Sunday, April 29, 2012

PRIORITIES


    [Originally published in The Times of Israel on April 28]

It would be funny if it weren't so pathetically predictable.

In the last few weeks Palestinian Authority President Abbas has again refused to negotiate unless Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu makes huge concessions regarding borders in advance of negotiations.

Rockets specifically intended to kill and maim civilians continue to be fired from Gaza into Israel's south. The "moderate" regime of President Abbas announced its intention to hang a Palestinian for selling his Hebron property to a Jew--a capital offense if there ever was one.

Apparently not to be outdone by Abbas' government, Hamas, the half elected/half bloody coup rulers of Gaza, announced that they will begin public executions of "collaborators," rapists, and murderers.

None of the above elicited a squeak from the international community. It is all just business as usual.

Then Israel made legal an action permitting three communities totaling 188 families that were originally approved about 10 years ago, and the response would have left Pavlov's dogs in the dust. UN Secretary-General Ki-moon said that he was "troubled" by the action and that it went against the Quartet's calls to refrain from "provocations." And, of course, the U.S. government expressed its "concerns."

Despite the fact that it is entirely natural for Jews to desire living in their ancestral homeland, I and many other Israelis would prefer that the Netanyahu government would not take these sorts of actions. We support compromise, even if it disturbs us that the Palestinians apparently intend that no Jew will be allowed to live in their proposed state.

These actions are simply easy pickins' for those who love to attack Israel, and they help mislead many well-intentioned but ill-informed people about the reasons the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not been resolved. And the fact of the matter is that legalizing them will be meaningless if and when a peace deal is made.

The communities in the Sinai that Israel returned to Egypt in exchange for a peace deal were legal under Israeli law, as were the communities in Gaza and the northern West Bank from which the Sharon government unilaterally withdrew in the hopes of peace. When it came time to take steps for peace, whether as part of a deal or unilaterally, the legality of the communities was not an obstacle.

Having said that, can anyone in their right mind think that about 600 Jews living in an area that might become the Palestinian nation is the reason the dispute has not be resolved? As many critics of the government's actions have said, these are the first "new" "settlements" "established" in a decade.

Moreover, several Israeli governments have offered virtually the entire West Bank in exchange for peace. And, yet, there has been no resolution of the conflict.

President Abbas will not negotiate unless he is guaranteed his terms before the negotiations. The two Palestinian governments that do exist seem to be in competition for the most crude and unfair executions. Rockets are fired at civilians on a daily basis.

None of this seems to cause much concern or attention in the UN or by anyone else in the media or officialdom.

But the legalization of the tiny communities of a few Jews who have been living in the legalized locations for several years focuses the world's attention. That's setting priorities.

                                         





Friday, April 20, 2012

IRONIES

The media report that President Obama plans on visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday, during which visit he will explain the Administration's strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities in the world.

I applaud the President for taking the time from his busy schedule to visit the Museum.  It shows his respect for those who perished in the Holocaust and his commitment to helping preserve their memory.  I also applaud the Administration for developing and explaining a strategy to prevent future atrocities.  It demonstrates that preventing mass murder is a high priority of the United States. 

The Administration should be commended.  However, I could not help but note a bit of irony in the President's making a visit at this time. The irony arises from the fact that the Administration has not been doing all it could to peacefully prevent another effort at the mass murder of Jewish people.  Indeed, the Administration has been undercutting Israel's efforts to prevent Iran from carrying out a nuclear annihilation of the Jewish people without having to resort to military action. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

THE REST OF THE STORY

 I often marvel at how Jews are such a tiny percentage of the American population, and yet attributes of our culture, some of our religious tenets, aspects of our rituals and celebrations, our humor, and other characteristics of just "being Jewish" have crept into and become a part of American life and popular culture.  It speaks positively about the freedom and welcoming nature of America, and it speaks volumes about what Judaism and the Jewish people bring to those willing to open their hearts and minds.

Pesach, or Passover, is a prime example.  If you would have told my grandparents, all of whom came to America in their late teens and early twenties in the early part of the last century, that an African-American president (that alone would have knocked them over) would hold a seder in the White House, they would not have believed it. 

One of my grandfathers asked me on several occasions if Neil Armstrong actually walked on the moon or if it was all a fake.  Not an entirely unreasonable question from a man who took a horse and carriage to catch the train to catch the boat for America. 

Passover does seem to have found a special place in America.  Americans relate to its message of freedom, caring for the stranger, and liberation.  Why shouldn't we?  We love freedom, we like to think of ourselves as sympathetic to those who yearn for liberation, and we have a history of welcoming the stranger, even if some of us display a little ugly backlash now and again. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SKIING IN THE SENIOR LINE

I had a terrific day of skiing on Monday at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It felt great when the young man behind the ticket counter gave me the senior discount. What didn't feel so great--actually really irritated me--was the fact that he did not ask me for proof of my age. Seems like the ultimate illustration of taking the bad with the good.

There does seem to be a little hide-the-ball discrimination going on. It seems that as the baby boom keeps going and as joint replacement and pain medications advance, the ski resorts keep moving the senior age up and/or reducing the amount of the discount. Understandable, though still unfair.

The conditions were perfect. A foot of new powder, nice and soft. Sunny yet cool enough so that the snow did not get slushy. I skied some pretty hard terrain, including quite a bit off-trail. For those who know Sugar Bowl, I did Strawberry, Crow's, Fuller's Folly, the Sisters, Roller's, and an ungroomed Vanderbilt. I was pretty proud of myself.

I enjoy skiing a challenging hill and then looking around to see if I am the oldest on the slope. Cheap satisfaction. And when you ride a chairlift up the hill with skiers of a similar age, you get quite an education in various medications and therapeutic remedies folks use in preparation for or in recovery from a day on the slopes. Quite a sport!

If I was being totally gracious, I would take a moment to thank the doctors, physical therapists, other medical providers, and pharmaceutical researchers who made it possible for me to abuse my bones and joints for five-plus hours and still walk upright, albeit with quite a pain in the right knee. But they know who they are.

There is little like the rush and the satisfaction and the fun you get from skiing a challenging slope with sunny skies and great snow. Hard to beat.

Pass the Aleve. Extra Strength.