Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thoughts of an Israeli ex-soldier

Following the campaign in Gaza StripNew Year’s Eve, 2009

A good friend sent me one of those computer videos, accompanied by “A must see! Please watch and forward!” In the video, a little Israeli girl is counting from 1 to 15 before she uncovers her eyes in a hide-and-seek game. 15 seconds is the time that residents of Sederot and other towns in southern Israel have, in order to find shelter, before a Kassam rocket hits (hopefully) the ground.
A request followed that said “please sign the petition attached, so that people around the world would know how it feels to be a child in a town in Israel, well within the borderline of Israel proper”.
My reply was “sorry, but I can’t sign this, because children and other civilians in the Gaza strip don’t even have 1 second to hide”.
I am not saying this because I don’t feel compassion for the residents of the Negev (southern Israel). I am an Israeli, living in the Bay Area with my wife. My two sons are now in active duty in the Israeli military. On top of all, I grew up in Kiryat Sh’monah, a town on the northern tip of Israel, two miles from the Lebanese border. As a 7-year old, I still remember the first Katyusha rocket that hit my town, in 1968. Hundreds of similar rockets followed during my childhood and later on, when I was a soldier in the first Lebanon war.

The reason that I couldn’t sign this petition, was that it concentrated solely on the sorry fate of civilians in Israel, completely disregarding the full context of this conflict. By full context I mean – the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In particular, it disregarded the Palestinian side of the tragedy.
More than 300 people were killed in the first day of the Israeli campaign on Gaza. Many of them were police personnel, but many others were innocent civilians. “Who cares for those civilians, as long as people in Sederot and elsewhere can’t live in peace?” is a typical reaction among Israelis. Now, what kind of a society have we become, that we don’t care anymore for lives being lost? What kind of a country has to permanently be killing civilians to survive? Is this the country that the founders envisioned, when they strove to establish a normal country, where Jews would live in peace among their neighbors, like most other countries? Do we have to kill women and children to survive?
Some people would reply, “Well, you know, this is the Middle East. It’s a jungle out there. Those enemies of ours don’t understand talking. Violence is all they know.”
Those are tough arguments. But I think that there are good arguments to counter them.
The notion that all, or most, Arabs or Palestinians or Muslims, for that matter, are violent and cruel by nature, has a general term to classify it, and that is “Racism”. From all my experience in life, living in Israel and in the Bay Area, I developed a strong belief that we are all human beings. On average, under similar conditions, people from one ethnic group are not better nor worse than any others. It’s the particular situation that cause some people to behave differently.
The religion which used to be associated with so highly sophisticated and delicate culture, in the 350 years between the 10th and 14th century, namely the Islam, is now regarded as the most deadly and violent. It’s true, that many people living in Muslim countries today are living in poor, intolerant and violent conditions. But that has nothing to do with their religion – only with their political situation.
Check out the research of Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University and you will learn, that any group of people can be driven, under certain circumstances, to be cruel and evil.
And just as a side note, even if that was true, then what chance do we have, amongst hundreds of millions of “beasts”, to survive in the long run? The advantage of Israel over its neighbors has always been technological, and in my view, moral. But with moral values that are deteriorating, higher crime rates, and with an education system that is constantly going downhill, judging by its marks in international tests (I think that this is also related to the priorities set by the Israeli government) – do you really believe that we can maintain our edge forever?

Another common claim is this: we have pulled out of the Gaza Strip, haven’t we? What do they want now?
Well, I think they want what every normal nation wants – to manage their own lives. And we don’t let them, as long as the entire Gaza area is under siege. You can’t claim “the end of the occupation” when the people inside are not free.

But he Hamas is not willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state! – one might say.
Yes, so? Did Israel ever recognize the right of a Palestinian state to exist? I mean with real actions, not just declarations. The fact is, that 250,000 Jewish settlers still live, in what all International bodies see as illegal settlements – in fact, the Israeli government itself declared a few dozens of them as illegal – but so far did practically nothing to evacuate them.

