The following is a response to a comment left today by "Kelly" -- rather than relegating the discussion to a variety of posts, I decided it's easier to follow same by keeping it all in the same space. -Ed.
When I referenced anonymous postings on the web, I wasn't (merely) equating your position with the hate-groups and the white supremacists and the closet racists that are increasingly abusing the anonymity of the Internet. Even before reading your response, it was clear that you're not in the same realm as are those twisted, hateful people.
However, it's very easy to see things from only one perspective, especially when you hear first-hand accounts of Israeli brutality and perceived injustices. The problem is when you see things only from one perspective, you perhaps fail to grasp other perspectives. For example, it's easy to characterize Israeli soldiers as being abusive and sporting "hair-trigger, jittery nerves." However, consider that every day, Israeli soldiers face the possibility of being killed by a random suicide bombing, or losing family members to a random mortar or rocket being fired into Israel – indiscriminately – by Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah – you name it. They have “hair-trigger” jitters because every Arab with whom they come in contact – whether at a checkpoint, on a bus or on a regular patrol – could be wearing a belt with the intention of killing as many Israelis – especially soldiers – as possible. There are pictures of children being trained to perform suicide operations at ages as young as five, and women have increasingly been tapped to perform these martyrdom operations as well. So their nerves are on edge because there's no simple way to distinguish civilians from enemies. Retaining their mental "edge" is the only thing on which they can rely to stay alive.
Without asking the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg – meaning, has Israel actively attacked its neighbors or is it merely defending itself in any way possible – I think that most people of that region, including some Arabs, are in favor of peace. Recent Palestinian elections in which Hamas seized control of the Palestinian state suggests that peace might not, however, be tops on the list. The problem, however, is the notion – misunderstanding, actually – that Israel somehow wants bloodshed and conflict and seeks it out rather than avoids it. Speaking of pacifism, I know several former soldiers in the Israeli army and they detest conflict; for them, however, conflict – when necessary – is a matter of Israel's survival. When you are fighting a faceless enemy that hides among civilians, hides rockets, munitions, explosives, etc., in civilian settings, and who blow up cafes, buses, theaters and hotels – civilian casualties are the regrettable result. They also provide very effective PR for the same groups that hide behind these human shields; that rarely is communicated, but that is the inevitable, and unenviable, truth.
I am not sure where, specifically, your friends live or where they work, but while they decry Israel's controlling of borders, do they also acknowledge that Israel has a need to protect its borders from people wearing bomb-belts and who would sooner kill Jews (and themselves) than live peacefully alongside them? Does that sound anything like pacifism? It doesn't to me.
Incidentally, two of the most outspoken Arab voices for peace of whom I know are Anwar Sadat and Mahmoud Abbas. It’s interesting that the former was assassinated – by fellow Muslims – and the latter was replaced by the Palestinian referendum which clearly, and soundly, replaced him with Hamas, essentially rejecting the concept of peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Further, it is ironic, at best, that the three words you used to sign your response – peace, shalom, salaam – are all used to indicate the same thing: peace; yet, I know of only one word that is invoked each time a suicide bomber fulfills his or her mission. The term "salaam alechem" (forgive the misspelling) – “God is great” – is typically part of a suicide bomber's lexicon. It's not a message of peace, however; if it were, I suspect that the bomb being detonated – filled with shrapnel and machine parts to maim or kill as many as possible – would not be part of the equation.
If we were to examine the three major world religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and determine which of these had designs on remapping the entire world in its own image – I think Islam would be the first on the list. What I mean by that, and why I’m bringing it up, is that, as I indicated above, the term “God Is Great” is not a statement indicating “My god is great and I’m really jazzed about that;” it’s more along the lines of “My god is great and he’s better than your god, and here’s my final statement about that.”
Since the Crusades, I don’t recall Christianity in its various permutations attempting to convert en masse people of other religions through violence. Missionaries might attempt to convert peoples of the world, but they do so with books and discussions, not bombs and beheadings. When was the last time Judaism attempted mass conversion? Even if I spent the next decade scouring history books and the Internet for verified proof, I doubt I’d find it.
