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Can Water Bring Peace?

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Not sure. But it can certainly bring hope. I know this first hand, as someone who was born in a kibbutz and worked, growing up, in the fields, the orchards, and the fishing-ponds. Back then the kibbutz was largely an agricultural endeavor, not as today mostly industrial, electronic high-tech, or a bed and breakfast kind of a place. But what about peace, you ask?

Let’s find out together. First though, a couple of personal stories to illustrate my point. Back in the late seventies and the early eighties, I did my reserve duty in the Israeli Army in the Golan Heights a few times. On one of these occasions, my company oversaw the southern part of the border, near and around Hamat Gader, where the borders of Israel, Syria, and Jordan meet. As an officer, one of my duties was to drive down the slope with a couple of soldiers for protection, and meet a similar Jordanian Army delegation at the break of dawn, at a low, narrow point where there was an easy access to the Yarmouke River, flowing down the mountains and hills toward the Jordan River and valley.

That was the border between our enemy states at the time, before peace—you see, it’s possible—had been established between Israel and Jordan. We would exchange some morning pleasantries first, and then proceed directly to the business at hand. It involved an easily maneuvered wooden shaft, a small handmade dam of sorts that, when switched one way, diverted the flow of the river toward the Jordanian side. We will meet again at dusk, and would simply reverse the process, allowing the water to flow freely into the Israeli side, down to the Jordan River and all the thirsty fields, orchards, and fishing ponds of the kibbutzim. We would bid goodnight to each other, even exchange some fruits and such. Just as in the mornings, we would sometimes drink black coffee together.

Simple as that. And here the kicker, my friends—which, in all honesty, I never thought of before writing this piece—maybe this simple operation, concerning the sharing of water resources between us Israelis and Jordanians (I believe the Jordanians had their own agreement with the Syrians, not sure though), did help in bringing peace between our two nations later in the mid-nineties. One can certainly hope that that indeed was the case. Which, though some years had passed since then, brings me to my second story.

This one happened as recent as last December, when I was visiting Israel. My brother was driving me to the Jezreel Valley to visit friends, family, and old places. And our kibbutz, Heftziba, of course. As we were getting closer, down on the slope of Mount Gilboa there is a favorite spot, a national park of Biblical significance (where the Prophet Gideon selected his warriors), called The Well, or Spring of Harod. A beautiful spot (see above picture), where the fresh, cool water streams from a cave in the mountain, and falls into a small lake. Plenty of memories I have flowing directly at me from this place. Anyhow, I suggested to my brother that we’ll make a stop there, and he surprised me by saying that unfortunately, it’s totally dry now. What happened, I asked in alarm. The Palestinians, he said, blocked the flow of the stream and diverted it elsewhere.

Which comes to show the chasm that still exists between Israelis and Palestinians, and brings us to the here and now. As the above first story about Israel and Jordan demonstrates, one can only hope for a similar outcome with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well. As it happened, just last week there was major announcement about a joint effort and agreement between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, regarding water issues, and endeavor titled the “Red-Sea Dead-Sea Project.” I’ll let the NY Times brief you on that, as reported there on July 13th: “That project… will take water from the Red Sea, near Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat, and use gravity to carry the water 137 miles via the kingdom of Jordan to the southern part of the Dead Sea, adjacent to Israel’s Arava desert. There it will be desalinated, with the brine deposited in the shrinking Dead Sea and the fresh water transferred into Israel for still-to-be-built desert farms. In exchange, a water pipeline will be built from Israel into Jordan’s capital, Amman, and Israel will augment the already significant amount of water it provides to the Palestinians in the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron area.”

Quite the project, don’t you think? What’s more, the report in the Times continued, “The strategic genius of the plan is that it weaves vital economic interests of these sometimes-antagonists together. Even should Jordan or the West Bank someday fall to radical rejectionists, it would be nearly impossible for those leaders to entirely break the water ties established here without creating substantial hardship for their populations.”

Wow, ain’t that something? It makes one think—especially now, as the fires of war again threaten to erupt in Jerusalem, the West Bank and elsewhere—that there’s hope after all. That water, treated the right way, pouring in the right direction, supplying in the right amount to all parties, can not only extinguish the old fire of hatred and hostility, but can give bloom to a new peace. Make cooler heads prevail. It runs deep, water, you see. After all, this is how King David captured Jerusalem in the first place, through the water shaft, or tunnel. It is hard to believe, considering all the animosity going around, but survival in that ancient, dry land, can only be achieved with the help of water, which necessitates cooperation. Let’s hope it brings peace, too—and sooner, rather than later.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue

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Who is a Terrorist?