Now let’s leave the moral considerations aside for a moment, and just ask ourselves, on a practical level: what does Israel hope to achieve in this campaign?
The release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas for more than two years – was not even declared as a goal. At least that we have learnt from the previous, “Second Lebanon War”. That war started after three soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbolla, and the campaign failed in bringing them back alive.
The official goal is, obviously, to stop the shooting of Kassam, Grad, and other, longer range rockets. This will not happen, everybody knows that. Ehud Barak, the Secretary of Defense, knows that. He has already been the military Commander in Chief and Prime Minister. He tried to calm down all those who demanded “an iron fist”, saying that most of them never saw how real war looked like. This week, he was forced to start the air strikes, after the number of rocket attacks has reached a breaking point (and eventually, a man was killed in Netivot). If Barak believes that there is a way to stop the shooting, even temporarily, then why did he wait so long? I am afraid that it was because at some point, the pressure on Barak caused him more political damage than the result of a military operation would do. Election day is coming up in February, and Mr. Barak, the head of the Labor party, is a candidate for Prime Minister.
How is the operation doing, you ask? Well, so far so good. Approval rate for Barak has risen 50%.
The sad reality, for both Palestinians and Israelis, is that none of them has any option to inflict violence on the other, without hurting their own cause. The Israeli military can kill many more people, but this would only cause more anguish, more hatred, and there will always be enough material and means for the rest of the population, to make more Kassam rockets. An oppressed population is like a dragon with multiple heads: unless you kill it in its entirety, it will have enough power and motivation to fight back, especially when they have nothing to lose but their misery.
The Palestinians, too, are hurting their own cause when they support the Hamas, which declares the annihilation of Israel as its goal. But this is where the symmetry breaks down: how can we judge somebody, who is so desperate as to support the only organization which puts some food on their table? Every side feels its own suffering, but fails to recognize that the other side suffers too. But in the case of Israel, being the more powerful side by far, the notion of being the victim is quite ridiculous, even considering the pain and fear that Israelis feel.
The Hamas has never been so popular before the Palestinian Authority was crashed by Israel. In many polls and programs, such as the Geneva Initiative (http://www.geneva-accord.org/) or the National Census (http://www.mifkad.org.il/), hundreds of thousands of people from both sides expressed their willingness to accept each other’s right for independence. This means that essentially, most Palestinians (who are not zealously religious), would not vote for Hamas if they had a decent alternative.
Unfortunately, they don’t. And Israelis don’t either. These two peoples, which possess so much talent in all areas of life, lack the one thing which could bring them hope for peaceful co-existence: brave and smart leadership. We need our own De-Gaulle, or our own Churchill, or our own Obama, for that matter. So that Jewish and Arab kids could play hide-and-seek, and won't have to worry about finding shelter in 15 seconds. Our own Obama is hiding somewhere in the academy, or in the high-tech industry, but he (or she) is definitely not in today’s political system.


  1. Hi Avner - A couple of issues that I have with your blog entry –

    Your rational for not signing the petition is that it doesn’t address the Palestinian side – but you’re not against the merit of the petition, are you? the beautiful thing about being an Israeli (rather than a Muslim under some dictatorship) is that you are free to sign both that petition AND any other petition produced by a pro-Palestinian organization that tells the story of the Palestinians. I’m sure that you will not find any mention of their wrong-doing in their petition, or news broadcast, or articles, or anything!

    I also have issue with your determination that Israeli’s don’t care or dismiss the loss of innocent lives in Gaza – this is not true. Yes, there are the few, the right wing hardliners – but they are not representing the majority – this is an unbalanced, unfair characterization of Israelis.

