Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TRAGIC COMEDY, PALESTINIAN-STYLE



(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

The situation would be comic if it wasn’t all so hopeless and tragic. You’ve got a statehood bid by an entity that has two sub-entities. One is controlled by a terrorist group, Hamas, sworn to the destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews. (Read its charter if you want a nightmare.)

Hamas claims it cannot control even more extreme groups in its midst. It is an oppressive, undemocratic, and increasingly corrupt regime. Its leadership is split over the statehood bid: one leader asserts that Abbas should be prosecuted as a traitor if he ever sets foot in Gaza, while the other says he supports the bid as long as it does nothing to limit the right of the“resistance” to continue to try to eliminate Israel and does not infringe on the “right” of the descendents of people who previously lived in Israel to“return” to a country they never lived in.

The other sub-entity is headed by President Abbas, who is spearheading the UN bid. That entity is thoroughly corrupt, undemocratic, and often oppressive. The President is in his seventh or eight year of a four year term. His sons are millionaires as a result of his “service.” Virtually no one respects him. He was irrelevant in the latest war that half of his proposed nation engaged in and in the negotiations that led to the ceasefire.

President Abbas has refused to negotiate for four years, despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration of support for a two-state solution, an unprecedented nine month halt in settlement construction , and other quiet concessions and gestures, and despite continued requests by the Obama Administration, which is at least partly to blame for him not being willing to negotiate .





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

MY FIRST WAR: PART II: BUS BOMBING, THANKSGIVING, BODY COUNTS, AND VISITS


A friend of one of our sons just posted:  "The ground war has begun--in central Tel Aviv."

A bomb went off on a bus in a crowded Tel Aviv area about an hour and 45 minutes ago.  First reports are 15 injured, four seriously.

Hamas said it would start suicide bombers again. Not sure if this was one, or if someone left it on the bus. But it makes no difference.  It is still reprehensible. There are no military targets in this area.  Just lots of people from the surrounding office buildings and restaurants. 

The bomb went off on the bus as it stopped right next to a building that houses an art gallery where a friend of our daughter works.  She can look out the window and see the carnage if she were to want to do so. 

The world condemns Israel for accidently hitting civilians who are living amongst the Hamas' rockets and arms.  But the world has been silent for months and years while Hamas and its allies deliberately target civilians.  Where are the UN resolutions?

We are planning a Thanksgiving dinner for tomorrow. It is fun and meaningful to celebrate Thanksgiving--the quiessential American holiday--while abroad.  Per our usual practice, we will have friends of our kids and assorted other young Americans here on study programs or living here without their parents.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jeremey Ben-Ami: Hubris of an Oracle


 I am often amazed at the contradictions and the hubris demonstrated by self-described lovers of Israel who criticize it and lobby the American administration to pressure it for its ostensible good. The two of the most prominent such loving critics are Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street and the writer Peter Beinart.


Ben-Ami and Beinart mourn the supposed demise of Israeli democracy, and then constantly implore American Jews to lobby Washington to counter the policies of the leaders elected by the democratic process in Israel. They profess their respect and love for Israelis, but then self-assuredly assert, from the comfort of their offices and lecterns in America, that they know better than Israelis what is good for their nation and the future of their children.


Messieurs Ben-Ami and Beinart remind me of what my father used to say to me: "I only hope that when you grow up you know half as much as you now think you do."


While I have generally come to the conclusion that Ben-Ami and Beinart are not particularly serious thinkers, and that they both thrash around in an effort to stay "relevant" and prominent and, in Ben-Ami's case, to keep the membership involved, they do have the potential to misrepresent and to mislead otherwise well-intentioned people.


Mr. Ben-Ami's latest letter to his membership is so far afield for one who professes to be pro-Israel that, despite my general feeling that he is becoming increasingly irrelevant and discredited, it got my blood boiling.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

MY FIRST WAR: REGRETS AND OBSERVATIONS

The outpouring of concern and support we have received since I posted on Facebook and e-mailed my brief message about our first (and hopefully only) experience with a red alert and taking cover has been heartwarming. Thanks to everyone. It does mean a lot.

The experience was disconcerting but we are doing fine. Things are calm in Jerusalem now, while Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashqelon, and a couple of other cities have been targeted by rockets today. You do listen up a bit when you hear a siren or another loud noise. We went out to the open-air Mamilla Mall last night (Saturday) and while it was not quite as crowded as usual, there were plenty of people, including tourists, out enjoying themselves.

Of course, we did note where we would go if the sirens went off. In fact, we decided that the parking garage was a lot better bet than our apartment staircase. Newer Israeli homes and apartments are all required to have safe rooms, rooms that are reinforced and that have one window that can be shut airtight.

Older apartment buildings have basement shelters, where all of the residents can take cover, once they have been cleared out of all the old stuff that has been stored in them for years. Our apartment, which is even older, has nothing, so we are left with the choice of sprinting toward a public shelter a few hundred meters away or taking refuge in the stairwell, which we are told is the safest place in the building because of the number of walls between us and the outside of the building.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

IS THE SHIP REALLY SINKING?

 

Dear Members of Israel Peace Alternatives and Guests:

I noted that my old friend Hillel Damron will be speaking to you on November 29th about the “survival of democracy” in Israel, the “fading dream” of the two-state solution, and the “Jewish Holy War” involving “Price Tags.”

I have known Hillel for many years and have great respect for him and his service to Israel.  My daughter and his son were good friends when they were growing up in Sacramento. 

Like Americans who love and are concerned about the U.S., Hillel can be quite critical of Israel.  As he has said to me, it has been quite a long time since he lived in Israel and, to his regret, he does not get to go back home often. 
 
I am a more recent citizen of Israel and I live here about seven months a year.  I am at my apartment in Jerusalem now, just as Jerusalemites are opening their homes so that the million-plus Israeli civilians who are the target of rockets from Gaza can come and hopefully get a peaceful night’s rest. 
 
Like Hillel, I am sometimes critical of Israel.  As in every country, there is plenty of room for improvement.  However, as someone who lives in Israel a good part of the year now but who is not a native Israeli, I think I can provide a little different perspective than Hillel. 
 
My main concern is that Hillel, as a native Israeli, may, just like Americans who argue about the U.S., not give the context and perspective that should accompany his criticisms.  I would like to provide some of that. 
 
The “survival of democracy” in Israel implies that there is a question about whether Israel’s democracy will survive.