The message and Peretz article from my Diversity Dinners friend Shelly, who is a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Naperville, inspires this from me. I will have to send it separately because I inadvertantly erased it before pasting it at the bottom -- which I will try to do the next time around.
I am realising more and more that differing interpretations of history confuse the middle east situation terribly.
What Shelly sends below is an interpretation of history and intent overlaid with feeling that comes from some Israeli sympathizers.
Various very different interpretations of history and intent overlaid with feeling come from Palestinian sympathizers.
I wish each "school" of sympathizers would read the others' stuff -- with empathy. I think most partisans attend primarily to their own partisan stuff.
If there are differing interpretations of history and intent, these could be laid out side by side -- and acknowledged to be disputed.
What matters most now is if there is intent on the part of moderates on both/all sides to move rapidly enough toward two free and independent and uncut-up nations side-by-side: Palestine and Israel.
Who of the pro-Palestinian moderates that you know might read and formulate sensitive, constructive responses to this material from Shelly?
I do not know details of history and I cannot speak for Palestinians or Muslims, so I do not feel "qualified" to respond.
The Palestinian and Israeli diasporas provide a great variety of skilled and committed people and are promising venues for exchanging and negotiating. Why not pursue this here, now in writing -- going forward from this email?
From: Isens831@aol.com | Block Address
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 23:22:56 EDT
Subject: Fwd: Peretz on the mark
Dear Stephanie and Duncan:
This was forwarded to me by a dear friend in Israel before the Israeli response in uprooting Palestinian terrorism and after the Passover murders. I think it a thoughtfully hard piece of reality and why there should be no appeasement of those whose goals are the elimination of Israel. Ending the occupation will in no way will satisfy Islamic fanatics, tho I sure peace-loving Moslems need as do Israeli's who desire peace, an end to a settlement policy which is a thorn in their heart. But to the fanatics giving up the settlements NOW will only be a sign of weakness and an encouragement to do more killing. Did Israel's giving up Southern Lebanon end the Hezbollah's drive? No, now with Iranian and Syrian backing they are stronger then ever and threatening Israel's Northern borders. The Israeli's were almost totally in favor of leaving Southern Lebanon, just as in my opinion so many, maybe even a majority, would welcome not being an occupying power. It demoralizes Israeli's also. But the Islamists are using the occupation in their drive to eliminate Israel and Arafat is now part of the whole charade of peace. In my opinion peace loving people like yourselves are being used just a Stalin used well-meaning Americans for his own Imperialistic ends.
End the occupation people are placing more emphasis of ending the occupation and not paying attention to the celebration of death on the part of those who support suicide bombing of Jews regardless of age. If we are Zionist then we are marked for death. I am a Jew like Pearl was a Jew and he deserved for that reason to have his throat slit like a pig! I am a Zionist, a lover of Zion. Do I therefore deserve to die? These are very real questions,Stephanie, that Israelis are facing everyday and everywhere. It's a new anti-Semitism, international in scope and we have no choice but to fight it on all fronts. By the way, some of my passion on this is not just what is happening in Israel. While we were having polite discussion with each other on Saturday evening, someone or a group painted a large Swaztika on a a close friends yard---yes on the grass and for everybody to see that this is the home of a Jew, American-Israelis. And it was in Naperville, the first I've heard in 27 years here(tho in the 1930's when Centennial Beach was opened there was a sign that declared the Niggers, Jews and dogs were not allowed. This is documented fact!) . So please excuse the passion and I hope the article will have an influence of your thinking.
Attachment: Forwarded Message
From: "Michael Swirsky" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Undisclosed-Recipient@,
Subject: Peretz on the mark
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 11:16:42 +0300
The New Republic
April 15, 2002
In the Warsaw Ghetto it is the month of spring. And full on the table stands Elijah's cup. But who, to this seder, does ruin bring? The Angel of Death, who comes to drink and sup.
We were preparing our seder at the New York apartment of one of our children when we heard the grim news that the angel of death had intruded on another seder, this time a communal one in Netanya, Israel, reaping a harvest of 25 dead. This macabre angel remained especially active in the days that followed; and one week later (when this article went to press), the number of Israeli noncombatants dead in other suicide killings had risen to 45, with the toll of the disfigured and injured climbing into the hundreds.
