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A Jew and a Palestinian walk into a cafe


Proestor's sign: 'I am Jewish and I want Israel to stop killing Palestinians'On a a Sunday in Acland Street, St Kilda — the Melbourne Jewish cake and bagel hub — I had coffee with two friends: one an Egyptian, the other a Palestinian. We discussed the current situation in Gaza. My Palestinian friend expressed her anguish and worry about her family there. 'Imagine how terrified the children must be.' We drank our coffee and shared our powerlessness and sorrow at the turmoil in the Gaza strip.

What is missing in most discussions of the rights and wrongs of the ongoing Israel and Palestine situation? Certainly not statistics. There are plenty of those confirmed or disputed, about the number of Hamas rockets launched, Israeli air strikes, troops massing, deaths and injuries..

Social media has also entered the fray with the Israeli Defence Force tweeting its assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabri complete with a YouTube visual in real time. This is drama at its best or worst. We can all have a front row seat in the theatre of war now.

But as I pour over the tweets coming out of Gaza I feel despair. Where is the world outrage and recognition that ordinary people on both sides are being used as pawns in a political chess game?

Mark Regev, Israeli spokesman, has declared that Hamas 'started it and we will finish it'. This is kindergarten thinking and a primitive, ineffectual means of conflict resolution.

We are muted in our responses to the escalation of aggression in Gaza, but should confront the truth. For all its declarations of acting in self-defence, the Israeli government holds the position of power. Furthermore as was demonstrated four years ago by the Israeli offensive into Gaza, nothing is gained by violence. Peace is not secured, civilians are not protected, and no-one feels safer.

But overwhelmingly Palestinian citizens pay the unacceptably atrocious price for Israeli posturing. In the 2008 invasion of Gaza by Israel, it is reported that 13 Israeli soldiers died, while 1200 Palestinians were killed and 5000 were injured. Many were women and children.

Ironically as Israel stands accused of violating human rights in its occupation of Gaza, the world is largely silent. Killing by Hamas is equally reprehensible, but Hamas killing has been denounced by most western countries.

In the wake of the Second World War, Jewish people rightly complained that the world had been virtually silent: silent when they were vilified, divested of rights and had their property seized; silent when they were driven into ghettos; silent when European Jewry were deported to Poland.

The world was silent when Jewish people suffered incursions and massacres and the 'final solution' in death camps. A vast number of my own family were murdered during this time of silent consent.

Now the boot is on the other foot.

We must not remain silent regarding the abuses and killing being inflicted on a whole people.

The Israel Defense Forces  sent text messages to Gaza mobile phones: 'The next phase is on the way'. I find this chilling. Is this the worst kind of Chutzpah? Or is this terror?

Identification with the aggressor is a human defense mechanism used to gain power over trauma.

Described by psychoanalyst (and daughter of Sigmund) Anna Freud, as well as the American child psychologist  Bruno Bettelheim, it occurs when victims who feel helpless take on the aggressive characteristics of their oppressors. It is a survival mechanism transmitted across generations.

This mechanism is developing in Gaza as well, and producing Hamas. Victim-becoming-aggressor goes a long way towards accounting for how violence begets violence.

There are voices condemning Israel's ongoing violence in Gaza. Jews for a Just Peace Australia is allied to a worldwide movement. Professor Naom Chomsky has released a strong statement on the conflict and Israel's action: 'It is not a war, it is murder.'

But most opinion pieces uphold that this is a war in defense of Israel. Like a favored child, Israel remains almost beyond criticism.

On a beautiful Melbourne day we pored over the photos on Facebook of the view from the house of my Palestinian friend's cousin. Smoke and fire has become her worldview. 'Most Australians have not known war and don't understand,' Samiah exclaimed. 'And that's a good thing,' our Egyptian friend responded, smiling sadly.

The latest death toll is reported as Palestinian: 100; Israeli: 3. 

Lyn Bender headshotLyn Bender is a Melbourne psychologist. Her Twitter handle is @Lynestel 

Topic tags: Lyn Bender, Gaza, Israel, Middle East



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Existing comments

Thank you, Lyn, for speaking the truth so well.

