Sometimes things in your life come together,,,"sorrows in battalions" as a better man than I said. I felt that way this morning when scrolling through facebook I found the post about a young man I used to teach who may (or may not) have recently strapped an explosive belt onto himself and ended his and the lives of a number of other people far away from Melbourne, in Iraq. What do you say when confronted with something like that? "How odd...he always seemed like rather a nice lad."
I'm under instruction from my employer to in fact say nothing at all...but that doesn't seem like quite the right response in a world that really has gone mad. Over the Ukraine someone deliberately or otherwise has shot down a passenger jet; bodies lie about in the hot sun and locals rummage through the debris looking for, of all things mascara (if the facebook posts of other Ukranians are to be believed). Meanwhile in Gaza Israel kills over 800 civilians and keeps killing them, even as I write. One of these acts is being called terrorism; the other...self-defence. What name you give it depends not on the act it would seem...but on what side you are on.
So what name do I give to the act that may well have been perpetrated in Iraq by a naughty, but really rather sweet young man I used to know? I just don't know anymore. Good people can do horrendous things. Sometimes good people have to do horrendous things. Or believe they have to. Politically, I can choose a side - personally, I'm left a little numb.
Which was how I felt a few days ago when someone I know quite well posted a long explanation of, essentially, why she is now a zionist. It made me shiver. It made me shiver because there are a couple of things for me that define who one is politically - they are about the sides you take in a few central conflicts that defined the 20th Century. That one stands with the Bolsheviks against everyone else I think goes without saying...but for me there are two other conflicts just as defining - I stand with the Irish Republicans against the British State and I stand with the Palestinians against...well...the rest of the world. For me this is so simple, so basic, so unquestionable that when I see it questioned I am, for a moment, completely floored.
I'm not going to rehearse the arguments here for why a one state solution is the only solution in Palestine. I'm not going to go over why the state of Israel has no right to exist. But I'm also not going to broker any suggestions of anti-Semitism. Because that's what frightened me the most about my acquaintances post - she equated any attack on Israel; really any suggestion that a Palestinian cause might be a just one; with hating Jews. So let's be really, really clear - there was no state of Israel till after World War 2 when the rest of the world felt guilt about letting the Holocaust happen. And when the state of Israel was formed - primarily at the end of a gun; it was with the violent displacement of the people who already lived there - Palestinian people.
Peace, peace, peace - everyone in favour of a two-state solution will try and tell you that they just want peace. There can be no peace without justice. And there can be no peace unless the current situation is replaced with a secular, inclusive state of Palestine.
But that's not what I'm writing about here. Because as chilled as I was by this persons arguments; her readiness to now accept the propaganda not just of the liberal two-staters but of what even she termed liberal zionists...it was her reasons for doing so that made me stop and think. She's in love with a Jewish girl - the daughter of these self-same liberal zionists. They sound like nice people - they are warm, welcoming, loving and tolerant. But being a nice person doesn't make you right.
And having empathy with someone because you can see they genuinely believe what they are saying, doesn't make their arguments any better. Loving someone, doesn't mean they see the world more rationally than you have till then. Being a goofy kid doesn't stop you becoming a suicide bomber.
In the face of horror and death and conflicts so out of control that the resistance and the protests and the appeals we make can seem as if they are hopeless; falling on ears that will not, cannot, hear. There was something a little human for me this week. The posts I saw about the young man in Iraq didn't attack him, he wasn't being villifed even by those who could not possibly agree with his actions; they said they were thinking of his family. A friend of his I met by accident just said "How tragic." I think I agree.