Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I did this Weekend, Part II

***Warning: I was going to include a disclaimer warning Christians and Muslims that they are likely to be offended by this post. On further reflection, I realized that everyone is going to be offended by this post. As such, my disclaimer: you are going to be offended by this post.

In all seriousness, or at least my version of same: why on earth would I post about the stuff going on in my head, especially when some of it can be defined as ignorant at best, and hateful and/or racist at worst? There are three reasons. One: some of the stuff going on in my head is ridiculous and funny, when you take it out and look at it objectively and I do so like to amuse. Two: writing about what I think forces me to think about the things I do think about—always a valuable exercise. It is just that pesky exhibitionist side of me that inspires me to do so in such a public fashion. Three: I want you to be able to understand this visit in context and to see it through my eyes. Unfortunately, that involves sitting in my brain a bit. What can I say—I apologize for the clutter and I assure you that I am trying to bring some order. (Actually, the reason for the trip, but that is another story).

Yahla! Onwards! Or for those of you who missed part one, backwards. And then onwards.

At some point during the trip through the shtachim, perhaps to show how deep, intellectual and thoughtful I am (or to prove, for once and for all, that I am a dimwit with really no knowledge of the region, the people or the situation), I decided to share some of my political views. The conversation went roughly as follows:

“I think we should just do a population exchange—let the Muslim Arabs be part of the new state and take all the Christian Arabs.”

A choking, strangling sound emerged from Gadi's side of the car. I barreled on. “I mean, the Muslims do not want them. And we should want them—they are great citizens. Christians are well educated. Muslims…well, they tend to be more radical. And they hate us and have the whole Jihad thing going on. Christians seem to be far less likely to try and blow us up. I grew up with Christians. They are really very normal. More normal than you or I, to be honest.”

Gadi gave me a disbelieving look. He was clearly not sure whether he should be horrified or if he should burst out laughing. I reconsidered my stance.

“But…then…I do not know any actual Muslims. And it could be that meeting some would change my opinion.”

Gadi kept his response mild. “Possibly.”

“And I only know American Christians—who are no doubt, very different from Arab Christians." (For all I knew, the Arab Christians were united with the Arab Muslims in wanting to kill me and were waiting together behind the wall, in beautiful, co-religious harmony, for our car to pass so that they could jump out and shoot me. I kept this thought to myself). "Besides, some of our best terrorists have been Christian. Take the Spanish Inquisition, for example. Or the Cossacks. Or the Crusaders. Or Hitler. But don’t worry. I will not say anything about this at the dinner. ”

Gadi looked relieved. Clearly, he had been doubting the wisdom of inviting me along for this particular ride.

Now, at this point, I should have dropped the subject of local politics and moved onto something benign and non-controversial, such as global warming Of course, I did not. Because, what fun would that be? Besides, it seemed to me to be patently unfair that I should be the only one having heart attacks. Let Gadi have some as well.

So on to the Peace Process it was.

"It just seems to me that, so long as we are focused on keeping score—you did this, you did that—we are never going to achieve peace. We are going to have to just let the past go, to say 'forget about the past' and look forward. Like…a fresh start."

"Can we forget about that?" He pointed at the masses of houses making up Ma'ale Adumim or Efrat or whatever settlement we were passing at that moment.

"That is not what I meant." It was not—I was not talking about practical issues like how to deal with population centers. I was talking about wholly impractical matters, like how in the hell one is supposed to achieve peace between two sides when each of the sides sees itself as a victim—noble, holy, hideously abused, innocent of any wrongdoing and completely justified in its acts— and sees the other side as the spawn of Satan. You know, it just makes the process that much more difficult. I tried to explain what I meant, but apparently I did not succeed. Gadi repeated his question.

"Can we forget about that?"

I gave up. "We cannot move them".

"Why not?"

"Why should we have to? We have an Palestinian minority; why can’t a Palestinian state have a Jewish minority? The people living there could become citizens of the Palestinian state. Or we could do a land exchange".

"Yes, we could do that. But why can't we move them?"

"Because the Disengagement was absolute disaster."

"That is our own fault; we should have done better. Why can't we move them?"