Theodor Herzl wrote that Zionism's twin goals were to allow the Jewish people to "live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our homes peacefully die." And Zionism has achieved the first: a democratic, modern, liberal society, curious, scientific, on the cutting edge of medicine, accountable, transparent, and extremely plural. (Whatever hardships Arab citizens of Israel endure, they are mostly attributable to the unremitting enmity to Israel of their cousins in the neighborhood; and they are, still, the freest Arabs in the region.) Still, the second goal remains elusive. The Jews of Israel still cannot be sure that they will be allowed to die peacefully in their homes. In fact, the angel of death has intruded on their ordinary civilian lives for more than one century now.
The killings of Jews by Palestinians--and, earlier, by Arabs who didn't yet consider themselves Palestinians--predated the establishment of the state of Israel. The killers did not differentiate among their targets. They just had to be Jews, random Jews, any Jews: socialist farmers on some remote kibbutz in the Galilee, working people in Haifa, or ultrapious (and, for that matter, often anti-Zionist) men and women from a town like Hebron where Jews had lived innocuously and continuously since several centuries before Mohammed set foot on this earth.
Nor, for that matter, is the specific phenomenon of suicidal murder altogether an innovation of contemporary Arab and Muslim fanatics. This has been a hot subject in historic Islam for centuries, and it remains so in the mosques and schools of higher Muslim learning today, pro and con. The widespread adulation of Al Qaeda and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, of Osama bin Laden and Yasir Arafat, of Mohammed Atta and the young man on his way to paradise because last week he perpetrated mass murder in Tel Aviv, is evidence of the deep roots that this practice has in the culture of the Arab and Muslim world. And let us name the phenomenon honestly. When pampered Saudi princes praise the "martyrs of Palestine," and when Arafat himself says (more than a bit insincerely) that he wishes to die a shahid, they are (as Shimon Peres has pointed out) countenancing the idea of human sacrifice as an active agent of modern politics.
It is particularly disturbing that Pope John Paul II seems not to have grasped this. And, in his Easter message "to the City and to the World," during which he enunciated that tired cliche that "no one can remain silent" about Israeli aggression, he found it quite easy to be silent about the Palestinians' now-habitual dependence on human sacrifice as tactic and strategy. Of course, Arafat is an old pal of the pontiff, having visited the Vatican almost as frequently as he visited Bill Clinton's White House. And there is a deep cynicism to the pope's moral equivalence between the premeditated murder admired and practiced by literally every flank and faction in the Palestinian polity and the unintended victims of Israel's rather scrupulous and, indeed, finicky war against terror (up to recent days, mostly the bombing of empty buildings).
Yasir Arafat, of course, has never been finicky about terrorism, and his long history on that score mocks America's calls for him to renounce the only craft he has ever truly known. Arafat's debut on the world stage coincides with the beginning of the Palestinian revolution, which, it is urgent to recall, commenced at least three years before the Six Day War. This means that Arafat started the Palestine Liberation Organization before one Israeli ever stepped foot into the West Bank or Gaza Strip--or, for that matter, prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem or walked in the city's ancient Jewish Quarter. There were no "occupied territories" back then, and there weren't really any disputed territories either--except in the heads of the Palestinians. What Arafat wanted then (and what I believe he still wants now) was to liberate not Hebron or Nablus or Gaza (which in 1967 were in Arab hands) but Haifa and Tel Aviv, the plains of Sharon, and the Negev desert. Or, as military historian Victor Davis Hanson put it in The Wall Street Journal this week, "the current Arab-Israeli war--at least the fourth fought since 1948--is fought over the West Bank: but that is only because ... the Arab world lost the first three wars to destroy Israel proper."
From the beginning, Arafat's tactics of terror were audacious: blowing up airplanes in midair; taking children hostage in schoolhouses; skyjackings; hijacking of buses; shootouts and bombings in crowded airports, theaters, terminals, markets, beaches, restaurants, wedding halls. His most daring moment was during the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which eleven Israeli athletes lost their lives. (It was also the first moment when Peter Jennings showed himself to be oh, so understanding of Palestinian terror.) But this terrorism occurred only sporadically. It wasn't until the Oslo agreements and the handshake on the White House lawn that Arafat's terrorism became a routine feature of life in Israel. Israel obliged itself in 1993 to provide the Palestinian Authority weapons (augmented, of course, by the armaments the Palestinians smuggled and illegally manufactured themselves). And those weapons became the instruments of Jewish death. The closer the Israelis came to meeting Palestinian demands, the more intense the terror became. Suicide bombing, in fact, didn't become the Palestinians' chosen mode of day in, day out terror until the year 2000, when Israel offered Arafat more than the old butcher probably ever expected.
