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The Price of Victory


Many words have been written last year, around the fifth of June, on the occasion of the 50-year anniversary to the Six-Day War of 1967 and its aftermath. I’m not going to add to that here again, but it is now clear for all to see that what has been predicted by some, including by yours truly for the last five years or so, including on this blog, has become a reality. That reality is the death of the Oslo Accords and the Two-State Solution, and the rise of the Bi-National state solution, the Israel-Palestine state option, or alternately the Israeli-Apartheid state option. Take your pick.

This is the price Israel is paying now for its great victory in 1967, and its inability to contain the forces—the settlers’ movement and its American Jewish backers—from exploiting that victory (in which they’d played no part.) The demise of the Palestinian-state option, existing side-by-side with Israel, will bring about a stronger, louder demand from the Palestinians to become equal citizens in the larger state of Israel, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel will not grant them their wish—a wish that will signal the end of Israel as a Jewish state—and instead will try to contain them forever in a ‘limited autonomy,’ a ‘state minus,’ call it what you will. Bantustan-like territories is what I call it.

The world—other than America, at least as long as this president is in charge—won’t stand for it, and Israel will end up being a pariah state among the nations. Just read this quote: “Victory isn’t about lining up behind a specific final-status deal, but rather convincing the other side to accept the country’s existence as a Jewish state, while also demonstrating that there are core issues where Israel simply won’t negotiate… The political tools for trying to coerce ‘defeat’ out of the Palestinians are readily available, even if it’s far from obvious what their actual impact would end up being.”

I’m going to tell you what “their actual impact would end up being.” But before I do that, l’m going to tell you who’s the author of the above quoted statement. It was issued in November 2017 by a joint group of ‘members of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus,’ and members of the ‘Congressional Israel Victory Caucus on Capitol Hill.’ As reported in Tablet Magazine by Armin Rosen on November 17, the Knesset ‘Victory Caucus’ has 16 members from across the spectrum of Zionist parties, and the American version counts 32 members of Congress, the majority of whom are Republicans. They are committed, according to my understanding of their aims and statements, to solidify Israel’s victory by all means necessary, coercing the Palestinians into acceptance of Israel’s terms-of-victory, while giving them peanuts in return.

As the past few weeks prove, since the Trump’s announcement of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it won’t work. If nothing else, the Palestinian people are proud people. As their leader Abbas just said: “Jerusalem is the diamond in the Palestinian crown.” Now, with Netanyahu behind it all, the American administration—led by people without any understanding of the complexity of the issues at hand—tried, with some surprising assistance from Saudi Arabia and maybe even from Egypt, to coerce the Palestinians into accepting a solution of ‘state minus.” Of being ‘second class’ people and nation. The Palestinian leadership, with Abbas at its head, gave a fiery response this week, which already has proven them totally wrong. And will prove them wrong eternally.

You see, Israel—with the support of the Americans—will have the upper hand militarily. No doubt about that. And the fact that there was no major resistance (i.e. Intifada) to the ‘Jerusalem Declaration,’ other than youth throwing stones and burning tires, is a good indication of that. Militarily, Israel has won. Morally though, it’s going to lose. Because the dilemma the Palestinians’ refusal to accept surrender means the end of the Zionist dream in its original intent. If the country is not majority Jewish, or if the country is not a democracy, then the dream is gone.

This is the big conundrum. Put it another way: A victory doesn’t necessarily mean vanquishing and humiliating the enemy entirely, capturing its country forever and wiping its entity off the map. The Russian-Soviets had tried that in Eastern Europe and failed. The Americans and British knew better, and had been proven correct. But Israel, it seems, is refusing to learn this lesson. Most tragically, refusing to learn from its own long history. I don’t proclaim to know exactly how it would end. It might take a few more generations to sort itself out. But the collapse, the defeat—of the Zionist dream, in its purest form—is written in large letters and murals on the wall of victory.

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The Colonel and the Shepherd

This story is dedicated to the memory of a dear friend and colleague, Dan Gorfain, who passed away recently after a valiant battle with cancer. It’s a story about territory; it’s a story about occupation; it’s a story about oppression; and ultimately, it’s a story about the battle for peace. You’ll be the judge, I’m just reporting the incident. Here goes:

The Colonel gets out of his armored vehicle, leaves it behind on the winding dirt road, and climbs the low hill ahead. Behind, a convoy of armored army vehicles, a whole battalion in fact, comes to an abrupt stop. Some of the Colonel lieutenants, and lower rank soldiers—their weapons at the ready, just in case—follow the Colonel up the hill. There, the Colonel—dressed neatly in his military fatigue—halts and looks around. Ahead of him, far in the distance, he sees the beautiful silvery lake glistening in the valley below. He puts his binoculars up to his eyes, which enable him to see the green river, and how it flows majestically into the lake. Behind it, he can see the high, red mountain range, from where the blazing sun is now appearing. The Colonel breathes deeply, his heart full of joy; he can never get enough of this glorious site.

