Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Public Admission of Shame

I'm ashamed and I need to proclaim it publicly. I can't keep it to myself. That would shame me even more.

A sizable section of my people have embraced ethnic bigotry as a legitimate political expression. Intolerant racism has become a widely acceptable and recognized manifestation of being a Jewish Israeli.

Wait a minute……..I didn't mean ALL Jewish Israelis, but only many-many-many. But some time ago I thought we just had a very large fringe element of bigots………some time ago…..no longer. I need to accept the fact that today I am the fringe element and they are right smack in the center of our Jewish Israeli environment.

A while back, the chief rabbi of Tzfat (Safed) pronounced his religious edict forbidding the rental of apartments and homes to Arabs……to Israeli Arab citizens, of course. I thought of him as a racist fringe element within our rabbinical community. I assumed that even our clearly fundamentalist religious establishment would halt before stepping over that red line of outward public intolerance of our Arab citizens. I was naively wrong. Recently a group of forty rabbis, followed by a couple of hundred more rabbis, signed a similar religious edict forbidding the rental of homes and apartments to our Israeli Arab citizens. No, these are not a group of extremist "settler" rabbis from our illegal settlements in the conquered territories of the Palestinian West Bank. So many of them are from towns and cities throughout our country, within our green border.

Nahariya is the large neighboring town where I do a good bit of my shopping .The chief rabbi of Nahariya, salaried by the government with my taxes, is a signatory to the racist edict. One of my sons and his family live in the larger town of Pardes-Chana-Karkur. Last week (and the week before) he and his family were part of a small group demonstrating in front of the home of the chief rabbi of that town. He too had signed the racist edict. His salary is also paid for by our taxes. These rabbis, along with so many other rabbinical signatories, are mainstream rabbis within mainstream Israel.

In Bat-Yam, a large city bordering Tel-Aviv, there were large anti-Arab public demonstrations. (foreign migrants and asylum seekers were of course clumped together with Israeli Arabs in one solid package of intolerance.) The chief rabbi of Bat-Yam….you guessed it…. Had also been a signatory to the anti-Arab edict. Phrases both spoken (furiously yelled, actually) and on posters started from the "mild" ones admonishing "NO RENTALS TO ARABS", upgraded themselves to "KEEP AWAY FROM OUR WOMEN", and ended up with the now familiar reverberating chants of "KILL THE ARABS". Any such demonstration by Arabs would no doubt land a few loud voices in Jail for incitement. But we Jews are immune………probably because God, through the voices of so many of our rabbis, is on our side.

Yes, there were also rabbis who spoke against the discriminatory edict. Some refuted the attempt at basing the edict on our religious Jewish Halacha. But most were concerned that such pronouncements would not look good to the "Goyim" and would cause "Tzoress" (troubles) for Jews living in the diaspora. Perhaps I had hoped for a clear rabbinical response saying that such an edict is simply immoral-discriminatory-bigoted-undemocratic and unworthy of rabbis belonging to a people who had suffered much at the hands of such edicts. No such luck…….at best we received arguments regarding the interpretation of our Jewish Halacha (O.K., O.K., there were one or two exceptions!...nuu…..so what…..).

So I'm ashamed…….and also angry and revolted and frustrated and sad…..but, unfortunately, not too surprised. I've stopped counting or remembering the variety of passed and planned laws aimed at discriminating our Arab citizens……Laws brought up by members of our Knesset, and more importantly, by members of our government. I don't know why we should be surprised when crowds in our mainstream communities reflect our government's approach to minority rights and equality. Actually, our government seems to be a fairly accurate reflection of Main Street, Israel.

O.K., I'm not only concerned with bigotry and discrimination for their own sake. Nor am I worried only about how such behavior will eventually weaken our ability to stand up to the multiple dangers surrounding us while also crippling whatever remains of Western support for our security. Along with those concerns I'm also saddened at witnessing how our behavior is strangling the moral and ethical backbone of our Jewishness. I'm saddened at our inability to learn how to stay strong and secure in our own land without losing our ability to be a moral example to the world, a "light unto the nations", as both our ancient and modern prophets have expected of us. We are losing it……..losing it……….

Hold it! Can it be that a large vocal minority is simply drowning out a dissenting but more silent majority ?? That's what many people tell me. If so, things may not be as frustrating as they seem, and there is still work to be done……..mainly:
Even whisperrrrr…..
Just don't be silent !!
Don't hold it in your belly…..
Don't wait for someone else….

If you are ashamed, don't tell it to yourself, to your armchair in the parlor.
Tell it to many other people. Outside. And tell them why.

I'm ashamed, and I'm telling you about it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Does Living With Myths Help Get Us Through The Day ??

An acquaintance sent me the following comments after reading one or another of my blog-letters. I include those comments here with what is probably only a partial answer. A full one would evidently mean relating to every line in the comment.
This is the letter I received:

"Dear Aaron,
It would have been nice to have you and your friends around with their cameras when thousands of Jews were being evicted from their ancient homes for hundreds of years in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon following the creation of the State of Israel and the various Wars which followed.
Thank G-d Israel showed concern for her evicted brethren, in sharp contrast to all of the Arab states especially Jordan (which was legally created for the displaced Palestinians by the U.N.) who instead pursued a political agenda of purposefully not resettling these refugees, in order to maintain their own political stability and agitate for the destabilization and eventual destruction of Israel as the Jewish homeland. Ben Gurion in his speeches to the Arabs in 1947 pleaded with them not to flee but stay and build a new country together. Why aren't the free Israeli Arabs, who remained in Israel and are quite comfortable right now attending Hebrew Universities and being represented in Parliament with the full freedoms of all Israeli citizens, taking up this cause? Why should the Jews fight their opponent's battles in the name of democracy when there is a democratic mechanism in place for the Arabs to fight their own battles? How many Arabs are fighting for Jewish causes around the World? Or are they instead poisoning the mind and hearts of our young Jewish children with their plight, with the hope of eventually destroying the very people who will come to their aid? What are the Arab youth learning about Jews and how tolerant is their education?
Where were the international conscientious objectors when Jerusalem was being besieged and starved out by the Palestinians in 1947? Where were these international humanitarian objectors when Jews were being sent to the ovens? And most of all "where was the liberal atheistic Marxist Jewish establishment?" They were out to lunch, my dear Aaron.
How did every country on this Earth get their secure borders? By Wars and by legal agreements (called treaties) recognizing their rights to the land they won in these wars and their rights to exist within these boundaries. Why should Israel be any different and be exempt from these universal laws?
May Allah grant you a Shanna Tova.
Fran Zynstein Oz"

This is the responce I sent:

Dear Fran,

I am not exactly sure what item in any of my letters brought on your very emotional response, but I appreciate your deep concern for Israel and our Jewish people while being totally unconcerned with the plight of others, whether they are Palestinians in the West bank or Arab Israeli citizens. My very Jewish upbringing included the realization that centuries of suffering have taught us the need for a strong and secure home, but have also increased our human sensitivity to the plight of others. Your words lead me to question your agreement with the latter half of the previous sentence.

I am also concerned with the possibility that in your closing paragraph you glorify, or at least justify, war as a proper means of gaining "land they won in these wars". Obviously you must conclude that "winning" a war makes everything all right and just. I have always thought that war may be "right and just" as a last means of defending ourselves, rather than as a way of gaining possessions. But here too, our paths evidently don't converge.

Perhaps the most frustrating parts of your letter are the unfortunate misuses of historical occurrences to back up whatever you are trying to say to us. Every paragraph and at times every sentence contains historical inaccuracies, historical omissions, or just plain naïve ignorance of the facts on the ground.

I don't intend in one letter to point out all of the unfortunate historical inaccuracies in your letter. That would become a thesis. One or two examples will suffice in order to have you (maybe) do a bit more research in history rather than in myths. You write, for example:

"………in sharp contrast to all of the Arab states especially Jordan ( which was legally created for the displaced Palestinians by the U.N.) who instead pursued a political agenda of purposefully not resettling these refugees, in order to maintain their own political stabilty and agitate for the destabilization and eventual destruction of Israel as the Jewish homeland."
Jordan was created by England and the League of Nations in the early 1920's after the First World War in an attempt to keep a promise made during the war to part of the Hussein family's Bedouin people. Its creation had nothing to do with displaced Palestinians nor the United Nations. In 1948 the great majority of displaced Palestinians ended up in the West Bank and Jordan. Jordan was the only Arab country to give complete citizenship and equal rights to all Palestinians. Most Palestinians under Jordanian rule managed to leave the refugee camps. Jordan held the refugee camps for 19 years. Afterwards, we – Israel –have been holding the majority of all Palestinian refugee camps for 43 years. Much more was done to "replace the displaced" during the 19 years, than in the 43 years when they are our total responsibility. But let's go back to pre-1967…… While Syria was now actively aiding the fledgling Palestinian resistance movements, and Egypt was aiding them organizationally, Jordan was the one Arab country not interested in conquering back and creating a Palestinian State. It was the one country which tried (often with success) to tone down and stop incursions of terrorist activities from the West Bank into Israel. Its political agenda was to hold on to the West Bank as part of Jordan. To do so meant not fighting for a Palestinian State. Things didn't work out well. Jordan has greatly and often bemoaned being drawn into the war in 1967. Life and history are complicated and can be told from a number of angles. The story you chose to write, has no resemblance to history.

Your use of Ben-Gurion's call to the Arabs to stay (something specific to the conflict in Haifa) completely ignores the historical progression of our War of Independence. Some such calls could be found at the beginning of the war. Progress in the war, political and strategic realities, opportunities to create a new demography…. all resulted in a change of policies. No more such calls. Rather a change which encouraged the displacement or destruction of about 500 villages……some by fear, others by force and coercion. Perhaps it all needed to be done for our own preservation. Perhaps it was one of those unavoidable traumas of war. But that is what characterized the war so much more than your use of Ben-Gurion's early call. (By the way, Ben-Gurion was one of those "liberal atheistic Marxist Jewish establishment" who you so accuse of doing nothing for the Jewish people.

