August 7, 2009
I write this letter because of the ‘natural ignorance’ we all have about the World around us (will someone please give me a better word for that phrase) and my personal desire that a little bit more of the Israel story be told. But don’t think I’m that knowledgeable about the subject. Perhaps just a little percentage more than ‘you’, but still way behind the Israeli politician or historian, almost any one in Aviva’s family, or the man in the street.
Why don’t I create a ‘Letter from Israel’ blog? Maybe I will, but the whole point of this letter is that I am sending it to those who know me; and therefore perhaps give my words a little more credence than they would an opinion from some guy called ‘Stephen in Israel’. I tend to categorise such opinions; why would you be so different?
I’m still wading through Joan Peters’ incredible book ‘From Time Immemorial’. More than 200 pages of notes, all about the ‘whole story’ of Palestinian refugees, including the Jewish ones. They outnumbered the Arabs by a large margin, but were soon absorbed, both in Israel (they make up approx. half of today’s Jewish population here), and also in Europe and USA. This is a book which really exposes the incredible propaganda game that the World has fallen for. (Let’s forget about the election and move on, were the paraphrased words from Ahmadinajad in his speech to Parliament this week. Same thing).
I just received this Powerpoint presentation on the ‘Jewish Naqba’. (‘Naqba’ means catastrophe, and is the word used by the Palestinian Arabs on the day the State of Israel was declared in 1948). First, let’s see how many of you have the patience to see it all. It’s only 3-4 minutes, but we receive so many of these things, and the last one we are interested in viewing is about some Israeli whining about the past. Right?
But, as Joan Peters so painstakingly points out, just look at the numbers who really did suffer not only ‘just before 1948’, but on and off since Mohammad walked the land. There were 55,000 Jews in little Yemen. Today, around 200. 140,000 in Algeria; today 100. 80,000 in Egypt; today 100. 100,000 in Iran; today 25,000 (largest Jewish pop. in M. East outside Israel – but Iran’s not Arab, so they’re OK. Right??). And so on.
Peters’ book goes on to explain, in more than full detail, that so many of the Arabs who claimed to live in this area ‘From Time Immemorial’ didn’t. I’ll have a 3-4 pages précis for you one of these months.
Went to a Bat Mitzva yesterday in Neve Shalom. That’s the village community set up to bring Arabs and Jews together in life, education, social activities etc. etc. It’s in such a beautiful area on the way to Jerusalem. It’s located where, during the 1948 War of Independence, there were many horrible battles in the struggle to keep open the lifeline to the capital, for here there are countless Arab villages.
The 100 or so guests were located on a slope downwards to the ‘stage’ where a jazz quartet also played softer stuff, where the kids played and the girl, Yuval, her family and others said some words of life, backed by the reddest horizon you’ve ever seen (there’s pollution in the area behind). Wow, beauty is so beautiful when there’s ‘shalom’.
What really annoys many ‘observers’ is the subject of the settlements and the settlers, especially the religious ones (they’re not the majority, but they’re the ones in focus) . What also annoys many is the apparent support the settlers receive from the Israeli government. The recent ejection of 2 very large Arab families from East Jerusalem could not have looked worse. And in this case, it’s hard to argue with the critics.
But before you scream from your high horses, a reminder that Israel is a most democratic society, and yesterday’s Jerusalem Post is a perfect example. It’s more Right than the only other English-language daily, Ha-Aretz, but it’s ‘open’. In the news section, you had an article entitled: ‘Israel vs. the world: drawing the battle lines over Jerusalem’, and that focused on the attitude of recent Israeli governments on the subject, and how the World has reacted to them. (The picture shows the religious Jewish families moving in).
Another article ‘Evicted E. Jerusalem families says orders were illegal’ gives the victims a voice. Here, there is a sympathetic photo of the families’ elders.
A further article is ‘Tensions run high in court over Sheikh Jarrah evictions’, describing the scenes as the 2 sides fight it out within the legal system.
And then there are the opinions. We’ve already seen leader comments, and they have been mixed. Now the Post has given ‘the 2 sides’ a voice by printing articles by Larry Derfner on the Left and Michael Freund on the Right.
Larry accepts that the property may have belonged before to Jews, but it was quite obviously given to the Arab families when they were evicted from West Jerusalem.
So are we going to give back all land confiscated as a result of war or not? Obviously not. So let’s be fair to individuals who have been caught up in this mess. Leave them in their E. Jerusalem houses – or ensure (and there have been years of haggling and negotiation behind this particular subject) that they are properly and satisfactorily re-settled in property of similar comfort and value. What’s the big deal?
Michael wants to bring us back to the real subject. It’s not settlement activity but ‘Arab intolerance which lies at the root of the problem’. We’re back to the ‘clearing of the Jews’ subject, which Joan Peters’ book so eloquently highlights. Arabs can live in Jewish areas, so why not Jews in Arab areas?
There’s one particular recipient of this ‘Letter’ whose normally calm visage goes red and starts to tremble when this ‘settler’ subject is opened. (You know who you are). It IS sometimes difficult for me to defend the actions of extremists (ANY extremists). We criticise them ourselves (just not in public). And the same goes for the government who appear sometimes to protect them or are at least reluctant to be seen to be tough with them (for political reasons, of course) . (Let’s not forget that when the chips are down, as in the evacuations of Sinai and Gaza, the govt. WAS tough).
Well, I’m sorry, you-know-who, you’re not looking deep enough. As I mentioned above, the Iranian President wants us to forget what happened last month and to move on. But to solve today’s problems, you have to look back. Can’t keep saying ‘forget the past’. Leave that to the HRO’s like Amnesty International to ignore the reasons why actions and reactions happen. It’s their apparent job to just handle the ‘now’.
When I had that conversation with Mohammad Assaf, a lot of his criticisms and concerns were also focusing too much on today, and not solving the problems of yesterday. The Jews cannot, just cannot be accused of having started this conflict. Any such thought can only be a result of brainwashing. One side started a war out of prejudice, hate, fear, intolerance. You name it. They lost that war, and subsequent wars they started. Perhaps we should now add the ‘loss of pride’ to that list.
Hey, as history has taught us, you cannot expect everything to be back to square one. The silly thing is, that Israel has often offered that option, or as close to it as practically possible. But so many of Israel’s enemies have not moved on from the reason war was declared in the first place.
And the neutrals still don’t see that.