I did not answer. I had no more answers. Well that is not true. I did have an answer. The problem was that I suspected that an answer along the lines of: "because another year of posters portraying Israeli soldiers as Nazis will probably push this country over the edge, to the point that even apathetic Tel Avivim, like myself, will be goaded into action and will rise up, en masse, and will rush out to the shtachim, and start whopping the settlers upside the head with our cappuccino mugs" was not going to satisfy him.

Besides which, apart from it being a political time bomb, I genuinely did not (and do not) understand why a Palestinian State can not have a Jewish minority. Israelis who raise the issue of overly high Arab populations in Israel are instantly accused of advocating ethnic cleansing. But if a future Palestinian State rejects a Jewish minority, that is just fine?

But there is that pesky time bomb factor Despite the fact that most of the Jews and Arabs in the shtachim are just nice, normal, non-violent, peace-loving people who just want to go about their lives (at least according to the PR on both sides), sooner or later, a bad apple will emerge from one side or the other and create an International Incident. Like, for instance: beating someone up, engaging in verbal abuse, burning fields, stealing olive groves, stoning cars or people, shooting someone, lynching someone or some other manner of incitement. The next thing you know, the International Incident will be followed up with a Payback International Incident which will be followed by Outrage in the Jewish World and/or the World Community, which could encourage a future, right-wing version of the Israeli government to march right back in to Take Control of Matters and to Protect our Fellow Jews and the Poor Palestinians who are Incapable of Ruling Themselves.

So yeah, I can understand why a Palestinian State might not be overly anxious to inherit a good-sized Jewish population which includes a respectable number of our more radical elements. For that matter, I can understand why an Israeli government genuinely interested in getting out and staying out of the West Bank would not be overly anxious to leave a good-sized Jewish population there. Simply put, the presence of good sized group of people who hate Arabs and who are hated in return would not contribute much to the stability of a Palestinian state. But, on the other hand—Israel already has, and would be left with, an equally respectably-sized population of the Arab radical elements who hate Jews. How can this be fair? Perhaps we should add a clause to any peace accord, or even to the proposed hostage law—we do not take back our violent, venom-spewing, radical right/left wing nutcases unless you take back yours.

Coming soon: Part III-thank G-d they have enough chicken.


shiny said...

I apologize for the apolitical nature of this reply, but I continue to enjoy your writing -- and can't wait to read Part III! I've decided not to make any judgments until I read the whole thing...

Anonymous said...



John said...

I'm offended. Amused, but offended. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love how you weren't the typical "politically correct" lefty self hating Jew Gadi was used to making this trip with.

And please don't think your comments as being racist because such words don't apply when talking about this conflict. Racism implies that there is no reason for your bias except the ethnicity of the person. And there is good reason indeed for your bias.

And as for hate, hate can be a good thing. After all that passage goes that there is a time to hate as well as there is a time to love.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You can use a carrot sometimes, but most of the time it takes a big, big stick.

Never Again!

Anonymous said...

Hitler wasn't Christian. He was Pagan.

SavtaDotty said...

As a Tel Avivit, I thoroughly enjoyed the image of us mobilizing and "whopping the settlers upside the head with our cappuccino mugs," but my mugs are too precious to me, materialist archetype that I am.

Seriously, you write very well about the complexities of trying to "solve" a conundrum involving identity conflicts, both internal and external, and you have earned in a very hard way the right to be heard.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Great point about the minority thingy. That has always bothered me too. I mean, under the Jordanians how many Jews got to even VISIT the Western Wall? What happened to Jewish soldiers who were in Saudi Arabia during the (first) gulf war? I'm not being disingenuous (sp?) I really want to understand. Why can't we live with them? I like the guys in my makolet. I'm friendly with them. Could I work in THEIR makolet? I'd be happy to co-exist with them if I thought they were really willing to coexist with ME. But I suspect that even if we give them EVERYTHING they are asking for, including Jaffa, Acco and Jerusalem, they'd still be looking for ways to kill me. :( Maybe I'm a racist, maybe I'm a bigot, maybe I'm willfully ignorant, but I just cannot understand why we can get along when we're all in Hadassah HOspital together (and my son's jaw surgeon was a very fine human being named Abu Tir, and we had really nice, caring people in our machlaka - who happened to be arabs) but we cannot live together in one state!

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Gila said...

"the term racist and bigot doesn't apply here."

