Kill Or Be Killed

If you saw my post about the murder of Eyal and about my elementary school reunion then you know that I have friends (male and female fraternal twins) living in Israel. These are close friends, people for whom I feel love and about whom I worry more each passing day of this “conflict.” This is all very foreign to me — no pun intended. For starters, we have not maintained consistent communications throughout the years: I have never met her children, and while I have met and like very much his wife and sons, I can’t claim to really know them. Truth is, I don’t really know the twins at all as adults, having not had any deep or lengthy sustained interactions over time. Our bond is one that was forged in our youth, and therein lies its strength, perhaps a little like that of siblings who grow up and go their very separate ways.

The class reunion is ongoing online, and the latest communications have been about the war; I’ve been reading them avidly, but silently. I have yet to speak. Much of the “discussion” has been about pacifism vs. violence. Does violence only beget more violence? Is killing always wrong? Was it wrong to kill Nazis? Is it wrong to protect oneself and one’s family? Right or wrong, the reality on the ground seems to be “kill or be killed.”

Personally, morally, I am probably a pacifist. I don’t “believe” anyone ought to take a life. I don’t believe in capital punishment either. But if attacked, would I fight back? I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that my reaction would be chemically induced — either I would freeze (and perhaps be killed) or I would fight (and perhaps be killed). Whichever choice, and whatever the outcome, I truly doubt that my reaction in-the-moment would be based on moral or intellectual grounds.

War is not waged by a people, it is declared by a handful of men maneuvering for more power and money. I don’t believe that people are born knowing how to hate or kill — they are taught, or perhaps a more appropriate word is manipulated. You can’t teach an intelligent person that 2+2=5 because they know better, but you can convince them that it is to their benefit to embrace that erroneous conclusion. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Global warming doesn’t exist? Or you can use religion, faith in the unseen, belief in the glorious hereafter, to give credence to that which cannot be proven. Religion is an especially effective weapon used on people who have nothing — nothing to live for, nothing to hope for, except perhaps the glories in the next life, and perhaps the notion that they are providing for their families. Did you know that the families of suicide bombers are well-provided for financially? Isn’t it interesting that none of the terrorist “leaders” or their family members have themselves been suicide bombers?

“Leader” is an interesting word. Heads of state may once have been leaders, representatives of the people. Now they are abusers and oppressors. Most of you will readily agree, looking at some of the foreign lands and rulers. But I think it has become the truth everywhere, even here in the good ol’ USA. No one in American government is looking out for my best interests, or yours either. Many of the laws we had that were intended to protect us, the people, are now overlooked, ignored, repealed… What happened to anti-trust, the Sherman Act? Every day the consolidation of wealth and power increases, as does the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Look at all the people grasping at straws, praying for a miracle, living vicariously. How else would you describe the popularity of the lottery or reality/contest tv shows? A handful of people control the media, and that has a direct impact on both entertainment and information…or should I say mis-information. [A friend and fellow blogger talks often about the value of blogdom and the empowerment of people to have a voice via the Internet. I agree, but how can one know who or what to believe? That’s a discussion for another day.]

Have my thoughts strayed too far from the Arab-Israeli conflict? I don’t think that World War III (that’s what we’re now in) has much of anything to do with Arab-Israeli disputes over territory. “We were here first” and “they attacked us first” — sounds to me like children’s arguments; who hit whom first, who instigated what, and when, is now long beside the point, if it was ever really the point. These are “reasons” used to manipulate people, to incite hatred, to make them fight seemingly for themselves but really for the benefit of the powers that be.

Getting back to my friends — our online discussion began when one member asked us to read and comment on a speech by Haim Harari that though given in 2004, could have well been uttered just yesterday.

“The problem is that the vast silent majority of these Moslems are not part of the terror and of the incitement but, they also do not stand up against it. They become accomplices, by omission, and this applies to political leaders, intellectuals, business people and many others. Many of them can certainly tell right from wrong, but are afraid to express their views.”

My first reaction was to wonder ‘why they are afraid?’ Is there not power in numbers? Naive, I know. My second, more considered reaction is that what Harari said about the Moslems is true of all of us. We, too, are silent accomplices. From where do you think these warring factions are getting their weapons? Hasn’t our economy, and the Republican Party, always benefited from war? So why do we stay silent? Some might say *that* doesn’t have anything to do with us. Okay, so why do we remain silent while our government runs roughshod over the poor, the elderly, and now even the middle class? My husband says that one day average Americans will take the streets and revolt. I’m not so sure we have it in us. What will it take to make us take a stand?

Harari points out that suicide bombings, horrific though they are, have quantitatively less impact, cause fewer deaths, than say car accidents or earthquakes. It’s effectiveness as a weapon lies not in the body count, but in the economic impact of the aftermath, destroying a country’s tourism, airlines in bankruptcy… The World Trade Center took a lot of lives, but the greater cost was in the aftermath, the disruption of a major business center and the escalation of people’s fear and how that alters people’s behavior, particularly economically, in the long run.

There is so much that we simply cannot understand having not had the horrific experiences ourselves (9/11 not withstanding), but as several have opined, that is all too soon to change. Maybe then we, too, will take a stand.

If after reading this you are wondering which side I am on, do I support Israel’s actions, do I feel bad for the Palestinians….the answer is that I am on the side of the people, the average people in all countries, the people who should band together, live together and share the planet, and not allow a handful of power-hungry elite to divide us and conquer.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

But again I have strayed back to the intellectual and moral approach. Harari said “The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment.” I can see the sad truth of this statement. Hospitals and places of worship, civilians and especially children, are being used as shields. The rules of engagement have been abandoned…by both sides. A decision has been made to fight fire with fire, and I cannot stand in judgment of those on the front lines or in the cross-fire. But there will be a price to pay, for as Ghandi once said, “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”