Saturday, November 7, 2009

Response to Daniel Gordis

Sent 7.Nov.2009

Daniel Gordis is a columnist in the Jerusalem Post. Though I have always thought that he writes very well, I have also always had reservations to many of Gordis' remarks and conclusions, His latest article annoyed me enough to respond directly to his Internet site, and I thought you may be interested as well. So here was my response (to which I never recieved an answer):

To: Daniel Gordis:

As you so frequently write in your well-written articles, you display an attempt at understanding both sides of the political issues that have divided us Israelis over the past 40 years. And as you usually do, you end up showing why criticizing our country’s policies regarding the handling of occupied territories and of our enemies in general is essentially a subversive act.

Your article of November 6, “Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You”, is typical as much as it blatantly shows how you wind your literary way from an attempt at understanding to a total condemnation of those who seek something other than the policies of our government. Biblically you write “Are you with us or do you seek our destruction? ……those are our only choices”.

You engineer a fairly nasty literary analogy by equating J Street to Donald Bostrom. Unfortunately it also shows how narrowly you perceive that part of your biblical quote saying “Are you with us…..”. Your concept of being “with us” means agreeing with policies which others see as detrimental to our national interests and to our Jewish heritage.

You are terribly worried in your article that “Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You” by those nations and peoples that are out to get us. It follows symmetrically that it matters not what we say, it shall always be used against us. Logically it should also follow that we can say to each other what needs to be said, we can agree and we can disagree, without worrying about “what will the Goyim think” for they will always use it detrimentally. Actually, though, our ups and downs with the “Goyim” have little to do with what we “say”. It has mainly to do with what we “do”. But here, too, those who want to “get us” won’t relent regardless of what we “do” , so we may as well find ways of doing what we think is right.

Many of us believe that much of our country’s policies and actions in the occupied territories are not “right”, but wrong. Many of us believe that our government is manipulating everything it says and does with the intention of holding on to as much (if not all) of the occupied territories as possible. Many of us believe this is wrong. Many of us think that our government does not want any kind of modus Vivendi which will allow for a separate Palestinian State, and therefore constructs its policies and actions in a way that will thwart that possibility. Many of us think that our government prefers the inevitability of more wars and intifadas rather than the loss of part of our biblical real-estate.

While I consider myself a truly kosher Zionist, while I totally support our need to remain militarily Stronger Than Ever, while I know that my grandchildren will still need to stand guard on our survival, I cannot agree to policies and actions which will teach my grandchildren that the main ingredients of morality and justice are “who can be stronger, fight better, subjugate better and oppress more efficiently”. I see our policies and actions as ones that are polluting our Jewish heritage and our national conscience. You would prefer I be silent for “they will use this against us”. If I speak out, you see me as the enemy who is out to “seek our destruction”. Nevertheless, while you continue to worry about those who will use what we say, I will continue to worry about what we are doing to ourselves.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When the Kibbutz was a Kibbutz

Sent 26.Aug.2009

An article written in Hebrew by Amnon Shamosh, "When the Kibbutz was a Kibbutz", was translated into English by Trudy Greener and Amnon Hadary. The article was a nostalgic journey into the idealic experiences and environment within the Kibbutz of Past memories. The article made the rounds of my Habonim 9th Workshop friends. (We spent a year together at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv in 1959). Via a few email postings a number of our group began wondering whether in 1959 we were still part of “the Kibbutz that Was”, or was it all something before our time.

One of our group wrote:
............ I do not think it was all [past] history- I remember many such [experiences} when I arrived there. I think the bigger changes started in the 70’s with the most dramatic changes in the 90’s- aaron, would you agree?

This was my reply:

Your question is a loaded one which will probably be argued for years to come by fine sociologists and anthropologists. Some say the demise began with the conception. Some say they never saw it coming. Amnon Shamosh’s wonderfully picturesque description of “what-once-was” embraces scenes of a process from before Statehood and up to some realities that still exist today in a very small number of kibbutzim.

My own recollection of Gesher Haziv as a “kibbutz” while on Workshop is fairly vague in retrospect. I don’t think I ever managed to really assess or view the inner workings of the place, nor the community “soul” that made the place tick. I enjoyed working in bananas and I liked the people there. I liked my family and remember well how Rachel and I visited them often. I remember the Sidur-Avoda and the laundry. I remember the chadar-ochel and the half of a boiled egg, and the jam instead of sugar for our tea, and the mashed potatoes and gaining weight. I remember Purim but other holidays are absent or vague (was I sober on Purin and drunk on the others?). and I remember well that the kibbutz was in sad shape economically/financially with serious management problems (running the bananas was someone from elsewhere; the Merakez-Meshek was an outsider foisted on the kibbutz).The rest of my memories of that year are from the Workshop itself, things we did, our relationships, kibbutz members who were involved with us, and a younger crowd (garin and older high school bnei-meshek) who got closer to some of us than to others.

Back in Washington D.C. after workshop I decided to return to Gesher Haziv…….Not because I fell in love with the “soul” of Gesher Haziv. I hadn’t really met with it during our year together……But because I surmised that going to a kibbutz with problems, one in need of new blood in order to re-vitalize it’s mission as a “successful experiment in true communal living”, is indeed the real pioneering challenge of that day. Did I make a mistake? Should I have expended my young ideological energy by joining a completely new kibbutz or one with a solid economic future? No matter. I deal with the reality of past and present as stepping stones into tomorrow, rather than muse on the possibilities of various parallel realities. For the last thirty some years I’ve had a small slogan (in Hebrew) above my desk saying something like this:

“It’s good to die for an ideal, but don’t hurry, because ideals tend to evolve and change, and you may be dying for the wrong stage of its evolution.”

With notable but few exceptions I think I’ve adopted the slogan as a method of wading through a variety of surrounding changes in our world, including the process that changed what we saw as “The Kibbutz That Was”.

I began learning what Gesher Haziv is all about only after arriving in ’65 married and with child. I knew things were different than expected when during our first month we had a get-together with a group of young adults (army and post-army age) who grew up in G.H. ….They were totally confused as to why young Jews would leave America to join them in G.H……were we freaks or something? But it took a number of years later, around the Bar-Mitzva of our third son, to realize that the economic collectivity of our community was on a downhill disintegrating slope. Our gizbar told us to keep all bar-mitzva gifts (money) and put them in our own bank account. (By our fourth son it was no longer a question). That was about 27 years ago. (today it all sounds so trite.)

