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 me......is 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 ??