But then, as if out of nowhere, a Shepherd comes into view from within the rolling hills below. He’s dressed as if he were an old Biblical figure, holding his rough wooden stick, leading his white sheep and black goats ahead. It’s not a large herd: fifty animals at the most. At the tail end of it walks a boy, twelve or maybe thirteen, playing a simple tune on his crude flute. He has a yellow, happy dog running by his side. Now, while the Colonel is mildly disturbed by this sight, and by this sudden interruption of his morning moment-of-peace, the Shepherd continues to walk slowly, letting his sheep and goats graze the meager grass and shrubs around, as if he has no worry in the world; as if he owns this place. So thinks the Colonel.

Thinking and seeing that, something possesses the Colonel suddenly. It’s as if a foreign element, a complete stranger—though in truth, the Shepherd and his ancestors have been living here for many, many years—has captured this land, this magnificent holy land, and has grabbed it away from him. The Colonel takes it personally, and with a swift urge for action—of teaching the Shepherd a lesson, maybe—he goes downhill towards the Shepherd and his herd. Behind him, his lieutenants and soldiers, with their guns of various kinds pointing forward, follow him closely. Farther behind them, the golden city perched on the highest hilltop, watches after them.

The Shepherd—how so?!—is not entirely surprised to find the Colonel in front of him, blocking his path. Even more alarming, with a smile on his face, he greets the Colonel humbly. The Colonel is surprised somewhat, since the Shepherd says “Shalom” in the language the Colonel speaks. Nonetheless, the Colonel demands to know what the Shepherd is doing here, disturbing the peace. The Shepherd answers quietly that he is doing no such thing, just leading his sheep and goats on their daily outing, as his family has been doing for a thousand years. And where do you live, demands the Colonel. Some distance away down the hill, says the Shepherd, but you cannot see it from here.

As they are talking, the sheep and goats disperse around, no longer in a close group, yet still grazing peacefully. The boy, meanwhile, has stopped playing the flute, as he becomes very worried about his father. His dog, irritated, begins to bark. He orders him to be quiet, as he sees with alarm how the Colonel commands his father to sit down on the ground, pointing his gun at him. When his father refuses, protesting he has work to do, and accidently raising his stick, one of the lieutenants punches him in the face. He falls to the ground; his stick taken away from him.

The boy cannot understand what has brought that about. Instinctively so—after all, he’s just a kid—he picks up a small stone from the ground and throws it at the colonel. The stone misses its target, but that doesn’t prevent some of the soldiers up the hill from shooting at the running boy and the barking dog. Indeed, his flute flies out of his hand when he is hit by one of these speeding bullets, and falls to the ground. The dog stops too, yelling first, then licking the boy’s face.

Seeing that, the Shepherd gives a cry of anguish, and tries to jump to his feet. That doesn’t work so well, as one of the lieutenants by the Colonel’s side knocks him down to the ground, using the butt of his rifle. Then, as the Shepherd is lying on the ground on his back, helpless and injured, the Colonel puts his heavy army boot on the Shepherd’s chest, pressing down on it. The Shepherd stops crying, as he could hardly breath now. He can no longer see his beloved sheep and goats, as his eyes are full of tears. They took off running anyways, the animals, upon hearing the shots ringing in the previously tranquil air. And of course, his son’s fate is piercing at his heart like a sharp dagger.

This has no effect on the Colonel, as his boot continues to press hard on the Shepherd’s chest, his gun pointing at his face. The Colonel instructs the Shepherd to never return with his herd to graze on these hills. Surprisingly, the Shepherd still has the audacity to demand an explanation. My soldiers are going to build an ‘outpost’ here soon, the Colonel tells him. What’s an ‘outpost,’ the Shepherd asks. A temporary habitat, the Colonel patiently explains, before a large settlement is to be built right here on this beautiful, strategic hill.

Why is it strategic, the Shepard has the ‘chutzpah’ to ask. Because you can see forever from here, comes the reply, and because this land is our ‘promised land.’ It’s belongs to ‘my’ people!

And who says this land belong to ‘your’ people, and not to my people, insists the Shepherd. I say so, says the Colonel. I’m the ‘decider’ here from now on, and my word is the law. If you want to live in peace, continues the Colonel, go gather your herd and never come near this hill again.

But what kind of peace is that, asks the frightened, terrorized Shepherd. My kind of peace, replies the Colonel. Take it or leave it.

I rather die, says the Shepherd.


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