Sara Dowse | 21 November 2012  

Thank you and well said.

Jim Jones | 21 November 2012  

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine (or, more correctly, Hamas) seems insoluble. We've almost become accustomed to seeing the terrible headlines in our newspapers, and the bloodshed on our TV screens, and we shake our heads and say "there's no answer". Certainly, the atrocities suffered by the Jewish people in World War II still resonates. The Jewish people perceive that they are defending their homeland and are using aggression to do so. This situation calls for them to relinquish power and strive, desperately, for peace - that's difficult to do when past sufferings permeate every thought. Humanity must become the 'favoured child' in this tragic war - I wish I had more of an answer than that.

Pam | 21 November 2012  

that was a very powerful article. How true that power corrupts and in this situation the innocent always suffer.

Phil van Brunschot | 21 November 2012  

The world was not so much 'silent' as eagerly refusing to assist Jews, here in Australia as well as in the USA and UK. Following the end of WW2, when Jews wanted to go to Palestine and build Israel it must have been a Godsend to those Christians who traditionally hate Jews for 'killing Jesus', like the Catholic's who used to pray for 'the perfidious Jews' every Sunday. What luck for them (those Christian Jew haters), now they could offload these people but first the Arabs have to be moved out of their houses and lands. Oh well, no one cared for Arabs back then, they had no 'value' after all, a bunch of sheep herding camel riders would offer no resistance, would they? These days, because still no one likes Arabs, Isreal is an extension of the USA and the West falls over itself in totally uncritical support for the country, including here in Australia. But then, we sort of have to be totally uncritical because our forebears did something similr to the Indigenous peoples here. We're lucky they have not been politicised to the same extent as the Arabs have been, or we'd be in open warfare too.

janice wallace | 21 November 2012  

Thanks for this well considered piece. In Israel and beyond it is difficult to have frank and open discourse about the Israel- Palestine conflict because strong pro-Israel forces reject any criticism as anti-semitic. Sometimes this reaction seems like a kind of 'collective paranoia'. The facts of Israel's aggression and domination, driven by the ideology of zionism, as distinct from the deep values of true judaism, need to be known and confronted by self-determining peoples everywhere. Many Jewish people would agree with this.

Caroline Ryan RSM | 21 November 2012  

A powerful and poignant article--thanks. What will it really take to bring peace for all to this holy but blighted land?

Robert Smith | 21 November 2012  

Plaudits for the writer. The narrative "captured" by the Israel Lobby and run with by politicians, has seen the Palestinian cause virtually ignored. Just listen to the politicians. "3 deaths" in Israel, "100 casualties" in Gaza. All too sadly unless the world grabs the issue of Israel's mostly illegal conduct on all levels by the throat the conflict will continue unabated.

Jeff Loewenstein | 21 November 2012  

I have long given up trying to sort out who is to blame, or is more blameworthy than the other, in this conflict. But one simple question does puzzle me. Why does Hammas continue to fire rockets into Israel? In military terms such rockets cause minimal damage. Yet they inevitably provoke a massive retaliation by Israel. So, why do it?

John R. Sabine | 21 November 2012  

Lyn Bender's article is riddled with flasehoods. Firstly, Israel is not occupying Gaza. There are no Jews in Gaza at all. The last one was Gilad Shilat, the kidnapped Israeli soldier. Secondly, she attempts to represent the current situation in Gaza as an inversion of the situation in Europe in the 1930s. The Jewish victims have no become the villains. The is an appalling example of moral equivalence. The Israelis have not set up extermination camps. They have not conducted mass deportations of Palestinians. There is no ultimate plan by the Jews to wipe out the Palestinians as a final solution. Finally, the aggression of Hamas towards Israel is not rooted in some psychological response to the aggressor. The aggression of Hamas towards Israel has its beginnings in the ancient beginnings of Islam. In the Hamas Charter, declared on 18 August 1988, article seven contains the following hadith. "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim)." In other words, Hamas is dedicated to the extermination not only of Israel, but Jews full stop.