Your knowledge about the good life of the Israeli Arab and of his non-participation in the Palestinian struggle is beyond my desire to expand on in this letter. Evidently you have no knowledge whatsoever about the inequalities of second-class citizenship here in my country, nor about the active identification of Israeli Arabs as Palestinians, something all the more accentuated by second-class citizenship. You are also not the first to use the same excuses which I remember used by some in the U.S. regarding the black population during the 50's: "After all, they have it much better off than the blacks in Africa. If they don't like it, let them go back." Allow me to say that you have strayed from reality, though you have built a reality that helps you survive those grey areas in our national existence.

Your complete misuse of historical facts reminds me somewhat of those who refuse to recognize the historicity of the Holocaust because they have a different agenda in mind. This is normal in fundamentalists who have an agenda that reformats the truths of history and reality. It is doubtful whether we can use history to help solve today's conflicts. But it is almost certain that the misuse of yesterday's history is a sure hindrance to dealing today with those conflicts.

I am most surprised by your emotional outburst asking:

" and most of all where was the liberal atheistic Marxist Jewish establishment?"  ….."when Jews were being sent to the ovens"…or "when Jerusalem was being besieged and starved out by the Palestinians in 1947"…. "They were out to lunch, my dear Aron"....….
Well, my dear Fran, there weren't that many of them, and of those, many were actually here in the country doing their best to smuggle boatloads of Jews onto our shores, including my father, while the country you chose to live in was stubbornly turning away boats. (Nor do I remember many a Chana Senesh coming from America.) Oh, and by the way, during the siege of Jerusalem (which you ask about), many of them were the ones breaking the siege and bringing food and supplies. That's where "they were out to lunch, my dear" Fran. And of course another small but important historical inaccuracy of yours: the siege was in 1948, not 1947….. An important year to remember in our Jewish history. The country you chose to live in enforced a total embargo on supplies that would have helped raise that siege earlier, and openly encouraged other nations to do the same. Those "liberal atheistic Marxist Jews " were there also to evacuate the bulk of those non-liberal, non-atheistic, non-Zionist orthodox Jews who were trapped in the Old City. Of course, before doing all that, they spent a few decades at building settlements, smuggling in more Jews, and preparing for a Jewish State. And yes, every once in a while they also, as you said, had "lunch" . That's where many of them were, my dear Fran.

Of course, I was a bit taken aback with the tone of your letter…..to some extent accusing "me and my friends" of being negative to the security of our country. Well, while you are emotionally writing your words from afar, "I and my friends with our cameras" have actually gone through a few wars here, have withstood countless rains of katyushas together with our children and grandchildren, have been to funerals of those whom we dined with the day or the week before, and who weren't as lucky as we, and have remained the backbone of Jewish survival by continuing to build this State and working for what we still proudly call the Zionist Ideal.

Thank you for invoking Al-ah in your wishes.
May God, by any name, grant you too a Shana Tova.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My problems with Ella's First Grade

My grand-daughter Ella entered first grade this month. It was a big deal. 97 new first-graders entered our regional grade school. 43 are from our community. Ella's first grade class is filled by 32 new little students.

I have a few misgivings about all this. For one: a single teacher with a bunch of 32 juvenile munchkins….How does she handle so many? For another: how can those miniature minors sit for hours (with a few very short breaks), in those typical rows of classroom desks after just recently leaving a kindergarten where knowledge and mores were taught through play and fun (Ella can read and write) without desks facing that unexciting blackboard. Ella was bored during her first week. I heard that another little girl complained to her mother "My tush is round, not square". How clever. I am also concerned that we have no alternative schooling available in our area without spending lots of road-time getting our little ones back and forth. Anyways, if we had an alternative close by, it would probably cost something far beyond the reasonable abilities of Ella's parents (or grand-parental aid). So we rely on Ella's innate ability to hold her own, overcome boring obstacles, and somehow learn how to continue enjoying to learn.

We are slipping. Every study shows it. Every comparative testing by international standards shows it. Our Ministry of Education knows it. Our own eyes can see it. The People of the Book are slipping. The level of our children's education is falling behind, plummeting at a rapid pace. Need an example ? O.K…. Recently each of 97 countries sent a group of their brightest high-school math students to an international test of abilities. Israel ranked below the mid-range. Turkey and Iran were some of those 50 odd countries who ranked ahead of us. Ten and more years ago we were somewhere so very much higher. Every year has seen another slippage. Should I worry………..?

My grand-daughter Ella is in a regular, normal (perhaps even better than many other), State-sponsored, non-religious first grade. An interesting newspaper item caught my eye and informed me that Ella's type of State-sponsored first grade is now an Israeli minority. It seems that 52% of all Jewish first-graders entering our school system this year, are enrolled in ultra-orthodox or (State-sponsored) orthodox first-grade classes. This too is a percentage that has grown with each new Rosh-Hashana. Today's first grade is tomorrow's second grade and so forth up the educational ladder.

So, yes, I'm worried. My entire schooling in New York, Washington and Baltimore, till my high-school graduation, was spent in orthodox Yeshivot. Were I offered a second chance, I would probably choose to do so again. I remained a secular Jew, but not one ignorant of our religious, cultural and historical roots. Here in Israel, though, for so many years I am in total conflict with the character of our exclusively solitary and powerful orthodox-religious establishment. I worry about the direction our education will follow under the influence of our multi-faceted (ultra, part ultra, nationalist) orthodox infiltration.

The (religious) Chief Science Advisor in the Education Ministry is ambiguous regarding the creation of our universe and insists that (in non-religious classes, of course) we should give equal prominence to the scientific and the biblical theories of creation. The (religious) Pedagogic Administrator in the Ministry wants more "Jewish" studies at the expense of "unnecessary" studies of civics, good citizenship and the meaning of democracy (this, in our troubled country where 50% of high school students already think Arab citizens should have fewer rights). The same Pedagogic Administrator instructed a revision of history schoolbooks that mentioned the Palestinian "Nakba", for fear of damaging the student's patriotism to his country. (The same Pedagogic Administration rejected an 8th grade history book as being too difficult. The unfortunate book demanded of students to "think" rather than memorize. But perhaps there were other more legitimate reasons.) The orthodox education system for those 52% of first graders is already influenced by the fundamentalist visions of either the anti-Israeli-Zionism of the ultra-orthodox or the Messianic All-is-Mine Zionism of the nationalist orthodox. Our religious establishment could find no need of "defrocking" well connected community rabbis ("teachers!) who wrote and applauded a book containing legal orthodox justification for killing Gentile (especially Arab) children. After all, "Thou shalt not Murder !" pertains (according to them) only to the killing(murder) of Jews, while those Arab children may one day grow up to be enemies. Our religious establishment (for that matter, also our government) meekly rose to the issue only after a great public (mainly leftist) outcry forced them to relate. These are only some of those writings on the wall warning of the influence seeping into our system.

My grand-daughter Ella entered first grade this month. All the above worries me. I know.....on the one hand it's all about budgets which have other priorities (Well then, change priorities!), and on the other it's about a creaping fundemantalism which is certainly getting budgets (again, a matter of priorities).  About six years from now, the ninth and tenth of my grandchildren (twins) will be entering first grade. Will I still be worried, by then?.... Or will I, by then, be utterly frustrated with the falling level of education (through priorities), and also tormented by the demise(again, because of priorities) of Jewish traditional/liberal secularism within my grandchildren's State-sponsored educational system…??

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Boycotts are problematic

Ever since the Oslo agreements we had blamed the Palestinian Authority for not taking a firm stand against terrorism. After all, there are peaceful means to voice dissent and resistance to the occupation. Terrorism by small organized resistance groups or by individual frustration gave us the "legitimate" foundation for continuing a harsh occupation. Well, something happened. Arafat went away. Hamas got imprisoned mostly in Gaza, and the PA has been doing a pretty good job of cooperating in the battle against terrorist activities in the West Bank. (The latest Hamas attacks are in Israeli Army controlled areas, not in PA's police grounds.) Abbas's government has, for some years now, taken a strategic decision to fight the occupation through peaceful dissent and resistance.

The latest show of resistance came as the PA announced a boycott of goods produced by settlers in the occupied territories and a gradual stoppage of all Palestinian employment by Jewish settlements and businesses within the occupied territories………civil dissent and resistance at its purest…….hurt the occupation forces in our wallets, peacefully, where it really hurts. Well……not so peacefully. There are loud voices all around us, going all the way up to our Knesset and to ministers in our government, demanding to pronounce such a boycott as terrorist activity to be put down with brute force like any other terrorist activity. Wow…..I wonder what these strong voices do consider legitimate, peacefull, civil resistence? Nevertheless, these demanding voices, hysterical and angry as they sound, show how well peaceful resistance can replace the shedding of blood. I hope the boycott takes shape and is actually implemented across the board within the West Bank. Blessed are they who replace blood with Economics.

On my side of the Green Line, I readily join the boycott of goods produced by our Jewish settlers in the West Bank. I have a list, and though things aren't always clear-cut, I'll do my best to be aware and to boycott. But that's not the point. The point is that those same loud voices want also to criminalize me, to criminalize and legally punish any Israeli citizen who openly and politically boycotts goods coming from the West Bank. I know……it won't happen…….even if those voices have reached the very supportive ears and cravings of many Knesset members and ministers. After all, we are still a democratic country where peaceful political dissent is legitimate…………..I think………..??.......or what??

