Archive for December, 2007

The asymmetry of the conflict

Monday, December 31st, 2007

The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) describe their activities as “reducing violence by getting in the way”.

I am all for reducing violence. But the CPT have a history of getting in the way of people, if they happen to be Israelis, defending themselves.

The point of view is perfectly illustrated by this fragment of an email written by a CPT member named Jan Benvie:

On 28 December, 2007, two armed, off-duty Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian gunmen killed each other… The Israelis were from the settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, the Palestinians from Hebron.

Both communities have their narratives of why their young men are dead. Their narratives are similar, although I doubt either would agree with me, such is their enmity towards each other.

Part of the narrative goes like this: both believe the other wants to kill them and steal their land; neither thinks the other wants peace…

I think of the bereaved families in both Kiryat Arba and Hebron. As a mother, I feel particularly for the parents mourning their dead sons. [my emphasis]

Now a few facts, independent of ‘narratives': three Israelis were walking down a road. A car carrying Palestinians drove by and sprayed them with bullets. Because the Israelis were off-duty soldiers walking in a dangerous place, they were armed and fired back. Two Israelis and one, possibly two, Palestinians died.

The thrust of Ms. Benvie’s email is that there is a symmetry here: both sides hate the other, both sides commit violence, both sides have grieving parents.

But this incident (which I wrote about in “The 35… and two more” ) is a perfect example of the asymmetry of the conflict.

Apologists for the Palestinians will say that the Israeli settlers had initiated the violence by living on ‘Palestinian land’. But even if you ignore the history of the Jewish presence in and around Hebron, and even if you think that the penalty for a Jew living on ‘Arab land’ should be death, the terrorists did not know who they were shooting. There is no doubt in my mind that any Israeli hiking on that road would have been shot.

If the victims had been unarmed, the only difference would have been that none of the terrorists would have been hurt. In that case, would Benvie still blame the Israelis equally? For what?

The CPT distribute a brochure entitled “No way to the Inn” which includes the line “If the Christmas story were to happen today, Mary and Joseph would have a hard time getting to Bethlehem”, because of the security fence.

CPT's nativity sceneThe brochure suggests building a little wall around a nativity scene, and then calling the local media to explain why you are doing it. It compares the Jews of today to the Romans of Herod’s time, and talks about the hardships faced by Palestinians living near the barrier.

But nowhere does it mention that the barrier is being built in order to stop Palestinian terrorists from attacking and killing Israelis. The CPT ‘gets in the way’ of self-defense, but doesn’t seem to do much to get in the way of terrorism (although one CPT member did offer to ride the no. 18 bus in Jerusalem after it had been bombed twice in two weeks).

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