Sunday, January 20, 2008

Double Vision: Seeing Through the Eyes of the Enemy

Over Christmas break I read Exclusion and Embrace (see book list on right of blog), a book that significantly challenged and shaped my views of how we are to pursue justice, reconciliation and peace between those we consider our enemies. Over the next several posts I will be commenting and developing some of the ideas presented in this book and applying them to the situation in Israel/Palestine.

A major premise in Volff's work is the following. In situations of injustice and oppression, whether as a victim or as one fighting on behalf of victims, the tendency is to become enslaved to an exclusive commitment to one's own cause: "we are pursuing justice, they are perpetuating injustice." We are completely right, they are completely wrong; we are the victims they are the oppressors. Volff argues that this is problematic on many levels and encourages the pursuit of "double vision," the ability to step into the shoes of the other and to try to see things from their perspective:

"Our understanding of God's justice is imperfect and we often pervert justice even as we seek to do it...[we must] enlarge our thinking by letting the voices and perspectives of the other, especially with those with whom we may be in conflict, resonate within ourselves, by allowing them to help us see them, as well as ourselves, from their perspective, and if needed, readjust our perspectives as we take into account their perspectives."

To begin some of this work of double vision I would like to present a diverse set of voices that haven't been heard much in this blog. Voices, though with whom I may often disagree, can still learn from.

Voices from Sderot:

Many of you may be aware of the situation in Sderot, southern Israel. Let me summarize briefly:

Residents of Gaza have been firing rockets at this city, nearly daily, for over a year, causing much fear and distress among the residents of this city. Meanwhile within Gaza, the Palestinian residents find themselves walled in and largely shut out from the rest of the world. They are unable to leave, short on fuel and fresh water and largely jobless. Hopelessness prevails. (see the links on the right to Haaretz and Palestine News for more news on Gaza).


Israeli Woman in Sderot (http://coalitionofwomen.org/home/english/articles/namika_zion_021206/)

I have been living in Sderot for almost twenty years. For five and a half years I have been ‘breathing’ Qassams. Some of them fell a few meters from my home, and for the first time in my life I comprehended the emotional meaning of the expression ‘victims of shock and anxiety.’ All the daily worries that were generously exported to the public are familiar to me too. All the rituals that emerged around the anxieties: To jump in response to any unusual noise, to watch the sky while walking in the city, to bolt out of bed like an automaton at three in the morning and run to the security room, to tensely wait for the boom, to verify that everybody is okay, and so on again.

Nevertheless, I want to sound a slightly different voice. Or at least, different than the stereotyped voices that are recycled endlessly in the media. I will not say anything new or original here that has not already been said before me. The only validity to my words is the fact that I am a resident of Sderot.
Let me start by saying that the repeated calls ‘to destroy Beit Hannon’, ‘to raze Gaza’, ‘to black out cities’ and to ‘turn off the water’ horrify me when they are uttered by a frustrated public. They are even more horrifying when they are stated by public figures, ministers and journalists who are expressing empathy with the people of Sderot. These are calls for which there cannot be empathy! When one repeats the same call so many times, it inadvertently becomes legitimate, part of the daily agenda. What singed the ear five years ago is suddenly transformed into acceptable music and then to sweet music. One gets habituated. This process of habituation scares me even more than the Qassams.

Solidarity With Sderot (http://www.ujc.org/blog.html?id=95)

Shalom,
The past 48 hours have been some of the most turbulent we have seen on the southern front in recent months. It reflects the slow but sure deterioration of the security situation, building up to an inevitable and major confrontation. No matter how this cycle of hatred began or where it will lead, the consequences are undoubtedly a cause for concern and fear.

The Israel Defense Forces entered the Gaza strip on Tuesday at dawn, in order to intercept brigades firing rockets toward Israel. As a result, 20 armed Palestinian terrorists have been killed. At the same time, a Palestinian sniper killed a South American volunteer working in one of the Kibbutzim.

Since this morning, some 40 Kassam rockets have been fired at Israel and more than 100 have been launched in the past three days, injuring five residents. One missile managed to reach Ashkelon. The firing continued yesterday and today, while the Israel Air Force carried out air strikes which caused the accidental deaths of three uninvolved Palestinians, one of the unfortunate, yet inevitable outcomes of military activity in densely populated areas.

Yesterday, the IDF sent reinforcements to the people of Sderot. Children were accompanied to and from school by soldiers; IDF vehicles patrolled the city and soldiers have been positioned at bus stations and on school buses. The Urban Assistance Center in Sderot has also been reinforced and the IDF will continue to assist residents of Sderot and the neighboring communities.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Kacie said...

Just wanted to let you know that in the comments section of my latest blog entry I pointed people to your blog as someone has been to the area and shows the "other side" that evangelicals don't often see. Your words DO have an influence. The fact that you can speak about what has happened to an individual that you personally know is very powerful.