    You were a soldier in the Israeli Army, you were an officer (I think) – you should know better than many what the morals of the Israeli Army are – and how much care for civilians goes into an operation like this – Israel is not targeting civilians!!! it is doing what is possible to avoid civilian casualties – but in the battlefield, when the enemy takes cover behind women and children and fires from within heavily populated areas – what choices are you left with? Did you mention that the Israeli Army warned 100,000 people in Gaza before bombing a building used by Hamas to store rockets?? Did you mention anywhere that while the fighting continues, Israel is moving hundreds of trucks with aid and food into Gaza?

    Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist – you said “so” – well, that would have been fine – it’s just that they’ve been using rockets not just words - and not just one or two – but THOUSANDS of rockets – and not just targeting soldiers but firing indiscriminately into civilian population!
    When a terror groups attacks your citizens like Hamas did – you have an obligation (the government) to protect your citizens! This is the most basic role of any government of any country.

    Please don’t tell me that Hamas is advancing the well being of the Gazans or the Palestinians – hell, they even pursued and killed their own “brothers” of the Fatah movement!! – you tell me if you think Hamas is a group that you can ration with, negotiate with, satisfy in any way – other than giving them what they want which is the destruction of Israel and the establishment of Palestine on ALL of the land.

  2. Avner, I appaud your forthrightness, your insistence on seeing the situation from the Palestinian side as well as from the Israeli side, and your courage to speak out.
    I would like to hear from you more than merely the comment that Israel needs leaders like deGaulle or Churchill or Obama. What do you imagine such an Israeli leader would do or say in the situation immeditely before the attack on Gaza or even at this moment?

  3. Avner, I appaud your forthrightness, your insistence on seeing the situation from the Palestinian side as well as from the Israeli side, and your courage to speak out.
    I would like to hear from you more than merely the comment that Israel needs leaders like deGaulle or Churchill or Obama. What do you imagine such an Israeli leader would do or say in the situation immeditely before the attack on Gaza or even at this moment?


  4. To my dear cousin-in-law Avi:
    1. No, my rational was because of the disproportion between the casualties on both sides. I will sign any petition that will recognize the suffering of both, but I will be more reluctant to sign petitions for the stronger, less vulnerable side, pretending to be the more miserable victim.
    2. I'm sure that many Israelis feel sorry for the casualties in Gaza. But in these dark times, unfortunately I hear MANY responses like the one I quoted, not just a few. That's the tragedy of this situation, that it makes so many of us act like non-humans. I think that reactions similar to what I quoted are very common, I hear them all the time. Check out, for example, the many facebook pages that call for the mass killing of people in Gaza.
    3. Israel is not targeting civilians - that is not relevant as long as the Israeli military does kill civilians. As I said, the Hamas can claim exactly the same thing: we would love to have our goals achieved without killing anybody (and I would believe them - they are human beings just like we are), but in this situation it is simply unrealistic.
    The warning that Israel gave them is a bad joke. They have nowhere to go.
    4. No, I didn’t mention that Israel was moving humanitarian aid in. First, it’s Israel’s obligation as the entity which completely controls the Gaza strip. Second, it’s done only for the benefit of Israel, because a starving population would mean an international disaster to Israel. So, “thank you very much, Israel”.
    5. The Israeli government does have an obligation to protect its citizens, but it’s doing the exact opposite – putting them in greater danger, by pouring more fuel on the fire of violence.
    As for the solution that I propose - see my other comment to Rabbi Lavin.

  5. To Rabbi Levin:
    I’m not an expert in politics, so what I suggest is not much different than what is outlined in the following. Differees are minor.

    The Arab Peace Initiative (AKA the Saudi I. or the Arab League I.): www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm

    Clinton's Peace Plan: www.heskem.org.il/sources-view.asp?id=619&meid=43
    (Arafat rejected it for some good reasons, but many Palestinians would accept it today)

    Geneva Initiative: www.geneva-accord.org/mainmenu/summary

  6. Good post, though on the Hamas not recognizing the right of Israel to exist, there is more to the story than simple exclamations of this widely-held belief. For one, there is the matter of Ismail Haniyeh's interview with the Washington Post (recently cited by Mike Whitney in his article 'The Gaza Bloodbath'), where he quite clearly states it is not a deeply entrenched, irreversible position;


    POST: "Do you recognize Israel's right to exist?"

