# 259 – Dear Gili by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
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# 259 – Dear Gili

Helping others to understand Israel - and Israelis to understand others...
  • Joined Sep 2016
  • Published Books 409

June 20, 2014

My nephew, Gili, is keen that his response to my last email, sent to you yesterday, is forwarded to my mailing list. (I continue the habit of Bcc-ing, so that there is no mass-forwarding of correspondence). So here it is, below…


I don’t mind this, of course, but I am sceptical of the readers’ patience or powers of concentration on a subject that is not a priority to most.

What this shows is that Israel is a very vibrant society. It’s reputation of having more political views than there are people is true.


I personally think that our ‘battle’ between left and right (and here that basically means between the ‘Peace Now’ movement and those who say ‘No thank-you!) is a shame. I believe that the ‘far-left’ are blind and the Israelis amongst them are ‘politically damaging’.


In fact, it goes back to the obvious fact that an extremist, or a fundamentalist, whatever their belief, is a danger.

My version of ‘left’ in this context is one who never closes the door to eventual peace, one who must constantly be flexible, but one who’s eyes are wide open and who will not give in for the sake of misguided world opinion.

Israel is fighting for it’s life! That is uppermost in my mind.


Although there is a parallel problem of Muslim extremists having greater influence in a multiple of western societies, it will be generations before the predicaments of those countries becomes life-threatening, as it is here.

I apologise in advance, but another letter will be sent out ‘soon’, based on ‘When will there be a ceasefire?’.



From: Gil Ben-Herut <[email protected]>

Subject: Re: Letter from Israel

Date: 20 July 2014 09:31:28 GMT+03:00

To: Stephen Pohlmann <[email protected]>

I am 100% with you sending my response to the virtual public.


Dear Stephen,

Being a relative of yours (and, if I may, a friend as well), and a left-winger, *and* an academic, I somehow feel provoked to response your last email, which lightly referred to such people (with positive notions I hope) ….

I think that Pat Condell makes his case effectively, touching on major points that unfortunately go unnoticed by the uneducated masses out there, and I also think you follow suit well!


But the larger question, Stephen — even after these logical, rational, Western stances have been wonderfully articulated — remains: For how long, with staggering progeny (on both sides!) and very limited land, does the political anomaly of the occupied territories can last?


You’ve hit an important point, Gili. I can assure you that most of Israel (and let’s discount ANY extremist, whichever side they are on), is hungry for a settlement.


It is hypothetical, and very interesting, to speculate what the situation would had been, had Israel not started settling in the West Bank and Gaza in 1968. But Israel had the simple precedent of 2 wars forced on it, no peace, potential danger, and the famous 3 ‘No’s’ from that classic oxymoron, the Arab League (unless we mean something like the English Premier League).


A reminder that, from ’48 – ’67, those areas were occupied by fellow Arabs, and there was still no movement towards a Palestinian state.

Don’t you get it? They may hate each other, but their real hate is for the Jews. A Jew-free (and Christian-free, I have no doubt) West Bank would not have been better than the current Jew-free Gaza or Jew-free southern Lebanon (and Jew-free Sinai). Why is that so difficult for so many to comprehend?


I don’t think it’s being left-wing that’s the problem. I think it is the inability to see the truth and to be flexible enough to change one’s mind.


The point you raise here, Stephen, that a Jew-free West Bank (a weird way of putting it, but I’ll play along) would not have been better for Israel in terms of security is, actually, a very reasonable conjecture. I in fact second it completely! (I am wondering why some “Right-Wingers” automatically assume that “Left-Winger” are naively over-optimistic).


BUT — a this is an important caveat — what could have been that we acutely lack right now is a solid border, a clear line to distinguish “us” from “them”. Assuming some kind of war mongering would still control the political atmosphere in our area — we would have at least be able to fight the enemy lines and then draw back to our “own” areas. That is a huge difference than an army running the daily lives of an occupied population! It doesn’t shoot well on TV, and it is even worse in real life!


Put differently, what does the “no solution in sight” theory, prospected by you and other right-wingers, and coupled with growing Jewish settlements among rapidly growing disgruntled and underprivileged Palestinian population, offer for the next ten, twenty, thirty years from now?


Because what I find in your emails is an adamant (and well-argued for) refusal to acknowledge Palestinian basic civil rights on the one hand, and, on the other, a refusal to disengage from lands they populate by the millions. This is a plain historical, social, and political paradox for any democratic or liberal scale, but more practically — and here is where I am really worried — it is a recipe for a national/demographic disaster.


Oh Gili, we usually agree on so much….Where does one start?

There IS a solution in sight. There is a large Palestinian community which is NOT referred to as ‘refugees’, even though quite a few of them do NOT live in their original homes. They have FULL RIGHTS, they live a decent life, AT LEAST AS GOOD AS MANY OF THE LOCAL OTHER MINORITIES, such as Moroccans, Russians, Ethiopians and the Arab Christians.


They live in Israel. Their representatives in the Israeli parliament (Knesset) have the power and opportunity to preach peace to their brothers. They have a judge on the Supreme Court, which had the democratic pleasure of finding the President of Israel guilty of sexual abuse.


The solution IS in sight. The question only is – How blind or weak is the Gazan population? You can say what you like about the Occupation in the West Bank, but their status is 100 years ahead of their Hamas-controlled brothers in Gaza. There is, in the West Bank, a solution in sight. And part of it is based on something that many Muslims still do not understand: cohabitation.


The Gazan Palestians are quite obviously too weak and scared to do what was done in Egypt: Chuck the terrorists out!