In truth, the “Kibbutz that was” in G.H. held onto an outer shell made up of many of the colorful institutions and behaviors as described by Amnon Shamosh in his article. But within the shell, throughout the years, those ideals of social and economic collectivity were slowly breaking down and emptying out till the shell itself had little to lean on and began totally cracking-up in the 90’s. By then treasure hunters would have great difficulty finding remnants of “the Kibbutz that was” in G.H.

p.s. “this guy” Amnon Shamosh is one of Israel’s prolific and honored authors. With roots in Syrian Jewery and a sturdy trunk in the Kibbutz, his branches extend to many books on Jews in Arab lands, children’s books, poetry and social topics. He was one of the founders of Kibbutz Maayan Baruch. Among those founders was also a group from American Habonim, joined later by olim from South African Habonim.

Best wishes,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Knowing History is not a Bad Idea

sent 23.July. 2009

A (Jewish) friend af mine (I'll call her A) has been actively engaged in the struggle for Palestinian rights in the occupied territories. In a group discussion by e-mails, she commented on Uri Avneri and his reports of injustices done by Israel to palestinians during the War of Independance in 1948. Two friends within our group (I'll call them B and C), wrote back quite angrily about A's support of those "facts".

B wrote:
"In 1948 when independence was declared, there were 600,000 Jews in the fledgling State of Israel, attacked by no less than seven Arab states. Israel was not prepared for the war imposed upon us and after having the Jewish people decimated by the Shoah, it was felt that we had to fight tooth and nail for the continued existence of the new state and its citizens. The tactics you described were employed against very very few Arab villages whose inhabitants attacked Jews. This has been a stain upon Israel's history. Those which did not were left alone. However, it was never and by no means a matter of systematic ethnic cleansing or violence. Am stating the obvious, war is ugly as its morality, or immorality as the case may be. Horrible deeds are committed in war. On the other hand, witness the number of Arab villages standing today in the Galil, some of them flourishing, and indeed Abu Ghosh, close to Jerusalem is an excellent example. These were isolated incidents rather than normal practice and that is what must be stressed here.
A, in your emails you have demonstrated that you no longer bear any affection, empathy or love for the State of Israel. Rather than attempting to effect change from within (Shalom Achshav, for example?), you chose to place your sympathies with the Palestinians. I no longer wish to receive your emails as I regard their content as a personal attack upon me and all those dear to me.... "
C wrote:
"Is there another country or another army that is so engrossed is self-flagellation as the Jewish country and the Jewish army? And don’t forget how other countries hold us to standards they cannot live up to. Why is it so important for you to know the nitty gritties of what went on 60 years ago? Isn’t it enough that the nascent state had to do whatever it had to do to make a homeland for the remnants of European Jewry? I must say that I agree with B regarding A’s attitude toward the Palestinians and Israel. I would like to be removed from those mailings as well."

I was saddened by B’s and C’s reactions to A’s comments. Ostracizing, blacklisting, boycotting an extremely opposite opinion within a group exchange regarding issues that matter to us, limits greatly our understanding of all sides to those issues. But perhaps I am most concerned with our respect for each other’s nuances, for each other’s deviations from our own world of beliefs, and maybe I am also concerned that I too will be placed beyond the pale at some juncture. Nevertheless, I’ll overcome my hesitations and append my comments to your's. (I wish I knew how to put it all in one short paragraph, but I don’t have the knack or talent for that. Sorry.)

We Israelis have something important in common with our Palestinian neighbors: Part of our majority Israeli approach to the “Palestinian Problem” is that “everything we do is necessary and therefore right, while everything they do is wrong and bad”. This is also the majority Palestinian approach to the “Israel Problem”. This formula is one of the elements which help both us and the Palestinians to purposefully avoid a mutual solution and a minimal understanding of each other.

Our appreciation of history is also sometimes problematic. We may see what really happened 60 years ago as unimportant (I think C expressed that), while our own historical claims dating back two thousand years remain totally legitimate. I think both periods are important, legitimate and relevant…..and as in real life, the harm we do today can greatly injure our reputation, status and legality born of yesterday.

Though I have read so many articles by Uri Avneri, I confess to not having read his books. I began reading him only after he gave up his magazine “Haolam Hazeh” which I found to be yellow journalism at its yellowest in a time before our regular newspapers learned to copy and incorporate a tinge of yellow. Avneri came from a Jabotinskyite Revisionist family, and started part of his active political life in Etzel (the Jewish “terrorist” organization). Nevertheless, in the aftermath of 1948 Avneri saw it important to tell us Israelis more than just about our heroic and necessary fight for our State. He thought it important to tell of the “unnecessary” things that were done. Part of the Israeli public respect Uri Avneri, but most turn a blind eye to what he writes, and many believe that the “unnecessary” actions were also part of the “necessary”. Perhaps this needs an explanation.

War is Cruel. Ugly things are done, some by generals with a mission, some by frightened individuals and some by bad human beings. One result of the war was a Palestinian refugee problem that haunts us till now. Our Israeli viewpoint has always been: The refugees are not our problem. We did not cause them to flee. We even ran around asking them to stay. Those who fled did so because the Arab armies attacking us gave them the word to flee in order not to be in the way of destroying the new State. Eyewitness accounts and historical records confirm this to be so very true. But there were other reasons as well for the flight of most of the Arab population. Those reasons we tend to call “isolated incidents” occurring to “very very few Arab villages whose inhabitants attacked Jews” (B was confirming a long-time Israeli myth which has not stood the test of time and research). The “very few” were close to 500 Arab villages that were destroyed by the war, some of them by Uri Avneri and Samson’s Foxes in just the way he describes. Perhaps most of this was from the subjective necessity of seeing our Jewish Homeland start its new life with a clear and large Jewish majority. But we don’t especially like to know and be reminded that these facts are part of our burden. We prefer continuing our supposition that everything by us is objectively good, and everything by them is bad. The Palestinians do the same.

