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  • dtoub 5:21 pm on Friday, June 4, 2010, 5:21 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: flotilla, israeli idiocy   

    dear bibi 

    Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

    You don’t know me, nor I you, but my home is a few minutes’ walk from Cheltenham High School from where you graduated, so in that sense we’re like neighbors. In any case, I know you’ve had a tough time figuring out the most appropriate response both to the Free Gaza flotilla last week as well as to its aftermath, so I wanted to give you some suggestions. Please accept this in the spirit in which it’s offered.

    First, the flotilla. Everything is always clearer in hindsight, but it was pretty clear to me and others that this was only going to end badly. How could this have been prevented, while still adhering to Israeli concerns about potential arms smuggling to Gaza? Perhaps the wisest solution, given that you have to also cater to your political interests in Israel, would have been to wait until the ships were in Gazan waters (where you are blockading naval traffic to Gaza), board them in broad daylight without helicopters, make it clear that your navy’s intent is to inspect the ship for weapons, and once nothing was found (since there were no weapons on board, based on the current state of knowledge), allow the vessels to pass on to Gaza. Yes, you would have allowed the flotilla to violate your blockade, but let’s face it, the blockade has been knowingly violated before, as Israel has allowed some boats to pass through. I’ll ignore my own view that the blockade is illegal, useless, counterproductive to your country, harmful to the people of Gaza (many of whom are innocent of any bad deeds towards Israel, etc. But I will say that had you inspected the vessels and allowed them to pass, yes Israel might have lost a little face and some folks would laugh at your country’s expense, but many others would have actually praised your country for showing restraint. No one would have died-that’s always a good thing. And after a few days, most people would have forgotten about this.

    So now let’s deal with the present-nine people (including a US citizen) died on one of those ships. I get it-they attacked your elite commandoes, but in all honesty, the average big city cop in the US deals with riots every now and then an generally no one gets killed. Why did you helicopter in commandoes one by one-if you were worried enough about the potential for arms on that ship, surely your military folks understand the bad judgment involved in having military people descend single file into a mass of several hundred pissed off people. And why couldn’t the commandoes have shot at people’s legs-seriously, Arnold Schwarzenegger did just that in Terminator 2, so if people in Hollywood consider this possible, surely the IDF understands the possibility of nonlethal force as well.

    But then you went ahead and squandered a good opportunity to try to move on. You spoke the next day and declared that no apologies were needed, that this was a ship of hate, not a love boat, etc. Not at all reconciliatory. Let me give you a hint if I might-you’re the leader of the fourth largest military power in the world. You represent an entire country. Rather than act like a manager of a small company by denying blame, here’s what I think true leadership would have entailed: a measured apologia. Since I know you’ve never probably apologized for anything to anyone (let’s face it, this is Israel, not any other supposedly civilized nation), here’s a draft that you can use the next time you illegally board and murder a bunch of people on a Turkish vessel:

    “In order to move forward, I would like to apologize. First,to the Turkish nation for what happened to their ships yesterday. All Israel values our longstanding, close relationship with our Turkish friends and I will do whatever it takes to nurture that relationship back to where it once was and beyond. I deeply regret the loss of life, and want to make it clear that this was not something we ever intended to have happen. We should have chosen a different course, such as inspecting the vessels in Gazan waters, certifying the lack of weapons smuggling and letting humanitarian aid go unimpeded to Gaza. We made a grievous error, and I would like to take a moment and honor the nine people who regrettably died at our hands yesterday (insert names). I would also like to apologize on behalf of Israel to the families of the dead, to the survivors and their families, and to the various countries represented by the passengers. We accept full responsibility for our actions, and as Prime Minister, the primary responsibility is mine to bear.

    Israel overreacted. That is clear. While I cannot reverse the terrible events that took place yesterday, I can work to make a difference moving forward. To begin, we will pay restitution for the lives lost and for damage to the ships. Second, we will immediately lift the blockade against Gaza. This has not helped the cause of peace, but has made life unbearable for the residents of Gaza, who have been living like prisoners. Israel has no desire to occupy Gaza-let me be clear. But while we did withdraw several years ago, we did not create conditions on the ground that would allow Gazans to rule their own destiny. This will change. The blockade will end. Third, Israel will continue to work with our Palestinian partners, whom we respect, to develop a mutually-agreeable amd workable solution to the conflicts that divide us. Make no mistake-we want to normalize relationships with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. We have shared this land before, and will do so in the future. Our lives are intertwined, and what divides us pales before the bonds that can unite us. We will respect your autonomy. At the same time, we ask that we can also live securely, but will work with your security forces to rein in terrorism on a joint basis, rather than engage in collective punishments that do not serve, and actually harm, the process of peace.

    So we are terribly sorry for our horrible errors in boarding the Turkish vessels and, whether unintentional or not, killing several people on board. Let’s make these nine deaths stand for something, however. Let’s take this as an impetus towards settling our differences, making life better for the people of Palestine and Israel, and moving forward.”

    I know what you’re thinking, Bibi-am I out of my mind? Yes, this type of speech would undoubtedly cause friction within your conservative Likud party and certainly cause problems with the extreme right wing in Israel, much as Obama’s policies (real or imagined) have driven our lunatic fringe nuts here in the US. But it’s the right thing to do, and you know as much. Yes, some Arabs and Turks would still riot against Israel in the wake of the civilian deaths. But this proposed speech would blunt much of of the criticism; in one fell swoop, you would be acknowledging the loss of nine people, accepting responsibility, asking forgiveness and taking concrete steps to ease the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Surely many of the Palestinians and Turks would be impressed by your words and, if followed by constructive actions, be less inclined towards rioting, express hatred of Israel, etc.

    So you missed an opportunity, Bibi. Israel has become the BP of nations. Why is it, though, that some corporations at least know how to do damage control (sorry, but doctored/selectively edited YouTube videos don’t cut it) and are at least willing to apologize, while a supposedly democratic nation like Israel can’t apologize for anything to save its life?

    Anyhoo, feel free to use my speech the next time you arrogantly board unarmed vessels and murder civilians who resist an act of piracy. Maybe the speech will help. Or not-but like chicken soup, it can’t hurt.

    • kraig grady 6:48 pm on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, 6:48 pm Permalink

      I think he already responded when he said this
      “The same countries
      that are criticizing us today should know that they will be targeted

  • dtoub 8:34 am on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 8:34 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: israeli idiocy, oy   

    hard to be a pro-palestinian moderate jew 

    As my friends know, I’ve been an outspoken critic of Israeli policy forever. Specifically, I lost my faith during the Israel-Lebanon war in the 80’s and never got it back. I’ve supported Palestinian rights and have had to defend myself from the usual “self-hating, Noam Chomsky-loving Jew” slurs ever since. I’ve been to Israel once, during the first Intifada, and got into daily debates with a member of the “praise Israel first” crowd-he read the right-wing Jerusalem Post while I read the left-wing Ha’aretz, and finally had to ignore his e-mails trying to convert me upon our return. I have a former colleague from a startup who is a proud member of AIPAC and with whom I have agreed to disagree, since our debates were starting to get personal and ugly. At a former synagogue, where the Israeli Ambassador to Philadelphia was speaking, I had the audacity to ask him during a Q and A why the Israeli government was in the business of assassinating people. That felt like the moment in my favorite Ibsen play where everyone in the town points to the protagonist and calls him an “enemy of the people.”

    In my current synagogue, as chair of adult education, I’ve spearheaded dialogues on the Israel/Palestine conflict, which regrettably did little to resolve the current divides in our community over this important issue. Still, I was glad I did it-dialogue is always a worthwhile path, even if it doesn’t always provide the desired immediate results of mutual understanding and tolerance. I’ve even managed to have a program that raised awareness of the Naqba, the “catastrophe” that was Israeli independence in 1948. I think that just as it is important for Palestinians to acknowledge the significance of the Holocaust, so too should Jews and Israelis acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians from the Naqba. Each population is similar in that it has experienced great loss and horrific tragedy. I have never shied away from criticizing Israel, and tend to associate with fellow travelers who think beyond the usual propaganda that has propped up Israeli actions and cruelty since the 60’s and even earlier. Unlike many other Jews, I freely use the word Palestine, despite being admonished that no such country exists. So I’m anything but pro-Palestinian and horrified by the Israeli idiocy and barbarism that is exemplified by the recent massacre on the Gaza flotilla.

    But I’m also moderate-I don’t see the world as black and white and try to avoid generalities (I don’t always succeed, but at least I make the effort). I am not free of criticism from some on the “blame Israel first” side who can’t understand why I’d take issue with what are floridly antisemitic and ignorant comments about the flotilla incident. Contrary to what some of these folks think (and it is a minority, but still a vocal one), Israel is not synonymous with Judaism. One-fifth of Israel’s population is not Jewish, but Palestinian/Druse/Christian/Muslim. Nor is Judaism like Catholicism-as with Islam, there is no single centralized authority in the form of a person who speaks for everyone. We don’t have a pope, nor is Israel the Vatican. Israel doesn’t speak for Jews any more than Iran speaks for Muslims. Yet anger towards Israel frequently devolves into hatred towards the Jews. I joined a group on Facebook that ostensibly is a protest group against the Israeli massacre of civilians on one of six vessels that tried to break the Gaza blockade. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get past the overt antisemitism of many of the posts, so I finally left. In addition to the photos of a skull above a Star of David and a Photoshopped Israeli flag with the Star of David replaced by a swastika, many of the posts contained gems like


    “Hitler said: I could have exterminated all the Jews of the world, but I left some of them for you to find out why I disinherit them.”


    “zionists are nazis”

    blah blah blah blah etc etc etc etc. It just keeps going. What I’m undecided about is which is worse-the comments or the people who Liked them on Facebook. To be fair, several people did take offense and express a desire to leave the group, but most kept on spewing all sorts of hatred. I understand and share the visceral response to what Israel did, but at no time should that devolve into hatred and frank antisemitism. A lot of the comments seem to derive their rationalization from two basic misconceptions:

    • All Jews view themselves as “chosen” and therefore superior to gentiles
    • Israel claims to be a Jewish state and so represents all Jews

    First, many Jews reject the concept of “chosenness,” Reconstructionist Judaism in particular, of which I am a member. Not because the idea of being “chosen” is meant to imply superiority, but because it has been mistaken that way and been a source for division and conflict. Second, while Israel does indeed claim to be a Jewish state, it doesn’t speak for all Jews. Iran is an Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia is for Muslims only-so what? That has no relevance to Shia and Sunni Muslims outside of those countries. Ahmedinejad and Khatami do not speak for all Shia, for example. Furthermore, what a Jewish state constitutes is open to debate-I think it’s really something that goes to the original intent of the secular zionists who founded Israel, namely a land where Jews can live without fear of persecution. Not a religious state. Not a state where only Jews live. Zionism came out of the very real fact that at the time of the late 1800’s, Jews were being discriminated against and brutally killed in Europe and Russia. Folks like Herzl, who were anything but religious, tried to come up with some place (Uganda was one potential site) to which Jews might migrate and be safe. Eventually this all got melded with religion and, I think, went to hell. But the original intent wasn’t to usurp Palestinian land and be colonizers but to share the land and be free of persecution. That doesn’t mean that Arabs were viewed as equals to Europeans-they weren’t, and that’s shameful. But Israel was not, and is not, synonymous with Judaism nor does it have any control over the religion.

    Anyway, to paraphrase the novelist Sholom Aleichem, it’s hard to be a pro-Palestinian moderate Jew. Neither side of this interminable reality accepts you-you’re essentially scum to both sides. Many Jews who support Israel think of me the way they think of Noam Chomsky (and yes, he’s one of my heroes), and no, they don’t admire him for his excellence in linguistic scholarship. Some on the left who criticize Israel as I do demand absolute fealty to their version of reality, which is often unbalanced and veers dangerously towards the neo-Nazi line. The truth is never black or white but rather grey. Israel isn’t always right, nor is it always wrong. At the same time, its arrogance, its neverending colonization and occupation of Palestinian land, its apartheid-like structures and violence against Palestinians and their supporters (including Jews) resemble the once pariah state of S. Africa. While South Africa eventually got past all that and, while imperfect, has found a way to meld its citizens together and go beyond racism, I’m not optimistic about Israel’s future. I’ve said this for years and will do so once again-the gravest danger to Israel isn’t Iran or its neighbors or Hamas. The gravest danger to Israel is Israel itself.

    • kraig grady 9:08 am on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 9:08 am Permalink

      It is tough to be stuck in the middle like you and many Jewish people are, who are against such actions, and one indeed wonders just what they were thinking by playing it out this way. Unlike the US which kills people at their weddings, which has to be the most messed up thing ever, you are compeled to comment and to qualify.
      Why aren’t those promoting such things by the US not under the same pressure. So there is an unequality here. And not saying there is no justifcation for the actions but to really make the world a place for everyone ALL instances should be treated equally and resisted. So let your courage to stand up to speak against for what your tribe is doing wrong be a model for others to do the same when their own does like wise. as in so many cases, it surely does.

    • dtoub 11:51 am on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 11:51 am Permalink

      Thanks kraig. We’re not happy with what the US does either in many cases, and as you say there is indeed a double standard. Why no protests outside of S. Korea against what N. Korea did recently with attacking a S. Korean vessel in international waters? Why no protests against what Russia does in Chechnya? Or against what Turkey is doing to the Kurds or what Iran does against its Bahai minority, etc. Probably all countries are culpable to a degree. But to paraphrase Orwell, some countries are more equal than others. And yes, I’d like to see more members of my tribe step up and condemn Israel for what it did, and go so far as to boycott Israeli goods, stop buying Israel bonds, stop their trips to Israel, stop donating, etc. But that will never happen, unfortunately. That would make a difference.

    • Paul Muller 1:49 pm on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 1:49 pm Permalink

      What baffles me is that Israel has been fighting its neighbors for what, 60+ years and still no real security has resulted from all that fighting. Do Israelis like living on high alert all the time? When is somebody gonna try something that actually works to build security rather than simply creating a new generation of enemies? You would think that pragmatism would eventually triumph…

    • dtoub 3:52 pm on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 3:52 pm Permalink

      Paul that would require both sides, or at least one of them, to view the other as human and approach the other with respect. That will never happen. Both the PA and Israelis love their guns. When I was over there I couldn’t go anywhere, not to a mall, not to an archeological site, where there wasn’t someone with an AK-47. The IDF is glorified, particularly by young Jewish kids in the US. It’s sick. Young Israelis are the most extreme, perhaps because they know nothing of Palestinians except for an association with terrorism, while most Palestinians only know the Israelis as occupiers, soldiers and settlers, none of which paint true or helpful pictures of the other. It’s like a bunch of kids who want the same toy: “It’s mine!” “No, it’s mine.” The way I’d deal with that as a parent would be to take away the toy so neither child has it and they’d learn to share. Someone really needs to just take Palestine/Israel away from the people living there, give it to the UN, biased as that organization is, and have it in some sort of receivership. These people will keep on hating, killing one another, etc. It will never stop. Neither side has appropriate leadership and probably never will.

  • dtoub 9:07 am on Monday, May 31, 2010, 9:07 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: israeli idiocy, senseless violence   

    this exchange sums up my feelings re: the gaza flotilla massacre 

    On Facebook (Ken is someone with whom I went to public high school many many moons ago):

    Me (regarding the attack on the flotilla): “Stupid. Incredibly stupid. And criminal. I’ll point to this the next time someone tells me Israel is acting in self-defense. As I’ve said many many times, the gravest threat to Israel is Israel itself.”

    Ken: “Let’s see what the real story is. From an Israeli point of view there is a large population inside Gaza trying to bring in weapons to kill Israelis. Israel has blockaded the area to prevent this. A Flotilla attempts to thwart the blockade. Israeli commandos board the vessel. That’s what happens in a blockade. The commandos are attacked with knives and clubs. Pandemonium breaks out on these tiny boats. 15 Israeli soldiers are wounded, 12 activists are wounded and 2 are killed (early reports, could change). The area is under military blockade. Boats should not sail there unless they are looking for trouble. They got trouble and succeeded in their mission to make Israel look bad. Some paid with their lives and I guess it is worth it for them. This was a publicity stunt designed to put Israel in a NO-Win situation. Why are there so many videos and reports? Media outlets were called and sat. phones were on board. Don’t jump to such anti-Israel conclusions. We have enough people to do that, like Ahmadinejad. He condemned the attack”

    Me: “Ken, with all due respect, that’s a ton of bullshit. Wake up already-stop being a zionist propagandist, you’re too intelligent for that, no? This is the same nonsense that was spewed when the Philly cops dropped a percussion bomb on the MOVE house and destroyed a neighborhood. Stuff like that isn’t justified. Imagine if the SS Exodus were fired upon by the British, which was violating the Mandate era laws in Palestine. Indeed, the British decided against storming the Exodus, precisely because it would have been met with violence and civilian deaths. There were any of a number of ways that Israel could have responded to the flotilla, none of which would have led to deaths. And Ahmedinejad is hardly the only person to condemn the Israeli attack-France, Germany, Turkey and other EU countries are also outraged. Are they all to be dismissed as “enemies of Israel?”

    Israel is an occupying power, drunk on its military superiority and the most arrogant nation on earth. It makes life much more difficult for Jews outside Israel, since we’re viewed as sympathetic regardless of Israel’s actions. If Israel is a sovereign nation, as it is, then it has to take blame for its errors. Instead, Barak is blaming the people on the ship (blaming the victims is a tactic they use over and over again, in Gaza, in the West Bank, etc). This strikes me as having parallels with the Sharpsville Massacre, the Amritsar Massacre and any of a number of massacres against Jews during the Nazi era. Sorry Ken, but perhaps instead of reading AIPAC’s propaganda or the Jerusalem Post, you might consider the reporting in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, which is at least honest about Israel’s misdeeds. Israel gets no sympathy or excuses from me any more than the US does when it commits crimes (just consider the US record in Latin America over the past 70 years).

    Other than that, have a wonderful Memorial Day.”

    Okay, I’m now braced for the usual retorts about me being a “turncoat” like Noam Chomsky, the ultimate perjorative among the “rah-rah Israel” and the “praise Israel first” crowd here in the US. Personally, Chomsky’s views are perhaps more moderate than mine in this regard. Well, I’m resigned to it. Bring it on.

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