John Ryan | 21 November 2012  

A balanced piece. I'll be interested to count how many reproaches you receive for it... Write on.

Torrey | 21 November 2012  

Thank you Lyn for raising some of the more poignant issues regarding this tragedy. Like you and your friends, I can only find myself overwhelmed by the seeming powerlessness of ever finding a solution to this situation.

Deirdre Gardiner | 21 November 2012  

Israel has been an agressor state for years. . It takes land from the Palestinian people and never complies with any of the U N resolutions.How does it get away with it ? there is a very simple answer. MONEY. Try and find an Australian or U S politician who has not had A free trip to Israel, or the offer of one .The israeli`s have learned early on about winning the propaganda war and have done it for years.If there is criticism then the Critic is anti semitic, and "remember the "Holocaust"".A famous english author once said "the child to whom evil is done ,will do evil in return" Israels actions against the Palestinians mirror that behaviour. Every dead palestinian is seen as ,and described as a terrorist ,and if they are children seen as "future Terrorists".Eventually Israel will reap the whirlwind.the reason is that despite the political rhetoric of Neteinyahu The Israeli young people have no real stomach for the fight their life is reasonably good and they have not bought into the rhetoric. The palestinians have nothing left to lose,that is why there will be no ground invasion of Gaza there will be too many dead Israelis.It will only stop when the west makes Israel adhere to the moral code of the rest of the civilised world. y.

paul tocchini | 21 November 2012  

Hear! hear!

Theo Verbeek | 21 November 2012  

Amazing that God the Creator got it so flamin' wrong when he deliberately chose one race over another!

john frawley | 21 November 2012  

John Ryan - what a flawed view. You are arguing for illegal and unjustified force against a mostly civilian population, based on a very narrow pretext of a radical terrorist threat. Shameful, and equally as flawed as the Israeli spokespeople would have us all believe. "Poor Israel what victims" under attack for no reason but the hatred of Arabs. History shows the minority of Jews living in Palestine pre 1930s Zionism were not being "slaughtered" by their Arab neighbours.

Ben Davies | 21 November 2012  

Oh Lyn. Thank-you for speaking to our collective pain from your own Jewish perspective. It is powerful that you raise your voice for peace and encourage all of us to do the same. Michael Leuinig was great this morning. We have to stop this murder and end the blockade of Gaza.

Larry Marshall | 21 November 2012  

It is easy to agree that the current violence is terrible and will achieve nothing given that the core issue of reconciling Israeli and Palestinian national claims will still be there. However in identifying with what she considers to be the weaker group Lyn completely misrepresents the political culture in which this conflict takes place.

There is no comparison between contemporary events in the Middle East and Nazism. The Nazis gassed more Jews in a few days than the total number of Jews and Arabs who have died since 1948. They killed Jews on racist grounds solely because they were Jewish. In contrast, this is a national conflict pitting two legitimate rights against one another. It is simple to talk about power and control, but it is much harder to find a practical solution that will ensure reasonable justice for both peoples. Hamas may be weak, but they are not seeking a fair compromise that will meet their national claims. Rather, they are seeking a fundamentalist solution that will eliminate the other side. That leaves Israel with few options. If Lyn can suggest a better way forward to achieve two states side by side I would love to hear it

philip mendes | 21 November 2012  

I want to avoid looking at the issue of the founding of Israel. It is too complex to be dealt with in posts limited to 200 words in length. However, why not look at what the two different communities have become? Look at the following youtube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZbBCBt2s8o It features Muslims students protesting somewhere in Israel. You can see the Palestinian flags. Eventually they run to take shelter as sirens sound the alert for incoming missiles. Whatever wrongs Israel might have committed, whatever of its many alleged crimes rile posters here, what do you imagine would happen to anyone in Gaza who waved an Israeli flag in support of Israel? Would they be allowed to protest peacefully? Perhaps the bodies of the alleged Palestinian collaborators being dragged through the streets would give you some idea as to the answer. The fact is that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that enjoys even a modicum of the freedoms that we in the West enjoy.

Muslims are elected to the Knesset. Again, how many Jews have been elected to the legislatures of the various Middle Eastern countries where they might still live?