It is not unimportant “to know the nitty gritties of what went on 60 years ago” (as C writes), especially when there is a clear line of policy stretching from the past into the present. Our politics and policies are constantly involved with the problems of land and demography. Israeli Arab towns and villages have tremendous difficulties getting approval for expansion for natural growth or even building permits for existing properties. Jerusalem is a good example. Last week, in the verbal exchange between Netanyahu and the American administration over a new building project for Jews in annexed East Jerusalem, my Prime Minister asserted that we Jews have as much of a right to build and buy houses in East Jerusalem as Arabs from East Jerusalem have in West Jerusalem. Though this is a blatant lie (not being a politician and not confined to politically correct language, I can use the word “lie”), we shall continue using this excuse to justify actions we are doing in order to expand Jewish and Limit Arab land and demography. Our Lands Authority and many municipalities have done their best over the years to hamper Arab demography by limiting land and not issuing building permits to our Arab citizens. Perhaps an editorial quote from this week’s Haaretz will portray the magnitude of the issue:

“Since 1967 Israel has expropriated 35% of East Jerusalem to construct 50,000 housing units intended primarily for Jews. During the same period, fewer than 600 units for Palestinians were built with government support” (which is why hundreds more were built “illegally” and are threatened with demolition).

It is no wonder that a long range Plan for East Jerusalem which at long last was presented last week for municipal approval, was sent back to the drawing board. Its opponents claimed there were too many housing units planned for Arabs and too few for Jews. Watching the demolition of Arab homes in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem along with extreme limitation of legal Arab housing draws for us a straight line from Uri Avneri’s accounts of 1948 to consistent policies till today. In 1948 we could say that we used opportunities which evolved during a life and death struggle for our existence. Afterwards and today it is because we want to and "we can". Land and Demography are and have been the issues. Of course, they also portray one aspect in the reality of equality (?) before the law for Israeli Arab citizens.

It is strange that while the great overall majority support such policies, by belief or by silence, we still think there is no one “so engrossed in self-flagellation as the Jewish country and the Jewish army” (as C wrote). I suppose that “self-flagellation” is meant as a synonym for complaints about our policies towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories, our rejection of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories, and our despair at our country’s conduct towards our Israeli Arab citizens. It would make me glad to know that our country and army are “so engrossed” with complaining about these policies. Unfortunately, this is not so. The great majority of our country support these policies by belief or by silence. A small minority voice their objections. I fear, though, that only a small minority are willing to listen. Others turn their heads or even ostracize, boycott or blacklist the complainers. This year many Israelis closed their subscriptions to the newspaper Haaretz because Gideon Levy has a column. Uri Avneri had a similar fate for most of his political career…… but he never stopped complaining.

Keep reading.
My best regards to all,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More on "Thought re: Netanyahu's Vision"

sent 23.June.2009

Dear Friends

A friend of mine forwarded my previous letter (Thoughts Re Netanyahu's Vision) to some Jewish friends here in Israel. My friend received one response which in so few words typifies so much of our government's policies towards the West Bank and towards Israeli Arabs, it also typifies the short-sighted "vision" of our Israeli Right.

This was the response:

"My vision for Israel is a country for the Jewish People...If you don't like it, LEAVE. This small piece of land cannot accommodate more than one people and the Israeli people are it! Arabs have their own countries and have overtaken much of Europe & Indonesia. They have their Mecca and we have our Wall...And never the twain shall meet! T---."

This was such a simple, pure, direct and honest response, that I felt obligated to comment on it. How well our problem is embodied in T's few short words. And so I wrote back to my friend:

Thanks for sending my letter onwards to others.

Yes, T's response is why Netanyahu is prime minister. T's answer is also a short-sighted one, perhaps given without much thought to what happens next. Its easy to say "If you don't like it, LEAVE", but what happens if that doesn't happen: They don't like it, but they don't leave. The 20% of Israeli citizens (2nd rate citizens at that) who are Arab have no intention of leaving Israel. The two and half million Palestinians in the West Bank also have no intention of leaving. Your friend T then has three alternative solutions because according to T the land "cannot accommodate more than one people":

1. Force them to leave…..mass deportation "somewhere", of up to four million Arabs. Quite a tragic scene, though perhaps T is not worried either of the moral implications or the consequences. If so, we don't belong to the same Jewish People.

2. Annexing the West bank as part of Israel and thereby making another 2.5 million Arabs citizens of Israel. Of course this would mean that we are on our way to be an eventual large Jewish minority within the country, a bi-national State….not really a Jewish State by any means. This is what the Palestinians would prefer. I don't think T would go for it.

3. Annexing (or not) the West Bank but keeping the Arab population without any rights of citizenship and penned up under a military clamp….Essentially similar to today's situation. In that case I refer you back to my previous letter which tries to show some of the consequences of this alternative.

All alternatives boil down to some concoction of one of these three. If T knows of some other alternative model, I would be anxious to learn of it. (Having Jordan take over the West Bank is also not an alternative. Both Jordan and the Palestinians reject any such possibility. Just as Egypt refused to take over Gaza once we were ready to give it up. Also "Leave everything to God" is not a viable alternative, I won't even begin to rebut that. Well, maybe I will say that God helps those who help themselves, and then only sometimes. )

But yes, there is one more possible alternative: Coming to some kind of mutual agreement about two States for two People. This too is not simple, and all of our moves via settlements in the West Bank are made to preempt such an alternative, but perhaps we have not quite yet passed the point of no return. Any agreement needs to be mutual, needs to refer to security matters, needs international participation and guarantees, needs to have stages for building trust, stages for reducing hatred, and probably a lot more.

There are many more moral and historical grounds that would classify T's response as lacking both knowledge and foresight, but the problem of the above alternatives will suffice for now. I assume Terry will probably choose alternative number 3 above. In that case, once more I refer you back to my previous letter (see below) and to where that alternative is taking us.

Still hoping for a brighter and more sensible tomorrow,
Be well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thoughts re: Netanyahu's Vision

sent 19.June.2009
Dear Friends,

After Prime Minister Netanyahu created a great media spin around his pronounced “vision” for the future of our country in response to President Obama’s prodding, I needed to share my worries with others. I am not a politician, nor do I organize demonstrations. But I know that I need to do something….and sharing my worries with others seems to be the minimum I can do. I know that some of my friends and acquaintances will find dire displeasure with a few of my remarks…….nevertheless………..

While many Israelis praised the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s supposed about-face and his readiness to foresee a situation where the State of Israel lives beside a Palestinian State, my own impression was that Netanyahu spoke his best to put a damper on any such possibility. This is coupled to so many of his government’s actions since taking office a few months ago and to the unfortunate path led by most Israeli governments since those six days in 1967.

