Weighing victimhood and competing suffering
Posted by worriedlebanese on 21/10/2006
At a conference/Forum I attended today on NGOs working on migrant rights, I went to talk to a woman to get more information on an education kit on tolerance she had mentioned in one of her interventions. Upon learning that I was Lebanese and that I had done volunteer work (related to Peace education) during the war on Lebanon this July, she told me that she had family in Israel and that she was in Netanya during the war. And from there she started telling me how much solidarity she found in Israel, and how very little of that she saw in Lebanon. She said that something had to be done with Hezbollah and that Israel didn’t want to start a war but had to defend itself from the shells Hezbollah was sending on it… She then started explaining to me how people had to hide because of the shells that were intended on killing (isn’t that what shells usually do?)… She also told me a Lebanese friend of hers had written her thanking the Israeli government for doing the “cleaning up”…
And she went on talking for twenty minutes uninterrupted on her family’s history in suffering (that actually was very touching) and then tried to convince me how much Israel is tolerant and how much relations between groups are good (between Jews of all origins and even Jews and Arabs…).
I would have interrupted her were it not for her age (74 years old I think she said, but god knows her secret because she looked much younger). I will be seeing her tomorrow and I still wonder if I should answer her, tell her how arrogant she was, how biased… That there is another side to the story; that her approach is a bit rosy, that Israel isn’t the dream country she thinks it is. That I am a peace seeker and that I do not identify with Arabs, but I do support Israeli Palestinians and non Israeli Palestinians in their struggle, even if I do not condone most of their actions (I actually condemn most of them). I do that as a humanist. Should I tell her that I consider Israel to be democratic but racist and I believe the system it has established nourishes racism within the Israeli community, but that I think racism is also a problem in Lebanon that should be tackled? Should I tell her that I do not see a difference between the logics of the IDF and that of Hezbollah, that I think they share the same language of hate and destruction? Should I tell her that I see no point in going into a competition on who is suffering the most… that this is a futile exercise because it’s not about quantity.
But I started thinking about the whole situation and saw how tragic the whole situation in the Middle East is. Tragic like in the ancient greek plays of Sophocles and Aeschylus. War between the Arab States and Israel was inevitable in 1948. The Arabs could have never accepted the creation of Israel. So to exist, Israel had no other choice but to impose itself through military means. War, destruction, death, displacement were inevitable.
Maybe one way out of this is for all parties to recognise that the 1948 war was a tragic affair, and so were the following wars. The different actors couldn’t have really acted in another manner. They were positioned in a way to make war and violence inevitable. By recognising it, they can maybe start asking the right questions on how to escape from this logic: How to make violence avoidable and irrelevant.