Sunday, July 23, 2006

JVP Counter-Demonstration

Today I stood in solidarity with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in a counterdemonstration outside the Save Israel rally. Though I am not Jewish, I was invited and figured with my credentials as a, well, blogger(?) I had something to offer. In truth, once I was invited I could not decline, for silence in the face of suffering is complicity.

The counterdemonstration itself was well organized and coordinated with the organizers of the Save Israel rally. For the most part, those taking part in the counterdemonstration avoided comingling or confronting anyone, for that was not the point. By and large, those passing were polite and several even engaged in meaningful discussiong, but there were also the few perfunctory crazy people. In total, I would estimate there were about 20 people there with JVP, 8 with the socialist party/Radical Women (whose message was VERY different) and around 700 people attending the main rally. First, I want to share several photos with you, then share what I took away from the experience.

This first photo is of members of the JVP and the signs they held. The messages included "Cease Fire Now", "Arab Lives Are = to Jewish Lives", "All Civilians Deserve Peace", "Stop the Cycle of Hate", and so on.

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This next photo gives you a sense of the size of the crowd (Rep. Dave Reichert is speaking)

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And here's a photo of Rep. Reichert leaving immediately after he spoke (long before the rally ended)

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Here are two children who created signs just for us. On the back of the "Go back to Syria" sign it read "Stop speaking Arabic." I find both such slogans incomprehensible in context.

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So I mentioned that I'd learned something and I did. It came from listening to those who stopped, both to talk and to yell and make obscene gestures. Some comments were sarcastic and absurd (e.g. "Yes, end the Arab occupation of Jewish lands"), but others were thoughtful and reflective of deeply held convictions. What I heard today was a lot of fear. This should not have surprised me (for what did the Bush Administration use to sell the invasion and occupation of Iraq?), but it did. One gentleman said that Judaism was under a greater threat now than during the Holocaust. Another man truly believed that all Muslims are taught to hate and kill Jews. Many others expressed fear of attacks not only on Israel, but all of Judaism. In fear's name, we humans can justify and excuse many things.

One man came up attempting to point out the difference between Hezbollah and the actions of the Israeli military. I agree there is a difference (and there are other similarities), but the man's logic was interesting to me. He said "Are the Israelis bombing people's homes?" "Yes" was the reply. "All right, but do those homes contain babies?" he asked, suggesting the homes that were bombed contained only militants. The reply again was "Yes." "Well, nobody's perfect" he said. Only under the spell of fear can we justify the unustifiable. Violence depends upon fear, and right now everyone, on every side, is very, very afraid.


Alex Kim said...

Clearly, the solution is now to get Christian missionaries in there PRONTO - conversions for peace!

Sorry - great post - just a bit of jest for increasingly sad times.

Cody said...

Hi Karl. You noted that there are both differences and similarities between Hezbollah and the IDF as if the differences were not more significant that the similarities. Is that how you feel? Let me ask it another way: is the IDF attempting to avoid civilian casualties where possible? Is the same true of Hezbollah?

Karl Smith said...

Hi Cody. My intention was not to imply that the the IDF and Hezbollah had more in common than they did not have in common. Whereas Hezbollah deliberately targets civilians, the IDF does not. What I wish to draw attention to, however, is that in their bombings the IDF may target Hezbollah sites, but they do so knowing that civilians will be killed in those strikes and carry them out anyway. The concept of "acceptable losses" is by no means a new one - even President Bush acknowledged that 30,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the war and ensuing occupation - but that doesn't mean I find those deaths any more acceptable, especially not when other options exist (bringing in a potent international force, empowering the Lebanese government to the point that they can disarm Hezbollah, or even carrying out strikes the avoid civilian casualties or excessive damage to civilian infrastructure).

In the current situation, where Hezbollah strikes Israeli civilian targets indiscriminately, Israelis justifiably feel upset and desire to retaliate. When IDF strikes kill Lebanese or other civilians, friends and relatives of the deceased justifiably become upset and may seek to retaliate. We can argue against the rationality of either side, but the point is that that is precisely the cycle we find ourselves in. Somebody must do something to break out of it.