Monday, August 23, 2010

Comment on "The Attack on Advanced Zionism"

Efraim Perlmutter added a worthy comment to my blog title: Not "Post-Zionism", say "Advanced-Zionism" . I added a comment to his comment, and thought it appropriate to highlight both comments for anyone to read.
Efraim wrote:

In theory universities are supposed to be places of open debate and an interchange of ideas. When a faculty is all of one opinion, it is usually an indication that the place has become one of mutual reinforcement of the same ideas. This is not particularly unusual in universities where professors, being flawed human beings, have been known to prefer like-minded colleagues around them, which may make their professional experience much more self-satisfying but it does harm to the idea of the interchange of different ideas. It is probably not such a bad idea, in those cases where departments have become intellectually uniform, for a university administration to come along and stir the mix and it is most likely those with different ideas who will first notice the situation.

Efraim Perlmutter
August 22, 2010
I wrote back:

Thanks for your comments. There is much justification to what you write when observed through the eye of a monocle attempting to assess a particular occurrence within a limited range of view. The occurrence may or may not need adjustment, all according to the investigation. But when observing a much broader range of attacks on a wider spectrum of public life, it becomes clear that the motivation has moved over from the investigative to the political. Of course, there is nothing wrong with political motivation in and of itself. By the same token, my own political motivation is a clear abhorrence of a process that leads to a concerted attack on the openness of democratic principles and leads to a variety of legislative proposals that are meant to inhibit alternative political thought and action (in conjunction with legislative proposals of a prejudicial racial nature). This is a process that has increasingly exemplified our public and legislative life of this past year (with previous years being worthy preludes).


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Not "Post-Zionism", say "Advanced-Zionism"

As it turns out I am not an NGO nor am I a college professor. I have only rarely attended commemorations of the Nakba (What's that? Google it.), and there are no foreign money sources that help pay my bills at the end of the month. What a relief. Were I any one of those abominations, I would be in a mess of troubles. Why, you ask??.........because I'd be waiting for the sound of boots and a knock on my door.

As an Israeli Jew, and a Zionist too, I think we need to know more about the history and troubles of our area than our Zionist theology allowed us years ago. I think that in order to better understand ourselves we need also to understand our neighbors. Chronicles of a conflict are blurred when related only through one pair of eyes. National maturity brings with it the ability to investigate more closely the creation of national myths. Research and analysis into the annals of our past can help us better understand both the rights and the wrongs of our difficult climb to renewed nationhood, and perhaps even better help us adjust from the weariness and the necessities of the climb to the stability and strength of achievement. Research and analysis into our Zionist narrative strengthens for me the inescapable need of our people to have ventured on the road to national independence in the Land of Israel, and nowhere else. But it also enlightens me to the injuries and suffering of others along the way. Having reached my destination, research allows me to analyze and determine which of the injuries can I alleviate today, what can or cannot be redressed while continuing to develop my own national character. In the jargon of today's Israeli milieu, this research and analysis is often referred to as "Post-Zionism". I refer to it as "Advanced Zionism".

Proponents of "Advanced Zionism" are today under a massive attack by right wing organizations wedded to either "Messianic Zionism" or the more modest "All-Is-Mine Zionism", sometimes known by me as "Narcissistic Zionism".

NGOs who support causes championed by "Advanced Zionism" are under great public attack, with a smear campaign designed to portray them us unpatriotic traitors aiming knowingly for the destruction of Israel as the Jewish Homeland. Universities are being threatened by financial boycotts for harboring too many professors in social science departments with leanings towards "Advanced Zionism".

So what??.......there are always fringe groups, almost-fascist groups and wholly fascist groups who tend to be a royal pain to our national behind, but also tend to remain fringe groups. These are groups who don't debate an issue. They portray opponents as traitors, fifth-columnists, quislings and Judas's. So what?.........Well, today they are coming out of the fringes onto center-stage. They reach the ears and the power of Knesset members and Ministers within the government coalition. They have been instigators of proposed legislation in the Knesset to limit the foreign financial support of "leftist" NGO's. They have brought one University president to accede (unwillingly) to a demand to check the syllabi of his social science departments. They have been supported by the Minister of Education who announced his own investigation into the power of "Advanced Zionism" within Israeli education. This is all within a background of supported proposed legislation by coalition parties………from the illegality to commemorate the Nakba (which is when I will begin commemorating….), to the proposed loyalty oaths, to the proposed prison term for boycotting goods from the conquered territories, to more and more, and we're just beginning……………..beginning to set aside democratic principles of public protest and debate and progressing into the realm of a jingoistic/xenophobic nationalism planted firmly in the roots of "Messianic and Narcissistic Zionism". Woe to "Advanced Zionism"…… Vei-Is-Mir to Zionism, period.

As mentioned earlier, I am not an NGO nor am I a college professor. I have only rarely attended commemorations of the Nakba, and there are no foreign money sources that help pay my bills at the end of the month. What a relief. I show up at one place or another in the cause of "Advanced Zionism", talk a bit to people, write a few words read by the very few, and never get in the News. So I'm not worried. No one has come to knock on my door………yet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How I lost $1,000 in Sheich-Jerach

Every Friday this past year, a group of young and energetic activists have held a protest demonstration on the corner of a dismally rundown public garden and playground in the Sheich-Jerach neighborhood of EastJerusalem. The police don’t let the demonstrators approach the contested homes of evicted Arabs, and the public garden has become a weekly institution for protest. The trip from my northern haven is long, and I’ve never really been a sign-toting-yelling demonstrator. But Sheich-Jerach is different, somehow, and I come every so often.

But first a brief background. Why the protest? What’s it all about?

In 1948 Jews who were living in East Jerusalem fled westward as Arabs from West Jerusalem fled eastward. Arab homes in West Jerusalem were, in one way or another, legally occupied by Jews. Jewish homes in East Jerusalem were legally occupied by Arabs.

In 1967, as a result of the Six-Day-War, Israel occupied and then completely annexed East Jerusalem To West Jerusalem (including a many-fold area of villages around East Jerusalem), and thus to the State of Israel.

As a result of differing legal mechanisms used by Israel and Jordan to populate the deserted homes of those who fled, our legal minds decided that we (Israelis) have every right to repossess homes in East Jerusalem which belonged to Jews prior to 1948 by evicting Arab families living in those homes. Likewise our legal minds decided that Arabs from East Jerusalem who are now legal residents of Israel (albeit annexed against their will) cannot repossess homes they owned in West Jerusalem or any other part of Israel.

Sheich Jerach is a neighborhood of East Jerusalem where a number of Arab families have recently been evicted from their homes, and more families are in line for eviction. Of course, there is no compensation or alternative housing connected with the evictions……..only the legal decisions of our very legal minds which makes it all wonderfully legal.

Oh yes…….and who bought the rights for these homes in Sheich Jerach from the original Jewish owners of 62 years ago? Organizations of extreme right-wing Jewish settlers who openly claim their program of driving Arabs out of East Jerusalem and repopulating it with Jews……..because it is our God given command to do so. Amen. Of course, still, under no circumstance can a resident Israeli Palestinian from East Jerusalem repossess his home from West Jerusalem. Legal logic ??!!

War is awful. It uprooted and relocated both Arab and Jewish families. Both suffered and needed to start anew. War is miserably cruel. Coming 62 years later to repossess from only one side of the human trauma is unjust, unequal, and totally immoral. Leave people in their homes, or at least do an equal repossession for both sides. No….. please, stop this repossession and eviction bull—it, bury the past as best as possible and leave everyone in their homes. That’s what the protests and demonstrations in Sheich Jerach are all about. Actually, quite simple. (Well, not so simple. This is also part of the battle between those of us who want a mutual understanding between the State of Israel and a State of Palestine, and those who are insistent on our God-given rights to all of the Promised Land, come hell or high water, at least up to the dwindling waters of the Jordan.)

One Friday last month I came much too early for the protest. Instead I drove down to the lost homes of the evicted Arab families (police barricades hadn’t yet arrived). On the sidewalk beside their lost homes were sitting members of the evicted families. Also a few young “internationals” who came to hear their story.

A tour guide, representing the Jewish settlers, was standing outside the contested homes with an American couple who were interested in the story of Sheich Jerach for something they were doing. He was explaining to them in English how wonderful and justified is the mission of the settlers by taking over these homes. Needless to say, a fierce argument broke out between him and some members of the evicted Arab families. One or two of the young “internationals” joined in. eventually, so did I.

The settler’s representative used two (worn-out) arguments regarding the legality and the justification for taking over the homes of the Palestinian families:

1. International law allows us to repossess in East Jerusalem while not allowing Arabs to repossess in West Jerusalem.

2. There was no Palestinian People in 1948, and no mention of Palestinians as late as 1964. (It was here that he offered $1000 to anyone who could show a Palestinian People mentioned before 1964.)

The use of International Law by this guide was certainly intriguing if not so ironic. Aside from his utter misuse of the actual laws, it showed a magnificent use of our Jewish “chutzpa” while belonging to a community which has joyfully disregarded countless international laws, starting from the very formal annexation of East Jerusalem into the State of Israel, all the way to settling Israelis on private lands of conquered territories, and so many infringements in-between.

His second argument is where I decided to go home $1000 richer.

History is a problematic teacher. The rebirth of modern Jewish nationalism (called Zionism) and the advent of modern Arab (and specifically Palestinian) nationalism have completely dissimilar roots. Though both were nurtured by opportunities developed in the immediate years of pre-and-post World War 1, the forces driving them were totally different. Our Zionist nationalism was driven mainly by the dismally worsening plight of Eastern European Jewry during the later part of the 19th century. Pan-Arab nationalism began as a rebuke to the dying Ottoman Empire. It was then ripped apart by the Ottoman defeat of World War 1 and the forcible replacement of the Pan-Arab dream by the division of the empire into a number of national States via self-serving decisions made by England and France, then ratified by the League of Nations. Till then Palestine was a region, not a national locality, but already in 1920 the Arab Elite of Palestine had to decide between its previous dream of Pan-Arab nationalism, calling for a Greater Syria (encompassing the areas of today’s Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan), or acquiescing to the completely new national borders drawn up by Britain and France. An important section of the Palestinian elite decided in 1920 that the correct direction would be to work with the British mandate and thereby assert their right to Palestinian self-determination. This was their cross-over point between Pan-Arab nationalism and Palestinian nationalism. Vocal nationalism and greater public (Palestinian) support grew gradually from then, 1920, not 1964. From then on our “conflict” was one of two very differently managed national movements confronting their future.