Among other conditions, Netanyahu preconditioned his grudging acceptance of a Palestinian State with a specific Palestinian assertion of Israel as the Jewish State. Not an “Israeli State which is the homeland of the Jewish People”, but a “Jewish State” – and without a single word about the 20% (and rising) Arab Israeli population (which a goodly part of his government would like at least to disenfranchise and preferably to transfer over to the Palestinian areas). While Palestinian negotiators could swallow the reality of Israel being the “Homeland of the Jewish People”, they can not openly voice a terminology which places Israel as a state solely for the Jewish People……not with a 20% (and growing) Arab population, and a desire for at least a symbolic return of some Palestinians.

Among other conditions, Netanyahu preconditioned his grudging acceptance of a Palestinian State with Palestinian knowledge of an undivided Jerusalem. Eastern Jerusalem with all its Palestinian neighborhoods, all of the Old City and the Temple Mount, and a greatly expanded city boundary so as to reach important outlying Jewish settlements within the conquered West Bank: all this within the Jewish State. This is a vision Netanyahu knows will be unacceptable to the Palestinians and will help drag the “peace process” on and on while energy is diverted to expanding settlements and setting broader boundaries which will make negotiations even more unacceptable to the Palestinian negotiators.

Netanyahu made it clear that his government will not halt the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This of course emphasizes that our cardinal sin of expropriating Palestinian land under various guises of legal manipulation or direct illegal land-grabbing will continue with the full support of our government. Netanyahu emphasized this knowing full well that his words (and deeds) are a spade that buries any process towards mutual understanding.

It is difficult to know what to do when faced with the pessimistic prospect of my country eventually crossing the point of no return between a democratic State which is the homeland of the Jewish people, and its metamorphosis into a quasi-authoritarian, quasi-theocratic, neo-colonial State steered by a jingoistic nationalism, led by a pride lacking humility and fed by fear.

Once crossing the point of no return, our future becomes fairly clear. We shall hold on to the West Bank and continue expanding our inhabited real-estate in the area. The Palestinians will continue to live without equal rights (or rights at all) in a territory policed by military rule. Within the Middle East we will remain a pariah whose moral and physical strength will be guided by the sword, a sword that will gradually weaken relative to the military abilities of our neighbors, a sword which will not sit favorably with the nations of the world on any continent. We will have wars. We will not always win. In the future, Jews in the Diaspora will write heroic stories about the rise and fall of the Third Jewish Commonwealth.

Our lust for real-estate in the West Bank will also continue to undermine our trust in the Arab citizens within Israel. We will continue discriminating policies which will ensure the righteousness of our mistrust. We will then at long last face our First Israeli-Arab Intifada. We will kill many while restoring order, thereby ensuring the Second Israeli-Arab Intifada, and the Third………and perhaps this will even happen during one of those wars which needed winning in order to ensure the continued existence of the Third Jewish Commonwealth and our precious God-given real-estate in the West Bank.

My Prime Minister offered all the reasons why all of Greater Israel is ours and ours alone. Under dire pressure he conceded the possibility of a Palestinian state. But, while insisting that negotiations with the Palestinians be with no preconditions or previous understandings, he firmly stated a heavy variety of preconditions for any possibility of a Palestinian State…..conditions making it ludicrous to begin mutual talks, and meant to perpetuate the status quo.

My Prime Minister could have offered an extended hand towards a “Sulcha” with our Palestinian neighbors. My Prime Minister could have conceded that not only the Jewish people have suffered. He could have delivered words of empathy to the suffering of the Palestinians over the last 60 years. He could have even conceded that other peoples had managed to root themselves in our land at various times during our two thousand years of exile. He should have hinted that our national aspirations came into inevitable conflict with other national aspirations which were already also evident at the very beginning of the 20th century. He could have conceded to all of that without giving up an inch of ground from our Jewish-Zionist legacy. He could have conceded to all of that as an introduction to our understanding that the conflict also resulted in a tragic calamity to the Arab people rooted in the ancient land of Israel. He could have conceded to all of that as an introduction to our welcoming the end of the conflict by the creation of a Palestinian State living peacefully side by side an Israeli one.

But he didn’t.

Once more he disregarded the opportunity of taking the initiative in the struggle for peace. For my Prime Minister the struggle for peace is worthwhile only if it involves no risk. It is therefore not worthwhile.

If we are ever “forced” into an era of “peace” by outside pressure, it will probably be a short respite not lacking in a continuation of hate and mistrust, for it will not have the element of “Sulcha” and the affirmation of the other’s legacy – two ingredients we ordinary Israelis refuse to initiate. My prime minister is just an ordinary Israeli. Evidently, nothing more.

With sincere wishes for a better tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mail from People who Disagree

Sent 28.April.2009

Of course, I get mail from people who disagree with me. This is not surprising, being, it seems, most of world Jewery supports whatever our Government in Israel claims is right. I received such an example which perhaps stuffs into one package so much of the disagreement. Here it is:

I appreciate your viewpoint.....and frankly I prefer not to get started on my usual diatribe; however I take the conservative side when it comes to Jews anywhere, since, as a minority they have been slaughtered and plundered in whatever country and era in which they lived. Muslims, because of their culture bow only to strength, as many Muslim radicals are still living in the 14th century. Rightly or wrongly, I believe the Jews should grab, by force if necessary every piece of land they can for now, and maybe down the road use some of it as a bargaining chip. It is naive to think of peace and doing the right thing and morality in Israel when you have Hamas and Hezbollah still talking about Israel's destruction. Even if you get these two terrorist groups to at least temporarily recognize Israel, other hostile nations in the Arab world will rise up to cause trouble. Why do you think no Arab country has come to the plate to take in all the Palestinian refugees that were living in tents??? They were left as a pretext for getting world sympathy and giving Israel trouble. You might note that Syria, perhaps with the help of Iran has delivered scud missiles to Hezbollah, capable now of reaching any Israeli city.

Throughout history its always been the Jews and Israel that had to give up something, whether it was during the Roman empire, in England during the middle ages, in Spain in 1492 during the great expulsion, during the Ottoman empire , in the pogroms, or in Hitler's times. It happened because Jews just wanted to look away and say "this won't happen to us" or we are afraid of the authorities, or we are tired and can't fight against the entrenched authority. I believe in the slogan "never again" in a variety of ways, and if Jews have the upper hand they should use it to whatever advantage they can, including the seizing and occupation of all property gained in the wars brought to them by the Arabs. This includes all of Jerusalem if necessary and damn public opinion, as few people give a damn about Jews, except Jews.

