Israeli journalist and American citizen Itay Hod calls for a peaceful resolution to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict
First, let me state a simple fact. I am a journalist who also happens to be Israeli. I was born in Nazareth and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a paratrooper. I’m no stranger to the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I’m also an American citizen who resides in Los Angeles.
I boarded a flight to Israel last week, so I could be with my family in Tel Aviv, as well as write articles for various American magazines including The Daily Beast, one of the top news sites in America.
I’ve been asked, how do I, as an Israeli, manage to stay unbiased? The simple answer is, I can’t. No one can. We all have our preconceptions, which inadvertently seep into our stories. I believe the late Peter Jennings said once that no journalist can truly be unbiased, the best we can do is try.
I think people are smart enough to realise that as an Israeli, I can still be empathetic to both sides. I have also been known to be critical of Israeli policy. And that, I believe, is the sign of a good reporter.
When Operation Protective Edge started eight days ago, I quickly booked a ticket to Tel Aviv. I feel awkward sitting in sunny California while my family spends their nights running to the shelter.
As soon as the fighting began, I became inundated with comments on Facebook and Twitter from those who are critical of Israel. It’s understandable. It’s a complicated situation.
I should say that as I’m writing this, my Red Alert app, which sounds off every time a rocket is fired into Israel, is going haywire (if you want to read my story on this fascinating app, you can check it out here).
I don’t like seeing any civilians hurt or killed, no matter who they pray to. I think the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was not only reprehensible and barbaric, it was sad. I think the men who killed that boy in cold blood should spend the rest of their sorry lives in jail. I have no sympathy for them.
I should also mention that I don’t hate Gaza or the Palestinian people. I feel for them. I know it’s been hard on them. Anyone who claims otherwise has never been to Gaza. The Palestinian people deserve to be treated with the same respect and kindness as anyone else. They should be allowed to pursue their dreams and earn a living. And only then will there be true peace.
I think the settlements are a bad idea. A mess that’s costing Israel a hefty and unnecessary price. I have never voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I personally think he’s the worst Israeli leader the country has ever had. Unfortunately that’s the price we pay for being a democracy. Majority rules.
That said, I think at times (or most times) Israel gets a bad rap. I get that we as people naturally gravitate towards the underdog. And the Palestinians have had it rough. But that doesn’t mean we should blame Israel for everything.
While the building of settlements is a mistake, it’s not an excuse for killing innocent civilians. As Thane Rosenbaum wrote eloquently in The Daily Beast last month:
“Palestinians must be held accountable for their love affair with terror. Years of the Israeli occupation are no excuse for barbarism. If history had gone differently in the United States and African Americans had relied on domestic acts of terrorism rather than peaceful nonviolent resistance as a way of gaining their civil rights, no one would have excused the murder of white teenagers as justified retribution for years of pernicious racism and inhuman slavery. Similarly, no one would tolerate Native Indian-Americans seeking to vindicate the Trail of Tears by bringing tears to the eyes of suddenly childless white American mothers”.
While the Israeli murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir have been arrested, and their actions condemned by both the Israeli government as well as its people, the killers of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, the three innocent boys killed by Palestinians, are still at large. No condemnation issued, no arrests made.
It’s true that there have been terrorist attacks by Israelis. A man by the name of Baruch Goldstein savagely shot 29 Palestinians in 1994, for example, but truly such people are seen as lunatics by most Israelis. They are not promised 72 virgins for killing women and children nor do their families receive a stipend from the Israeli government. Most importantly, no one in Israel considers them martyrs of any kind. Can you say the same about Gaza and Hamas?
Where is the anger? Where are the people who should be condemning these acts? You can find anger on Israeli TV when the Baruch Goldsteins of the world kill Palestinians, but it is nowhere to be found on Palestinian TV (or any Arab TV station for that matter).
Palestinians are quick to condemn Israel for killing civilians in Gaza, but have no problem glorifying suicide bombers, and putting up their posters all over Gaza City billboards.
They complain about Israel not providing them with jobs, but have no issue with their own leaders stashing away billions of dollars, meant for development, in their own private Swiss bank accounts.
They cry about about the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, but have no anger for the people who killed three innocent Israeli boys.
And now another missed opportunity. A ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was accepted without preconditions by Israel, but rejected by Hamas. How can you solve the problem if you won’t even talk?
And one more thing, maybe it’s time Palestinians stop calling for the destruction of Israel in their charter. Israel isn’t going anywhere. You can fight it and lose, or accept it and make peace.
But if and when you do come to the table, do it with an open heart. I can guarantee we will embrace that move. I’m sure of it.
In the meantime, I pray this insanity ends soon. For your sake and ours.
Itay Hod is a broadcast and print journalist. He has worked for NY1, CBS News, MTV, TMZ and Fuse TV and his articles have appeared in titles including Salon Magazine, Albany Times Union, Out Magazine, Genre and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @Itayhod and click here to like his Facebook page.
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