I corrected our settler’s representative. Unfortunately, heated arguments (and some curses) ensued as a result between him and members of the evicted families and a couple of “internationals”. Our settler’s rep took his guests and drove off. It was then I remembered that he failed to award my answers with the promised $1000.

I sat on a small plastic stool next to the worn and torn old sofa where some members of the evicted Hanun family were sitting. Above our heads was a makeshift canopy that protected some of us from the hot sun. We talked. Others came. We talked some more. Soon the weekly Friday demonstration will begin in the public park, beyond the police barricades which had meanwhile sprung up on all sides of the disputed neighborhood.

(for a short related videoclip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y5Onwl4LvM  )

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two Fireflies Glowing in our Dark

This week I met Dahlia. Dahlia's job is very special. Her job has made Dahlia extra special.

In our complicated and oft-times messed-up world of conquerors and conquered, Israelis and Palestinians, we sometimes run into bright fireflies that glow in the dark . These are the fireflies who give me hope that a small crack can eventually bring down the wall of violent enmity between Israeli and Palestinian. Dahlia is one such firefly.

But first to another firefly. I had not seen Buma for a couple of years though we had kept contact by email. Buma is an outrageous zealot and a crackpot lunatic in the eyes of many Israelis. But to others (yes, me too) he is a mild-mannered, sloppily-dressed, blubbery teddy-bear of a Saint, an Angel, who shows the way to bring down that wall of enmity through small gentle cracks. I first met Buma a number of years back when I joined a small group of Israelis standing by olive growers of Kafr Salaam near Shchem (Nablus) , in defense against our Jewish settlers from Alon-Moreh and the violent young people from the nearby and totally illegal Skally Farm. I'm told Buma had been a fairly successful businessman. In 1995 his son was killed in Lebanon by a roadside mine. His life totally changed. His message to himself was "while I mourn my son, Arab and Palestinian neighbors are also mourning their sons". He became a peace activist. No, he's never raised a banner, nor does he much attend protest marches and gatherings. He doesn't quite talk politics, nor label himself a "leftist" (so what if he really is!). He's in the business of Israelis helping Palestinians. He mostly shuns bureaucracy and organizations, yet spends his time organizing small groups of Israelis to help defend Palestinian farmers; is in constant contact with police and army regarding complaints and permits; helps organize and bring Palestinian families through the bureaucracy and transport problems of getting to hospital treatments in Israel; runs around late at night to restaurants getting donations of food for the families staying with their children in the hospitals; and so many other ongoing projects. He also manages to get involved with some special projects, like a caravan of food and clothing to children and families in Gaza immediately after their many homes were demolished by us in our last large excursion there…..all thru negotiation for permits and coordination with our army and bureaucracy.

(Wait, this will all tie into Dahlia, the working firefly….)
This summer Buma organized weekly fun-trips for Palestinian children hospitalized in Israel. Along with their parents, they boarded buses taking them to a variety of places where Buma was able to get their visits subsidized or donated…..Our "Safari" zoo in Ramat Gan, bowling (!!) in Holon, a children's theater group in Jaffa, a beach-front in Tel-Aviv. At the Safari I drove something like a long golf-cart with a bunch of children who had never seen an elephant or monkey. So many of the children, and even some of their parents had never seen the waters of the Mediterranean. If we don't lower the wall of enmity, it'll be another long time before they see such prosaic wonders again.

Most of us Israelis don't realize the amount of energy and bureaucracy involved in getting Palestinian children and their accompanying parent to hospitals in Israel: bureaucracy, persuasion, permits, contact with hospital, transportation inside the West Bank, roadblocks, suspicious soldiers and their officers, more roadblocks, finding Israeli volunteers to bring children and parents from the West Bank border roadblock to the Hospital in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv or Haifa, and back.

Buma is immersed in the problems of getting permits and finding Israeli volunteers for transport to and from the hospitals (along with a group of other unrelenting volunteers). Last year , about 140,000 permits brought Palestinians from the West Bank into Israeli hospitals for daily or long-term treatments. The Israeli bureaucracy allocates only one job placement, i.e. one person, to authorize permits to West Bank patients. That person evidently had to investigate, o.k. doctor reports, sign, and end up giving out over 500 permits for each working day of the year. That person has greatly expanded the number of permits given each year.

That person is Dahlia. I met her last Friday. She came along with a busload of Palestinian children (with parents) from the cancer ward at Haddassa hospital in Jerusalem to the "Safari" zoo in Ramat Gan and from there to other new adventures with the children. She came along as a volunteer with those who received permits through her. She and five others of us came as drivers of elongated golf-carts, slowly winding our way through the zoo with a bunch of exited, ecstatic and overjoyed children and parents sitting behind us. This is part of what Dahlia does on those off-days when she's not giving out permits. From Buma I learn that often he or other drivers (bringing children from the West Bank to hospitals) get hassled at roadblocks for taking Palestinians "over the border". A phone call to Dahlia has her immediately online with soldier or officer at the roadblock, being listened to and gates are opened.

Buma and Dahlia are two small fireflies glowing in our dark and complicated situation.. I repeat: These are the fireflies who give me hope that a small crack can eventually bring down the wall of violent enmity between Israeli and Palestinian. I have faith in small cracks within unstable walls. But, as I've written before: Our job is not to measure the crack, but to be in it.

Netanyahu's Delay Tactics for Direct Talks

Response to an American Jewish Zionist friend who truly cares:

The Issue: Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

My friend S. wrote me:

“……… I maintain a harder position on the interaction between the government of Israel and the PA. I don't think Israel should make any concessions, not an inch of anything, outside the framework of direct negotiations. I think Barak (Obama not Ehud) is playing into Abu Mazen's hands by negotiating for him. Abu Mazen has just today said he sees no point in direct negotiations at this time…….. I don't believe that Netanyahu should take one step outside the framework of direct negotiations. It is clear from outcomes of past negoiations that something must also change about the conditions of those negotiations so that they are more fruitful, but my feeling is that there must be direct negotiations. So much for my two agorot.”

and my rejoinder:

Dear S.,

I understand you…and what can I say?......you are in the company of a great many who have gotten hooked onto the seemingly simple logic of our government’s stand regarding direct talks: “We want direct talks, they don’t”. Few are involved enough to look at the small print. We are in the world of politics. Abu Mazan has a number of good reasons to hesitate before getting involved with direct talks at the moment. My own estimate is that he’s making a great mistake and should get his feet wet regardless of how deep the water may be. But truth be told, the water is pretty deep and awfully murky. Netanyahu refuses to begin talks where other direct talks had ended (mainly with Barak, Clinton, or Olmert). He gives no indication regarding what he will be willing to offer. He Insists that Abu Mazan come with no preconditions, while constantly telling both the media and his coalition that he has preconditions of his own. Throughout this year of no real talks Netanyahu was handed at least two peace initiative proposals, the older Pan-Arab Saudi Arabian one, and a detailed local one by the Palestinian Authority. Both use the Clinton/Barak/Olmert plans as a basis. Both say that details are negotiable. Both accept that their plans are just a starting point for talks. Our government refuses to discuss the possibility of even discussing either plan. We give no indication of what we are willing to bring to the table of direct talks.

And from here we get to Netanyahu’s real attempt in direct talks: stall, stall, stall…..until A Two State agreement will no longer be viable. Abu Mazan is weary of falling into a well orchestrated stall tactic. Netanyahu, while insisting that any talk must begin without prior conditions from the Palestinians, often declares the non-negotiable conditions of his own:

1. East Jerusalem remains wholly in Israeli hands (though most of the annexed East Jerusalem was never part of Jerusalem).

2. After a temporary freeze (at least 3000 new homes were built during the “freeze”!), Building will continue in the West Bank, regardless of talks, because expansion must continue.

3. An Arab proclamation of Israel as “The Jewish State”, rather than as the “State of Israel, Homeland of the Jewish People” (the difference is critical here in the Middle East),

4. While Abu Mazan wants the direct talks to focus on borders and to set a time limit goal, Netanyahu insists that the talks focus first on things like infrastructure and water rights with no time limit for the talks.

With these conditions out in the open Netanyahu knows that Abu Mazan can’t easily accept beginning direct talks. Netanyahu has a firm ideological basis for creating talk-tactics that are meant to stall. The goal has always been to scuttle the possibility of a Two-State modus-vivendi. I don’t think people realize how ingrained is the belief in a “One-State” solution within the Likud (Revisionist) agenda (and also on the conservative Palestinian agenda) as the proper resolution of our local situation. Our Right wing has always believed in it, but of late there have been very important Likud persona inside and outside the Knesset who have come out openly once more in support of One-State. Theoretically, there is an inherent logic in such a solution….one that claims we can then be a Democratic Jewish State with complete individual rights and equality for Arab and Jew but with no separate National rights to Arabs. I would also be for it were we really able to be a Democratic Jewish State (or even a democratic bi-national State). But in a One-State situation we most assuredly would fairly quickly be either/neither a Jewish State or/nor a Democratic State. ( I think I’ve previously elaborated on what we would actually be and/or not be…see past letters). Inherent in this agenda are the preparations of laws that will assure a Jewish dominance in any sort of political situation that would then ensue. This past year has seen, as never before, a whole series of (racial and loyalty) laws and proposed laws, mostly from the coalition government, towards inaugurating that eventuality.