I understand where you are coming from. You see no end to the conflict and see a two state solution as one of the few paths for Israel. What I'm saying must sound like heresy, but Muslims in the Middle East, whether they are Palestinians or Iraqi thugs that plundered my extended family, are basically the same, and Jews "making nice" will not change their stripes, at least not now. Yes some Muslim olive groves will be sacrificed, just like my uncle's bank, date groves, two houses and acres of valuable property in Baghdad. So Jews in Israel must "grab" what they can now, entrench their position, and yes for once thumb their nose to the world. Arafat had a chance for peace during the Clinton administration and disabused the process, after he was given almost everything he supposedly wanted. How can you trust the process???--so my friend I think its time for Arab sacrifice at the edge of the Jewish sword for a change--its time for some Muslim skin in the game at the table of negotiation. What have they contributed to the process???? Have you forgotten what happened in Gaza, when Israel went away and left the Arabs economic opportunities, which the Arabs promptly destroyed(hothouses) By the way, nowhere in any Muslim holy books or text is, Jerusalem mentioned as a capital or holy city, but mentioned over and over in Jewish texts as their biblical capital. Before 1948 there was no such thing as Palestinians, an invented minority to aggravate Jews and sway the U.N.

Finally if the Muslims want that part of Jerusalem housing the Al Aqsa Mosque, I suggest we tell them OK, when they are able to rebuild all the Synagogues destroyed or plundered over the last 80 years in the 15 or so Arab countries. that Jews lived for centuries. Israel has been and will continue to live in a dangerous neighborhood no matter how much they give up, until Arabs give up their old habits. C----
Here was my very partial response:

It is difficult to relate reasonably to an emotional approach placing us as the victims of history and thereby giving us permission “rightly or wrongly” to “grab, by force if necessary every piece of land……”.

It is likewise difficult to convince someone who is so close to the traumatic experience of those “thugs that plundered my extended family”, of anything other than: plunder them back. A more formidable example would also be our Holocaust victims who watched how we in Israel entered into diplomatic, financial and social relationships with our previous exterminator. Many of them, still today, are deeply wounded by Israel’s approach to Germany.

I will nevertheless put to question some of the historical usage in the above non-“usual diatribe”, being history is used so profusely throughout the diatribe.

The use of historical memory to apologize for or excuse present day actions is understandable and important so long as we also accept the limitations of “history” as a tool. History has not always been the best instructor, and regardless of a well researched past, it allows for different people to recognize similar events or processes in totally divergent ways and to grasp from them totally different lessons. History also allows each person to pick and choose that which serves his purpose, while leaving out (or not willing to recognize) portions of history which interfere with his argument. History also allows us all to misuse it by quoting things we think we know, but have not really researched or learned. This can also bring to a mixture of fact and fiction which remain ingrained in personal or national myths.

Unfortunately, the letter you sent not void of such historical omissions and myths. Perhaps a few examples would help elucidate some of the limitations and misuses of history, which in turn cast a shadow on the logic of a letter filled with such omissions and myths.

Our Jewish history has been used to idealize the revolt against the Romans in 70 C.E. and Bar-Kochba’s revolt some 50 years later. Your friend’s letter bemoans that even then it was we who “had to give up something”. And “It happened because Jews just wanted to look away and say "this won't happen to us" or we are afraid of the authorities, or we are tired and can't fight against the entrenched authority”. Look away? Afraid? Tired? Can’t fight? …….history has taught us that evidently we fought quite well, as the extremist factions led the way in the certainty “that God is with us” (something like today?). And though Rabi Akiva thought that Bar-Kochba is the Messiah, the Talmud also called him a false messiah who brought doom on our people. As a matter of fact there is good historical basis to conjecture that if not for these two revolts led by our Jewish extremist factions, we Jews would have continued to be the Israeli nation without going through 1800 years of galut.

The letter continues to mention our fate in England, Spain, the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe’s pogroms….and actually has an audacity to blame those Jews, as “it happened because Jews just wanted to look away…..”, etc., etc. I guess it does take a bit of our Jewish Chutzpa to compare our ability as a nation with an army and an armed citizenry deciding our own moves, to those ancestors of ours who were literally at the mercy of others.

( look away? Can’t fight? Allow me one personal interjection here. When my great-uncle and his friends stood on a bridge leading to the Jewish quarter of Kishinev (1905), and held off the murderous ruffians for more than a half hour with wooden poles in their hands, in a pogrom that had full support of all authorities, they would be sorely injured to hear that they looked away and wouldn’t fight. )

In truth we Jews justifiably create our national myths and ethos, and so do the Arabs. At times there may be historical disputes regarding the roots of one or another national icon. But our writer gently implies that Jerusalem was actually not so important in Arab/Moslem history. This is an implication that deviates from historical disputes. It rather illustrates a type of self-interest-amnesia syndrome, for I am sure the writer has known that already a thousand years ago the Moslems fought a 200 year war against Christian Europe about the fate of the Holy Land with Jerusalem as the central issue.

Politics and Politicians create many myths in order to support their cause. We Israelis are no less subordinate to such manipulation than other countries. Sometimes the deceptions carry on. The writer of the non-“usual diatribe” has fully swallowed the myth that “no Arab country has come to the plate to take in all the Palestinian refugees……”. Actually, About 55% of refugees who fled or were evicted ended up in Jordanian territory (most of them in the West Bank which was annexed to Jordan). Jordan gave them full citizenship and was willing to accept into her territory Palestinians who ended up in other Arab countries. Of those in other countries, most did not take up the offer. They wanted back to their homes in Israel not by going to Jordan. It should also be noted that only a minority of Palestinians remained in refugee camps during the first 19 years of their “exile” in any of the Arab countries. After that, for the last 42 years most of the refugee camps have been under Israeli rule. Of course, less was done in 42 years by Israel to abolish the refugee camps than by Jordan (the poorest Arab country in our area) during its 19 years. So much for another misuse of historical data by your writer.

