But in the aftermath of this great event, nothing seemed to change! For the next eight years it was business as usual. The occupation went on, and the settlements grew and multiplied. Why were we surprised in the year 2000 when the intifada broke out? Did we look at our own behavior? No! We said that the Arabs were finally showing their true colors; that the intifada proved that they had never given up their goal of driving us into the sea. That's when I sent out the letter I referred to above.
As you can guess, the letter was not well received in the Jewish world. The negative reaction was not by any means unanimous, but it was nonetheless...well, it was negative. Among non-Jews, on the other hand, my letter was very well received. I got so used to this pattern that one day, when an acquaintance I thought to be non-Jewish wrote critically, I answered back (totally unselfconsciously, I swear!): "I didn't know you were Jewish, Ralph." Ralph took offense at that comeback: what right did I have to assume he was Jewish? It was only very recently that I learned the rest of the story: Ralph isn't Jewish, but his wife is.
Anyhow, what brings all this to mind is that I was browsing through some old correspondence and I stumbled across a follow-up to my original letter. The facts cited are a bit out of date, but the general picture has hardly changed. Here then is what I wrote five years ago. God help us if we don't change our attitudes.
ISRAEL SHOWS ITS CONTEMPT FOR THE ARABS.
Six weeks ago, I sent out my ten-point plan for attitude change along with my two-point action plan for peace in the
East (see below). Since then, the news from
has only strengthened my conviction of the dire need to change our attitudes towards our Arab neighbors before we bring down disaster on ourselves. Consider these five examples of Israeli
1. Syrian President Basher Assad proposes peace talks on the Golan issue and we brush it off with contempt.
2. Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa calls for a renewed initiative based on the 2002
peace plan and we ignore him. Beirut
3. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stands on a platform in
Putin and warns Moscow Iran to
"be very, very afraid" of what Israel
will do unless
backs off its declared plans for peaceful nuclear development. (And just days ago another
cabinet minister mused publicly about a "first strike"!) Iran
4. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni accepts and then rejects an invitation from
to take part in a UN conference in the Qatar Gulf States
where she would have an opportunity to present 's best diplomatic face to its neighbors. Reason? She refuses to attend the same
event as representatives of the elected government of the Palestinian people. Israel
5. Prime Minister Olmert appoints ultra-right-wing-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman to a senior cabinet post. Remember the fuss we made when Joerg Haider became a member of the Austrian government? Our man Lieberman makes Haider look like a boy scout. And now he's our point man on the
I thought we Jews were supposed to be smart. Maybe we are when it comes to inventing the theory of relativity or finding the cure for polio, but it seems like we've got a few things to learn about civilised relations between nations of different backgrounds. If it's not already too late.