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The Silence of The Jews

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Be warned: This is a horror story, a Halloween story. And since Halloween is my birthday (thank you very much), and I’m going away for a week to celebrate a milestone, I’m writing ahead of schedule and attempting something a bit different for the occasion. I don’t know where I’m going with it (usually I have a pretty good idea before I sit down to write), so we’ll find out together where it leads me. Hopefully—if it’s not scary enough, forbidding enough—you will forgive me.

First though, a bit of background. Some of you may know already that I’m the son of Holocaust survivors. My father, who died in the kibbutz he helped build, escaped from three labor camps in Hungary and Czechoslovakia during five years of horrors, spending his last year as a hungry rat in the streets and sewage tunnels of Budapest while the allies rained bombs. MY mother, still alive and residing in Tel Aviv, survived Auschwitz, seeing her parents and older sister—who refused to be separated from her crying baby—taken away into the gas chambers. I grew up without grandparents, therefore, in a place without grandparents.

And yet, I never liked the saying that the Jews of Europe were led to their death like “lambs to the slaughter.” I didn’t like it because it implied that these six million Jews had other options. As if they could fight. As if, unlike lambs, they could rebel. And yes, I know, a few—the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Jewish Partisans, others here and there—tried to fight. But by and large, the Jews of Europe were minding their own business. They exercised their religion and culture, they worked hard and prospered well, they were educated and successful in the arts and sciences. And then the most sophisticated, the most brutal, the most inhumane killing machine ever known to man had hit them suddenly. Just as most of them, when being loaded into the trains—like my mother and her family—didn’t know where they were heading.

They couldn’t fight even if they wanted to. They didn’t know how to fight. They didn’t have any weapons. That’s why the state of Israel was envisioned, established, and built. That never again such a calamity would befall us Jews. That’s why, also, many other survivors and refugees immigrated to America. And what I’m afraid of is that now—here comes the horror—when they have power, and weapons, and army, and money, and political strength, they are not only using it wrongly, but they inflict—even if on a different scale—shame, death, and injustice on other people: The Palestinians.

What the Israeli government and people since the Six-Day War of 1967 are doing, led by the settlers zealots—lately with increased violence, cruelty, and freehand—is not only unbecoming of the people of the book, of the people who survived the Holocaust, but of any decent human being. The continuation of the occupation, colonization, and abuse of basic human rights of the Palestinian people in the West bank might lead to the destruction of the Zionist dream. As an idea, for sure, if not in reality too. The security and prosperity of a safe home, a democratic home for the Jewish people is in grave danger.

Some Jews, not many, do speak out. Lately, Ben & Jerry decided to take a stand and not sell their ice cream to settlers in the West Bank. And yes, American Jews who support J Street and its call for the Two-State solution—dead or comatose, floating in shallow water—do speak out. Americans for Peace Now, New Israel Fund, and Jewish Voice for Peace all speak out. Even yours truly, here in this blog, shout out from time to time. Representative Andy Levin introduced in September the ‘Two-State Solution Act’ in congress. Well done. But mostly, the greater Jewish organizations and religious congregations not only maintain their silence, but enable Israel to continue its occupation and colonization.

There is a debate going on, naturally, whether Israel’s rule over Palestine is de facto an Apartheid already. I believe it is. And the scholars, historians, thinkers I trust most believe it is. But even if it’s not already there, it’s heading there fast. The hottest (not due to her looks) writer in the English language these days, Sally Rooney, had refused her latest book to be translated to Hebrew as a protest against Israel’s occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians. Others are sure to follow. Netflix, the biggest streamer of visual content on the planet, starts streaming some thirty short films, ‘Palestinian Stories,’ by filmmakers living under the occupation. If you’re on Twitter and you try to hashtag Apartheid, the first and most used term that pops out is #IsraeliApartheid.

But Prime Minister Bennett didn’t even mention the Palestinian people or conflict in his first speech in the UN. His right hand in his party, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, said we want to “manage” the conflict, not “solve” it. Netanyahu before them, likewise, had no intention of solving it. Other experts want to “shrink” the conflict. Anything but solving it. There is no—and won’t be any longer—political power in Israel, supported by the people, that can affect a change on this disastrous trajectory.

There are only two powers that, if united, might be able to force Israel’s hand into reversing course. First, the American President and administration. Second, a united American Jewry front standing together with the president. President Biden, sympathetic as he is to the Palestinian cause, won’t be able to do it alone under the current political climate. Just reopening the Palestinian Consulate in Jerusalem, which he’d promised he’d do, he is now hesitating to go ahead with under pressure from Israel. Only a united, strong front of Jewish America and the American President might be able to accomplish it.

