Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In A One-Eyed World

Note: Due to technical problems of a browser’s making, many readers were unable to access the two related entries that preceded this one. The situation remedied, the following entry is intentionally briefer in hope you will read “Peace For Peace” and “Bad Timing,” preferably first.

If you know your Shakespeare, you’ll recognize this quote from Julius Caesar: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our settlements. Any adherent of Taoism knows, A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single settlement. The answer, Bob Dylan fans affirm, is blowin’ in the West Bank.

I confess I almost missed it. Right there under my nose “forever” and I almost missed it. The key to all the world’s problems is the settlements! By settlements, I mean the only definition of the word in the world’s vocabulary, Israeli settlements.

Wars, famines, natural disasters, economic crisis, suicide bombings and mass murders, epidemic outbreaks and infectious diseases—all and more routinely threaten every corridor and distant corner of the earth, but the eye of the one-eyed world only brings settlements into focus.

What did we do prior to the establishment of the State of Israel? Who were the bogeymen and where on earth were they settled? What yarns did the old folks hand down to the children from cave to desert sands to rolling seas, from open fire to open porch?

Today’s tellers of tales are TV’s talking heads, parrot heads as I’ve come to think of them. They are paid—highly—to spin pap and propaganda rather than deliver news. And they know, left and right alike, no one likes settlements. It’s the dirty word they can punctuate their drivel with as much as they like without running afoul of sponsors or the FCC (in that order). You can read it on their stress-furrowed brows before they even open their mouths. Mute your TV and read it clearly on their lips: set-tle-ments. Getting rid of them would be the Second Coming. But of what?

If the Israelis flat-out stopped building settlements forever, would it bring peace on earth? Peace in the Middle East? Peace between Palestinians and Israelis?

Ask Israel’s leaders what they want and when they answer shalom, i.e., peace, they mean security. The two words are synonymous to them. Ask the Palestinians what they want until you’re blue in the face and you can’t get an answer. Peace must roll off the lips as easily in Arabic as it does in English or Hebrew, but who has heard it? Palestinian Arabs certainly know how to say jihad, intifada and shaheed distinctly, and how to indicate unequivocally what they mean by them. Know what’s Arabic for “peace”? As I thought.

With the usual arrogance of the western world, we in the United States insist on asking and expecting other peoples to think the way we do. While I’m not in favor of Israel creating more settlements, I am in favor of letting those chosen to govern do what they sincerely believe is best for the security of their people. They know now, as never before, Israel can’t rely on the United States for its survival.

Brilliant Israeli pianist/writer/government spokesman David Bar-Ilan chose his own words for peace quite some time ago: “Semantics don’t matter. If Palestinian sovereignty is limited enough so that we feel safe, call it fried chicken.”


  1. You have both eyes wide open. I applaud your objectivity.

  2. Ray--
    "Ask the Palestinians what they want until you’re blue in the face and you can’t get an answer." Really?

    Gee, Ray -- as I understand it, and according to people I know who have been to the middle east, many Palestinians want their own state. Can this be news to you? And they certainly do not want the continuation of the constantly manhandling by Israeli forces.

    I do not think in any of your recent posts, that you have come (even close) to terms with Israel's current and seemingly abiding treatment of the Palestinians. And I have to say, I am surprised. Sure, this is not an easy task. But if you, of all people, are going to tackle it, I think you should try a little harder. As someone once said, there are two sides to most stories.

    And "security," my friend, simply will not excuse any and all behavior.

  3. Yes, “really,” Jim. As timing would have it, I went through some old, overflowing files last night in an effort to reduce them and came across document after document accumulated over the years that not only confirmed my feelings, but also reinforced them with explicit evidence of how many Arab potentates, the Palestinians own people, have given them lip service and held them up to the world as an example of Israeli misconduct, but have treated them a lot worse than the Israelis ever did (or could). Jordan’s King Hussein murdered 10,000 to 25,000 of them in Jordan according to Yassir Arafat during “Black September” (1970) and expelled countless thousands. Syria’s Assad leveled an entire town of Palestinians, Hama (1982), and boasted of killing 38,000 Palestinians. That’s only a smattering of the suffering inflicted on them by their “champions.”

    I don’t by any means condone all or even a large part of everything the Israelis have done, but governments, including our own, behave far worse with far less disingenuous or insidious, unremitting uproar. I know first-hand that for the most part Israeli governments have tried--in spite of appearances, or naïve or jaundiced perceptions--to do the right thing. Have your friends “who have been to the middle east” been in the camps? I have. At the other end of the spectrum, have they talked to Arab delegates and Palestinian observers at the United Nations? I have. Did they see, as I have, what the PLO and its surrogates did to Lebanon?

    You take an ingenuous tone in telling me “many Palestinians want their own state.” Ask Bill Clinton, not Jimmy Carter, what they want. Go back and take a look at Clinton’s frustration with “peace talks” when he said they rejected 96% (or was it 98%) of what they wanted because they couldn’t have it all.
    And why the “many” in “many Palestinians want their own state”? Many more, specifically their leaders--and every “leader” of every Arab country where they’re unwelcome--want nothing less than to be rid of the entire State of Israel, and every Jew in it. They’re on record.

    Yes, Jim, there are two sides to “most” stories, and I’ve only time at present to present a fraction of the side that isn’t riddled with hypocrisy. I wish I had more. If you and other readers are genuinely interested in hearing further opinion from me, I’d be happy to continue; I have volumes to say on the subject.

    I appreciate your candid feedback. Thank you for it.


  4. Once again, I find myself at a disadvantage for comment. Part of me wants to reflect on my own Jewish roots, part of me on my Saracen roots, and another part just wants to address this as a person. Part of me wants to borrow from Petrarch, another part from Einstein, and perhaps the greatest part of me from the Abraham Lincoln school of "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."

    In this case, I think the latter is best. I think I have more to learn from reading on this subject than I can ever share (for now, at least).

    However, please don't take this as any kind of criticism or negative response to your writing. On the contrary, I find it so thought-provoking that I am left with little option other than contemplation.

  5. Thanks for your comments on my comment, Ray, and I can agree with much that you say. But god knows, one should NEVER looks to the "leaders" of a state for anything resembling justice or honesty. And that takes in Israel and the U.S., right up to and including Mr. Obama. Consequently, I do not think it disingenuous to believe that many Palestinians want their own state. (Just as it is not so to imagine that most Americans want health care -- despite what those delectable leaders of the current opposition party keep feeding to their dumb suppliants.)

    Regarding those camps you mention: Norman Finkelstein has been there. Do you agree with him?

    I often wish that peace talks could do away with leaders and concentrate instead on the rank-and-file. But that, of course, is impossible -- though it's the rank-and-file who always suffer most.

    And so, yes, do continue on this subject. I would rather hear it from you than from so many others I've had to listen to. I do trust you, even though, apparently, we have some disagreement here....

  6. I think part of the problem for onlookers to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is that we tend to homogenize both sides into fully blended agendas and perspectives. The Palestinians, in reality, are sharply divided--not just between moderates (PA)and extremists (Hamas)--but into subgroups colored by different levels of hate and resentment towards Israel. Of course, within Israel, anti-Palestinian sentiment is also mixed and can reach intractable determination to control by force--or, see generosity and compromise as a risk worth taking. I believe the Palestinians have done their utmost to earn Israeli mistrust--BUT we've got the power to take risks for peace without jeopardizing our security. With that power comes the responsibility to overcome mistrust and offer generous compromises.