The news is so hard. Psychopaths are on the loose, greed is destroying economies, poverty is rife, people are disgruntled, politicians are lacking, confidence is depleted and things you thought were safe often turn out to be monstrous. All bad news. But not hard news. Not for me anyway. We’ve become accustomed to a culture of paranoia, negativity and dour reporting. It’s par for the course when you switch on the TV in the morning. Like any rational human being I process the information, more often than not I have a reasoned opinion and then I’ll move on out the door. But today the news is so hard because it makes me totally irrational.
I gather that when most people read updates on news in the Middle East they react one of three ways:
1. Soooo far away/sooooo not my problem/oh no the cat’s done a wee on the carpet again gtg; OR
2. HOT HELL THIS IS THE START OF WW3/RELIGION IS THE SOURCE OF ALL EVIL AND CAN SUCK MY BALLS; OR
3. I wish I knew what was happening but it’s just soooooo complicated/Is Hamas related to Hezbollah?/Is ‘Palestine’ still a thing?/‘Cholla’ is just the type of bread they eat, right?/What does all of this have to do with the plot of Homeland…
I, however, don’t follow this pattern because I have this hangover as regards anything Israel related. I don’t know quite where the hangover started or if these effects are really worth whatever made me this way in the first place… but whenever Israel is reported in the news I feel edgy, vulnerable and hot. I know I should try and rationalise the situation, weigh up the scenario, see all the angles but everything I think or say or feel is usually panicked, wrong and senseless. Basically every time there is a story about Israel in the media I go completely insane.
I have grown up impregnated with a loyalty to Israel. At times it makes me deeply uncomfortable. At other times it can make me proud. Sometimes I’m just a bit chin-strokey. I speak Hebrew. I visit the country. My mum volunteered out there, living on a kibbutz during the Six Day War. My dad trained in a hospital there. I have cousins who serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. If there is a need for more reserves in the Army, my friends will have to go to war. I once knew a boy who took a bus there and wound up murdered by a suicide bomber.
This is my experience of the “problems in the Middle East”. I suppose it’s a consequence of being jewish… to a degree. But I’m not a religious person. It’s more consequential of the frankly SHIT HOT times I’ve had there over the years; the family holidays, the tours I’ve taken with friends, the people I’ve met, the kisses I’ve shared, the raves I’ve endured, the stars I’ve gazed at in the desert in the middle of nowhere, far removed from any ‘normality’. And that’s the problem… it’s all just so personal. It’s like – if I’d grown up on Glastonbury and went every year and was completely ingrained in that culture and then Reading Festival (whom I had zero experience of) wound up embroiled in a complex, highly volatile conflict with Glastonbury I’d mindlessly support the big G just cos. It’s that insane. I recognise my impregnation and I try to will it away. I worry most don’t do the same. In fact, I know they don’t.
It’s my observation that a lot of other people go completely insane too. I’d go as far as to say that all the people in the “diaspora” who engage in the debate go a little bit mad. Some - big up David Aaronovitch - seem to remain totally authoritative. But most don’t. Especially your average person with an interest. My Facebook is currently awash with infographics. They’re all about rockets. How many rockets have been targeted at Israel in x amount of months versus how many attacks Israel have taken out against the Palestinians. Banners are everywhere about the right to defend yourself. Pro-Palestinian posts feature images of dead babies with similar infographics about how many babies have died versus how many rockets Hamas has used. Lots of infographics; whichever side they’re supporting they’re all crass as hell. It’s as though they’re trying to validate one side of the argument or another with “fact”s. Numbers always help. I wish someone would just come out and say it: whichever side you’re on there are no “fact”s to hide behind when your strongest justification is, in fact, a gut instinct. It’s all about FEELINGS. My Facebook feed is really intense right now.
My FEELINGS are this. It’s far too complicated. I will never understand it. Imagine having to be a journalist reporting on the whole thing. Nightmare. People try and convince you that they know. They’ll talk about treaties, territories, 1948, 1972, 1994, 2000, Intafadas, walls, peace processes, Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion, Theodor Herzl… Dana International. But really, they just can’t know everything. I realised this when I was in Jerusalem in 2008 and visited a national park which boasted incredible vantage points over the entire city. Up on this hillside, away from the hustle and bustle of the boiling streets, there was an eerie silence only ever interrupted by the calls of Muslim mosques, Armenian churches and Jewish synagogues. When the calls died down there was utter stillness. The West Bank Wall wrapped its way around the whole city, Palestinian settlements side-by-side with Israeli towns… the feeling of stark calm before an unthinkable storm. And in that moment I decided I wasn’t going to form opinions about the rights and the wrongs any more because I wasn’t the one having to live among that anxiety. In that moment all I cared about was that the places I loved remained and the people brave and committed enough to live there would be safe. In that moment I knew that when it came to Israel and news from the Middle East I would never understand.
I guess I’d like to justify my leniency towards Israel but the truth cannot be explained: I love it. I would live in Tel Aviv in a heartbeat if it wasn’t far too hard a life. I entertained the idea of being anti-Israel on Wednesday when the headlines went mad just to see what matters looked like from that angle. But it was JUST AS INSANE. The people on my Facebook with all the infographics yesterday have gone back to Instagramming. The ones who are actually in Israel are being heroic. Inviting people into their homes, sharing information on air raid shelters, trying to make it through the night. It’s akin to the New Yorkers on my feed when Hurricane Sandy hit. Exactly the same mentality. All that’s different is the aggressor – for the man in the street any aggressor in the Middle East is as preventable as a natural disaster. The level of animosity to the aggressor is at a basic human reactionary level: unite or fall, survive or die. All that changes is which side of the problem you’re on.
So as far as peace goes… it looks tough. Certainly so long as people can’t separate their minds from their hearts. They say religion and money are the root to all evil. I think maybe it’s LOVE. Some people love Israel, some people love Palestine. Love is bad and love makes us crazy and love is totally without compromise. Love is also the greatest thing the world has to offer. It’s hard to put those feelings to one side.
NB: Writing this blog made me a bit (EXTREMELY) nervous. I don’t know if it makes any sense. Like I said – insane.