I can account for additional misuses of history in your writers letter, but these examples are enough, for evidently history is not really the crux of his outlook on the alternatives within our Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If I overlook the questionable inclination to depend so heavily on the abuse of historical data, I find the writer simply saying:

We have been victims for so long…..and the Arab world around us will remain our enemy under all circumstances…….therefore:
“It is naive to think of peace and doing the right thing and morality in Israel……Rightly or wrongly….the Jews should grab, by force if necessary every piece of land they can…….If Jews have the upper hand they should use it to whatever advantage they can, including the seizing and occupation of all property gained in the wars…..and damn public opinion.”
I was relieved that the writer admitted “Rightly or wrongly”, that he may be wrong but would still do as he writes. “doing the right thing and morality” just isn’t for us. We need to “grab…seize…and gain” whatever we can. “And damn public opinion”. Actually: and damn what is right and moral.

I am unable to argue with that approach. It belongs to an emotionalism which is non-arguable. Some take that approach out of a desire for vengeance (non-arguable); Some out of a certainty that God is leading us (non-arguable); Some out of the pleasure of having the power. In all instances, it is the road which eventually leads to the destruction of the Third Jewish Commonwealth, as it did to the second and perhaps the first. But most of all it is not the kind of Jewish nation that I would like to see. It is always upsetting for me to see that our own Jewish suffering has taught some of us not to worry about making others suffer; that our need to remain strong and powerful in a hostile world has taught some of us that we too should be hostile towards others. Morality is dead. Hail modern Judaism ??

Monday, January 26, 2009

Myths and Facts - a Quickie

sent 26.Jan.2009
Dear friends,

In an ongoing e-mail chat about the war in Gaza and our Palestinian "problem" in general, a friend wrote me the following comments. My response follows these comments, and once more I thought you may be interested. (By the way, tell me if you're weary of all this and I'll leave you in peace.) So here it is:

Dear Aaron
I do not consider myself a warmonger- I wish for peace as much as anyone, especially considering my grandchildren in Israel. However no one threw the Arabs out of Israel in 1947- their leaders told them to flee. We did not hold them in refugee camps, their fellow Arabs did that. After three or four generations, how can they still be refugees? My grandparents came from Europe after WWI; does that make me a refugee in the United States?......................
My response:

Dear ………..,
I know we are on the same side and I thank you for your response. Nevertheless, I think some of your assertions need to be explored.

There are things our madrichim didn’t know to pass on to us during our years in the Youth Movement. The rebirth of our Nation in Israel is a monumental accomplishment and worth our being proud of. But as often happens with monumental things, it has dragged along with it a number of myths and half-myths. Your categorical belief that “no one threw the Arabs out of Israel in 1947- their leaders told them to flee” is evidently one of the half-myths we grew up with. The facts are evidently somewhat more complicated. For example, many villages fled after the word spread of the slaughter at Dir-Yassin. Of course, we have claimed in the past that either this never really happened or it was a totally isolated incident. So here is a short story:

A couple of months ago I tagged along with one of my sons who was looking for a home in Pardes Chana. He found an old house that had been built some 60 years ago. He invited a local building engineer to check the state of the house. The engineer was about 85 years old and knew how every single house in the area had been built and its condition today. By and by we were talking and he asked me where I live. I told him Gesher Haziv in the Western Galil. He became ecstatic and blurted away…”that’s where I fought throughout the War of Independence..” and continued telling me of his exploits, including “and we kicked out as many Arabs as we could from the area. It’s a shame we didn’t get to kick out more.” This, too, was a totally isolated incident, but evidently there were a few more totally isolated incidents. Israeli historians are learning more and more about totally isolated incidents. Today we tend not to claim absolute purity. Wars are evidently more complicated than that. Even justifiable or unavoidable ones.

We learned, as you wrote, that “their leaders told them to flee.”, and with that statement we thrust the entire blame for the Arab exit on everyone else but us. Aside from today’s knowledge that we also had some affect on the fleeing (some shared blame? See above), we overlook another aspect to the above statement: their leaders warned all noncombatants (men, women and children) to get out of the combat zone (until they finish driving out the Jews). How awful of them to clear the field of non-combatants !! Then again…while thinking of our latest “victory” in Gaza, I sorely wish we too had found some way to get the noncombatants out of the combat zone. Our conscience and our reputation would be less tarnished. (We had the ability to do so, but that would have taken some social planning and not only military planning.) Too late. No, don’t get me wrong. I’m not absolving the Arab leadership. Most of all, ever since 1948 they’ve been using the Palestinian refugees, and the Palestinian “problem” as political tools, without allowing any real integration into the countries of their new residence. I’m only commenting that we may be fairly pure, but not altogether pure. Neither then nor now. Life is evidently not as simple as we’d like it to be.

And lastly (for now, anyways), I must comment on a most questionable assertion of yours: “We did not hold them in refugee camps, their fellow Arabs did that.” For the first 19 years after the war of Independence that assertion had some substance. But for the last 41 years the refugee camps in the occupied territories have been completely under our Israeli rule. After 41 years they are still wholly recognizable as refugee camps. You ask “After three or four generations, how can they still be refugees?”. Well, let’s put it this way: had we been left to remain in the various refugee camps we were herded into after the Second World War (e.g. Cyprus, Greece) with a bureaucracy of permits and a tight reign of Military control over our camps, we too would still today be refugees.

There is more, but I'm trying to be brief. It may seem that I’ve become a voice for the Palestinian “side”. Not at all so. I remain a full-fledged Zionist who is still hopeful for “Ki meTziyon Tetze Torah” and “Or Lagoyim”. But I have learned that in order to get there we need to be somewhat more aware of our own flaws and also a lot more understanding of what we see as our adversary’s flaws.

My warm wishes, knowing that we are still essentially on the same team,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Troubled Friends in the Galilee

Sent 24.Jan.2009
To my friends and any who are still reading about reactions to our war in Gaza,

This past week I was involved with organizing a meeting of Jews and Arabs in our part of the western Galil. We are a group of unrelated Jews in our area of the western Galil with an Arab artists group based in the town of Kfar Yasif, 20 minute drive from Gesher Haziv. We are attempting to initiate programs which reach out to larger sectors of our communities in the hope of creating greater understanding between Arabs and Jews in the Galil.

Our previous meeting had been over a month ago. Meanwhile, 1200 bodies were being buried in Gaza. Last week’s gathering had to be called off because most of the Arab participants said they would not come as a result of the war. Instead we called for a small gathering of our steering group. We met in the community center of Kfar Yasif, 8 of us, Arabs and Jews, to discuss how we can overcome the events of the moment and continue our efforts. One of the Arab participants was a young artist who came to the meeting in order to represent many who were against coming. When he was born his father was hoping for peace and serenity with his relatively new Jewish neighbors in the Galil and therefore named him Saalem.

