Reasoned analysis while suffering the passions of war

Israel and Palestine – Why was I slow to respond?

By Roger Straw, Benicia, October 12, 2023

Roger Straw, former publisher and editor, The Benicia Independent

Context: I came of age as an anti-war activist in the U.S. during the Vietnam war. I embraced the history of Ghandi, leading a walk that ultimately overcame British occupation. I was crushed in my youth at the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., who advocated non-violent action and the gradual view of an arc bending to justice. I championed the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. And I have Jewish relatives and friends, and have long supported the post-holocaust establishment of the independent democratic state of Israel.

But when Ukraine was invaded by Russia, I eagerly, quickly, and continuously to this day supported sending arms and standing strong with the people of Ukraine under violent siege.

So why was I slow to jump in with President Biden and Vice President Harris and seemingly every other leader and respectable voice in the U.S., including our many news commentators with their continuous coverage of the horrors, followed by the legitimate outrage and grief and resolve of Israeli families and governing parties?

Well… I was slow, but not untouched. First of all, I am aware, shocked and outraged at the brutality of Hamas’ Saturday assault in towns east of Gaza. The heartless murders, assaults and kidnappings are in no way justified.

So after five war-torn days had passed, I wrote yesterday in an email to friends, “The terror and brutality has to be shown and known, and when it is brought “home” by a friend or relative, it becomes more deeply understood and felt. We are in fact ALL relatives, one world, a human family, albeit now beset by a murderous outlaw clan in our midst. Hamas is a truly uncivilized and genocidal regime, and must be stopped. I am lost in shock and sympathy, and fearful of what is yet to come.”

But it took me five days! What’s wrong with me? Or is it just me?

I really think it’s more than just me. A reasonable and reasoning part of me was considering the complicated historic nature of events in Israel and Palestine, and the historic and current failures of political leadership in Israel and the several Palestinian territories.

My reservations are like those of many who hope against hope for a non-violent and lasting solution to peace in the Middle East – and elsewhere.

“Hope against hope” is a rich concept, centered in a clear understanding of the injustice that surrounds us, and the longstanding corruption that invades and infects our world, and yet continues faithfully working for solutions based in loving kindness and the dream for harmony, respect, peace, freedom and justice for all.

As my small way of promoting hope in today’s grave circumstances, I would encourage the reading of these two rich perspectives from authoritative sources at the New York Times:

    • Palestinian Americans, Dismayed by Violence, Say Historical Context Is Being Overlooked, New York Times, by Mitch Smith, Lauren McCarthy, Ernesto Londoño and Miriam Jordan
      • EXCERPT: The bipartisan rush to voice unwavering support for Israel was disappointing but not surprising, said Abdelnasser Rashid, an Illinois state representative from suburban Chicago who is Palestinian American. “We have to have a real reckoning with Israeli government policies that got us to this point and the American government policies that got us to this point,” Mr. Rashid said. He said that “we should condemn any attacks on innocent civilians” but added that “this did not start on Saturday.”
    • Among American Jews, ‘You See a Lot of Broken Spirits’ After Attacks, New York Times, by Jenna Russell, Eliza Fawcett, Vik Jolly and Robert Chiarito
      • EXCERPT: The small but diverse Jewish community in America — numbering about 7.5 million in 2020, or 2.4 percent of the U.S. population — has long been polarized over how to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In more recent months, American Jews have also been split over the far-right Israeli government’s push to limit judicial authority. But many Jewish leaders said the targeted killing of hundreds of civilians by Hamas and the threats to kill kidnapped hostages had brought a sense, at least for now, of unity.

Roger Straw
Former publisher and editor, The Benicia Independent