Parental angst and the Invasion of Gaza

Today I spent two hours on the phone arguing, threatening, pleading and on hold with United Airlines.

The flight my 14-year-old was on has been delayed, and it may mean she doesn’t make it to her connecting flight in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

If she misses the flight to Fargo ND, she won’t be in time to be picked up by her summer camp counselors. I have visions of her wandering the complex and incomprehensible corridors of O’Hare like a 14-year-old Chinese-American female version of Tom Hanks in the movie “Terminal,” stuck in the airport without resources or any hope of escape.

I can’t describe the anxiety, anger, or desperation I felt (still feel, because I won’t know if she gets on the next flight safely until a couple of hours from now). But I did everything I could, and now I have to wait.

And as I hung up on the latest United employee, who I might have used a profane word with (or two), I started thinking about other desperate anxious mothers, mothers with far more cause for worry than I.

I have read articles and opinion pieces and watched reports on the bombing of Gaza. I watched a report about the four boys playing soccer, killed by Israeli shelling. I saw the video of the mother of one of those children wailing in agony. The mothers (and fathers and sisters and brothers) of Gaza must live in a continual state of desperation and anxiety about their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

My older daughter (not the 14-year-old) called me at 1 am last night crying because of the killing in Gaza, and her feeling of helplessness about it. And all I could do is commiserate because I too feel helpless. As my daughter (and Jon Stewart) said, the bombs come down, and the Gazans have nowhere to go. It’s so horrible and depressing that I find myself turning away quickly from news about the invasion. I post my views and some key links on Facebook and say, “there, I’ve done what I could.” But the truth is, I’ve done nothing.

Aerial bombing explosion in Gaza Strip during Cast Lead operation on January 14 2009. It was a three-week armed conflict in the Gaza Strip during the winter of 2008-2009. ChameleonsEye /

Aerial bombing explosion in Gaza Strip during Cast Lead operation on January 14 2009. It was a three-week armed conflict in Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009. ChameleonsEye /

The thing is, we’re Jewish. My husband and I were raised on the hopes and dreams of a new Israeli nation. My parents, stingy about buying clothes, shoes or cars, contributed large sums to Israel throughout my childhood. I myself must have planted 50+ trees by the time I reached adulthood (every childhood milestone was marked by giving a dollar which “planted a tree” in Israel).

Our family has made a journey from believing Israel to be our refuge, and a nation steeped in social justice, equality and even a little awesome socialism (kibbutzim), to seeing it as a country not just flawed as are all nations, but fatally flawed by its continued devotion to the systematic oppression of the Palestinians.

The change in our views has not been a happy journey for us.

I now strongly believe that the term “pro-Israel,” applied to people who support the Israeli government actions no matter what, and who rationalize the occupation of Palestinian lands, is a total misnomer. Israel will not survive by increasing the repression of Palestinian dreams. It will not survive by continuing to drain its resources in order to try to maintain control in the West Bank and repeatedly attack Gaza. As the United Airlines employee told me when I got a bit snippy with her about my soon-to-be-lost child, this behavior will lead to a poor end. That poor end will not be limited to the Palestinians. There is nothing “pro-Israeli” about contributing to the destruction of Israel by supporting the occupation.

None of what I’m saying ignores Hamas’s contribution to this recent crisis. To say they’ve behaved badly is a serious understatement. But the crisis didn’t start with this recent conflagration. It’s the result of bad behavior on both sides over many decades. For about the last decade, however, the Palestinians in the West Bank have shown remarkable restraint and have attempted every kind of peaceful method of obtaining their objectives. Their efforts have not met with success.

What happens when a people are shut down, mistreated, badgered, stifled, battered? Eventually they turn on their oppressors and that causes more death and destruction. As Jews we know this. We’ve been battered, badgered, and mistreated over the centuries. In fact, that’s what led to the creation of the State of Israel – we were determined to be battered no more. The rallying cry at the beginning of the nation of Israel was “Never Again.”

But sadly Israel has decided that in service to Never Again, they must subjugate another people. Our view is that the end of that road is not freedom and safety, but the end of the nation of Israel.

For almost 20 years, Marti Teitelbaum used her doctorate in public health working for the Children’s Defense Fund, producing most of their numbers on children’s health, disability, health insurance, Medicaid, and immunization. Marti is the mother of two high-energy girls (a twenty-something future radical social worker, and a 13-year-old middle-school fashionista), and is married to a psychiatrist who devotes half his work life to a child mental health clinic.

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