Abu Mazan should enter direct talks regardless of the danger involved by Netanyahu’s stall tactics, and maneuver these talks with the help of American and European pressure to the issues of borders, settlements, etc….and a Two-State agreement. It would of-course collapse the Netanyahu coalition government, a welcome event. It is a dangerously undemocratic government selling a perversion of Jewish values. But mainly….no talk is far worse than attempted talk……it plays into the hands of those opposed to a Two-State agreement and brings us closer to the non-viable and much more dangerous One-State option.

(At this writing, a couple weeks after receiving S.’s letter [I’m evidently a slow responder], there are indications that Abu Mazan will enter direct talks. We’ll keep an hopeful ear and eye out to see what develops. Who knows…….)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Returning to MY BLOG

Hello to all
I've been away from this Blogsite for a few years. Nevertheless, I've continued sending letters with some opinions and thoughts to an extended e-mail list. A few friends have vigorously prodded me to return to the Blogsite and enter all of my previous letters to date. I have hesitatingly succumbed and will see how long I can hold out in a blog (which simply feels so much less personal than e-mail). For better or worse,I've inserted some past letters with their original e-mail date.

Why Do I Bother ??

Why am I so concerned? Why spend time writing and corresponding on issues regarding Palestinians and Israeli Arabs?

I receive many comments deploring the awful behavior of “some” of our Israeli settlers towards their Palestinian neighbors. Many responses lead me to believe that most of us humanistic Zionist Jews see this as a very small side-show which doesn’t really depict the general behavior towards the Palestinian Arabs by our Israeli people nor by our government and its policies. This is not so. The deplorable behavior of “some” of the settlers in the West Bank is supported either openly or tacitly by the overall great majority of West Bank settlers. The deplorable behavior is supported by large segments of our people, our Knesset and our coalition government. The deplorable behavior is an important element in the larger picture of the policies directed by those of our politicians and political parties who are creating the face of the future Israel.

Regardless of what we may be saying in the newspapers or in the U.N. or to foreign dignitaries, on ground zero we are pursuing policies meant to make life highly uncomfortable for Arabs in Israel and highly untenable for Palestinians. These are policies meant to arrive at a minimum of Arabs within the confines of the future Greater Israel.

I am woefully troubled on many levels.

These are policies which are extending forever the enmity and violence between Jew and Arab. They promise a continuation of more and more killing. Killing promises a continuation of more and more enmity and violence. Enmity and violence promise a continuation of more killing. Killing promises a continuation of more and…………..

These are policies meant to scuttle the Two-State possibility (whether as separate States or as a Federation) and ensure the creation of Greater Israel between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. While present policies attempt to encourage Arabs to leave the confines of what will be Greater Israel, it is recognized that only a small minority will actually do so. In the course of that creation, we shall become some kind of bi-national entity with an eventual (near future) minority of Jews within what was the dream of a Jewish Homeland. The demographic answer by those engineering the Greater Israel policies is the reliance on most Arabs being residents without full citizenship rights, thereby anchoring us Jews as the Lords of the Land and perpetuating our large majority in the government. Laws leading to that effect are already being formulized and passed by our present government. These formulations would, for example, essentially require an oath of loyalty to Judaism of any Arab wanting to be a citizen in the land of his birth. These formulations would, for example, constrict radically the ability of human rights organizations to work within the confines of our country. These formulations are not the ranting of the “periphery”. They are being formulated today within the walls of our largely right-wing Knesset and with the support of most ministers in our largely right-wing coalition government. The process is in the works. We will move so much further from being a democratic society.

The changing face of Israel will no doubt have a long-term resounding affect on the Jews of the Diaspora. Time takes its toll and we forget that it was not the horror of the Holocaust that minimized overt anti-Semitism in our Western World. It was the new respect given to David against Goliath after our war of Independence and furthered even more after the 1956 Sinai Campaign. Since then Israel has fairly well remained the bulwark of world respect for the Chosen People. We buttressed that respect by creating a fairly democratic society within our highly complicated and non-democratic region. But events also take their toll and we are becoming so less David and so less democratic. Jews in the Diaspora, as in the past, won’t admit to seeing it coming, but the changing face of Israel will have its unfortunate affect on the changing security of world Jewry.

My grandchildren. I fear for their future. Certainly I fear for their safety in a national environment that lives from one war to the next with constant violent episodes filling the space in-between. But more than anything, I fear for the kind of Israel and the kind of Judaism that they will be growing into. “v’ahavta le’rei-acha kamocha” will be a very segregated phrase. “ki metziyon teitzei Tora” and “or lagoyim” will be empty phrases reminding us, perhaps, of another kind of Judaism belonging to those ancient prophets of ours who saw humility and humanity as a basis for Jewish nationhood. Power is important in our complicated region, but loosing our head over power also looses our soul. I want my grandchildren to grow into a powerful country, a humanistic society and a people with a soul. I write what I write, I say what I say, I go where I go because I’m looking for a way to preserve and rejuvenate that soul.

What can be done?
1. Speak up!! Where ? anywhere, everywhere.
2. Don’t be apathetic or lazy……find ways to be active.
3. O.K., not every day…once a week??…..once a month ??

I’m worried about my grandchildren. I know you worry about yours.
True, we may only cause a small crack, but in our lifetime we have seen small cracks suddenly collapse an entire structure. Ours is not to measure the crack, but to be in it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Chickens Next Door

Incredibly, I only learned today (thank you Haaretz Newspaper) about the inequality between chickens in the Galilee.

A few kilometers from my Kibbutz, Gesher Haziv, and situated right on top of the mountain range bordering Lebanon, is the Arab Beduin village of Aramshe. We have a long history of good relations with Aramshe, though mainly by way of men from the village coming to work in Gesher Haziv. But a veteran member of ours (deceased) was also proclaimed by the village council of Aramshe as their Honarary Muchtar (Headman), after being involved in many years of municipal aid to the village.

As part of a national desire to spread our population from the center of the country to the north and also help people stay in the north (e.g. Galilee), our Ministry of Agriculture has been subsidizing chicken farmers in our area for a goodly number of years (details of which are irrelevant at the moment). Aramshe has not been included in the list of Moshavim and Kibbutzim who receive these government subsidies. Why are they not on the list ?? Well….actually….because they are not on the list. Therefore they aren’t on the list, as are no other Arab agricultural villages on the list, and that’s the reason they aren’t on the list. (Get it !!?? That’s the answer villagers were receiving for a number of years.) Evidently, in 2008 an NGO, the Adala Legal Center for Arabs, filed a petition complaining discrimination and demanding equality. Well, what do you know!! Our State answered that the discriminatory criteria are certainly improper and unworthy, promised to change criteria, and increase the subsidies to include Arab villages in the area. It’s never too late to right a continuing wrong. But promises and reality don’t necessarily converge. Two and a half years later (and a change of governments) the chicken farmers of Aramshe are still waiting.

OK. Our Aramshe chicken farmers live in a village which wasn’t privileged enough to be on the list of chicken subsidized villages. But wait…..Ya’ara is one of our neighboring moshavim, Ya’ara is an interesting phenomenon. It was founded in 1950 on the ruins of the Arab village El-Samania which was destroyed in 1948. It was then populated by North African Jews together with displaced Arab Beduins from other points in the Galilee, the first such mixed village (perhaps the only one in the Galil, but I’m not sure). Well, luckily Ya’ara is on the chicken subsidy list. Unluckily, only Jewish chickens in Ya’ara receive subsidies. Arab chickens receive “bubkes”. Why? Ya’ara is on the list. Can discrimination be so blatant in my own back yard ??

We take pride in our democracy. It remains one of our main PR claims towards the Western World. And, yes, our Israeli Arabs can vote, but they are not equal. They are discriminated in land property rights, in job opportunities, in government budgets for education and infrastructure, and in a variety of ways little known to most of us, like chicken subsidies. Israeli Arabs are 20% of our country. The discrimination is producing a time bomb whose fuse will shorten with time.

But maybe I’m wrong. People are equal. It’s the chickens who aren’t.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I had never been to the town of Bil’in. For more than 5 years Bil’in has been in the news. When we began building the Fence-Wall around the West Bank our army left about 1,700 dunams of agricultural land belonging to the town’s farmers on the Israeli side of the fence. We engineered similar “annexations” to a long list of Palestinian towns, but Bil’in became a central focus in the protest battle and the legal battle for the return of land. Palestinians from the town and its surroundings came every Friday after prayers to confront and attempt to disrupt the building of the Fence. A few Israelis (very few) and a few “internationals” would join the local protesters. Young people from the town would throw stones at the soldiers, Soldiers would shoot back with rubber bullets, tear-gas and stun grenades. Many protesters were seriously injured by the rubber bullets and by direct hits by grenades. During the last couple of years, rubber bullets were banned, grenades continued. Last year a local youth was killed by the direct hit of a grenade. A couple of months ago, a young woman from overseas lost her eye to a grenade. Meanwhile the legal battle continued, and in 2007 our High Court ordered the army to move the fence. In a landmark decision the Court rebuked our army for falsely using “defense calculations” as an excuse for the location of the Fence, while in reality it located the fence with a desire to give settlements on our Israeli side more land for expansion. It took our army three years and a number of additional court rebukes to at last, in 2010, begin to move the Fence. In it’s new location 700 dunams were returned to the farmers, but 1,000 still remain on our Israeli side. The Friday protests and the legal battles, therefore, continue.

I came to Bil’in out of some kind of desire to join in supportive solidarity with the town, their protest and their legal battle. Support needs to be based on more than talking and writing. It needs a minimum of participation. But also I came to see, to observe, to feel and to comment.

