Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Different Demonstrations: Israeli Bikers and the Jews of Hebron

If, as Victor Frankl argues, life revolves around man’s search for meaning, then sitting in traffic on a Sunday morning while Israel’s bikers made their point about insurance prices could easily represent a potentially existential challenge.

Not that I didn’t try to make the 2 hour journey as meaningful as possible.

I shaved.

I did a sit-down Shacharit.

I even read some of my book. (A State Beyond the Pale – Europe’s Problem with Israel)

When I finally reached the office and tried to ascertain who exactly I should be sympathizing with, I came across
this video about the demonstration in which the bikers explain their point.

But what really caught my attention was the reasoning that “normally Israelis don’t even acknowledge protests unless they turn really wild, but we are trying to be different” [I guess ‘really wild’ in this context would have been completely blocking the Ayalon rather than leaving one lane free, but that’s simply conjecture]

Last weekend, thousands of people converged on Hebron to mark both the ‘anniversary’ of Avraham buying the Cave of Machpelah to bury his wife and in order to indicate the Jewish people’s historical, religious and national connection to the area that has spanned over two thousand years.

Of course that is only part of the Hebron story.

In addition to being an important part of our historical memory, the area is also home to thousands of Palestinians, and a powder keg of ethnic tensions. The current reality as well as the wisdom of visiting it often lead to political discussions (or arguments) as to whether we should stand firm and maintain our presence there, or pack up and leave in the hope of reducing tensions and strengthening a Jewish and Democratic state.

While I don’t want to weigh in on the debate (at-least on the blog – those who know me realize I’m happy to weigh in on it in person), the weekend and the debate surrounding it got me thinking…

There are primarily two Palestinian narratives. One – Islamic and uncompromising – claims that Israelis only understand force, that the way to secure Palestinian rights is through violent resistance, rockets and suicide bombings…

The other – moderate in rhetoric at-least – argues that Palestinian rights can best be secured through dialogue and negotiations, that violence strategically undermines the cause of ending occupation.

Yet regardless of one’s political opinion, its worth considering the following; That if while an Intifada of bombings in caf├ęs and restaurants ultimately led to Disengagement from Gaza, yet four years of relative West Bank quiet has led to nothing (not even a settlement freeze), what sort of message are we sending to the so called moderates?

And does our behavior not strengthen the conclusion that ‘Israelis don’t even acknowledge protests unless they turn wild’?