The hell it doesn't!

RivkA with a capital A said...

Gila -- you know I love you, but you have got to learn some history!

You can't say that you want to stay away from politics and then write about politics.

If you are going to promote a political agenda, you need to do your homework.

And you are promoting a political agenda, whether you intend to or not.

Further, you portray both Arabs and Jews as if their actions are morally equivalent. They are not.

If you learn your history, you will see that the conflict is not ballanced. Jews and Arabs do not want the same things, we are not the same.

I wish things were different. I wish most Arabs just wanted to live their lives peacefully. I wish most Arabs opposed violence and murder.

The truth is not PC. The polls show that over 75% of Arabs support suicide bombers.

When you drive into these Arab towns, you risk being lynched.

And you have no way of knowing who the very kind, very hospitable Arab really is.

In Hevron, in 1929, the Jews refused to believe that the Arabs, with whom they lived and socialized (in each other's homes and at each other's simchas) would harm them. When representatives of the Palmach came to warn the Jews of Hevron of the impending disaster, the Jews of Hevron refused to accept that they were in danger. As a result, Hevron's Jewish community was brutally and savagely destroyed by their Arab neighbors.

It's true, there were some Arabs who risked their lives to save their Jewish friends and neighbors. But they were the exceptions.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

Anonymous said...

It really makes me sad to read comments or "advice" of if I may say well, educated people.

You project your fears and thoughts unto people who have been living in the same country for generations and generations.
You fear the day you have to face the reality, you will realise to have sown the hatred yourself by abusing them as third class citizens.

I admire mr. Begin, mr. Rabin and mr. Sharon, not for whom they are but of what they did.
Some people unlike the most of us have the ability to see far beyond the horizon.

You have, next time you go to the sea side, to free yourself from the thought that all sharks in there want to eat you.


aliyah06 said...

I'm with you....and so was the original partition plan back in '47 -- the idea was that the demographic majorities would each have their own states (Palestine/Israel) but each state would have a minority of the other (Israeli Arabs, Jewish Palestinians) and would have joint economic interests. Now the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs wax wroth whenever someone in Israeli politics suggests redrawing the lines of the map to give Arab population centers, like Wadi Ara's towns, to the future state of Palestine -- yet they never address their own demand that Israel essentially engage in ethnic cleansing of Jews from To-Be-Palestine.

Everyone is acting like "Peace" is something you bargain for in the souk. Peace, in reality, is justice for everyone despite not getting everything you think you ought to get.

Many will be happy to give up "Greater Israel" if we can be assured that the Palestinians will surrender "Greater Palestine" and its concommitant 'Right of Return' to inundate Israel.

singlehood to motherhood said...

I dont come in here often but when I do I am always tickled, giggling and thought provoked.
Im with RivkA....
(her view on Arabs not you pushing a political agenda)....
Of course there are those who want to live their lives and raise their kids and cach halaa...
BUT I dont believe that is the majority...
Additionally, the settlers, in my estimation should be applauded not hit over the head, nahafochu!!!
Do you really want the whole country to be an apathetic money focused culture like in TA???
Who keeps the ideology the original meaning of what this country should be alive if not the settlers???
They should be applauded...
talk about NON PC...:)

Gadi said...

Hello. This is my first entry here. I haven't read all the lines where I'm mentioned, but maybe most of them.

In any case. one comment here: I think that when we judge what is right and wrong and just, we should remember that the Palestinians in both Israel and Palestine have roots in the land on which they sit now, or they have been kicked, by us, from the land they have been rooted on.

Most of us are here for 1-3 generations. Most Palestinians for 3+ generations. No equality there. And I am not one-sided, and I do think that the Palestinians, and their Arab "friends" have a lot to do with the tragedy of the Palestinians and the Israelis and should take responsibility.

But I'm also sure, not just think, that talking about such crucial issues, that have to do with the lives and deaths of so many people around here, is much better, much more effective if comes not only with the study of "our" and "their" histories, but also with experience of meetings and speaking and listening to Palestinians, and visiting them where they are.

Otherwise, as I hear many Palestinians say: we Israelis are trying to make peace among ourselves. We are not talking with the Palestinians on it. We are talking with ourselves (most of us). And I think they are right on this point.