After Friday prayers were over and the mosque’s muezzin silenced the town’s loudspeaker, the procession began. About 150 marchers, mostly local Palestinians, perhaps 30 or so “internationals” (summer vacation, I was told), and about ten Israelis (half of them belonging to the Israeli branch of “Anarchists Against the Wall”). The procession left the center of town and reached its western edge. From here there will be another kilometer or so to the Fence. On Fridays our army announces this area to be a “closed military area for the day”, making it illegal for anyone to enter. Any protest gathering becomes illegal and accounts for what follows.

Our procession left the edge of town towards the Fence. Half way there I stopped. From here on, I thought, I’ll watch and photograph (with 100-X zoom) from afar. I had no intention of entering the “battle zone”. I saw the procession reach the Fence. I heard the discharges of grenades. I saw the entire procession beginning to run back in my direction. They reached me and I kept filming them running past me. Suddenly I was left in the rear of the fleeing crowd. I didn’t imagine they would be pursued this far.

My lungs have seen better days. One lung still has a bit of oomph to it. The other won’t ever again see a decent day. I can walk on a flat stretch of ground. Downhill is pretty good also. But uphill my pace is somewhere between a turtle and a snail, with a bunch of long pauses in-between.

Tear-gas affects eyes and breathing….. Eyes smart, sting terribly and have a problem staying open. Breathing becomes difficult. You gasp for air, choke, stop breathing and perhaps collapse…….not appetizing for people with defective lungs. But I had no previous plans of being even close to the line of fire. I had stopped following the line of protesters on a rise half-way between the edge of town and the fence.

I turned around and looked in the direction of the fleeing procession. It was uphill, all uphill. I began my turtle pace upwards. My goal was reaching the edge of the village, that invisible border considered legal for congregating protestors. Suddenly I heard more bursting discharges. Two smoke grenades fell ahead of me and a few others to my right. A breeze was blowing from my right and in front of me was a cloud of smoke. In the field to my left I saw vague outlines of running soldiers. I took a number of slow steps forward through the slightly transparent cloud of tear-gas. Ahead of me I saw a foreign photographer (with gas mask) filming my slow advance. My eyes were smarting and I needed to close them while taking quick peek-a-boos making sure I was still aimed in the right direction, uphill. My breathing became difficult and I was choking. I knew what I needed to try. I paused inside the gas-cloud and took out my Large-Half-Onion.

Earlier in the day I had given a ride to a young woman (graduate of Jewish Reform School Leo Beck in Haifa). She too, unaffiliated to any organization, wanted to participate in sympathy with the town’s grievance about the Fence. On our way to Bil’in she handed me a half an onion and told me she heard this should help breathing when attacked by tear-gas grenades. I had experienced previous encounters with tear-gas grenades……….in the army during some training exercise…….and in our Israeli town of Um-El-Fachem when extremist settlers from the West Bank came to march thru the Israeli Arab town in a provocative gesture meant to show them who owns their land. These were not pleasant tear-gas experiences. But in neither case do I remember hearing about the benefits of the onion.

I paused inside the gas-cloud and took out my Large-Half-Onion. I pressed the onion to my nose and mouth and breathed….and breathed….not easy……but much better. I continued my snail pace through the cloud of smoke, didn’t rush (I can’t), stopped for a number of pauses, and continued pressing my dear onion for my dear breath. Slowly but surely, my onion brought me safely beyond that cloud of gas. I could now rest and swallow some cleaner air.

I think throwing stones at soldiers by the Fence is counter-productive. So, too, is the use of tear-gas and stun grenades by the soldiers. Neither we Israelis nor the Palestinians have learned the use of power through passive means. Both are entrenched in the belief that good results come through the proper abuse of violence. I think both are wrong. The Palestinian youths throwing stones would be more effective in the Israeli public eye and media if they lay down their stones, lay down their bodies next to the Fence (gas masks in hand), and stayed there day in and day out, not Only On Friday. We (few) Israelis would be more effective if we held our protest on our side of the Bil’in Fence with public rallies and demonstrations which bring many more Israelis than the few who are willing to find the round-about long route and army checkpoints in order to reach Bil’in through the West Bank. Our Army would look much better both to us and through the eye of the foreign camera if it knew better restraint and understanding for the plight of the local farmers. Our Government would be a better one if it showed more Jewish Humanity to the “stranger living in our midst”, and/or to the one living next door. Theft of private (occupied) lands (and with no compensation), even when proclaimed legal by government decree, is still theft.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gilad Shalit and a Woman Called Ooma

Sent  24.June.2010

Dear friends and acquaintances,
A few observations re: some recent activity……………

Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier captured by the Hamas and held for 4 years concealed somewhere in Gaza with no possibility of contact with family or Red Cross. This morning Iris and I (and Marcia Greenfeld) joined a few thousand other Israelis in a march from Gilad Shalit’s home in Hilla all the way to Jerusalem via Nahariya during the first day of the 12 day march in support of securing Gilad’s release. Along the way Iris and I were interviewed by some TV network who asked me why I was there and whether I thought the march would do any good. I told them that I’m there in order to help keep the affair of Gilad Shalit alive in the public eye as one more issue screaming to our government that its policies towards Gaza, Hamas, and the Palestinians in general are so deeply flawed and not working.

Let me digress a bit (bear with me, and we’ll get back to Shalit)….…….

A few days earlier, with a very small group, I visited Ooma’s home in the Palestinian town of Burin not far from Shchem (Nablus). The town of Burin with its population of almost 3,000 sits on a low hill between two very hostile Jewish settlements. The settlement of Yitzhar sits on a higher hilltop to the south, and the settlement of B’racha sits on a higher hilltop to the north. Ooma is a mother of a few young children. She and her husband and a set of grandparents live in a house on the periphery of Burin right below the overlooking hilltop of Yitzhar. Ooma’s house has windows with bars….but not only. Each window is also covered with a sturdy meshed net as protection against the stones thrown at them on many occasions, but mainly at night, by both youngsters and adults from the settlement of Yitzhar. A few years ago Ooma’s family still had a herd of goats and sheep. The goats were set on fire (!!) while grazing on the side of the hill close to home. Later Yitzhar settlers came and led away all of their 40 sheep. While this was happening they had time to call the police who came and saw the sheep being led away. They asked Ooma’s husband for papers of ownership. There are none. Sheep have been in the family for generations. Ooma’s husband asked them to use the true and tried Palestinian method of identification: allow the sheep to freely make their Pavlovian way to their memorized home. This was unacceptable to our Israeli police who never asked for papers of ownership from the Yitzhar sheep-robbers. The sheep kept being led up the hill to their new home in Yitzhar. The goat and sheep pens outside of Ooma’s house remain empty. Ooma is also a “Video Volunteer” for the NGO B’tzelem. She received a video camera to record whatever she can of violent excesses by the settlers of Yitzhar. Outside of Ooma’s home, facing the hilltop of Yitzhar is the family olive grove. Some time ago Ooma managed to film Yitzhar settlers setting fire with bales of hay to a section of the grove and smashing trees and branches in another section. Her film went via B’tzelem to the proper authorities. No settler was ever taken into custody for questioning. The settlers of Yitzhar and B’racha have a well known and recognized policy. It’s called a “Price Tag”. If the police or army attempts to pressure them as a result of their actions, an immediate additional “Price Tag” is paid by the local Palestinian towns, especially Burin and Hawarra. Cars are set aflame, rocks are thrown, people are injured, homes are graffitied ….all by settlers bearing legal rifles. Ooma’s family has been living this life for thirty years, since first Yitzhar graced their hilltop. The settlers of Yitzhar are radical orthodox Jews who see the use of violence as a proper method of letting the Palestinians know who are the lords of the land, and as a way of pressuring the local populace to begin accepting the need to leave. We, the Israeli public and our various governments have allowed Ooma and her family to live like this for thirty years.

This brings me back to our soldier Gilad Shalit……..

What help can be expected by thousands of us marching from Hilla to Jerusalem?? Should we really release 1450 prisoners, many with murdered Israelis in their resumes, in exchange for one soldier?? (something unheard of in the history of prisoner exchanges…..except in Israel.) Without releasing all those prisoners how can we face Gilad’s parents and the parents of other young soldiers who we send out to defend us with a promise of always being there for them?? Yet how can we face the parents or wives or children of murdered Israelis by releasing their murderers??...and, perhaps, the real issue is what is best in the long run for our problematic country as a whole?? No, I can’t comfort myself with clear answers. I tend to hope that we are strong enough and will be wise enough to create policies which will inhibit a return to violence and terrorism by those we release. But my confidence is awfully hesitant. Of some things, though, I am certain. As long as Ooma and her family in the town of Burin live the way they do with the Yizhar hilltop overlooking their home; as long as there are so many other Oomas and their families throughout the occupied territories; as long as there are so many settlements like Yitzhar with violence so transparent or even subtly hidden under the guise of “fringe elements”; as long as all of that continues, we will have more Gilad Shalits and we will have many more prisoners with which to make (or not make) exchange deals.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

And the Siege of Gaza Continues

Sent 13.June.2010

And the siege of Gaza continues:
It's difficult to follow events without commentating.

I read in yesterday’s newspaper that following the world condemnation of Israel as a result of the Marmarac tragedy, we (Israel) will now allow some more items, such as cinnamon, instant coffee and some herbs, to enter Gaza. Perhaps this announcement symbolizes the type of idiotic siege we have executed on the population of Gaza. The list of allowable items is short. We contend justifiably that we are in a state of violent hostility with the Hamas (and certainly they are with us). Even when they assert an acceptance of a Two-State agreement between us and the Palestinian Authority, they hedge and call this is a very temporary arrangement - until they take over all the Zionist held Lands. Perhaps we have a justifiable right to see to it that weapons of all sorts do not end up in the arsenal of those who wish to destroy us. Right ?? But wait a minute…… Instant coffee?? Cinnamon ??

The possibilities of a sea embargo on weapons of all kind are many and varied. We could have justified it to some sympathetic nations who could have been involved in participating with us in an embargo which pinpoints weapons of every kind. But….We didn’t want anyone’s participation. Anyways, would anyone agree to join us in an embargo of coffee and cinnamon ???