MJ | 21 November 2012  

I note Janice' Wallace's assertion that Catholics used to pray for the perfidious Jews very Sunday. Not quite right; that was a Good Friday special. Doesn't make it any nicer, however.

John Ryan, I take issue with your criticism of Ms Bender's article. If it were not for Israeli agrression and encroachment on Palestinan territories there would be no Hamas. As she has said , for too long Israel's policies , especially in the moving of "settlers" into Palestinian territories, the ( in particular its government) has been above criticism.

JR | 21 November 2012  

I have been told that in the USA there is a group of people demanding that Israel be treated like other countries receiving American military aid: other countries must comply with certain conditions (related to human rights) but there are no such restrictions on Israel!

Rita Camilleri | 21 November 2012  

The reason why the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza has attracted so little attention is that neither side is willing to give any concession to the other in meaningful negotiations. Israel continues to wield its overwhelming power to kill far more civilians than Hamas with its relatively puny rockets. This is called self defence by both Israel and its staunchest ally, the USA. This state of affairs will continue as long as that partnership continues, with the USA pouring billions of dollars into Israel, thus enabling Israel to maintain its vastly superior fire power and the defence of its illegal settlements in the West Bank. The contest is completely unequal. Perhaps the parties could be persuaded to start meaningful negotiations if the USA told Israel that unless it was prepared to make just concessions to the Palestinians the USA would substantially reduce aid to that country, in a way that would make the power balance a little more equal.

Tony Santospirito | 21 November 2012  

Now the west are crushing, occupying and slaughtering millions we have no moral high ground left.

Marilyn | 21 November 2012  

Ben Davies, you have not countered one of the three inaccuracies that I contend are to be found in Lyn Bender's article. I made no direct comment on the legality or morality of Israel's bombing of Gaza. I was arguing neither for nor against it. You only suppose you know my opinion on this matter. To return to the content of my previous post. If you would care to show me where the Jewish quarter of Gaza is, I will grant that I was wrong. If you can show me representatives of the Israeli government calling for the mass extermination of the Palestinians, I will grant that I was wrong. Finally, if a hadith quoted from Hamas's own charter, referring to an apocalyptic war between Muslims and Jews before the day of judgement comes, does not convince you of Hamas's genocidal hatred for the Jews, then I don't know what will.

John Ryan | 21 November 2012  

Thanks Lyn. You say things that I think and feel but risk being labeled 'anti-Semitic' if I utter - a charge I find deeply hurtful. Mark Regev gets away with outrageous claims as timid interviewers fail to challenge him. The latest round of conflict seems to have been provoked by Israel for political, not security reasons. While I agree entirely that Israeli civilians should be protected from rockets and children should not live in fear of sirens going off, it pains me to hear this being used as justification for the terror, from air and sea, that is unleashed on Palestinian civilians, and especially children.

Myrna | 21 November 2012  

Just because there are no longer jews living in Gaza has not stopped the illegal blockade and it is still occupation as the Palestinians have no freedom of anything.

Marilyn | 21 November 2012  

Said the Jew: “This is rightfully our land.”

Said the Palestinian: “This is rightfully our land.”

Said the Jew: “We are victims of your aggression.”

Said the Palestinian: “We are victims of your aggression.”

Said the Jew: “We will fight ‘til the bitter end.”

Said the Palestinian: “We will fight ‘til the bitter end.”

Said the Jew: “You killed my family.”

Said the Palestinian: “You killed my family”

Said the Jew: “We are a brutalised and traumatised people.”

Said the Palestinian: “We are a brutalised and traumatised people.”

Said the Jew: “You hate us.”

Said the Palestinian: “You hate us.”

Said the Jew: “There can be no peace'til you change your ways."

Said the Palestinian: “There can be no peace 'til you change your ways.”

The conversation continues …

Peter Day | 21 November 2012  

Make the weapons harder to come by and maybe there would be more constructive discussions going on. As quoted by Amnesty International - the UN should immediately impose an arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza and send international monitors.

Jenny Esots | 21 November 2012  

"Said the Jew: “This is rightfully our land.”