Islam, however, seeks to absorb and dominate all facets of life and all countries and governments. You might disagree; however, between statements from al-Qaeda to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speeches to the Koran itself, the existence of any religion or beliefs contrary to the worship of Mohammad are pretty much the domain of the infidel. On this regard, of any of the aforementioned three religions, Judaism – and Israel – is the only one which has always and will always practice the notion of “Live and Let Live.” Put another way, if we are going to discuss injustice, we should at some point consider what it might be like being Jewish and walking on a Jewish holy day to a synagogue in Iran, Libya or Syria.
Your reference to a peace group and your friend and her associates being beaten is obviously regrettable; however, groups like Hamas and Hezbollah – groups that admittedly and proudly bomb schoolbuses and other places where civilians, including children, congregate – also claim to have peaceful (non-military) components, like hospitals, schools and housing. So which components are peaceful and want to meet face-to-face with Israel at a negotiating table and which want to meet on the streets, exchanging gunfire and munitions?
I've read numerous stories of Israeli refugee camps; I've heard how these camps "breed" terrorists, and how Israel is creating its own enemies. What I never understood was how or why other Arab nations – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, et al – would not absorb their fellow Muslims knowing doing so would alleviate the pain and suffering at the hands of Israel. What I've concluded is that it's better for some among these nations to allow this situation to continue to be able to develop and maintain an anti-Israeli mentality among Arabs. The term Zionism, as you used originally, is a term which suggests that Israel is an aggressive, blood-thirsty enemy and will destroy anything in its path. And again, I suggest that term and its uses are generally restricted to anti-Israeli Arabs and white supremacists. Even for pacifists, that's not the company I'd ever want to keep. The point is, if terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah and al-Qaeda were to disband and disarm, do you honestly believe Israel would suddenly begin to swallow up chunks of real estate and detain, imprison and/or abuse Arabs? Do you honestly believe that anyone in the world would believe these groups would remain disbanded and disarmed, even if Israel returned lands and granted additional freedoms to Arab Israelis? The answer to the second question, I hope, is no, as there have been numerous examples on which to base an answer. As for the former, is Israeli "aggression" – perhaps like that which is occurring in Beirut and in Southern Lebanon – them attacking a neighbor, or them attacking an enemy that hides among civilians, knowing Israel warns civilians of an impending attack? How many armies in the world warn its enemies prior to imminent attack? Do suicide bombers give these warnings, or are their actions praised with the chant of "Salaam Alechem," after the body count – and pictures of bloodied or murdered women and children – are published?
I think the chasm is notable here; many, if not all, Arabs distrust and/or despise Israel. Arab children are taught that Israel is and always will be the enemy. It has always been that way, and unless things change, they always will be that way. Israelis do not hate or distrust Arabs; they, however, like the rest of the world, see Muslim suicide bombers as barbaric thugs. The phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" has been cliched and repeated more times than I can even count, but it applies here. These are two perspectives that are diametrically opposed. The key is understanding the other side.
Briefly put, I know there are injustices occurring in Israel; Mohammad Atta, one of the lead hijackers on 9/11, was in an Israeli prison and would have languished therein except Bill Clinton implored Israel to release many of their prisoners in exchange for "peace." I'm not sure what Atta's background is or was, but his example is not atypical; the line Israel must walk, and face on a daily basis, is which of their Arab neighbors are truly for peace and for mutual acceptance, and which of their Arab neighbors, harboring notions of anti-Zionism, would rather die in a self-detonated explosion – along with some of those so-called "Zionists" – than live another day in a world in which Israel exists?
That's why I find the term "salaam" so ironic, and that's why my response to "Anti-Zionism" is jaded, cynical and distrusting.
However, I stand corrected: the term "Anti-Zionism" should not be equated with anti-semitism. Anti-semitism is, technically, a dislike of all semitic people, including Arabs; anti-Zionism, if we're being accurate, is just a polite way of expressing disdain for Israel.