An embargo on cement and building materials was justified by us as a way of frustrating the ability of Hamas to build bunkers that would make it easier for them to resist any attack, while they fire rockets on Israel. Meanwhile, rebuilding destroyed homes from our last invasion remains greatly hindered for lack of building materials. Of course, we could have asked for some type of international supervision on the use of building material, but we did not. After all…who can we trust ?? And still, what have cinnamon and instant coffee got to do with building materials ??

As a result of a siege that put instant coffee and cinnamon on a comparable level with weapons and building material for Hamas bunkers, we will now be depicted as capitulating to the voice of a hypocritical and sanctimonious world opinion rather than to the voice of reason, morality, and just plain better long-term world politics.

We didn’t want anyone’s participation in how we handle the siege. We don’t trust anyone. They’re all against us. This seems to be a basic element of our policy decisions. But is it true and should it pervade our strategic thinking ??

Policies based wholly or partly on the principle of “the whole world is against us anyways”, is wrong politics, self-fulfilling, counter-productive, and also simply a deviation of the truth. We have strategic allies at a given moment. We have countries who do their best to support us for whatever (!!) reasons (e.g. Poland and Germany) We have a friend like the United States (its not like family, but it is a friend), we have friends in many Western countries who would stand up for us if we gave them a chance and behaved in a way that would enhance those friendships rather than put them in an untenable position.

A defensive siege of the Hamas ?? For that we even have allies in the Middle East among our closest neighbors. The Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi governments, and most certainly the Palestinian Authority supported the weapons siege of Gaza, and even building materials. But….we allowed our solo policy, our distrust of any other participation, our interpretation of how to execute the siege, and our solo tragic bungling out at sea, to bring it all down to instant coffee and cinnamon, and to the inability of our supporters in the siege to raise their voice.

There will be more humanitarian boats to break the siege. But now, even if each boat were filled with known terrorists, or loaded with a shipment of rockets, Israel will still be the violent aggressor. Unless………..Israel can still convince allies and friends to enter a joint agreement for a supervised defensive blockade……It’s a bit late, but perhaps they’ll agree…….at least we and the world will be aware that we tried…..maybe.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Leftist comments to Leftist Friend

Sent  9.June.2010

Dear Friends,

During this past week, as a result of the Marmarac Boat fiasco and tragedy, my 9th Workshop group has had a somewhat feverish interchange of mail. Much of it has been between my friend M-----, a very Active and true peace activist, and others who have cast doubt on her loyalties and intentions.

For anyone interested, I bring here M-----’s latest respond (and, afterwards, my own letter which I then forwarded to her):

(M-----'s letter to our Workshop group):
Dear -------- [9th Workshoper who wrote to M----]

I guess we have a fundamental disagreement here. And that is about who (or, more precisely, to my mind, what) our enemy is. One thing that I've come to believe, based on my experience over the years, is that the enemies that are most important to deal with are not people but systems (governments, political ideologies, militaries, and the like). I do know what side I'm on. I try to take the side against oppression (be it of Jews or Blacks or Aboriginal peoples in North America, or of Palestinians in Israel and the territories it controls; Tibetans, Fulan Gong, etc.) and for as much justice as possible. This doesn't make an enemy, for instance, of my mainland Chinese friend who tells me how right his government is in their treatment of the last two, and how stories of abuse of the FG are probably fabricated . . . Nor does it make enemies of Palestinians who may or may not have voted for Hamas (not my favourite party) or who might prefer a single democratic state to the regional confederation I favour--or, of course, of workshoppers or others who seem to me to be overly mistrustful of people whom I have mostly found to be both trusting and trust-worthy.

I too believe that the survival of the Jewish people is of fundamental importance. But I do not accept the argument that the Jewish people are in danger of being obliterated. The evolution of an ethnocentric "Jewish state" called Israel into another sort of entity, whether a distinct part of a confederation or a less distinct component of a single state does not mean the obliteration of the people of that state, which, I contend, is the important thing, and not the state in and of itself.

To me, peace is also not an end in itself. Peace without a reasonable measure of justice and equitable relations between both "sides" (in a political sense) is not, in my view, worthy of the name, nor is it sustainable--as we know from history. I apologize if my words seem to you to be venomous and hate-filled. They are not intended to be either, although I do get a bit hot under the collar when folks start calling me names for sharing reports and opinion pieces, from Israeli and first-hand witness sources, of a different view than theirs. Exasperation is my overwhelming feeling--certainly not hatred!

I don't think the "integrity and forthrightness" you speak of having admired in me has somehow morphed into "mauvais foi" (which I'm assuming translates as 'bad faith') and suspect motives. I see myself as being pretty consistent--and I hope true to the memory of my dad,who walked the picket lines of other unions that he agreed with (e.g., longshoremen and daycare teachers) when his own (municipal employees) wasn't allowed to strike and supported the IPP even when accused by a friend who worked for the FBI of being a card-carrying Communist (which he wasn't, incidentally, though many of his other friends were). I was taught, in my largely secular home, and in my Conservative sunday school, that human and civil rights were something that Jews fought for side-by-side with those to whom they were being denied. When the U.S. acted in a way he found reprehensible, he spoke out; I try to do so vis-a-vis both of my countries of citizenship, Canada and Israel--having returned my U.S. passport in 1969 along with a statement explaining my disgust, first at the VietNam war, and then (the straw that broke this particular camel's back) its going ahead with (what turned out to be only the first set) underground atomic tests in the Amchitka Islands, ignoring the predictions (thankfully eroneous) of many scientists that this could result in tidal waves along the West Coast of both Canada and the US (not sure about Mexico).

…….. I don't think I'm saying anything now very different than I was back in 1986 (Israelis and Palestinians working to end their common enemy: the occupation),………. But I realize …… what has changed is that since then, I actually lived in Jerusalem for seven years, during most of the first intifada and the first two years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, and have visited eight times since then--and I've seen Israel's "mauvais foi" in action . . . .in perpetuating and strengthening this "enemy"--the occupation, and becoming increasingly oppressive in its policies and actions. It sickens me to think about it, because, as someone pointed out, this is family. I'm an only child, but if I had brothers, I think this is how I'd feel if my brothers and sisters were mistreating my cousins. We're so close in so many ways; we need to smarten up before we destroy each other. But (and this is the bit you can't forgive me for, I suspect) I place the primary responsibility on the stronger party; the country with a recognized and governable land base and a well-equipped military . . .

So I guess we'll agree to disagree, hopefully not as "enemies."

(My letter to M----- after reading her response to a letter from another of my Workshoppers.) :

Dear M-----,

We agree on so many things, that often I find it unnecessary to add to your comments. In the larger picture, I too know which side you’re on, and am proud to stand beside you as we “take the side against oppression”. I have certainly envied you at your ability to spend so much time actively in the pursuit against oppression. My own involvement, whether in the West Bank or with Israeli Arabs or with “writing about”, have unfortunately been all too marginal to the needs of work and family. I wish I had done so much more. I shall continue to genuinely salute you even as I point out some of my disagreements with you once we descend from the “big picture” to the nitty-gritty of what we are striving for.

You are so right in stating that “the enemies that are most important to deal with are not people but systems - governments, political ideologies, militaries, and the like.” (I probably would have added religious establishments at the top of that list….). Such being the case, here in Israel we need to fight and oppose the actions and policies of our government, its political ideologies, and its cooperation with religious messianism. Likewise, we need to convince the “people” that our opposition is justified. Up to this point I think we are in complete agreement. But you seem to find it more difficult accepting the fact that Israel has enemies who are “real” and are actually intent on its demise, and that these enemies are fairly well entrenched within the Palestinian community and the Middle east community as a whole. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran are all symbolic of that which is possible within our Middle East and which also has inroads into the Palestinian community. I try not to read too much of what my own country says that “they” say about us. I try to be attuned (in English) to what they say in the Arab and world media. Unfortunately, peace and mutual understandings are not their message. And each, to its own people, applies also a zealous system of oppression. This means that there is much need to also fight the policies and actions of these governments, political ideologies, and extremist religious regimes. And, above all, this is not a separate issue. It is closely intertwined within our Arab/Israeli conflict and to the alternatives we offer while being opposed to the policies and actions of our own government.

However, a really deep chasm separates our individual understanding of the future we seek regarding the State of Israel. You write:

“I too believe that the survival of the Jewish people is of fundamental importance. But I do not accept the argument that the Jewish people are in danger of being obliterated. The evolution of an ethnocentric "Jewish state" called Israel into another sort of entity, whether a distinct part of a confederation or a less distinct component of a single state does not mean the obliteration of the people of that state, which, I contend, is the important thing, and not the state in and of itself.”
Your ability to see us as some “less distinct component of a single state” - is notably a statement accepting the demise of Israel and placing ourselves as an (eventual) minority within a Palestinian State surrounded by the fundamentalist ideologies within the Middle East, ideologies which are slowly enveloping a greater part of the Middle East. One of our fights with the Israeli government is the fact that its policies are destroying the Two-State resolution and bringing us exactly to the future which you are offering.

In the 1920’s I may have joined the Brit-Shalom movement in Palestine, a movement seeking a one-state entity of the kind you envision. In the first half of the 1920’s the British actually tried to push the setting up of a joint government with a great Arab majority. The Palestinian powers-to-be wanted neither Brit-Shalom nor the British proposals. Since then much water has flooded and crippled the bridge. Perhaps with two separate states (or even an equal confederation of states) we will eventually learn to accept and respect each other.