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A week ago or so, in Jerusalem, an Israeli Border-Police office was stabbed to death by three Palestinian assailants in broad day light. She was a young woman of 23, her whole life ahead of her, whom relatives described as a “real-life Wonder Woman.” In my book, she is most certainly worthier of that title than the Israeli woman playing that Comic Book hero in cinema theaters, with all the fakery and shield-deflecting bullets. May she rest in peace, Hadas Malka, and may the memory of her bravery and dedication to defending her country be of blessing.

The Palestinians who killed her were shot and killed too by Israeli forces. They were declared by the Israeli Government and Media as terrorists. Indeed, Netanyahu demanded of Abbas to declare and denounce them as such, which Abba refused to do. The reason he refused to do so, whether stated or not, is that for the Palestinians these were not terrorists, but rather freedom fighters. They were part of the resistance, from Hamas and the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.’ Which, together with other such forces, had been fighting and resisting—though without much success—what they consider to be the occupation and colonialization of their land for the last 50 years.

This difference of view regarding the assailants’ motives and actions, reflects a larger issue of disagreement as to the nature of not only the Palestinian struggle for independence, but also of terrorism at large. Since Israel and its army control their territory, control their every-day life, and keep building settlements on what they regard as their future-state; and yes, sometimes terrorizing them too—think Israeli settlers uprooting their olive trees and slaughtering their sheep—what are they to do? Peace, you say? But Israel’s interest in peace comes second to solidify their control over the occupied territories. It is why, when Netanyahu had demand that Abbas would stop the financial support for the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli, who are confined there on charges of murder and terrorism, Abbas had refused to do so. He reacted likewise even when President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson had demand the same of him. You see: Abbas would lose whatever little credit and respect he still has with his people, who regard those prisoners as martyrs and freedom fighters.

Just a week prior to that, it so happened that four Arab Gulf States severed diplomatic ties, and boycotted a fifth state, Qatar, for supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including objections to Qatar’s close ties with Turkey and Iran. Qatar reputed these accusations, pointing to its constant fight against terrorism. This effort and boycott is being led by Saudi Arabia, which just received a most generous promise of American weaponry from President Trump, in return for many sacks of gold. Yes, that Saudi Arabia, from where Bin Laden came, and most of the other terrorists who blew up the planes and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, murdering close to 3000 innocent people. Killing citizens—and citizens only!—indiscriminately in the streets of peace-loving cities, that’s terrorism.

You might be surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela, one of the most revered politicians ever, whose funereal was the largest gathering of international diplomats, including the then American President Barack Obama, was labeled and regarded as a terrorist. First by the British, second by the racist South African white regime, and third by the Americans. As far as 2008, after he’d been already the liberator and president of South Africa—yes, after receiving the Nobel prize for peace, too—he was still on the American terror list. Imagine that!

And imagine also this: Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir—who later would become Israel’s Prime Ministers—were labeled and regraded as terrorists. Not only for blowing up the King David Hotel (see picture above) in Jerusalem, killing scores of innocent people from different nationalities, including Jewish victims, together with British Army personnel, but for other acts of murder and atrocities. Even Ben-Gurion, and his Haganah military commanders, who fought so hard for Israel’s independence, had called them, and regarded them as terrorists. And so did the Zionist Congress and Jewish Agency. You can try to justify it by saying that they also fought for Israel’s independence, only sometimes using terrorism means. Just as the Palestinians are doing now. And anyhow, that’s always the case, isn’t it, when fighting for liberation and independence?

And so it goes. One way of looking at it is to say—and principally believe—that terrorism is when you attack and kill indiscriminately innocent people. Young and old, male and female, of all gender and races, who did you no wrong whatsoever, and who are not fighting against you (even if their governments are doing so). They are not occupying your land, your home, your people. Of course, does it really make a difference for this categorization, when your government, on the other hand, indiscriminately blowing up buildings, bombing civilians, ripping them to pieces, killing scores of them, as the Americans still do in Syria and Afghanistan, and as Israel did in Lebanon and Gaza?

Go figure. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” And ‘terror’ as “a state of intense fear;” and also as “violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.” Reign of terror is defined as “a state or a period of time marked by violence often committed by those in power that produces widespread terror.” So there you have it, my friends, no need to spell it out for you. At the end of the day, and argument, it seems clear that ‘who is a terrorist,’ may well be just in the eye of the beholder.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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