Yes, well that's where the problem starts. The claims to that land are spurious, to say the least.

Apart from the sad fact that Indigenous peoples here in Australia can make some serious claim to that here, there is, frankly, no honesty to the claims of the Jewish people to the land of the Arabs in Palestine.

Sure, some land was bought in Palestine in the late 19C and early 20C by Jewish groups, just as the Chineses (to say nothing of the Brits and others) who buy land here do.

But the claim that the Old Testament is some sort of proof of the Jewish claim is total bollocks, to put it mildly.

The land has been stolen by Jews, to build a theocratic nation-state.

Sure, like all nations in the west, Israel has the outwards trappings of some form of 'democracy', but these days that means very little.

Lok at our leaders falling over themselves to greet Gaddafi into 'our camp', before they all so heartily saw him vanquished, or see how they all fawn over the 'emerging democracy' of Burma. Burma! For God's sake, about as democratic as the Vatican.

janice wallace | 21 November 2012  

Who supplies the weapons and ammunition?

Bernie Introna | 21 November 2012  

Thank you Lyn, for bravely speaking out.As a catholic I feel we are ashamed by our silences, and in Germany,colluding in total the demonization and indeed attempted genocide of your people.Propaganda and fear were used to assimilate most German people. Hitler was catholic.Yes, we are afraid to point a finger at Israel. Religion can be a mask to hide behind and escape civil and criminal punishment. The Catholic church has a lot to answer for. I am distressed by Pope John Paul II and Benedict's silence and INACTION to protect innocent children and break powerful structures that 'govern' and silence bishops.The Catholic church too seems so far removed from christian beliefs and values . Christ talked about power in religion and politics ..and as christians we are asked to be non-violent and not seek riches...Yet wars are still fought in good names of religions'? For Israel,Palestine,Egypt only separation of religious and political power will lead to peace, there is so much healing from the past traumas.. "violence begets violence, it does not bring peace..." It is so refreshing to see young israelites and palestinians speaking of peaceful negotiation as an end to this war. The christian world should be more vocal and supportive for both 'sides', but we are silent again.

Catherine | 22 November 2012  

The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Bernstein | 22 November 2012  

It is a very good article; however, I do question myself every time when such a thing happens. Where is the World, what is the World doing? We do blame Jew nation every time and leaving Hamas on other side of equation free of wrong doing. They deploy weapon amid civilian instead of making their isolated barracks and fight in open area if they want war instead of negotiation. If we fail to bring Palestinian and Israelis to negotiate peace why do we like to blame respondent? Let’s beat up war of negotiation instead of beating war of blame because blame game or finding who is wrong or right is not solving anything.

Abraham Jongroor | 22 November 2012  

I have no doubt many Israelis are horrified by and opposed to their government's attitudes towards Palestinians. How many of them bother to express their views at the ballot box? How high is the Israeli turnout on election day?

Juliet Flesch | 23 November 2012  

What a painful and divisive issue this is, and it so dramatically illustrates how subjective our personal analysis will inevitably be of a highly complex situation. The critical question is, how can people on all sides compromise sufficiently to achieve greater co-operation around land and resources, central to achieving peace. Rabbi Michael Lerner edits Tikkun magazine, which is both Jewish and interfaith in outlook. He is a passionate and creative peacemaker and makes efforts to include a spiritual as well as political perspective. Some of you may be interested to catch up with his views. http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/12349

Stephanie Dowrick | 23 November 2012  

i have only one question - why is it OK for the Israelis to do to the Palestinians what it wasn't OK for the Germans to do to the Jews?

hilary | 23 November 2012  

Lyn, you make Israelis sound bloodthirsty at a time when even the current rightwing government of Netanyahu has showed months of restraint from taking solid action against the number of missiles that have landed in Israeli commercial and residential zones (try living under that kind of fire as an Australian). Cliche that it is, not another country in the world - least of all your own - would tolerate such ongoing belligerence. The number of dead, too, also does not make for one side being more right than the other. That is a complete misnomer to do with various factors. The real pity is that the Hamas side seem to relish in numbers, taking advantage of a media that, like you, relishes in it too. Also, incidentally, Israeli text messages to households, are not meant to be cryptic or ominous or somehow haunting, but are given to warn civilians to leave dangerous areas. The Israeli defence force is the only army in the world who give these warnings! I can see that you at least still hold your Jewish racial identity close to your heart; be careful of becoming ashamed and losing sight of factual rationale in the process of your compassion.