But I don’t see it coming any time soon. My horror story ends with it; with the thundering silence of the Jews continuing unabated. Enabling Israel, therefore, to continue with the creation of a One-State Solution, undemocratic, with a ruling class, Jewish, and a plebeian class, Arab.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

The Great Escape—The Palestinian Struggle Too—Comes To Nothing

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The great escape, the daring jailbreak of the six Palestinian prisoners—terrorists, freedom fighters, call them what you will—from the Gilboa Prison in Israel some three weeks ago generated shock and awe throughout the Holy Land, and created plenty of news around the world. For me, however, it hit close to home. Literally. I grew up in kibbutz Hephzibah, under Mount Gilboa, wherein biblical times King Saul and his son Jonathan fought the Philistines, and where David said his famous lament upon their death.

The now Gilboa Prison was then Shata Prison. A nondescript white building with a fence, a remnant from the British Mandate, not even ten minutes’ drive from my kibbutz. Driving or walking to the kibbutz, you had to turn right when you passed it, smack in the middle of all the kibbutzim and their agricultural fields. My cousin, who still lives in the kibbutz, reminded me that there were jailbreaks from there before. And of course all the pictures, such as the one above, reminded me so vividly of Mount Gilboa and the Jezreel Valley, the valley of my youth.

I won’t bother you with the names of the escapees and the details of their jailbreak. You probably read, heard, and watched plenty about it. Or you can find it on any online news site. But what seemed at first, to me at least, as a hot material for a screenplay and a film, even a Netflix TV series, came to nothing at the end. How can you write about this daring escape when in short two weeks the escapees were captured? And without a fight. Hungry and cold like street rats. Four of them in Israel proper—with the help, can you believe it, of Arab Israelis who called the police and army—and the last two in the West Bank city of Jenin, on the other side of Mount Gilboa, some 45 minutes’ drive from the prison.

What a letdown. What a story without a payout. A plot without a climax. I mean, when they successfully escaped, my imagination had run wild. A dark car was waiting for them in the fields. During the night they were whisked off to Jenin, and from there to other West Bank towns and villages, where they will lay low for a while, hidden and taking care of by Palestinian fighters and regular citizens. Maybe they’ll be able to cross to Jordan (BTY: all the above scenarios were speculated about in the Israeli papers). Maybe in months to come, or even years, they will stage a spectacular terrorist attack, a daring operation somewhere. And if caught—as the Israeli Army had indeed prepared for—it would be in a bloody fight. Death or victory!

Nada. It all came to nothing. Just like the Palestinian struggle as a whole. I mean how—bloody hell how?!—you go into such a daring jailbreak operation without any planning ahead of time as to what you’ll do once you are out? What’s the big deal of escaping if you don’t utilize it? What, for a few days running and hiding, hungry and wet; there were reports that they were seen searching for food in trash bins. What were they thinking? Were they, at all, thinking?

This brings me to the larger picture. But before that, this: Anyone who is used to reading my articles through the year, even the last one, is well aware of my sympathy for the Palestinian cause and struggle. My long-held belief in the two-state solution (declared dead here, though, some 8 years ago) is well known, and so is my realization that greater Israel, including the West Bank and the Palestinian-controlled areas, is now a one-state reality on the way to becoming an Apartheid state. And so, while the Palestinian people can feel good about all kinds of achievements since the Nakba of 48 and the war of 67, the two most important demands and wishes on their minds and in their hearts—the right of return and the creation of an independent state—are nowhere close to becoming a reality than they were when they had started their arms struggle.

In other words, if you don’t plan ahead of time—just as the jail-breakers didn’t—why go about pursuing your goals? Just to let off steam? Likewise, why go into two bloody Intifadas, killing scores of innocent bystanders, and suffering many casualties of your own, if you don’t have an ultimate goal at hand? If peace negotiations follow, as it happened in Camp David between Arafat and Barak, why not going in knowing what you are willing to give and compromise about? Just as the case was with Abbas and Netanyahu in the John Kerry’s led peace negotiations. For goodness sake, why go into all this madness of fighting, death, house demolitions, checkpoints and roadblocks, without planning how to achieve the ultimate goal?

Now please, don’t get me wrong here. There is plenty of blame to go around, especially to be leveled squarely against Israel, its leaders and people. As a matter of fact, this blog is mostly dedicated to their faults, misleading policies, and false goals throughout the years following the Six-Day war, which had brought us to the doorstep of an Apartheid Jewish state. Can you even fathom it? I know American Jews cannot, or prefer to look the other way, as they’ve done in the past when it came to Israel’s misdeeds. But today, here and now, it’s all about the Palestinian people. It’s high time for them—unfortunately, it might be too late already—to start planning, and believing, in an achievable outcome.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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