For Santa Fe resident Daniel Farber, his service in the Israeli military was a manifestation of civic responsibility.
My time spent as a staff sergeant in an Israeli Special Forces unit has afforded me unique experiences and perspectives. Contrary to what many might believe my service in the Israeli military was not an expression of hate. It was an extension of the values that were instilled in me growing up with parents who belonged to the civil-rights movement. My service was a manifestation of civic responsibility – responsibility toward the Jewish people, and at the same time, responsibility toward the innocent Palestinians I interacted with during complex operations to root out the not-so-innocent terrorists. I joined the Israeli army because it was real. I was presented with real responsibility and real moral dilemmas. As the recently appointed Israeli ambassador to America, Michael Oren wrote that the Israeli dilemma is “whether the IDF should pull its forces out of major Palestinian cities and take a risk for progress toward peace, or increase the likelihood of suicide bombers reaching our municipal buses – between reducing the danger to my eldest son, who is currently patrolling those cities, and enhancing that of my two younger kids, who ride those buses to school.” Throughout my time in the Israel Defense Forces, I kept close ties to my hometown Santa Fe. In both reading the local publications about Israel, and in personal interactions with some locals concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have come across misconceptions that are disturbing, funny and all-out ridiculous. It is disturbing that some Palestinians live in horrid conditions. Even more disturbing is that the Palestinian Authority, along with the other 22 Arab countries, have the ability to end their poverty but they don’t. It is disturbing that the notion is that peace is about land, and that peace can be achieved by three politicians on different sides of the table making concessions to people they really would rather not deal with. Complexities of life It is disturbing that people have not yet recognized that peace cannot be forced. It is disturbing that people have been blind to the realization that the stepping stones of peace would be promoting coexistence, reforming the Palestinians’ education system, and improving economic ties between Israel and the Palestinians. It is funny that so many people in New Mexico think that because they have spent a few days in Israel or a Palestinian city, they have the slightest idea what the complexities are of daily life for either side of the conflict. I have a deep-down certainty that if the tables were turned, and terrorists were launching rockets into Las Cruces from the Mexican border, every single peace-loving Santa Fean would petition the U.S. Congress to bomb the hell out of Mexico. They would not petition because they were pro-war, rather because they were pro-survival. It is ridiculous that activist groups in New Mexico, backed by organizations such as Amnesty International, have put up billboards accusing Israel of murdering children without ever acknowledging the fact that Israel serves as a safe haven to groups such as Palestinian homosexuals and Darfur refugees. It is ridiculous that there is a double standard in which Israel is criticized as being a racist and apartheid state for protecting itself against terrorists. All men are created equal Does Israel make mistakes in the process? Yes. However, my comrades and I made a concerted effort, even in the heat of battle, to respect innocent Palestinians as people and to apply the values I learned growing up that all men are created equal. When people generalize Israeli soldiers as being killers, it deeply offends me, and it demeans the efforts the Israeli army takes, and I took, to protect innocent Palestinian lives. It is easy to preach from thousands of miles away without getting your hands dirty and dealing with real life challenges. During my mandatory service, from 2001-2003, I was involved in complex operations during which we entered terrorists’ houses knowing that there were armed terrorists inside – and suspecting that there might be innocent family members inside as well. Instead of blowing the house up like most armies would do under the same circumstances, we risked our lives on numerous occasions to try and save innocent Palestinian lives. So, when ludicrous anti-Israel activists compare Israel to apartheid and the IDF to the Nazis, please remember that the world is complex, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, and only through complex thinking will any genuine change evolve. This article was first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of ISRAEL21c.