled and shook her head and said “Neurotica, Iraqis are humans too. Do you know what they (Palestinians) did in Iraq? Do you know how the preyed on us when Saddam was in power. I don’t give a damn about these people. They elected their government so let them suffer the consequences”
Another woman joined in and said “She is right Neurotica. You know where the money is going? Its not going to the victims, it will end up in Hamas’s hands, and surely Hamas will buy weapons. All this is propaganda. No, not a single penny from MY own hard earned money is going there, Id rather spend it on the Orphans of Iraq. Half the millionaires in the Emirates are Palestinians, why don’t THEY help their OWN people?” Then she said, “Hamas don’t even care about their own people, theyre sitting comfortably in Syria and Lebanon while their people burn.”'
Is Neurotica ready to challenge long held convictions? Wonderful if true. More people should do it, and if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East, they'll have to.
Of course, there's the alternative that's popular in certain circles -- destroy Israel and annihilate the Jews. In the conventional view, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of all unrest in the Middle East. But if the Jews were to disappear from the face of the earth, would that bring peace? I think not. What about the next enemy of Islam?
Arab dreams of Israel's destruction gained justification from the reported death of Muhammad al Durah, a twelve year old Palestinian boy said to have been killed by Israeli gunfire in 2000. But was he? A challenge of the original news report by Charles Enderlin of France 2 resulted in a 2006 libel suit against Phillippe Karsenty, the challenger, in which Enderlin and France 2 prevailed. The appeal, however, favored Karsenty. The French Appeals Court found that Enderlin's report of the death scene was a fake.
So what's a Palestinian "freedom fighter" to do? What kind of an identity crisis would each of us endure at the destruction of a core cherished belief? At some level, what we believe is who we are. There are core convictions that are not relinquished easily, if ever at all. Convictions likely to be more tightly held in Palestine and other Arab places, where keeping the faith is a matter of life and death, where deviating from the straight and narrow can draw the wrath of religious enforcers who will kill any who offer dissent.
Iraq had been on the verge of becoming one of those places, but for the success of Bush, Petraeus, and the soldiers and Marines who conducted the surge. Neurotica's post testifies to the fact that differing opinions can and do exist among Iraqis.
'As I was about to voice my own opinion another lady said “You forgot what they did to our country Neurotica? To our People? They sent suicide bombers, they joined so called “Jihad” groups and killed hundreds even thousands of our people. They backed Zarqawi, that criminal man” Again as I tried to say something, a few teenage girls (daughters of another woman) announced they were leaving to join the protests. “What protests?” we asked. “There is a protest here in AD” They answered while they fixed their Palestinian scarves around their necks. The women rolled their eyes and shot the girls’ mother an evil look.
“How can you let them go?” The mother shrugged and said, its their choice, and I wont stop them. I just got up and left the table for I knew that the poor mom was going to be lectured. The conversation was already draining me.'
The overthrow of Saddam, the battle for Iraq, and the introduction of its democratic government were seismic events that caused a dramatic change in Arab perceptions of the U.S. and of themselves. But if there was a shift in Arab expectations it is one that was imposed. If real change is to be sustained, Arabs must begin to arrive at those perceptions on their own.
Over the last thirty or forty years conventional wisdom has had it that achieving peace in the Middle East depended on resolving the Palestinian situation. The obvious but unspoken reality is that the Palestinian situation is designed to be irresolvable. One might have expected the Israeli departure from Gaza in 2005 to lay the groundwork for peace, but instead Gaza became a launch site for lobbing Palestinian rockets into Israel. Whenever Palestinians thugs are threatened with peace they find a way to avoid it.
Recognition of terrorist tendencies caused Michael Scott Doran to write in a 2003 Foreign Affairs article,
'It is worth remembering that Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 came on the heels of the first Palestinian intifada, which also provoked much Arab hostility toward the United States. It was Saddam's defeat that cleared a space for the Madrid Conference and eventually the Oslo peace process. Then as now, defeating Saddam would offer the United States a golden opportunity to show the Arab and Muslim worlds that Arab aspirations are best achieved by working in cooperation with Washington. If an American road to a calmer situation in Palestine does in fact exist, it runs through Baghdad.'
If Neurotica is to be believed, a rift has appeared in Arab circles, or at least in Iraqi circles. The Palestinian cause no longer enjoys unanimous, unqualified support in the Arab world, if it ever really did. Continuing erosion of Arab support for Palestinian demands may eventually exert enough pressure to prevent militant Palestinians from torpedoing every substantive peace initiative that comes down the pike.
But who is willing to challenge the conventional wisdom? Neurotica's outspoken Aunti suggests that Doran's "road to a calmer situation in Palestine" has been cut through and construction is well under way. The question remains as to whether or not the Obama administration, or the rest of the world for that matter, will choose to travel that road.