Israel/Hamas – with blood and fire or with doves

Ruth HartleyColonialism, Conflict, Displacement, Feminism, Human rights, Justice, Migration, Politics, Power, Racism, Refugee, War5 Comments

The dividing wall near Bethlehem

The right side in the Israel/Hamas war.

The whole world is engaged with, but divided over the Middle East war. It’s a risk to venture an opinion, but it seems to me that there is only one right side and one way to protect children and that is to find peace for both sides. What I’ve learned in the war-torn 80 years I’ve lived through is that wars are based on false assumptions about an “enemy” of “other” people who must be “beaten”. The right thing must be done, but it will be a solution for everyone and not a victory for one side. Everyone is situated in the world by history and family but we can disagree with our governments. Hamas has built tunnels to protect it’s fighters not it’s children or women whom its is ready to martyr. Netanyahu survives with the support of fundamentalist Jews whose actions in the West Bank are evil.

Becoming who we are or who we want to be.

Water – the most important element in the Middle East and the world

Travelling through 27 different countries in 2008, John and I heard many languages, but the sound of a mother and father talking to and caring for a child was the same everywhere. It was the universal sound of love. If people are more alike than they are different, what makes us into the people we are with the opinions we have? Why do we choose one side against another? Ought we take sides in this dreadful war? Which side is the right one?

The “right” people are always all on the one “right” side

There are good, kind, thoughtful humans everywhere and on every side, but they don’t know everything and can’t always make the wisest judgements. They pick leaders to do this for them or are forced to submit to those in power. My mother told me that the community in which she lived in what was then Rhodesia were kind and hardworking – the “salt of the earth”. Sadly they were also lied to and led by Ian Smith into a destructive unwinnable war founded on racism. It’s true that “one” side may have a better and more justifiable cause than the “other”, but the solution is not for “one” to wipe out and kill the “other”, even supposing that that side is misguided and misled. People act out of fear of losing family, livelihood and home.

With our Palestinian guide at the Yitzak Rabin Memorial. Rabin was murdered by a fundamentalist Jew. I wept when it happened in 1995 and again when I saw this memorial. Peace for Israelis and Palestinians once again destroyed by religious bigotry.

Learning about life and history

History is biased, out of date and doesn’t provide answers to current world situations. To bridge these gaps myths are invented. At this moment in the Middle East, these myths are dangerous and misleading. I’ll deal with two in this post. One is the myth that Jewish Israelis are white, the other is that they are colonists and therefore must go back “home”. From 1890 a tiny number of Zionists began to arrive in Palestine to escape Russian pogroms.  By the 1930s Palestine had a minority Jewish population in rural areas and a majority population in Jerusalem. Colonisation is the economic domination of one people by a more powerful outsider nation, as happened in South Africa. Jews were a powerless few returning from a diaspora that had tried to annihilate them to a homeland where Jews have always lived alongside other groups. Historical research shows that all the ancient names of present-day places in Palestine and Israel are Hebrew. There have always been Jews in Palestine.


The creation of Israel by the Allies was more of an abrogation of power than an imposition of it. In 1947 there were 630,000 Jews in Palestine, 143,000 Christians and 1,183,000 Muslims. After the Second World War and the Holocaust, there were about a million unwanted Jews in Europe interned in Displaced Persons Camps without a country to speak for them, protect them or claim them as nationals. Other nationals were forced to or wanted to return to their various homes. For Jews who could not go to the US, there was only the Zionist dream to give them hope.

The Nakba

Many contributing factors went into the 1948 tragedy of the Nakba, the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, and there is disagreement about it among historians. Two World Wars, the Holocaust and the Nakba are immensely damaging to both Israel and Palestine, although Jews and Palestinians are the same Semitic ethnicity. An outcome of the Nakba was the persecution and expulsion of Jews from Middle-Eastern Arab countries as revenge for the Nakba. They came and continue to come to live in Israel. Going backwards is impossible and so won’t change history. Today, the Jewish population of Israel is more than 60% Mizrahi, that is Jews with no connection to any other part of the world but the Middle East. The solutions can only be found by going forward. Hamas are Islamists who want all Jews killed and who care little for the rights or safety of their own Palestinian women.

Comparing my colonial history and its outcomes.

I was born into a white colonial society during the apartheid era, but that doesn’t determine that I, or any other Southern African individual, was, is or remains, a racist abuser of power. Times and people change. Democracy came to South Africa in 1994. My mother’s family have been in Africa for 8 generations and are of British and Germanic stock, though Germany did not exist then. Where could whites like me and my family be sent back to and what nation would have us? South Africa accepted all of its varied population and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission dealt with its apartheid and colonial crimes.

A safe home for everyone

Not a good likeness of Madiba – perhaps from a film starring an American but these are his sentiments. He also supported the right of Israel to exist.

For all its problems, Israel is in not a colonial power and there is no other place on the planet that gives Jews greater security and life, so Israel must survive.  Palestine also must survive and continue on to become an independent nation as the home of Palestinians. In both places, human rights, women’s rights and democracy must be upheld as the only basis to build a lasting peace. There will be no place for Hamas there, as democracy and women’s rights have no place in their credo, while both are needed and have a place in the lives of Palestinians.

5 Comments on “Israel/Hamas – with blood and fire or with doves”

  1. Aviva Ron

    Takes guts these days to write this. Thanks Ruth. We are in a very sick and sad situation, doing what we do not want to do in Gaza, looking for our hostages – still 136 there – humiliated by our government (Netanyahu’s) lack of reaction to known threats for personal and political reasons, saddened every day by an incfreasing threat of war i the north too. Watching what is happening to displaced people in their own country, watching how depression and trauma increase because we know more about happened on 7th October. Watching how mental health is a huge challenge but the government does not allocate enough funds because it prefers to support fanatic ministries with nothing to do but criticize our army. So we ask Jews in other countries to give us funds – instead of making Netanyahu understand that it is our own responsibility and that all the Jews in other countries should do what they can to stop growing anti-semitism based on ignorance. It is impossible to undertsnad what is happening and who cares about history right now.
    My father and all his siblings were born in Gaza – my cousins and I don’t want to go back there and claim our grandfather’s property, left there in 1929. We believe in co-existence but it is harder to explain after 7th October. WE are not even supposed to show sympathy for the children in Gaza. We want this to end, but first we have to get rid of this horrible government. If this is mixed-up, it is because are very mixed-up and trying to stay calm before the extremist decide we can have more decades for terrorism and horror because it suits them.

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Aviva – It seems clear to me that you are far from alone in Israel in your condemnation of Netanyahu and your desire for positive change. So much is at stake for the whole world in the survival of Israel not as it is under Netanyahu but as an upholder of human rights. It particularly matters for all the women of the world whatever their faith or nationality. Fundamentalists of every creed and colour want to keep women and women’s bodies as less than fully human and dominate them. I understand that Iranian women support Israel for this reason too. Egyptian people suffer terribly because of the Houthis damage to trade through the Suez Canal.
      It is a difficult challenge everywhere because we fight for human kindness.

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