Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Again with the Jews...

A couple of months ago I posted on this blogsite a letter that I had first circulated five years ago, "Ten Things We Jews Believe About the Middle East" . I have always been a staunch supporter of Israel, and until 1992 I supported every military strike and every new settlement. Then Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement, and the conflict was over. We had won! or at least, we had established our right to exist within recognized borders. There was no more need to fight.

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 The facts cited are a bit out of date, but the general picture has hardly changed.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.


Six weeks ago, I sent out my ten-point plan for attitude change along with my two-point action plan for peace in the Middle East (see below). Since then, the news from Israel 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 behavior:

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 Beirut peace plan and we ignore him.

3. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stands on a platform in Moscow beside Vladimir Putin and warns Iran to "be very, very afraid" of what Israel will do unless Iran backs off its declared plans for peaceful nuclear development. (And just days ago another cabinet minister mused publicly about a "first strike"!)

4. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni accepts and then rejects an invitation from Qatar to take part in a UN conference in the Gulf States where she would have an opportunity to present Israel'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.

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 Iran issue!

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.

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