I was a Zionist for a long time when I was younger, even though I was a Christian. I grew up with the narrative of WWII and the Holocaust. I was always attracted to Judaism and had a lot of Jewish friends, some the children of Holocaust survivors or of people who fled the Nazis before the war. In high school one of my close friends was an Israeli girl who is now a respected archaeologist at one of the universities there. In college I was for a long time a Hebrew studies/linguistics major, one of a handful of Christians in the department. I very seriously considered converting to Judaism at several points in my life and reluctantly gave that up when I realized that as a "shikse" I would never be fully accepted. And I always, always wanted to go to Israel, particularly as I got to know more and more Israeli people.....but I never did. Still, I admired the country and rejoiced in the victory of the Six-Day War and to some extent that of 1973.
I began to change my mind during the Lebanese conflict, and particularly when I started seeing pictures and videos of the Sabra and Shatila camps. When I was around 9 years old, I was rummaging around in our attic one day and came across a copy of "U.S.Camera" from 1945 or 1946, I forget which. Thinking about it now, I can see that my dad had hidden it away from us kids, presumablyy to protect us from seeing the horrors of WWII. In that book there were pictures of the concentration camps, taken by photographers from the American forces which had liberated those camps. I was mesmerized by those pictures of the living skeletons and particularly by one photograph of bodies stacked like wood at Buchenwald. I was both horrified and fascinated.I knew better than to ask my parents, but I was an inveterate reader and knew my way around the public library, and even though I wasn't allowed to borrow from the adult section yet, there was nothing to prevent me from reading, and I spent one whole summer learning about the Holocaust, trying to understand it from my very young viewpoint and in the light of what I'd been taught by my parents and my church about how you treat others. I never could understand it then, and I admit that I still can't. So beginning with Sabra and Shatila and continuing through the sagas of the West Bank and Gaza, my thinking about Israel began to change. My ex-husband said once, after watching a news segment on the camps, "Israel has lost its soul." In recent years I have begun to agree.
I've never agreed with the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. I can understand some of the enmity that stems from their War of Independence, but the continual treatment of the Palestinians as second-class citizens (and that's on a good day!) and as "the enemy" seems much on a par with the way Jews were treated in the years leading up to WWII. If your land, that's been in your family for generations, is taken. and your family members are killed, why wouldn't you want to respond in kind? If your people are herded into ghettos and camps, why wouldn't you want to fight it? Naturally there will be those who turn to a more radical way of thinking and of action; there always are. Hatred and maltreatment on one side will invariably lead to the same on the other, and eventually to action. There are many parallels between the actions of ghetto Jews in WWII and Palestinians today, up to and including kidnappings, killings, and bombings. In the days of the Holocaust, these actions were considered "heroic"; now they are merely "terroristic", thanks to the Israeli publicity machine.
I can't condone the actions of either side. Most of my Israeli friends (left-leaners all) and many of my Jewish friends are in the same place I am, horrified at the actions of the Israeli government and increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinian people. In recent discussions we've talked about the similarities to the Jewish uprisings during the Holocaust. We are all torn between love and respect for the country of Israel and hatred for the actions of the current government. The op-ed by Gilad Sharon (son of Ariel) in which he calls for "flattening of entire neighborhoods in Gaza" and the comments of Deputy Israeli PM Eli Yishai that "We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water" are simply the last straw for many of us.
It seems Israel may not have learned from the Holocaust after all, if they think it is right to do to others in their land precisely what was done to them in Europe. It seems that "never again" means "not unless we do it." I am sad for the country and for my many Israeli friends.