Disaster Response

In the event of an earthquake, I wouldn’t petition the government to make the earth stop shaking because I know that’s not how government works. Where there are hurricanes, I would not march in protest of wind, regardless of the amount of damage done.

We just had a terrifying ice storm here that endangered many lives, but I see no purpose in posting angry memes on social media blaming the governor for allowing the storm, the legislators for preventing the storm, nor the judges for failing to  make major atmospheric adjustments once they realized how bad the storm was going to be. You may as well blame the weather on the weatherman.

Government is made of people working with other people. It exists to coerce people to get along and work together instead of just stealing things from each other. It works by convincing people to do the right thing, either through explanation or bribery, or through violence and social approbation. It is not foolproof, and it doesn’t prevent wars and crimes of violence from happening by mere dint of existing, it has to be funded and worked and largely accepted by the population before it can be truly effective. But even then, government can’t stop the tide, push back lava, or unshake the Earth. 

Nor can it convince people whose livelihoods would be threatened by a change to make a change. Not by bribery, and not by violence – and that exhausts the tools available to government.

Nineteen forty-eight was when the disaster started. When Palestinians still had their olive groves and fig trees and schools and mosques. When Palestinians still had their elders. When Palestinians still had their stories.

It’s important to recognize the range of utility available to governments before becoming upset that a government cannot prevent or contain a disaster. Yes, it sucks that bad things happen, but we will continue to do what we can to contain problems as they develop. We don’t give up on democratic government because it wasn’t able to achieve a goal. 

The disaster that has unfolded in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean began decades before my birth when the British decided to partition off a particularly nice bit of real estate off the corpse of the Ottoman Empire to build a “home for the Jews”. Not only was this ironic in the fact that Jews already lived there in peace with their Muslim neighbors for quite a long time, but the resulting government of Israel was structured with Arabs as third-class citizens, barely recognized as human. 

Who were the gung-ho Zionists who encouraged emigration for Jews from Russia, Germany, Poland, and Spain? Who organized the settler militias that systematically attacked and drove away the settled Arabic families? Who funded the development of a European-style military in order to secure their holdings from neighboring Arabic states who really disapproved of how Arabs were treated in Israel? If you want someone to blame, I’d start with the US government that has generously funded Israeli military development since ‘48 and sabotaged Palestinian economic development at every turn. 

Nineteen forty-eight was when the disaster started. When Palestinians still had their olive groves and fig trees and schools and mosques. When Palestinians still had their elders. When Palestinians still had their stories. The disaster started with people doing bad things with joy in their hearts, then meeting reprisals not with introspection but violence. 

The Israeli people today will not be turned from their goal, because their goal is defense, and defense is required for them to retain their sovereignty. They have used “defense” as a reason to push Palestinians off their land for decades. Defense is the reason they eliminated Arab schools and destroyed Arab towns. The Palestinians have never been attacked by the Israelis: the Israelis have simply defended themselves, proactively defended themselves, and defended themselves to the death of Palestinians. What we see today in Gaza isn’t offense, it’s defense. That’s why they’ll never stop, that’s why they’ll never be convinced they were wrong. 

black smoke coming from fire
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Long before I was born, this disaster had festered and boiled. I grew up with Yassir Arafat leading the fight against the apartheid government in Tel Aviv. Even then it was clear that the US would give money and guns to Israel, and only naked platitudes to the Palestinians to accept their situation “peacefully”. We continued to elect governments that were beholden to Israel and unencumbered by shame for the treatment of the Palestinians. Every decade that has passed has been another decade of disaster for the Palestinian people.

I’m over fifty years old now. The five decades of my life has been one decade of disaster after another for the Palestinian people. I cannot look at what is happening there today and summon up a single new tear. I am not surprised nor do I imagine that there exists a single thing that could be said or done to save a single person short of evac helicopters. I have no more reason to protest the events of today than I would a typhoon. This disaster has been happening for a long time now, and you’re just now getting upset?

The “Two State” solution was eviscerated by Israeli settler violence during Reagan & Bush I. There is no reason to even suggest it now that the settlers have pushed out all of the Palestinians from the agricultural regions. 

And I absolutely would not recommend Arabs remaining within the state of Israel. It’s clear that Israelis are racist supremacists, and delight to slaughter children, and this is an inherently unsafe place for any Arab to be.

As a corollary to that, I have to say that Israel will no longer be a safe place for Jews once they have driven out all of the Arabs. Once their “external enemy” has been eliminated, they will turn that violence upon themselves in increasingly tight cycles of orthodoxy and gatekeeping.

I understand the rage and frustration associated with those who have fought for the Palestinian people this whole time. I feel it to be a reasonable response to the sort of disaster that’s brought on by people and condoned by people. But I don’t see that rage, at this point, serves any further purpose. Can your rage reassemble the top of Mt St Helens? Will your rage rebuild the Library of Alexandria? Would your rage resettle North American indigenous peoples at the expense of English cities? The point at which any of this was “fixable” has long passed, and now all there is to do is resettle the survivors and clean up as best we can.

Would it be better if the US didn’t support fascist, supremacist governments? Sure, and that’s something we can definitely work on. Has Israel been playing a long game capturing US legislators in a blackmail scheme to support their policies? Sure seems like it! Did the IDF invasion plan include pre-loading media stories about the cruelty and savagery of Hamas? Sure seems like it. Are we dealing with complex international political situations that have no good answers so long as authoritarians and fascists hold office? Yeah, that’s about the size of it.

I will not allow myself to be bullied into maudlin performances to show the depth of my despair. Yeah, it sucks and it’s stupid, but I’m about 70 years too late to be really effective at solving the problem. I think it’s okay to recognize that and to put my attentions into things that help living people today. And right now, I think about the most irresponsible thing we can do is to pretend there could still exist a Palestine as a safe place for Arabs, because it is quite clear that it cannot. 


One response to “Disaster Response”

  1. That is sad, but true.

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