Barry Levy | 23 November 2012  

A further thought - if as the Israelis claim, the land is G-d-given what about the injunction to adhere to the terms of the Covenant or else they would lose it? They didn't and they lost the land. So technically they have no claim.

hilary | 23 November 2012  

I was in Israel and Palestine for a month in 2007/8 and as my friends will tell you I will talk to a lamp-post. My impression was that many Christians and Muslims do not approve of Hamas rocket sending but are far too terrified of disagreeing with Hamas to open their mouths publicly. Public disagreement however is regular in Israel without penalty (see Haaretz). Though why the hell they don't stop the illegal settlements I don't know. They do control their rabid Zionists - and they have them. Christian Palestinians have left Bethlehem in droves - well over 50%. Fundamentalist or wildly Zionist Jews don't control Israel, unfortunately the equivalent does not appear to be the case in Gaza. Jewish people understandably wished to have a country of their own - and their country was in that area originally until they were forced out nearly 2000 years ago. Egypt can live with and respect Israel. Go figure - it seems to me that Hamas alone can make the decision to learn some tolerance and allow Gaza to flourish and their country men to safely express their opinions.

Mary Hoban | 23 November 2012  

Here we go again! It is always the fault of Israel! Since they retreated from Gaza they have endured hundreds and hundreds of rockets on a daily basis.In war there are always casualities but Israel always tries to be "surgical".

Elena Christe | 23 November 2012  

Well put, Mary Hoban. And I can see you speak from experience - with eyes wide open - and not at all coddled by the new left.

Barry Levy | 23 November 2012  

Hamas is the IRA of The Levant.
It was only when the IRA, despite their Sinn Fein political front, realised that their campaign of violence was counter-productive - no matter how noble their aim of a united Ireland - that they entered meaningful negotiations with the British government.
It is hard to believe that what these two protagonists had in common was a spiritual/religious/moral background.
Even though the Palestinians and the Israelis share an ethnic (Semite) background they do not share a spiritual/religious/moral background.
For a while I thought if the IRA could compromise, surely HAMAS could, but I didn't realise what a huge difference there was/is in the atmospherics of the British Isles and The Levant.

Uncle Pat | 23 November 2012  

Thank you Lyn Bender for your thoughts; whether I agree or not, I will stand up for your right to speak. Your reminder about the silence of the world during the Holocaust is timely; many of us concerned about human rights abuses in the ME are labelled and vilified as anti-semitic if we criticise Israel, regardless of the fact that we may also be semites. Censorship and silencing by bullying and vilification is affecting all of our freedoms and the right of the world to know what is going on. Thank you for your courage; please keep writing.

cecile yazbek | 23 November 2012  

Let's do away with all borders - destroy all weapons and defence infrastructure, declare a truce, issue multi-purpose passports like a free-trade zone on a global scale. That's what God calls for - but of course, religion is a mechanism of the state.

AURELIUS | 24 November 2012  

Some time ago Mossad agents tried to assassinate Khalid Mishal, one of the leaders of Hamas. I think at the time he was in Canada but thankfully he survived. Netanyahu has again targeted and killed a Hamas leader; would you call this murder? If Netanyahu were targetted and killed would this be murder? The Israelis have one law for themselves and another for everybody else.

Lynne Zahra | 26 November 2012  

Both sides of this conflict feel wronged by the other. The Palestinians have a memory of the British and UN letting them down at the hands of "Jewish terrorism" and now it is the other way around, the Israeli's feel let down by the world? at the hands of Palestinian terrorism. Tolerance of the other is hard to have when those you love have been killed by them. Vengeance just keeps on killing and killing and killing. BUT how do we get two hurt people groups to stop?

Jel | 27 November 2012  

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