Sunday 18 January 2009

Loss of innocent life is a crime no matter who does the killing.


I dread to think what might have happened or still be happening in Gaza by the time you read this, but oh, this hurts, in a supremely selfish and egocentric way.
My grandfather had to leave Germany to escape the Nazis. If he hadn’t, you would not be reading this.
Last May in Tuam, Co. Galway, an elderly Jewish couple had their car burned out, swastikas painted onto their windows, and ‘Go Home Jew’ painted on their driveway walls. Herb Meyer and his partner Armida Walsh are planning to move to England, joining the exodus of Jewish people from Ireland. In 1940 there were 5,500 Jewish people in Ireland, and now there’s a paltry 1,700. Even though this decline of a Jewish population in a free country is unique in the modern world, I don’t believe the Irish are any more or less anti-semitic than the English.
When my Dad used to tell me we were only visitors in England, and one day we might have to leave, it wasn’t empty rhetoric.
Go Home. That’s what they always say, and the fact that I am an atheist will count for nothing. You can philosophise all you like about whether being Jewish is a religious or racial matter, but I can tell you from the inside, that’s what I am, God or no God.
Cries of “I don’t believe in God!” would not have saved my life in Dachau.
For me it’s a matter or survival, that strongest and most basic of instincts. If countries closed their doors to fleeing Jews, as they did in the 1930’s, there’s only one place where I might go. Yet here I am, funky and free, grateful not to be Israeli.
To be Israeli is to live in constant fear of your life, your home and your children’s future; to live surrounded by nations sworn to your own nation’s destruction.
Since its inception in 1948, Israel has been invaded three times, and involved in five separate territorial wars, as well as the ongoing Intifada.
We interrupt this colyoom to bring you a news flash.
There have been heavy casualties in a fresh wave of missile attacks on Monaghan and Dundalk. As part of a sustained campaign that has lasted for several years now, the People’s Army for the Death and Destruction of Ireland (PADDI) have launched thousands of rockets from Armagh and Newry onto the cities of Monaghan and Dundalk. Today there were violent clashes on the streets of Dublin, as protesters demanded that the Irish government defend the nation. The Taioseach has to date refused to sanction any response to these missile attacks, claiming that to target the densely-populated civilian areas from where PADDI launch their rockets would be in contravention of the Geneva Convention, not to mention Irish neutrality.
Thousands of refugees have fled Dundalk and Monaghan, heading south.
And now, back to the colyoom.
Whatever happens, never get sucked into that Middle Eastern ulcer. You know the one, where Israel wouldn’t bomb the Palestinians if Hamas didn’t fire rockets, but they’re only firing rockets because the Israelis are blockading Gaza and making it impossible for Palestinians to go to their jobs in Israel, which is creating terrible poverty in Gaza, which wouldn’t be necessary if the Palestinians who worked in Israel didn’t bring with them suicide bombers who blew up innocent Israelis, but the suicide bombers wouldn’t want to blow themselves up if the Israelis weren't living on Palestinian land in the first place, but the Israelis say they were there first and the Palestinians say they were there first and yes you did no I didn’t yes you did no I didn’t.
Stay away from that ulcer. That’s precisely the spiral of thinking that sends us into destructive despair and yet another war.
This colyoomist is not a monster who seeks to survive at the expense of others. My personal need for the State of Israel to exist in no way suggests that others should suffer. My freedom from persecution must not come at the expense of another’s.
This is where it really hurts.
My heart breaks when I see that monstrous wall on the West Bank.
I crumble inside when crazed Jewish settlers are interviewed once more on the TV news, as yet again the outside world will imagine the words of these nutters represents the thinking of Jewish people around the world.
My tears flow as I watch innocent blood spilt on the streets of Gaza. I feel shamed to my core that my own people could bring about such wanton destruction of human life. I loathe the way the Israelis close the Palestinian universities, the way they impose embargoes and blockades, but then I remember.
I remember talking to my friend in Tel Aviv on the phone the night that a suicide bomber blew himself up in a pizza restaurant in Tel Aviv. I remember hearing the utter terror in her voice as she screamed and cut me off to call and make sure her daughter was still alive.
I remember that unlike Egypt, who after so many terrible wars sought peace and co-operation with Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah have no desire to negotiate for peace, as they are both sworn to the annihilation of Israel.
I remember that after Israel voluntarily withdrew their army barracks and settlements from Gaza in 2005, Hamas have launched over 7,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza.
I do not believe Hamas want their own people to suffer, but for the achievement of their ultimate aim it does them no harm to have a radicalised young population that has suffered terribly at the hands of the oppressor.
The Irish psyche is synaptically turbocharged to support any oppressed people, but in their rush to see justice done, the Irish do the truth a disservice. It is crass to see Israel as baddies and Hamas as goodies. There are no goodies or baddies. There is only dreadful human tragedy, on all sides. There is no moral high ground in this conflict, only terrible crimes of scale. All loss of innocent life is a crime against humanity.
I cry for each terrorised Palestinian.
I cry for each terrorised Israeli.
Think only of the people on all sides and humanity might have a chance.
No single human life is lesser or greater than another.
This atheist prays for a free Israel, a free Palestine and lasting peace.
Amen.

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