Saalem spoke at this meeting, and I am trying here to bring you a transcription of what he said. True, I and others weren’t ready to accept all his conclusions, and we had things to say to him as well. But it is also so important for us to hear him out and understand its implications. The results of Gaza are not only in our ability to earn a period of no rockets in the south, and not only about the repercussions in the world media. The results also affect our neighbors who are Arab Israeli citizens.

Here is my attempt at transcribing what Saalem said:

“At this moment in time I have no desire to meet with you and your Jewish friends. Your people have just killed so many men, women and children who are my Palestinian Arab brethren. I and my friends are still licking our wounds and our anger and our despair. I have come here this evening unwillingly, only to tell you these things so that you are not left with the illusion that there is now still an ability for joint communication and dialogue between us.

You Jews come here for dialogue in order to create a semblance of co-existence between us. I’m not looking to make friends. I’m looking for equality. I’m looking for you to know that this land is my land, my father’s and my grandfather’s and his grandfather’s. You have made me a low-class citizen in my land, the land you took from me.

Though I know I cannot roll-back history, I am angered at your not recognizing my history. In school and on my own I’ve studied your history and your suffering over the centuries. I visited the remains of the concentration camps in Europe. I’ve studied your Bible and your literature. But you….you turn your faces away and remain unaware of our Nakba, our disaster, as our land was torn away from us. You live in towns and villages that sit upon the ruins of our villages, and are unaware. Your schools don’t teach our history. You resent any mention of what we have lost. You resent any mention of our rights to our land.

In your eyes we are sub-human. 13 Israeli Arabs were shot and killed by the police during the demonstrations of October 2000. True, the demonstrations were not quiet ones. They were a result of pent-up anger and frustration at our treatment as sub-citizens in our own land. Violent demonstrations by criminal settlers in the West-Bank have never been treated by killing of Jews. But when we demonstrated, you shot and killed 13 of us. It is with that same regard to our sub-status that you saw no wrong in killing so many hundreds of innocent men, women and children in the war against the Hamas in Gaza. You would not have done the same if there were Jews living in the homes which you bombed and destroyed.

I am an artist, and together with other artists in our group I’ll continue having joint art exhibits here in our town with other Jewish artists. But I and most of my friends in this group cannot supply your need to show how we can co-exist while we moan for the loss of so many lives and continue to be a sub-status in our own land.”

That's it. His words were much more compelling than I could transcribe from memory, but I thought you may be interested in reading this. Our dialogue with Saalem was much longer and I think we still have common ground for joint work with Saalem and his friends, but both we and he have an uphill struggle which has now been made more difficult and complicated.

With a deep (but troubled) hope for the future,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mutual Myopia

sent 19.Jan.2009
In response to an important article in Haaretz by Amira Hass asserting that the Qassam rockets coming from Gaza are one of the results of a long chain of historical traumas suffered by the Palestinians from before and since the creation of Israel, a friend of mine reacted with a totally netgative declaration: MYOPIA !!

I commented on that declaration:

Dear -----,
I believe that "myopia" is (aside from its medical meaning) a lack of foresight or discernment, a narrow view of something. It is definitely a term appropriate to the present situation and indeed to the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Palestinians suffer from acute myopia as well as most of us Jews and Israelis.

I think we'll never be able to close the myopia gap between us without making a good deal of effort to understand the other side. We don’t need to completely agree with the other side, but a certain sense of understanding is essential. I think we would be surprised how a sense of understanding helps close the gap (compromise?) even when there is still no real agreement as to facts and causes.

Myopia needs to be treated on both sides of a fence. Probably treatment on one side is also contagious to the other side in some small way. At any rate, we have the privilege of trying to treat our own biased Jewish and Israeli myopia (though we have a right to be biased). Hopefully it may even have some kind of contagious effect on our neighbors. In any case, it would influence the things we do and say.

Best wishes

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Our Attack of Gaza

Sent 17.Jan.2009
The beginning of 2009 saw us engaged in an all out attack on Gaza as a response to years of continued shelling of Israeli towns, and a continuation of those same rockets after clearing Gaza of both Jewish settlements and army occupation.

An activist involved with the Palestinian plight wrote to me the following words:

"I think that Israel pushed Hamas into pushing Israel into attacking Gaza (siege,targeted assassinations of political as well as military leaders, firing on civilians....)...I agree it is very sad. "

I need to question your seemingly one-sided support of the Hamas predicament in the unfortunate fighting that is taking too many lives this month. I assume that all of what I write here is known to you, yet perhaps our interpretations are somewhat different. Then again, my comments may be too lengthy, repetitive and boring. I send them anyways, out of a truly great respect for your opinion and for what I know about your past involvement.

First let me qualify my own credentials. In the local parlance of political directions I am neither a rightist nor a centrist in the Israeli scene. I am probably considered by my Israeli friends as somewhat left of the leftists. This is (among other things which I will not itemize) because I have also spent many days during each of the last few years going into the West-Bank in order to help protect local farmers near Shchem from the criminal harassment of Jewish settlers. Unfortunately, very few Israeli “leftists” are there to join me (as you probably also well know from your own past experiences).

I must also qualify my starting point in any evaluation today of our Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have always contended that our original sin as a nation has been to allow Jewish settlers the “invasion” of occupied territories after our defense in the War of ‘67. This is an important qualification being that others around the world consider our original sin to be the creation of the State of Israel. There is much to be said about this anti-Zionist contention, and it has a great relevance in any discussion of our legitimate or illegitimate right to defend our safety in Israel. But I leave that discussion aside, and will for now comment on the present situation via my left of leftist Zionist viewpoint – one that rejoices in our ability to recreate our Statehood, while bemoaning our mistakes and crying at our behavior towards “others”.

It may well be (as I so think) that we share a good amount of responsibility for the rise of militant Moslem fundamentalism (e.g. Hamas) in the occupied territories. I write only “share” because the tsunami of militant Moslem fundamentalism is rooted and spread by much wider causes than us. I also have little doubt that the local situation would be vastly different had we not allowed the Jewish settlement of the West-Bank and Gaza (and eastern Jerusalem as well); or had we long ago pulled our settlers out, as we did much too late in Gaza; or had we not purposely worked to destroy the PLO government under Arafat; or a whole lot of other “or”s that we could have done or not done but did or didn’t. But my inclination is to support what I think we can and should do (or not do) today – at this juncture of history, which already incorporates all that happened till now and poses the present situation. Unfortunately, what could or should have been done yesterday is not always viable today.