And let’s get another form of blindness out of the way. Any political-leaning can be said to be based on ‘point of view’. If Gili, you think I’m right-wing, not only do I think you need glasses, I think you need a rope to pull you back from the extreme right edge off which you fell. (Gili, I wish you were here now. After this outburst, I’d get up and go over to you and give you a hug).


My open eyes do not make me, a ‘central-left’ person, a rightist.

Funny you renounce your right-winghood! I am usually the one to say I am *not* a lefty! Maybe this self-denial is some rhetorical device common in our family 😉 but for the sake of fairness — either we both take of our unbecoming hats, or simply keep them on and move on with it!


Agreeing completely about the miserable moral state of the Gazan people, I would only suggest to try and support non-extremists over there. I don’t see any other alternative that’s working, including heavy bombing!! (do you know the story about the sun and the storm having a bet who’ll succeed to undress a person walking the street? Guess what, the storm only succeeds in making him hold on to his coat even more!).


What I expect from my truly great Jewish nation, people, and leaders is a commitment for carving out some kind of responsible and respectable future, one which will not fall under the definition (for lack of a more accurate and contextual term) apartheid.

The gloves are off!


Gili, How can you use the word ‘apartheid’ in ANY context that involves Israel? I have travelled extensively. I knew Apartheid-South Africa well. I know today’s S. Africa. I know Afrikaaners who today explain clearly to me why they want the return of Apartheid. I have been to pre- and post-Communist eastern Europe. I know the difference between a people threatened by external forces and those oppressed by their own leaders. Be good neighbours, and we’ll love you as neighbours. Try to exterminate us, and we’ll defend.


I was criticised by some for becoming emotional by saying that the security fence saved my daughters’ lives, saying that the daily lives of those affected by the fence was a price worth paying. Don’t you LEFT-WINGERS understand this?

Give us peace, lasting peace, and we shall build hundreds of orchards and children’s playgrounds instead of the fence.


I am truly bored from the commotion around using the word ‘apartheid’. Fine. Let’s tuck it aside for a bit. Nothing wrong with some sensibility and moderation in our choice of words.


However, the reality (a word which you tend to frequently use and — if I may — appropriate as your own) remains: two hundred thousands overprivileged Jews with full civil rights (carrying weapons, house ownership, and so on) are living among over two million people who are not allowed even to ride the main roads. (I know, that has all to do with security reasons and nothing about race in itself — but still — a separation between two kinds of people is going on, full power. Now find the right term for this, be it not ‘apartheid’).


I would actually want to adopt your language of “neighbors”, only I want them on the other side of the fence, with me having nothing to do with their lives or fate unless they bother me at a given moment (which means, a good old decent war between two states, and not the mishmash as it is now).



Can you present such a solution while holding to the occupied territories *and* still holding responsible for some 3+ million Palestinians? I wonder what such a solution looks like.


Israel is almost stupidly democratic. It is a PERFECT example of what the solution can look like if there is peace, whatever you call the piece of land. Despite NO REAL PEACE with our neighbours since the establishment of the State of Israel, we have built a country which is UNBELIEVABLE under the circumstances. In any other situation, the country would be a mess. There would be no Arabs, and there would be very few tourists. Come back to Israel, Gili, and be reminded of the solution.



I am sorry, searching hard to finding THE solution in the above read paragraph, but simply am not able to …. Are you suggesting annexing the territories with complete civil rights to all the Palestinians? This might, I’m afraid to say, bring us closer to today’s South Africa … and not in a good way …

Looking forward! (and warmest regards to all our lovely but sheltered family!)



We also wish you and your lovely family well…

Uncle Stephen

On a personal note: my wife and two young daughters are flying out of Israel today after spending time with their cousins in bomb shelters. In a way, I am happy my girls (five and eight) have experienced that. It is part of “normal” life in Israel, and they better get used to it as we definitely plan to return living in Israel at some point!


PS – A few (unfortunately-named) bullets from today –

  • Israel makes thousands of telephone calls to warn residents of imminent attack – almost unique in history

  • Israel drops thousands of leaflets to try to persuade the citizens to get away from danger areas, where Hamas have set up rocket-launchers etc. – almost unique in history


  • After warnings, Israel hits a building with a dud missile, and only follows up with the real thing 5 minutes later – almost unique in history

  • We see the horror of the innocent Palestinian victims. We do not see dead Hamas fighters (for wont of a better descriptive). Are you telling me Israel ONLY targets innocents? Please don’t.


  • Egypt has stopped supplies going into Gaza; Israel hasn’t. Check the media.

  • Israel is allowing injured Gazans into Israel to be treated. Check the media.


  • And finally, one of my favourite ‘bugs’…will UN please close UNRWA, the division set up in 1948 (66 years ago) specially for Palestinian refugees, and start again. UNRWA employees have forgotten their objective, which is to settle refugees in their adopted countries, whether that’s UK, USA, Lebanon, Jordan or…Gaza. How can you call a Palestinian village/town/community in the Palestinian territories a refugee camp. What on Earth are you waiting for!


  • In the last 24 hours, we have lost 13 soldiers. According to the Gilad Schalit swap figures, that’s the equivalent of around 14,000 Palestinians. I’m being bitterly cynical. But I’ll still ask: who’s the winner now? This ‘right-winger’ is ready to make full peace with the Palestinians…but yesterday!!



Gil Ben-Herut, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of South Asian Religions

Department of Religious Studies

University of South Florida

4202 East Fowler Ave, CPR107

Tampa, FL 33620

(813) 974-2221

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