January 19th, 1988
(Written during the initial weeks of the first Palestinian intifada, which itself lasted about 6 years).
I’m trying to paint a picture that puts you in a position of having some balanced knowledge of the situation in Israel. Obviously, with what is happening at the moment, I have to do some defending. But I also don’t want to imply that this country is perfect, and that we generally approve of what is going on. This country is just another complex democracy, with the added disadvantage of being young, surrounded by undemocratic enemies.
Currently, my Jerusalem Post is the only English-language newspaper here. We do have the usual spread of politically-biased Hebrew-language newspapers in Israel. However, the press is quite free here, and it would be fair to say that what appears in the Post, also appears somewhere in Hebrew.
Just an indication that there’s nothing being hidden here. The death of the boy and the worried Palestinian mothers are of great concern to us. There’s little, if any censorship (or brainwashing) here, which sometimes can be a disadvantage.
We have a cousin living in Talpioth, a suburb of Jerusalem, where stones have been thrown through their windows.
Dalia Landau’s letter is an illustration of the tragedy that is Israel/Palestine. (Dalia is the co-founder of the Open House, a home for Israeli Arab children in Ramle, a special story on its own). It is a fact that, as I told you before, some of the Palestinians left the country because of the actual fighting in 1948; most left by orders of the Arab nations who were attacking Israel, with the promise of return once the Jews were defeated. And then some, like in this story, were forced out by the Jews.
It is also important to note that this Bashir Khayri in the story had served 15 years in Israeli jail, having been found guilty of a fatal bombing. All 9 of the Palestinians deported recently had similar records or were official members of radical wings of the PLO. I am one of the many who question the sense of deportation. I would have out them back in jail. But their current crimes are minimal and they could not have been locked up for long. It’s like the story you often get on the TV police series.She asks the police for protection, knowing he’s coming to get her. But, even though he has a record, they can’t do anything, because he’s not breaking the law. They have to catch him ‘in the act’. So what does one do with such guys?
As you see, there is opposition to the method of destroying the homes of suspected territories. But not yet strong enough to stop it.
I presume you’ve heard about that idiot, Ariel Sharon, who recently acquired a building in the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City as a 2nd home. In this 2-room place, he had a house-warming party for 300 of his cronies, placed a 6-foot high Chanukkia on his roof and so on.
This goes back to the problem of democracy and the electoral system here. Sometimes, relatively normal people (like me) come out with statements that are totally opposed to democracy. A man like Sharon, who has been found guilty of several things, not the least of which was an indirect part in the massacres at the Chatilla and Sabra Palestinian camps in Lebanon, should not be allowed to hold political office. The fact that a man like that is a minister and even a potential leader of the country is frightening.
Yes, that’s the other side of the story. This country is making mistakes. I’ve discussed the electoral system, but not the make-up of the population. A great number of the Likud (right-wing) support comes from the oriental Jews, mostly immigrants from the Arab countries. They have their reasons for disliking the Arabs (as the Palestinians currently feel in the ‘occupied territories’). And, like the Orthodox Jews, the Arabs (and Catholics…) are increasing at a faster rate than the rest of the population.
The statement ‘God help Israel when there’s peace’ is no joke. There are so many internal problems here. Because of the political-social-economical and religious divisions among the Israeli Jews (let alone among the Israeli Arabs and Christians), the potential for continued problems is great. Oh, what a strong leader could do for this country.
What do we liberals want? Get out of Gaza yesterday, for a start. The day after it was won from Egypt in 1967, it should have been given back. (A reminder that we are always referring to land taken over in wars started by the Arabs who just can’t stand having Jews as their neighbours).
At the Camp David Accord, it should have been given back. True, the Arabs voiced the famous 3 no’s at the Arab League conference in Khartoum after the 6-Day War, but that does not stop us from unilaterally acting. And knowing what we do now, note that while the Egyptians don’t want this area of 1 million Arabs, they are willing to go to the ends of the Earth to fight over the 400 meters of Taba, south of Eilat.
The 2,500 Jewish settlers in Gaza, most of whom are American Orthodox, should be ‘asked to leave’ or just given the choice to stay or not. (We don’t want a repeat of the tragic scenes of the Israeli Army forcing fellow Jews forced to leave their Yamit homes in Sinai).
Gaza should immediately become an autonomous area, with physical help from Jordan and/or Egypt, and the money coming from the Gulf. If, as many Israelis fear, the area is infiltrated by the PLO with the intention of terrorist attacks on Israel, then the Israeli Army will go in. It may become another Lebanon. But at least the responsibility will no longer be Israel’s.
By the way, as has happened in Israel, a properly developed Gaza could be a terrific place. There is some very good land for cultivation and a very long coastline.
The West Bank is a more difficult case. Look at a map, and you see how it divides the country. Many feel that a similar form of autonomy could be set up with Jordan’s co-operation. I really do feel that the Arabs had their chance in 1948. The best legal deal they have ever had was to have accepted the 1947 UN resolution 181. But they wanted everything; they ended up with less. There is a limit to the respect one shows to neighbours who refuse to accept your existence.
2 days ago, Jordan TV showed a British Channel 4 interview with King Hussein. Unfortunately, the interviewer was, in my opinion, far too polite.
How can he allow the King to talk about 20 years of Palestinian suffering and the current clashes in the ‘occupied territories’, without being reminded about what happened in 1970: the infamous Black September. The PLO named their most radical faction after this event, which saw the Jordanians attempt to destroy the PLO for attempting a coup in the country. ‘Thousands’ were killed, many more were deported.
Two thousand years of almost continuous persecution has taught the Jew that the only formula for survival is to be a majority within their own state. Why should the Arabs be different to the majorities in whose midst the Jews have attempted to survive all those years?
Ask the Kurds, Armenians, Latvians etc. the same question. Actually you can even ask the Iranians the same question. Look how many of them are refugees from Khomeini. At least, as moderate Muslims, they live in countries where they can feel at home.
It is easy to say that the American Jews are OK (although many will not agree). They end up in the enclaves of New York, L.A. and Chicago etc. But without Israel, what hope do the Jews of the USSR, the Arab countries and many other nations have, if and when faced with persecution.
Israel basically wants to be left alone, wants their boys to play tennis instead of giving 3 years’ service and 2 months per year reserve until 55. It’s not natural for every second home to have a gun. 50 years ago, this was unheard of for a Jew. With what Israelis have done for their own country, there is no question that their Arab cousins are missing out on having a very good and helpful neighbour.