This brings us to the year 2005, to the point at which even a goodly part of a right-wing government arrived at a (sadly temporary) conclusion that a two-state solution is the only viable solution, and that we will need to leave Gaza and slowly leave almost all of the West-bank along with a goodly amount of our Jewish settlers. The political right-wing split. A generally right-wing government took us out of Gaza and stated openly to our Israeli public that the next steps will be in the West-Bank. The Israeli public (mostly moderate right wing), tired of terrorist attacks and internal arguments, was “sort of” willing to try out this leftist approach to the Palestinians. This did not happen easily. But the process actually began (to my infinite dismay).

Unfortunately (for both us and the Palestinians) the Hamas kept us from reaching the point of no return. Seemingly, this was done deliberately, as the Hamas has been consistent in its militant opposition to a two-state solution. The Hamas is entirely honest publicly, perhaps to their credit, in still insisting on driving me and my family into the sea, and that the way to do it is by discouraging any progress towards a two-state solution.

As we left Gaza, there was no Israeli siege of the area. As soon as the Hamas gained full control of Gaza our towns began to feel a greater brunt of rockets than had been prior to our departure, with the open support and direction of the local government – Hamas.

(We live close to the Lebanese border and know full well the meaning of living for long periods (starting from 1969 and meanwhile still in 2006) under the threat of rockets. Shrapnel flew inches above our children’s heads as they slept in their bedroom. That was long ago. In 2006 my grandchildren learned the same threats. Friends of ours in the south have been learning about it for a number of years now.)

Since 2005, having torn settlers out of Gaza, having pulled out all army out of Gaza, having opened mediocre but regular passageways between Gaza and the West-Bank…..rockets have continued to land on Israeli towns and yishuvim. This had two major results:

1. The Israeli public decided that leaving any of the occupied territories bodes more harm than expected. It was no doubt the major cause for putting the process towards a two-state solution on a definite hold. On that issue the Hamas won hands down. We shall need another significant breakthrough from within (doubtful) or from without in order to once again prod our Israeli public to wean itself of the West-Bank and begin a process for a two-state solution.

2. Israel tried to convince the Hamas government to cease and desist by a variety of attempts: a siege by closing the passageways out of Gaza to Israel and the West-bank; pinpoint assassinations of militant leaders; sporadic short-term stoppage of basic needs via the passageways (such as fuel). Perhaps these are the attempts which led to the Hamas agreeing to halt rockets for a half year period, during which time sporadic rockets continued to be launched (while weapons continued to be stockpiled). The half year ended with a mighty daily barrage of rockets along with Hamas declarations that such days will continue.

True, some of us (including myself ) thought it would be good to parlay directly with the leadership of the Hamas in an attempt to reach a mutual modus vivendi eliminating the threat of rockets and Israeli retaliation. But even many local lefties (like me) knew that this was a very dangerous gamble. It had the great likelihood of undermining the much more moderate West-Bank Palestinian leadership who were willing to negotiate for a two-state solution, an anathema to the Gaza Hamas.

In 2008 it became evident to all that (other than parlaying with Hamas, a gamble that may bring the Hamas to power in the West-Bank) the only options were to continue living under constant Hamas rockets or some more drastic solution that would stop the rockets.

The international community could have aided us with a number of possible options. It did not. (example: the international regulators at the Rafiach passagepoint left as soon as they were told to by the Hamas.) Nor did the international community and the international aid movements see anything weird with demanding that we continue supplying needed electricity and fuel and banking services and such to the same governing body that inflicts the threat of rockets on our communities and openly declares its plans for our demise.

It has also been disappointing to hear many in the international aid associations tell us to respect the Hamas as the legitimately elected leaders of the Palestinians, while also telling us that the people of Gaza should not suffer for our conflict with Hamas. Unfortunately, We all suffer the mistakes of our leadership. If we recognize their mistakes, and if the leadership is really a legitimately elected one, than we are also able to change it. Otherwise, the leadership is either illegitimate or its actions are fully supported by the people.

Our own leadership decided that enough is enough and decided to tell the Hamas that we will no longer endure their militant provocations. We gave a full blown military response as a result of smaller military responses not bearing any results, knowing full well that this military response is a last resort within such a dense population wherein the Hamas stores its prowess. And war is war is war.

Here is where my doubts begin and where I begin feeling unsure of myself and insecure about our future.

Every new war of ours has resulted in fewer and fewer positive results as far as obtaining political objectives and safeguarding our future. This is not because of weakening military might. It seems to be because the nature of war has changed and the complexities of our situation are such that military might can also aggravate affairs more than before. If so, there would be no sense in lives lost in order to end up as before or possibly worse. In this case, Gaza, lives lost means also the hundreds of civilians who may or may not be active supporters of Hamas, but are certainly not at all involved in militant acts towards us.

In December of 2008 I asked myself what type of action I would support to counter the daily rockets. Small military actions have been useless. Closing passages has not stopped the rockets. Peace talks?? With whom?? Directives are coming from Syria, munitions from Iran. Trying to talk with Hamas in Gaza, while they still insist on our demise would only greatly weaken those Palestinians in the West-Bank who are still willing to talk with us. But full scale WAR??!! I could think of no recipe as an alternative to this right of self-defense.

I am greatly disturbed by some of our Israeli reactions during this military action, already applauding our “victory” with a great smile and happiness: “we really showed them, didn’t we?”. Our Talmud relates that while we Israelites rejoiced at seeing Pharaoh’s charioteers drown between two walls of sea, God moaned and rebuked “my creations are drowning at sea and you choose to rejoice?!” It is difficult to rejoice over a “win” that kills so many civilian men, women, and children in Gaza. Hopefully the price paid in lives will bring us closer to quieter times. This, though, is far from certain. Evidently some things need to be done simply for lack of more viable alternatives. (I don’t think I would have written that last sentence a few years ago.)

I fully understand Louie’s dilemma. Reality is seldom lacking in grey areas of uncertainty. But reality also demands answers to situations, and so many answers in our present world are not foolproof and perfect. But they are our starting point for getting from today to tomorrow.

My best to you. I still think we will find ourselves on the same side of many, many lines.