Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Israel: a personal statement - News Links

David Seaton's News Links
Since I write a lot about the Middle East and especially Israel (not all very complimentary, I'm afraid) some readers might be interested in what I actually know about that country and what might be the background for the opinions I hold. Not that long after the "Six Day War", during the "War of Attrition" , when Golda Meir was prime minister, I lived and worked as a journalist for a year in Tel-Aviv. I wasn't a tourist "volunteer" on a Kibbutz. I worked on an equal footing and on a day to day basis with Israelis. I had many friends and no enemies I know of. Shortly after arriving in the country a young Israeli girl and I fell in love and it is one of the nicest memories I carry from my youth. We were together all the time I was there. When my work took me away, we were too young for our relationship to endure separation and we went our own ways. She is now happily married and so am I. However, whenever I see pictures of young Israelis manning checkpoints in "Judea" and "Samaria, I always think how easily they could be sons or daughters of mine. Nurit (not her real name) was the daughter of prominent journalist from the left-wing of the Israel labor movement. He and my girlfriend's mother had immigrated from Poland to British Palestine before WWII and helped found a kibbutz, where they lived and where my girlfriend and I visited them on weekends. We had a wonderful time. We were "young and healthy" and in love. I thought Israel was Paradise. I heard and participated in the best political conversations in the world. Israel was a socialist country at that time and I met hundreds of people and heard their stories, from the French resistance, the Spanish Civil War and service in the Red Army at Stalingrad... And of course the Holocaust... I already knew that had happened before I arrived. As a small child my life was saved by a German-Jewish lady doctor, a refugee who could barely speak English and who walked across the village where we lived in the dead of a ten below (Fahrenheit!) Midwestern winter, with the roads blocked with snow, to give me a penicillin shot. On the following day, when I had regained consciousness and she was examining me, I was fascinated by the numbers tattooed on her arm. There was an awkward silence in the sick room and later my mother explained what the tattoos were and how they got there. So, to cut to the chase: I am not a Holocaust denier or someone who finds Jewish people either physically, intellectually or spiritually repellent. I loved Israel and bought the whole, "Beautiful Israel" and "a land without people for a people without land"... stuff. Later beginning with the first Intifada, I had some doubts, but my mind was on other things. Really, my personal epiphany, began when the Internet came in and I began to read the Israeli press (in English) again on a daily basis, listening to the voices. Then again, thanks to the Internet, I discovered the revisionist historians like Ilan Pappe and then many strange stories, with even stranger silences, came back to my memory and finally made some sense. So what is my final opinion on a place and people that I love, an opinion that, correct or not, is validated by what the junk mail "universities" term "life experience"? I believe that today's Israel bears the same relationship to the United States as French Algeria bore to France. The Israelis are America's "pied noir". I am just waiting for an American president to tell them, "Je vous ai compris". I believe that Jewish settlement in Palestine was a tragic mistake, with the Jewish people left "holding the bag" of western imperialism. Like the slogan of the Sam Peckinpah western, "The Wild Bunch", "they came too late, they stayed too long". I truly believe that the "Promised Land" of the Jewish people, from the Haredim on out to the far left is the United States of America, where as Tony Judt so accurately puts it the Jews have never in their history been so welcomed, so powerful and so secure and I am very worried that the coming disintegration of America's power due to the Iraq fiasco and the "who lost the superpower?" witch hunt to follow may even spoil that promised land. I believe that there was a brief window of opportunity for peace and survival of the Zionist dream after the first Gulf War and that Bush/Baker were prepared to drag the Israelis kicking and screaming through it. The window no longer exists and Bush/Rice don't have the chops to drag the Israelis even if the window were still there. Is there a solution? Finally I think it would be cheaper and better for the United States to give every man woman and Israeli child a million dollars apiece and a green card and resettle them anywhere in the USA they wish, with a Cuban style fast track to citizenship. Is that an antisemitic idea? I still think that if Israel were an Island off the coast of the Carolinas it would be a paradise. I hope this post helps my possible Jewish readers understand my little 'rants" in the future. DS

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