Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I have been asked more than once if I would comment on the situation in  Gaza, tho I’ve never proposed myself as an expert on the Middle East. Philip Metres, in Monday’s comments stream, is very sweet when he writes

You're a voice that matters, that people listen to, and I personally want to know what you think about it.

Personally, I would want somebody with a lot more background on this topic myself.

Having said that, however, I do have both thoughts & feelings on the current situation. More than anything, I am reminded of a conversation I had with Sigmund Laufer the one time I got to spend an afternoon with him maybe 20 years ago. Perhaps it’s that I was just at the funeral for his granddaughter, Emma Bee Bernstein, last week, tho she was buried alongside her other grandfather in Valhalla, New York, not with Sigmund in New Jersey. Sigmund & Miriam Laufer, Susan Bee’s parents, left Palestine in 1947 & settled in New York City just a few blocks from where Susan lives today. They did so at a time when the creation of Israel was clearly about to happen. I asked Sigmund why, with the foundation of a new nation in the offing, they chose to leave. He said that it was self-evident that any Jewish state had to be a theocracy – otherwise the resident Palestinians would have been an overwhelming electoral majority – and that the creation of a state based on religion was only an investment in what he termed a “generation of tsouris.” Would that it had been only a generation.

In reality, the creation of Israel in the 1940s ensured what I believe will be multiple millennia of murder & counter-murder that will make the 700-year-old conflict in Kosovo between Christians & Muslims feel like small potatoes. The creation of Israel could have been accomplished only through genocidal action – the displacement of an entire nation already in place long before Zionism got going in the 1890s. It is a sad comment on the crudeness of colonialism – on a par with many of the arbitrary “national” boundaries that stretch across Africa & well into Southern Asia, completely ignorant of tribal communities that may cross over them – that anyone thought it was in their power or right to just give a state to any group of people.

Now, however, it is there and it is not going away. Israel’s government is dysfunctional and willing to do anything – no limits – to protect itself. That it projects itself externally as a bully, or uses the methodology of apartheid internally, should surprise no one. That it howls when this is pointed out – thank you, Jimmy Carter – is no different than the U.S. pretending it did not commit genocide in its sweeping aside of native nations in the 18th & 19th centuries.

I have sometimes wondered what America might be like today if the Roosevelt & Truman administrations had not been so overtly anti-Semitic and had instead opened our doors to every displaced Jew after the Second World War. The entrepreneurial capabilities and deep commitment to learning of that community would have flourished in the United States, the civil rights movement would have had a much easier time of it and George Bush never would have carried Florida. Instead we have had 60 years of fighting & cease-fires. Some day someone will be able to simply add another zero to that number. And then another.

Hamas is the perfectly logical response to this situation. The local version of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is at best a group of thugs and even more committed to theocracy than is Israel. They are not all that much different, nor any better, than the Taliban in Afghanistan. By shooting rockets into Israel, Hamas invited the current Israeli response and did so because it forces the population there to rally around what has been an obviously failing regime. The cynicism of its strategy – which turns Gaza’s own civilian dead into an investment in Hamas’ political fortunes – is beyond appalling.

That Israel would be suckered into this response and would do so during the last three weeks of the Bush administration speaks volumes for its role as an American client-state – our primary military surrogate in the region – as well as for the ineptness of Team Bush. The cynicism of Israel’s strategy is beyond appalling.

There are no “good guys” in this conflict. The citizens of both sides are the victims of history as well as of their immediate hoodlum politicians. If the Zionist movement could invent the state of Israel in the middle of the 20th century, you can be certain that the descendants of the Palestinians will still be able to imagine a “right of return” in the 40th century. There is simply no solution. Period.

What there are, however, are measures that can minimize the bloodshed on all sides. A cease-fire, a two-state balancing act, serious economic investment in Palestine – the presence of a real middle class there would be a substantial brake on the impulse to violence – would all have an impact. I don’t think this is all so mysterious, but I don’t think it’s a long-term resolution either.

In the meantime, I bleed for the victims of all sides.


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