Today a one state solution will be a Jewish State with a totally undemocratic approach to 40% of its population (and eventually to the majority of its population), with a continuation of violence from both sides. Down the Road it will be a country with an Arab Majority either being oppressed or taking over and oppressing. No, as you write, this “does not mean the obliteration of the people”, the Jewish people, but it will mean the obliteration of a Jewish homeland. It is amazing how quickly the generations forget that the strength and security of the Jewish people in the lands of the Diaspora are umbilically tied to the existence of Israel as a Jewish homeland. (a very imperfect homeland, but that’s why we continue our opposition to those terrible imperfections.)

A few days prior to the Marmarac fiasco and tragedy an acquaintance/friend of mine working in B’tzelem sent me mail asking what my opinion was about cooperating with other NGO’s outside of Israel who are grouped loosely as “BDS” (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). Should we join them directly in their struggles regarding the Palestinians? My answer to her is below. It may be relevant to what we are both writing about.

I find myself in a reverse role to that which I am accustomed to. I am a constant critic of my government’s actions and policies towards the Palestinians as people, towards a political settlement thru two-States, and towards the Arab citizen’s of Israel. At times, though (like now), I need to proclaim that within the need to decide between black and white we cannot be blind to the grey between them.

I look forward to our meeting once more, next time you are in Israel.
Stay well and active,

Friday, June 4, 2010

Flotilla, Flotilla

Sent  4.June.2010
This Flotilla Festival has had me alternating between moaning, crying, ignoring, agonizing, lots of Facebooking, and also laughing.

Moaning at the incredible blunder which placed our soldiers in an untenable miscalculation, and at our leadership who placed them in that situation.

Crying at the loss of life, at the pain of those wounded soldiers and (well-prepared) activists, at the absurd type of Gaza siege which invited such a confrontation, and at the naivety, hypocrisy, duplicity, and sanctimoniousness pursued by most of the world press and nations.

Ignoring it all for brief moments of tranquilizing calm by shutting down those awful house pets, the TV, radio, computer and Facebook extremists who would appreciate our acceding immediately to the demise of our country.

Agonizing, and lots of it, at how our citizenry has allowed us to be stuck with a government that has brought us this past year to the heights of idiocy. A government whose main concern is "Security", while creating a totally insecure future for us. A government that does what it wants because it says "the whole world is against us anyways"….and is doing everything to make that statement come true.

Facebook-ing a bit in a number of "flotilla" groups defending my country, but not it's policies. Condemning the duplicity of "peace-loving" activists, but also the way the Gaza siege is handled. (it ain't easy in a Facebook full of extremists on all sides.)

Laughing, yes, also laughing. They say that laughing begins when things are too serious for crying…..well, here we are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Majed Abusalama manages a fairly prolific page on Facebook called “Bridges of Peace between Gaza and Israel”. Some time ago I had joined that page. A few times I wrote to Majed Abusalama complaining about his use of the page to castigate Israel while not at all noting the failures towards peace of the Hamas government in Gaza. (I've never received a response, and it has me questioning the true motives of the Facebook Page. Is the page a "front" or is Majed Abusalama actually afraid to answer...?? ). My latest message to Majed Abusalama (I think I sent him an e-mail) was during the first days of the Flotilla Tragedy and Fiasco. Here it is:

Dear Majed Abusalama.
As I am a long time activist for Palestinian rights in the West Bank against the criminal and immoral activities of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and as an opponent to Israel's actions and policies towards Gaza, I must admit that the tragedy at sea seems to have been caused by both sides. This, after seeing all the video clips taken by both sides and which have so far appeared for us to see (though I admit to writing this before any inquiry is able to give us even more info on what happened). Israel's actions and policies towards Gaza and the siege are unacceptable and we need to wake Israeli and world public opinion against the siege of civilian progress. By the way, the organizer of the Flotilla said that this was not simply for bringing humanitarian supplies. The main purpose was to break the siege over and over again. That is why they could not accept having the supplies delivered by Israel or the Red Cross. This is definitely justified. What is not justified is the preparation ahead of time to cause a violent incident on one of the boats, using knives-iron bars-chains-Molotov cocktails-etc, essentially trying to maim (and perhaps kill) while fighting in close quarters face to face, before a larger group of soldiers manages to board the boat. To do this and not to expect a violent response is improbable. the violent response came just as was expected and indeed desired by that group of fighters on that one boat. they are as much at fault for the tragedy and the deaths as is Israel for the way it conducts a siege on Gaza.

Therefore, dear Majed Abusalama. I mourn the tragic death of victims in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Israel’s policies and actions towards Gaza and the siege are wrong, destructive and counter-productive. But in order to be what you call yourself, “Bridges of Peace between Gaza and Israel”, you cannot see just one side of the conflict. Conflicts move towards peace only when both sides begin understanding each other’s pain. In your many good messages you never call for a mutual end to violence. You never ask for a stoppage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, or for Red Cross privileges to a captured soldier, or for a Hamas government which recognizes a permanent two-state resolution of the conflict. In the Flotilla tragedy you very justly denounce Israel’s policy of siege and the tragic deaths, But you evidently accept as legitimate the active preparation to fight the soldiers who boarded the boat with knives-iron bars-chains-Molotov cocktails-etc, essentially trying to maim and (perhaps) kill while fighting in close quarters face to face in order to stop more soldiers from boarding the boat. They meant to initiate violence as a tactic. But it is a tactic that becomes a full partner to the tragic deaths that follow. Violence brings more violence. You will not really become “Bridges to Peace” until you acknowledge and denounce the violence from both sides. Peace will have a chance only thru a mutual rejection of violence. I will continue to be an active opponent of my government’s policies and actions towards Gaza and the siege. Hard as it is, please join me as a Bridge by doing the same on your side of the siege. can you make that happen ??

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BDS. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

Sent 25.May.2010
I recieved the following question from a friend who works within B'tzelem:

This was my answer:
Aaron - I was wondering what your feelings (gut and reasoned... may not be the same) are about the divestment movement that is stirring (whether targeted at the Occ. Territories or at all of Israel) (I'm taking a poll). I feel very uncomfortable about jumping into bed with the majority of that movement, people who do not support Israel's right to exist, who are exercising the double standard (i.e. why target Israel, of all nations... is there a lack for nations behaving unethically). On the other hand, an end to the occupation is just not going to happen from internal pressures only, and time is precious.

Your query ("just curious"….."taking a poll") is giving me an opportunity to try and put in writing some things I've thought about recently.

BDS. Boycott, Divestment (actually disinvestment), Sanctions.
I find it easy to identify with those words, and I find myself involved with incitement among my friends towards activating the meanings behind those words.

Boycott our companies producing goods in the occupied territories? Of course. Divest ourselves of investments in firms owned by supporters of our Palestinian policies? Of course. These are sanctions I support both as legitimate political activities and as forms of self-decontamination.

But the term BDS is used today by an amalgam of movements and organizations in ways that I cannot be part of nor support.

While I’m a constant critic of our Jewish State, there are clear borders within which I need to come to its defense. No doubt this is an emotional response, but it is one that I’ve had to investigate in order to understand my own self, and to assess whether my sentiment runs contrary to my judgment.

The BDS movement singles out Israel in our less than perfect world, though we are up against a totality of enemies so much larger than us and so much closer to our homes than other nations.

The BDS movement singles out Israel in our less than perfect world, because we are smaller and more vulnerable than other nations who are no less perfect (such as, Russia, United States) but much more formidable.

The BDS movement is crowded with individuals and movements who have no intention of evaluating both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

And perhaps most damning in my eyes:
The BDS movement seems to be saturated with individuals and movements who use its moral heading (BDS) to obscure a genuine intention to delegitimize the very existence of the State of Israel. (So is my impression). Perhaps we are the only country in the world today whose very existence is put into question by so many.

Having long ago laid aside my youthful indoctrination as a Zionist, I spent time reinvestigating both my indoctrination and those many missing pieces left out of that indoctrination. As it turns out, in my non-youthful years I re-became a Zionist…..with fewer illusions and many more misgivings, but with a fair certainty that history carved a path that needed to happen, to a place that needed to be the place. Needed to happen one way or another……and certainly the better way was not always taken….but Israel needed to be the place, the only place.

My misgivings are many….how we got here and what we did along the way….where we are and what we’re doing today. Nevertheless, I’ll voice and activate those misgivings directly towards my country, to the Jews in my country and to my people around the world……..and not alongside and through groups who include so many who would prefer to solve the conflict (and the oppression) by the demise of the Zionist State. [and yes, I think a Zionist State can be a democracy, and yes I think a (primarily) Jewish State must have a separation between religion and state. but these matters also need further elucidation.]

We are staged in an end game for a Two-State resolve (I never call it “solution”) to our local conflict. Likely, if it doesn’t happen soon, it will never happen. Time will allow us Israelis to engineer the kind of map which will make that possibility totally unacceptable. We will then be on our way to continue the conflict on the basis of a One-State reality. It’s a reality which will be undemocratic at its worse. It will legitimize a continuation of the conflict and violence. It will eventually (demographically and otherwise) put an end to a Jewish homeland, which will not cause a tear to drop from a great many in the scattered BDS movement. It will soon also have a striking affect on the safety and security of Jews in the Diaspora. Back to square one.

Our struggle against policies and actions of our own country need not combine us with those who may also want to be rid of us. We struggle not simply as liberal cosmopolitans. We struggle as Jewish Israelis who know that our country is doing wrong and are trying to invest the rest of our people with that understanding.

And finally, a direct answer to your original question:
I will “jump into bed” with any non-Jewish partner who also accepts my Zionism, and who also appreciates the complexity of both sides of the conflict. With such a partner I will B-D-S (such as, I saw Obama as a partner). But most of all I’ll look for partners within our people both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Mostly through these will a change of policy come via understanding rather than via coercion or arm-twisting. For that reason I am slightly encouraged by the advent of JStreet in America and JCall in Europe. You are right in saying that time is precious, but how we get there is usually no less important than where we’re going. It generally affects the outcome.

This is longer than I meant for it to be. Yet so much is still left out. As always.