Even my friend Tom Friedman, generally much too credulous about Arafat's intentions, recently wrote that the Palestinian president and his compatriots "have not chosen suicide bombing out of `desperation.'" The Palestinians, he says, were offered "a peace plan that could have ended their `desperate' occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away." He goes on to say that the Palestinians "want to win their independence in blood and fire," and that is because "all they can agree on is what they want to destroy not what they want to build.... Let's be very clear: Palestinians have adopted suicide bombing as a strategic choice.... This threatens all civilization because if suicide bombing is allowed to work in Israel, then, like hijacking and airplane bombing, it will be copied and will eventually lead to a bomber strapped with a nuclear device threatening entire nations."
If Friedman is right--and I believe he is--then the solicitude for Arafat expressed by so many world leaders is itself perilous. Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister, called the siege of Ramallah "the greatest crime in the history of humanity." Is he out of his head? The Lebanese president's bleatings on Arafat's behalf are more than a little hypocritical given his decision to prevent Arafat's speech from Ramallah from being heard live at the Beirut summit. As for the threat by Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, to send the Israeli ambassador back to Jerusalem, he is playing an old, and silly, game. The Hashemites know all too well that Israeli intelligence is their first line of defense against their menacing Arab neighbors and that the Israeli military is their second. That has been clear since at least 1970, when the Israelis turned back Syrian tank divisions heading toward Amman. Israel guarantees Jordan's survival. The king and his Cabinet can express their "deep anger" at Israel's treatment of Arafat; but, in truth, he is a threat to them as well, and as such they wish him nothing but ill. King Abdullah and his advisers surely don't want Israel to give Arafat all the territories captured from them in 1967, and they were desolated when it seemed that Ehud Barak would do just that. They want the Jordan Valley in Jewish hands--as a buffer between emergent Palestine and their own country and also to prevent chaos among the West Bank Palestinians from spreading to the Palestinians in their own kingdom.
Arafat's most sincere partisans are not in the Arab world; they are in the nations of Europe, whose leaders routinely threaten Israel with retribution when it seeks to defend itself. Some of this is domestic politics: European leaders must now cater to ever larger, and more militant, Arab and Muslim populations within their own borders (a fact that should give pause to Americans who wish to indiscriminately admit immigrants who would bring their old hatreds to their new home). In the diplomatic strutting of European states that once deployed real force around the world but now no longer can, there is probably also some nostalgia for empire. Who really cares, after all, what Belgium thinks about Israel's conflict with the Arabs? The European states and, for that matter, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan are structurally incapable of truly influencing events on the ground in Israel, the disputed territories, or the rest of the Arab world. They cannot produce a real concession from Israel because they cannot produce--and haven't--even a symbolic concession from the Palestinians. And, for all their patronage and nurturing of Arafat, he has never given them even a diplomatic crumb to take to Israel.
The European country that has hectored Israel the longest and most obsessively, of course, is France. And why should we be surprised? After all, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's attacks on the Jewish state have accompanied a frightening intensification of antiSemitism in France.
Then there is the left--like the people who went to be with Arafat inside his compound last week. These "progressives" are not a new phenomenon in world affairs: They and their ancestors have been worshiping bloodthirsty leaders for more than half a century. But with Stalin, Mao, and Castro, there was, for a time, at least a veneer of brutal idealism. Zionism was an statement of European liberalism, and there were Arab intellectuals who imagined that their nationalism also would be nurtured by that source. But, in practice, Arab nationalism has become a very nasty business, defined everywhere by dictatorship. Palestinian nationalism is no different. Arafat has no grand vision of human affairs whatsoever, no desire other than territory--and territory not as the seedbed for an inspired vision of community but as a launching pad for war against the Jews.
Arafat could not possibly have stirred these activists' dreams of a
just society, because he has none. His scant program contains not even
the deceit of egalitarianism. Arafat is a fascist, and his fascism has
at its very core the hatred of Jews. And since he is unabashedly stirred
by this passion, one has to suspect his admirers as well, all of them (including--if
I am permitted to go local--the three Episcopal bishops of Massachusetts
and their political adviser, a priest in a Cambridge church, who in their
preaching and protests seem to think that innocent Jewish life is without
value). In France, already, synagogues are being burned and cemeteries
trashed. And in Israel, amidst a rage of daily terror, a young Palestinian
came to the seder door and murdered 25 men and women, one pregnant with
two children in her belly, never to see the light of day.