Some readers of my open letter to Amos Oz have been posing questions to me regarding how to deal with a group that calls for the destruction of Israel. They tell me they are sick of Israel being described by the Left as inherently evil.
I do not believe there is “inherent evil” in Israel, not in its government, not in the IDF, and most certainly not in Israeli civilians. Nor do I believe there is inherent evil in Hizbullah or in Hamas. But evil has a way of growing, even if that was not the intent of seeds that were planted. One of the most powerful lessons for me in anti-racist work has been that you do not need racist intentions to have racism when it is built into the system. The same is true for colonialism. There is a system that has been set up. And we can look long and hard at how it got there, what actions people took, what intentions they did or did not have, but regardless of the answers we come up with, the fact remains that the system is there. Calls for the destruction of Israel pain me. Deeply. Calls for the destruction of Israeli colonialism, however, can not be loud enough.
Readers have asked me: “How can war be avoided? Walking away from a confrontation is not a ready option because, as we have learned, the attacks will return and the arming will continue unabated. Should Israel show further weakness by not responding again?”
I answer: no, Israel should not walk away from confrontation. Israel should respond, but if it really seeks to avoid war, it needs to take seriously the question of why there are people that want to destroy it. It needs to take many actions that go much, much further than the nature of the recent Gaza withdrawal, it needs to commit to decolonization. This, I believe, is the only response that will ensure its long-term survival as well as the long-term survival of its neighbors.
But the response from readers I have been struggling with the most is the insistence that one must criticize Hizbullah and Hamas with every breath that also criticizes Israel and the U.S. I have written a piece that tries to explain my resistance to this request. I hope you understand.
Love Poem for Hizbullah from a Non-Violence Lover
Some of my friends who trust my politics and believe in my soul have been approaching me cautiously lately. In nervous whispers they put a question mark at the end of what should be a statement: “You wrote that you’re learning to have hope in Hizbullah?” The question mark begs me to take it back, to brush it off as a moment of hotheadedness, to please, PLEASE remove it from my blog. But I replace the question mark with a period, repeating, yes, I’m learning to have hope in Hizbullah. The lectures begin. Reminding me of my commitment to non-violence. Appealing to my sense of pragmatism: “Cecilia, you will never get anyone to listen to you by using such inflammatory language.” I wonder, how is it that we have learned how to muster up so much more outrage for inflammatory language than for the flames burning where people used to be? Yes, I am learning to have hope in Hizbullah and it is just that: a learning process. And an un-learning process. Because the inflammatory language of “terrorist” – even for someone like me who has an ingrained reaction of ‘who’s causing the most terror here?’ – has burned its way into my psyche, its dehumanizing smoke filling my ears and blinding my eyes.
The un/learning has not been made easy. My question-mark friends are frustrated by my increasing unwillingness to decry Hizbullah and Hamas each time I open my mouth about Israel and the United States. I, too, am frustrated. Frustrated by the insistence on symmetry where there is none, frustrated by terms that oversimplify like “cycles of violence,” frustrated by my own tendency to retreat into these terms when the question-marks pry at me.
But I am making progress, seeking and finding new information, clearing some of the smoke. I am coming to terms with something that I’ve tried to deny, something I’ve been taught to deny. And so I have written a love poem. For Hizbullah. Like love that inspires poems often is, this love is not all rosy and sweet. It is complicated, tortured, frustrated, somewhat inappropriate, certainly scandalous, sometimes hesitant. It is irrational and overly rational. But still, it is love. A dear friend told me today, “Nobody ever really learns something without feeling something.” So, to Hizbullah, I offer this poem.
I Don’t Want to Love You, But I Do
You were born out of death to a life in a cage
Where bombs are not the only reason people die
Fed by the violence of hunger and homelessness
Raised by colonialism
Your heart and your will still grew strong
You scare me
Not just because they tell me to be scared
Not just because they repeat, repeat, repeat
The story of 1983
Begging me to understand
Americans are worth more than Lebanese
Why do they never tell me about Jihad al Bina
That you have created so much
Saved so many lives
Improved so many more
It scares me
When I admit to myself
That I would be more scared without you
If I still took the time to see
To see the violence
that does not just fall from the skies
that exists in hunger and homelessness
It scares me
That my hope is tangled up
In actions I would never want to commit
But I don’t sleep much these days
And I’ve tried hard
But I haven’t found
to give me hope that they will listen
They repeat, repeat, repeat
The story of Gaza withdrawal
Hoping we won’t see
The violence that continues
That kills in so many ways
Hoping we will now support it
Or at least stop looking
They insist talk does not work
When there is no one to talk to
It is hard to find an interlocutor
When you’re not willing to listen
How do you keep faith that talk will work
When even they are insisting it won’t?
I am learning to have hope in you
I am learning to see you as so much more
Than those actions I would never want to commit
You amaze me.
Born out of death to a life in a cage
Raised by colonialism
You did not accept imprisonment as natural
You did not accept hunger as justice
You did not accept
the ceaseless killing in so many ways
Of those next to you
Or those farther away
I love you
But I will never be yours
I don’t want you inside me
You are too male for me
And I cannot, gratefully, fully silence the voice that insists:
Some deaths you did accept
Including of some who were listening
That is why the full statement that the question-marks pry me with reads:
It is sad, but I’m learning to have hope in Hizbulla
Maybe it is the naivety
of one whose life has never been directly threatened
I still believe:
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Cecilia Lucas is a
graduate student at University of California, Berkeley. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org