How Would I Feel If the Gaza Strip Were in Maypearl? Stupid Question?

On my way from work to City Hall I drive by the Palestinian demonstrations in Dealey Plaza. At home in the evening I see Texas Governor Rick Perry (not my favorite guy) on the TV news leading a rally for Israel.

The anchorman on the TV news shows me a map of the area around Dallas and points to how close the rocket-launchers in Gaza would be if Dallas were Tel Aviv. He says Gaza would be in Hillsboro. Interesting. I go to my computer later and measure. Looks to me more like Gaza would be in Maypearl, about 45 miles from my house. Damn. Rocket launchers in Maypearl.

He could have shown me a map of the area around Baylor Hospital near my neighborhood so I could see how much of the hospital would be destroyed in a typical Israeli bombing strike, but he doesn't do that.

Can I, an American living in the soft comfort of American isolation and safety, really get what's going on at my own gut level? My instincts as a local government reporter make me want to read wonk literature about it, and so I do, but it does me little good, I'm afraid. The last thing I read was by John B. Judis, Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, a book denounced by conservatives as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

Wouldn't you know I'd read an anti-Semitic book and come away from it with positive feelings about Israel? I don't think it is an anti-Semitic book. I think it is an honest book. It says the world before and during World War II was set on killing all Jews, and, after World War II, Jews and the non-Jews who didn't want the Jews to be exterminated agreed that the Jews needed a nation-state with turf, land, dirt beneath their feet, an economy, diplomats and a strong army in order to survive.

There had to be benefits for respecting the Jews and hard costs for coming after them again, and only a nation-state with some combination of positive rewards in culture and trade and the very negative penalty of military force could put those benefits and that cost squarely on the table.

Maybe the most difficult part the book for people -- it was for me -- was the simple fact that creating a new nation-state with turf anywhere on the globe was always automatically and necessarily going to be an act of war. No, it was never going to be all stirring orchestral music, Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint in the 1960 movie, Exodus.That would have been nice. Many Zionists and most of their non-Jewish allies yearned for it to be like that. It couldn't be only beautiful, because war is always ugly.

What came across to me from Judis' book was simple pragmatic reality: The whole planet already belongs to somebody. Anywhere you go on the planet you will find people who consider that place their own. If you tell them somebody else owns it now, you've got a war on your hands.

But here was the question after World War II: Do we commit this act of war and create a Jewish nation-state? Or do we go with the only other option -- tell the Jews they cannot have a bastion of safety anywhere on the planet and consign them to simply wait passively for the next Holocaust?

We created Israel. The Israelis created it. The Europeans created it. We in the United States created it. We chose an act of war to protect the Jews from the next Holocaust, and, yes, the Palestinians got screwed. In war there is sin.

So does that mean Israel gets to do whatever it wants in order to contain and control the Palestinians? Does the creation of Israel strip the Palestinians not only of their turf but their worth and dignity as human beings?

But there I stop. There I figure I have pretty much reached the limited horizon of my own understanding of history and my own moral and intellectual capacity. I don't believe I am accepting or condoning the plight of the Palestinians, which I believe to be catastrophic. I do believe that as an American I have a personal obligation to persuade my leaders to come to the aid of the Palestinian people. But in the meantime if I imagine the rocket launchers in Maypearl -- right now, today -- then right now I have to get down to business.

If the Gaza strip were in Maypearl, if Hamas were launching rockets at my neighborhood, my home, my family, what would be my own reaction? Is there some Book of Hoyle, some set of rules of fair play?

Yes. There are rules. They're called the rules of "distinction and proportionality" in international law, and they say that in my retaliation for the rockets launched at my home I must not deliberately target civilians, even though the other side targets me. In fact I must exercise diligence to distinguish between military and civilian targets. And the fact that somebody shoots a rocket at me does not give me the right to explode a nuclear device over the entire populace from which the rocket came.

But what if they hide the rocket in a courtyard at Baylor Hospital? What do I say then? I think of a rocket coming from that launcher to my home, and I know what I say. I say to myself, "I hope and pray that Baylor Hospital can get that rocket launcher out of its midst. I hope and pray that if they can't get rid of the rocket launcher, they can get themselves and their patients out of Baylor Hospital. I hope and pray that they can work it out at their end. But I want that damn rocket launcher bombed before it hits my house."

When you put me in it, when you put Gaza in Maypearl and Tel Aviv in East Dallas, when it is my problem, then I will not agree to any tricks by which Hamas can fire rockets at me and I am not allowed to bomb the rocket launcher. None. Wherever they put the rocket launcher firing at my house, that is where I want my government to bomb. I hate it that there will be terrible collateral damage. I hate all of this. But I do not want a rocket to hit my house.

Is that simplistic and stupid? Frankly, I won't be terribly surprised to learn that my own assessment of this terribly complicated and intractable international issue is simplistic and stupid.

But tell me his. What else would we have Israel do? Allow Hamas to keep heaving rockets at them? And if your answer is anything like that, then would you agree that you are espousing a formula by which Israel must allow itself to be expunged? If Israel isn't allowed to defend itself from rockets -- any rockets, all rockets, rockets launched from olive groves, rockets launched from United Nations schoolyards -- then the original act of war in the creation of Israel must be resolved with the extinction of Israel. If that's your answer, just say it.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze