Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A day before Tisha B’Av and smack dab in the middle of a war--not the best time for a second blogoversary

When I first starting my blog, I though I’d be discussing the parsha (weekly Torah reading) and complaining about my synagogue. Little did I know that I’d also write a ten-part series on raising a child with disabilitities, talk about my husband’s and son’s kidney stones, and obsess about kol isha. (Maybe I should have seen that last one coming—after all, how would you expect a former synagogogue-choir singer to react to a law prohibiting a woman to sing in the presence of a man?) But probably the most interesting thing that's happened is that I've found myself making a real effort to understand viewpoints quite different from my own.

Now, I’m trying to wrap my feeble brain around this war. I’ve always been in the Peace Now camp. At this point, I’m just confused. As I was saying to Fudge the last time we chatted over pizza, I’ve always avoided getting involved in politics because just about anyone can convince of just about anything, and I think that it’s almost unethical for someone as gullible as I to get involved in politics. So here I am, going back and forth between “if someone comes to kill you, kill him first” (which I hear is a saying from the Talmud) and “you don’t talk peace with your friends, you talk peace with your enemies’ (no idea who said that).

Settlers, please chime in. This is what I understand:

Many people moved outside the Green Line (the pre-1967 borders) because the Israeli government(s), past and present, gave them financial incentives to do so. That’s how my brother and ex-sister-in-law and their three kids ended up in East Jerusalem.

Some people moved outside the Green Line because, since past Israeli governments considered the settlement of the territories strategically necessary, they considered it their patriotic duty.

Some people moved outside the Green Line because they felt very strongly that no area of the biblical Eretz Yisrael/Land of Israel should be off-limits to Jews.

Now what? How much land does Israel need to be safe? And/or, given the range of the current generation of missiles, does the size of the State of Israel make any strategic difference? And even if Israel wants to give back land, is it even possible anymore, or is the surrender of land so easily interpreted as a sign of weakness that Israel can’t afford it?

Please feel free to support or oppose, agree or disagree with anything that I or any commenter has to say. My only rule is that all comments must be stated in respectful language. There will be no “flame wars” or insults—the only thing I won’t tolerate is intolerance.

The floor is open.


Blogger Tzipporah said...

ooh, what an invitation. ;)

I believe that:
1. Israel cannot survive morally as an occupying power.
2. Israel cannot survive practically when others (esp neighbors) see it as an oppressor.
3. Israel has a lot of teshuvah to do towards the Palestinians. A LOT.
4. The Arab leaders of the Middle East have a lot of teshuvah to do towards their own people, in terms of economic and political equality.
5. Until they do that, Israel is a great scapegoat for everything that's wrong in everyone's lives.

So, yes, we need to give back territory (I'm a two-stater). We also need to heal the rifts in our own populations, which means confronting the secular/religious divide and finding some middle ground that's not based on defense against an external enemy... like maybe, finally, creating a constitution?

And we need to financially and politically support indigenous movements in Arab countries for education, economic equality, and democratic infrastructure.

But even with all this, we will probably still need to keep a lot of arms and a standing reserve - because we can only control our own actions, not those of others around us.

Wed Aug 02, 03:38:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi - I'd love to comment, but I have to get the kids to bed, and clean up the house for shabbat.

Expect an interesting comment, soon :)

Thu Aug 03, 02:33:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Noam S said...

FIrst of all, I reccommend reading this editorial published yesterday in the Chicago Tribune:,0,3352445.story?coll=chi-newsopinioncommentary-hed

Unfortunately, Tzipporah and all the Jews and non-Jews who think like her are tragically misinformed, dangerous, and gullible idiots.

The entire issue can be looked at many ways: ancient historical, recent historical, geographical, religious, realpolitik, moral, and many others.

From the ancient historical point of view, Jews have the claim to the land, unless some canaanites or the other 7 nations pop up.

From a recent historical point of view, the British mandated area did not include a large Arab country that was lopped off before 1947, namely- Jordan. There already is a moslem Arab country occupying the majority of "Palestine". Remember, despite all the revisionist history that is being bandied about, Israel accepted the partition plan, no one else did. The arab states started the 1948 war. They have to accept the concequences. Ditto with 1967. Closing the straits of Tiran was an internationally recognized act of war. Nasser and friends were declaring daily that they were going to push the Jews into the sea. Only an idiot with no historical perspective can claim that Israel had no right to pursue a military approach in 1967. The "territories" could easily have been annexed and the existing population pushed out(which may have been the lesser of two evils). Israel hoped to trade them back in the hopes of a peace that never came. Eventually, this lack of any difinitive action led to the present morass.

There has NEVER been an independent Moslem/Arab country in what is now Israel. NEVER. NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER. Jordan, Eygpt and Syria all had an opportunity to establish such a state pre-1967 and did not. Israel absorbed refugees from all the Arab countries. The Arab countries, in either a coldly calculated move, or just plain indifference, left the Arab refugees in camps.

In most wars, especially justified defensive wars such as the ones that Israel has fought, the victor keeps what they conquer. Look at how the United States grew. The British fought to regain the Faukland Islands from Argentina. Israel, despite having been attacked numerous times, does not seem to benefit from this international convention. Why? The Arab countries get to have as many "do-over" wars as they want, with absolutely no consequences. If there was any reality here, the arab countries should actually be giving Israel land, or concessions in return for peace, since Israel has been the victorious party.

Bottom line: Arab countries created the "palestinian problem" by
1. not accepting the partition
2. not absorbing refugees like Israel did
3. not creating a state when they had the opportunity
4. keeping them in squalid poverty and in camps

Israel's moral imperative is the security of the State of Israel and the security of it's citizens(both Jewish and Arab). Israel, as a moral state should and does feel obligated to do its best for the people under its control(the Palestinians), but has absolutely no obligation to commit national suicide or compromise its security for the sake of people who seek its destruction.

From a realpolitik point of view, the main problem is not the Palestinians, it is the Arab hatred of Jews, and the Palestinians are poor unfortunate pawns, being used by the Arab states to garner sympathy. Also, with the rise of more radical Islam(Ossama bin-Laden et al), there is now a religious/cultural war between Islam and the rest of the west. If you read the Hamas charter, they believe that conquering the land of Israel is a religious imperative, a jihad in the fullest sense of the word. Therefore, they cannot recognize the state of Israel, any more than a religious Jew can eat pork. It is prohibited for them. Therefore, they will never rest until either they are dead, or have driven the Jews into the sea. You can read it right there in their charter. From Hamas/Hezbollah/Iran/ bin-Laden point of view, there can be no compromise. So, any "concessions" from Israel are seen as small steps forwards, with the goal(destruction of Israel) never changing. Therefore, there is absolutely no benefit of giving away any land, or making any sort of accomodation with these groups.

We should all feel sorry for the Palestinians as a group. They have been screwed by their own people for political/military gain, have been screwed by their leaders, who have embezzled most of the money donated for their care, and most of all because they have been fed a diet of poisonous religious and political attitudes towards Israel. We should do everything we can to ease their plight. However, we cannot, and should not do anything that would compromise Israel's security or its people, just because the Arabs have screwed a group of its own people.

It is a tremendously sad situation, especially for people who believe in justice, equality, and morality. But Israel is not dealing with people who have a moral code. Certainly Israel could have done better, especially in retrospect, but the blame for the plight of the Palestinians rests soley and completely on their leaders, and the other Arab countries. Arafat and the rest time and time again left many offers on the table and instead turned to more terror and violence.

Unfortunately, dangerous misguided gullible idiots like tzipporah do not like to admit that the enemy has no morals, and dont want to admit that the enemy will not rest until Israel is wiped out. But that is the reality. There is evil out there.

I saw two quotes which summarize the situation:

Golda Meir said "there will only be peace when they(the Arabs) love their children more than they hate our children."


If the Arabs put down their arms, there would be no more violence. If Israel puts down it's arms, there would be no more Israel.

It is good to want peace, all Israel wants peace, even us rabid right wingers. But there will only be peace when the other side is willing to make peace. And right now, they are only willing to make peace if Israel disappears. If they really wanted peace, it would have happened long long long ago.

Fri Aug 04, 01:12:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Noam S said...

As to the first question of where to live in Israel, please remember the borders of the land of Israel, and the settling of the tribes or Reuven, Gad and half of Menasshe on the Eastern side of the River Jordan.

Shtai gadot la'Yarden, zu shelanu, zu gamkain.

The river Jordan has two banks, this one is ours, and this other one is also ours.

There should not be a limitation on where Jews can live. The land is ours by history, religion, international convention, and in reality. It is only the twisted application of International rules by the UN that has kept Judea and Samaria, as well as the entire city of Jerusalem from being recognized as part of the State of Israel.

And anyway, even going by present conventions, if Arabs can live in Israel, why can't Jews live in Gaza, or Jordan? Why do we have to uproot "settlements"? The sad answer is that the Arabs want their land judenrein. Which seems to be a form of ethnic cleansing that no one is opposing. Also, Jews in an arab country (especially a Palestinian state)would be at tremendous risk of losing their lives. What does that tell you about the people that Israel has to deal with? and their morals?

Fri Aug 04, 02:25:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Whoah dilbert,
I don't mind someone disagreeing with my ideas, but why resort to name-calling? If your arguments have merit, there is no need for that.

Am I misinformed?
I've lived in Jerusalem and the territories, seeing first-hand how the current policies affect both sides. I've studied the history of the land and the conflicts over it (including how Ottoman empire attempts at "modernizing" land ownership created legal dispossession for the people who became Palestinians, through no fault of theirs OR of the Jews who later bought the titles to that land). While Arab countries exacerbated the Palestinian refugee problem (and continue to make it worse), the "cause" actually goes back to absentee landlords 200 years ago. And honestly, this sounds like a 5-year old pointing at his brother and complaining, "well, he started it!" In the end, someone has to be a grown-up and deal with the situation.

Am I dangerous?
I suppose so, if offering my opinion is so threatening to you that you have to call me names. Speaking an unpopular truth is often a dangerous thing to do.

Am I gullible?
I'm a lot more skeptical of the motives of Israeli leaders than you appear to be. I certainly don't think any of this will be easy - but HaShem never promised us easy. Teshuvah isn't easy. Redemption isn't easy. Transformation isn't easy. Sometimes, even survival isn't easy. But that doesn't mean we can stick our fingers in our ears and go "la-la-la" and pretend we don't hear His voice when we are called to act justly.

in shalom,

Fri Aug 04, 05:27:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Dilbert, I've printed out that Chicago Tribune article (2 copies--1 for the Punster) to read on Shabbat. Will respond later.

Fri Aug 04, 06:16:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Never mind--couldn't wait. Just read the article.

Here's something that I'm comfortable saying: The Jewish National Fund bought a good deal of the land that is now the State of Israel, fair and square.

Here's one thing that I'm *not* comfortable saying, Dilbert: The entire Land of Israel/Eretz Yisrael, on both sides of the Jordan, is ours by divine decree.

Here's something that I'm comfortable saying: Israel hoped to trade the territories for peace. Tzipporah, I've always believed in a two-state solution.

Here's something that I'm having a great deal of difficulty saying, but I'm afraid that I have to agree with Dilbert on this, at least for the foreseeable future: Trading land for peace does not appear to be an option *at this time.*

Here's something that I hate to say, but, certainly, all the newspaper articles and blog posts are right on this matter: Israel is being set up. *Israel* tries to *avoid* targetting civilians. *Hamas* and *Hesbollah* deliberately place their weapons among civilians to ensure that the press will catch the Israel Defense Force in the act of injuring civilians in the process of trying to protect its own citizens. Indeed, Tzipporah, "Israel is a great scapegoat for everything that's wrong in everyone's lives." Obviously, Dilbert agrees with you in this matter, or he wouldn't have posted the URL to that article, which I recommend to all my readers.

And here's something that I *really* hate saying: Dilbert, you've always been one of the voices of civility and reason commenting on my blog. This is the first time I can remember you insulting someone. Calling anyone a gullible idiot is not acceptable. Please, PLEASE, NO INSULTS! You're the last person whose comments I would have thought I might have to delete. Derech eretz/common courtesy is a requirement for continuing to comment on this post.

Let us continue this discussion in a spirit of shalom bein achim, peace among brethren. This topic is difficult and painful enough to discuss as it is. It's the day after Tisha B'Av. This is *not* the time for any of us to be indulging in sinat chinam, baseless hatred, nor is there *any* good time for that. Even if anyone feels that s/he has good reason to be angry, PLEASE, PLEASE, FIND A CIVIL WAY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF!!!

My Word Verification is "ehrva." That's the Hebrew word for nakedness. Let us cloth our anger and pain in dignity and mutual respect, lest our public disrespect for one another harm our people yet again, as it did in the days of the Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple.

Fri Aug 04, 06:56:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Noam S said...

First of all, I apologize for calling tzipporah an idiot. I was actually referring to the article that was referenced, where Stalin referred to a group of people as 'useful idiots'. However, regardless of the reference, it was uncivil and I apologize.

To address a few point: Tzipporah has reviewed the history, but doesn't give any information or proof to support her position. I am curious how "absentee landlords" created the present situation.

Teshuva, Redemption, Transformation, listening to what Hashem is saying- This sounds like an arguement about what our religious obligation should be. The Talmud says that if someone is coming to kill you, you get up early to kill him first. We fast on Tzom Gedalia because Gedalia did not first kill the person who came to assasinate him(among other reasons). H'shamer nafshecha me'od- from this week's parsha- very much guard your life. There is a religious imperative not to commmit suicide.

Of course, we are obligated(and I believe very strongly) in tzedek tzedek tirdof(seek justice), v'ahavta l'ra'acha kamocha, and many other similar concepts. However, self preservation trumps these others. And, as I outlined, we are not the cause of the problem, and we do not have control over the solution. There will only be a solution when the Palestinians are willing to have a solution. Lo Alecha ha'melacha legmor... we dont have to finish it, but we cant walk away from it, but we dont have to pursue it when it isn't going to work out.

Are you dangerous tzipporah? not to my ideas, but to the state you are, because if the State of Israel follows your viewpoint, it has the possibility of committing national suicide.

Are you gullible? I dont know, but you seem to have swallowed a lot of wrong ideas and facts.

It is a very sad situation, because we are a moral people, and we want to to what is right and ethical. We dont want to subjugate anyone. But our religion, besides telling us to be moral and ethical, also tells us to protect ourselves, eliminate evil, and that self defense is a mitzvah.

Sun Aug 06, 08:45:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Dilbert, thanks for your response. It's always been my intention to keep the tone of my blog civil.

Call me gullible, but I'm still think that a two-state solution is the only one that will work *in the long run.* But I can't, for the life of me, see how we can get there from here. Israel is fighting for its life. Is there any other choice *at this time?*

Who, exactly, is going to be both able ***and willing*** to force the Palestinians (in both Gaza and Lebanon) to stop firing missiles at Israel? The U.N. Peacekeeping troops are a farce--they haven't done a blessed thing to protect Israel. We need a force that's authorized to ***shoot*** violators of any peace accords (temporary or permanent), not just to report them.

I find myself in the dubious position of being a peacenik supporting a war. Is there anyone on the other side who's in favor of peace *who's actually in a position to help create it?* Bloggers from Lebanon, much as they may be more than willing to change this situation, have no power to do so. The people at the top are still calling the shots, both figuratively and, unfortunately, literally.

I will continue to pray for a lasting *and secure* peace, may it come bi-m'herah, b'karov, speedily, soon. Not to mention b'yamainu, in our day. I'm not getting any younger. I hope to see peace for my Israeli nieces and nephew in my lifetime.

Sun Aug 06, 03:15:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Amen to that, Shifra.

Dilbert - sorry if I didn't give you enough info. It's actually a fascinating problem (the absentee landlord thing) and at the risk of still being too vague, since I don't have my research or citations in front of me, here's the gist:

In the early 1800's, and for hundreds of years beforehand, the people who lived in what is now Israel (and parts of Jordan) were tribal villagers organized around periodic land distribution, much like we Jews used to do. Every (20? 30? years - can't remember the exact time-frame), entire villages would re-evaluate how many people were in each family, what their and the communal needs were, and re-apportion land to make sure everyone shared the risks of invaders coming through stealing crops, or goats wandering into chasms, etc. (Obviously, people being people, some big-wigs probably retained more land regardless, so it's not a complete agrarian utopia.)

The reason this worked (practically), was that this is an area that was frequently crossed by numerous marauding armies on their way somewhere else, and the communities survived best if they spread the risk around. Especially since these armies would often demand the villages turn over their young men as fighters, as well as stealing crops and animals on the way through. No sense hoarding when you need your neighbor's help several times a year.

At the same time, whatever larger gov't (usu. the Ottoman empire) was in charge would come through once or twice a year, and demand taxes/tribute: through intermediaries, local rulers, who skimmed (a lot) off the top. These local tax-collectors also had "term-limits" - so they had to collect as much extra as they could before getting replaced, really squeezing the avg. village.

You with me?

Into this scenario, you get a newer, more modern Ottoman empire. First thing they do is crack down on tax collectors, making them permanent inherited positions, so as to minimize graft (like THAT works). So now, villages have long-standing relations with foreign ruling families who squeeze them periodically, but present themselves as "shielding" the villagers from the evil empire - reducing the number of men who get taken for service, etc.

When the Ottoman empire gets Turkified - they decide they need to *register* land privately. Everybody modern has private property, right? So these same tax-collecting families are sent out with forms to register the villagers' land, noting who owns what. But as you'll remember, they don't work that way - it's communal.

So the savvy tax collectors say, "hey, if you sign this paper over to me, we'll just go on like we always have - I'll protect you from the empire, you give me a tithe every year, what do you say?" They said yes.

And then these families took their deeds and cash and retired to urban areas (often overseas), periodically collecting the same tribute to maintain their wealth.

These are the absentee landlords from whom people in Europe and American purchased land - legally - when they wanted to settle Israel. Problem was, they got there and found people living on and workign the land, who just didn't "get" the private property thing. This was their village -it had always been their village - who are these new people?

Most early settlers, realizing what was going on, let the villagers stay. But each side has a different idea of what's going on and who really has a "right" to be there. Sound familiar? This is the beginnings of the land conflict that we're still living with.

Tue Aug 08, 01:33:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So there may have been a classic case of cross-cultural miscommunication. At this point, I'm not quite sure how understanding the possible origin of the conflict can help us resolve it. Israel is getting bombed. I really don't see that the State has any choice but to fight back when its survival is at stake.

Wed Aug 09, 09:23:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

At this point, I'm not quite sure how understanding the possible origin of the conflict can help us resolve it.

I was responding to dilbert's accusation about being misinformed. I guess I wish more Jews (and everyone else) knew this background, because it lets us move PAST the question of "who started it" and fingerpointing, and on to more productive discussions of how we deal with the mess now that we're all in it.

Wed Aug 09, 02:46:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shira: Why are you uncomfortable with this statement:

Here's one thing that I'm *not* comfortable saying, Dilbert: The entire Land of Israel/Eretz Yisrael, on both sides of the Jordan, is ours by divine decree.

Just because it is ours by dvine decree doesn't mean we need to actively go out and do something about it at this time.

The JNF bought land (and even settled) land in Gaza and Jordan pre-1948...and eventually, we will return.


I want to reply to this entire thread, but Im exhausted now and going to bed.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thu Aug 10, 06:03:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Jameel, to be honest, I'm just not enough of a believer to be sure that there even exists such a thing as a divine decree, for one thing, and, for another thing, that's not exactly a typical claim for proving the right to exist of a modern nation-state. (Then, again, we Americans swiped our country lock, stock, and barrel from the Native Americans, so who am I to talk?) But I am glad to see that you're in no rush to do anything about claiming the whole land at this time.

I'll be delighted to hear from you when you're more awake. Shabbat shalom. Get yourself some well-deserved rest. I've been keeping your blog open on my office computer and apprising my officemates of your latest updates. Even my boss knows to come to me for the latest news. Thanks so much for all your hard work.

Fri Aug 11, 12:29:00 AM 2006  

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