This was originally meant as an “Other Voices” feature for the autumn issue of ISRAEL HORIZONS, but it literally didn’t fit. Gila Svirsky is a well-known feminist peace activist. Albeit strident in tone, she is tireless in her dedication. This piece also illustrates a class aspect that perhaps undermines her cause; it is in part about her pursuit of a second home. It’s sobering to consider that most Israelis who resist dovish solutions are struggling working class people who probably would regard Ms. Svirsky as an elitist.– R. Seliger
The Occupation? Fuggedaboutit! By Gila Svirsky
What a stroke of luck – 10 days before a war breaks out in Lebanon, we buy an apartment in Nahariya! We had been looking for a place for about a year. We went to Cyprus to check out the beautiful new communities on the northern shore – it’s quite a bargain, if you don’t mind settling in occupied territory. We thought about Mauritius, but the savings on real estate would be offset by the costs of flights there. So finally we settled on an apartment under construction in Israel’s sweetest little town on the Mediterranean coast – just five miles south of the border with Lebanon.
We were looking for a sea view. Had the balcony already been built, we would have been able to watch the Israeli navy array itself along the coast, laying siege to Lebanon.
We wanted to be close to Kibbutz Saar, just north of Nahariya, where one of my grown daughters lives, except when she evacuates herself to safer points south. And we wanted a getaway from turbulent Jerusalem – somewhere we could spend long quiet weekends and eventually a serene retirement. Several dozen rockets dropped into Kibbutz Saar and our serene neighborhood this weekend.
In listening to the media, to my neighbors, to the gas station attendant, I am amazed by the lack of comprehension: “We leave Gaza, they shoot missiles at us from there. We leave Lebanon, they kidnap our boys. How do they expect us to leave the West Bank? Fuggedaboudit!”
These views, expressed by most Israelis these days, can only fill me with awe at how the Big Lie works: Repeat it often enough, publicly enough, by political and spiritual leaders, and the whole country/world will begin to believe that Israel is innocent of all wrongdoing and that these attacks emerged from a political vacuum. It’s as if there is no occupation, no siege on Gaza, no 39 years (and counting) of military and political oppression with all its associated killing, maiming, home destruction, and livelihood wrecking. What is it about “end the occupation” that they don’t understand?
No, I do not justify Kassam missiles or Katyusha rockets hurled at Israeli towns or the kidnapping of anyone (even armed soldiers in tanks). I do not justify any attacks by missile or suicide bomber or remotely detonated device.
Nor do I justify the endless shelling of Gaza and Lebanon – land, sea, and air – for any reason at all, let alone for purposes more related to posturing and domestic public opinion than with accomplishing any political objective. “How could we not respond when they kill and kidnap our soldiers?” asked Yuli Tamir, our Education Minister (for goodness sakes!) and a former Peace Now activist. As if shelling is sure to make the Hezbollah leaders remorseful and let our boys come home. [Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah did indicate remorse recently – Ed.]
So, as usual in wars, we have an alliance of the jingoistic decision-makers on both sides, whipping up patriotism while they watch the fighting on-screen from bunkers deep in the earth. In Israel, this war absolutely thrills the right wing: The escalation keeps up the militaristic approach to problem solving, discredits the view that Israel must leave the occupied territories, and distances the current warfare from its roots in the ongoing occupation. What’s not to love about this war?
And as usual in Israel, a few cantankerous peace organizations – the Coalition of Women for Peace, Gush Shalom, Taayush, and a few others – increase their presence on the streets. At Women in Black last Friday, we carried our regular “End the Occupation” signs, buttressed with signs saying, “Stop the Killing – Negotiate!” and “It’s the Occupation, Stupid!” But when the cannons roar, so do the bystanders, and a dozen police were there to prevent anything worse than words and gestures.
A day will come when this small corner of the Mediterranean will again hold sailboats and water skiers, and I’m looking forward to that view from the balcony. I still think it was a good investment.