Thou Salt Not Kill, Never (September 18)

Once in my life I wanted to kill someone. Only once. I was twelve. I am glad that I was a coward; it would have been suicidal if I had done what I really wanted to do.

My father was a minister of the Methodist Church in the busiest part of downtown Tokyo. The second world war had just ended and the Allied Occupation Forces had just landed in Japan, most of them being Americans. One Sunday, after the worship service, my father came down the aisle and stood by the door to greet the congregation with his Geneva gown still on. Two young GI”s passed by and started to push my dad around saying something like, "Monkey playing priest." They looked like boys just out of high school. I was so angry, I wanted to kill them. Cowardice stopped me — or should it be called something else. I have forgiven them now that I have reached an understanding of the effect a weapon gives a person of a false sense of authority and power, especially when it is in the hand of an immature person.

I see a similar situation too often at check points every time I travel from Jayyous to Jerusalem. There are three, sometimes more depending on the situation. People are often bullied and insulted regardless of their age and gender at check points. I am sure some of them must belong to the young soldiers” grandparents” generation. I am sure that the Israel Defence Force does not train troops to be bullies. There are some rotten apples like this in any society they say. That may be the case but there are a too many of them to call them "a few exceptions." I got talking to one of the soldiers who said, "You never know which one is a suicide bomber." He was scared. True, but wouldn”t the way they treat people make them even more angry? Many of them have to get to work or to write an exam. The occupation of one people by another gives a false sense of authority and power especially to many immature occupiers, like the ones who bullied my father.

Another problem of occupation is the psychological damage to the occupiers. One feminist activist in an Israeli peace organization once told me that she was really worried about the damage caused by the occupation to the minds of generations of Israeli young people. "It is creating generations of racists. The noble ideals of Zionism based on Judaism are lost. So then, what”s the point of a Jewish State?", she asks. And she conclueded, "This is why I belive that the occupation of the Palestinian territories must end for the sake of Israelis as well."

When I was in Lesotho teaching at the University we sometimes went to South Africa for shopping. It was during the Apartheid days. We”d ususally part ways to do whatever we needed to do as soon as we entered the city of Bloemfontein. But one day, the reality dawned on me about Apartheid society. After having lunch in a fast food joint, I found my colleague drinking water from a hose in a park. He had no place to sit down to eat nor drink in the city. All eateries were for whites only. I was an "honorary white" not because I was a Canadian but because I was Japanese. Black persons could buy food at a take out counter and eat sitting on the grass. Benches were for whites only. One of my colleagues at the time was Desmod Tutu. My shopping mate that day was not Desmond but he was equally brilliant and dignified. I felt ashamed. I don”t know why. Apartheid was not my fault. But I guess everybody must feel ashamed to live in a society which insults personal dignity. I feel the same every time I am at a check point or at a gate. I feel ashamed that we allow such a society to exist, that renders indignity to people. I agree with the Israeli feminist peace activist–it is against the belief of Judaism, but also, I would add, against Islam and Christianity.

I do admire those people who patiently wait for their turns to have their ID”s checked for what seems like hours on end. They have been doing it for years, for as long as the occupation. Anger must be piling up inside along with many other calamities of occupation like house demolitions, land confiscations, etc. Even then, I don”t condone suicidal killings of innocent people. But retaliatory actions by the military, which inevitably cause "colateral damage" of innocent people can not be justified either. Violence triggers more violence, and a spiral of violence accelelates in its downward descent. And there is no end in sight. And this is Holy Land? Perhaps we should learn from those people who have endless patience on the check point queues. They are truly brave people–not those who are misled by a few twisted minds and kill others and themslves. Perhaps we should learn from those Israelis, scared at the randomness of bombings as others may be, who speak against the occupation and for human rights for every person. They are courageous people because the cause of peace is less and less popular among ordinary Israelis just like in the United States since 9/11 where it is thought that those peace activists are traitors.

Unless, God forbid, by some cruel accident of history either of the unthinkable things happens — ethnic cleansing of Palestnian people or the elimination of Jewish state–the future of the region lies in a paeceful co-existence of two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians. In order for that to become reality, they have to start living as friends and neighbors. But at the present time, they are moving in the exact opposite direction. The first step could be, stop killing people. Retaliatory killings are not working. One side could be so brave, to blink first and miss a beat and stop. Both sides at the same time will be so much better off of course.

Tad Mitsui

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