    HANIYEH: "The answer is to let Israel say it will recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Hamas will have a position if this occurs."

    POST: "Will you recognize Israel?"

    HANIYEH: "If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them."

    Note that this calls simply for the dismantling of the aforementioned settlements and a retreat into the '67 borders, which of course means Israel can keep the spoils of the Six Days War - a none-too shabby deal, surely. One might say Hamas will still attack, but since such an accord has not been attempted thus far, this is merely speculative, and rather irresponsibly so. It can't be too difficult to try, ey?

    And since Hamas did manage to maintain a well-disciplined cease-fire (has everyone forgotten that Israel killed six Hamas gunmen on U.S election night?), and has halted the wave of suicide-bombings (remember when these were the greatest threat to Israel as a nation?), one can assume they have the power to enforce a negotiated peace if they saw fit. Attempting to eradicate the elected representatives of a people is not a smart way to seek peace, even if you do call to warn them shortly before you destroy the meagre infrastructure they possess.

  7. The only justification for Israel to have a Right to Exist , is if your God is the same God as other religions worship ,( If not the same , he must be the Top God ) and He exists , and He did actually say you were the Chosen people and must have that certain bit of land .
    Otherwise , Israel would have been better located in America .

    I desperately hope there is a God , but not if he is a pernikety , racist , partisan God . Oblivion would be more honourable .

  8. Thanks for your forthright explanations of your reasons for not signing the petition.
    In response to Avi's comment above: If Israeli is not targeting civilians, why did it target UN schools being used as bomb shelters? Why have so many Palestinian children been killed by Israeli bullets over the years?
    Over so much of the world, we look on in horror at this genocide. We cry out for it to end.

  9. Powermongers must be prepared to agree and accept a common goal based on the right to manage and administrate resources, land, water and human, the later including cultural and spiritual, in accordance with the stated goal.


  10. Your take on the current offensive is enlightening and well-appreciated. It is nice to hear the more humane voices amongst the israeli population, showing that there are still people prepared to consider the hurt on both sides.
    I know this is not connected to anything you said, but would you mind if I asked a question? Having been taught second world war history in secondary school and learning about the horrors inflicted upon the jewish people by the hitler, I wondered if you knew whether the holocaust survivors who came to live in Israel (as well as their descendents) fail to see similar horrors being inflicted upon the palestinian people by their state?
    I remember during my university days, being a member of the Anti-Nazi League and still believe 'Never Again'. So I find it deeply tragic and disturbing that people who experienced the horrors of concentration camps could force another people to live in the biggest concentration camp in the world (Gaza). Despite such oppression,still the Israeli President asks the world, 'what do we do to deserve these people firing rockets at us?'.

  11. Go fuck yourself you little kapo traitor!

  12. Well done anonymous, a devastating display of eloquence and insight. It would seem that Edinburgh, UK has tweaked a nerve. I'm amazed that so many apologists fail to see that that is exactly how many in the rest of the informed and educated world view the actions of Israel. What is most baffling is that the world stands aside and lets it happen. There is no-where else in the world at the moment where an indiginous population is being systematically destroyed in the way in which the Palestinians are being destroyed. As unpleasant as it might be, comparisons are bound to be drawn with Rwanda, the Balkans and Nazi Germany. Don't think that because you are Jewish that you cannot commit crimes against humanity. The fact that such atrocious crimes were once committed against the Jewish people makes it even harder to accept that they can now visit such appalling misery on a defenceless, civilian population and think that they are justified in doing so.

  13. Before the terrible invasion of Gaza started we were talking about peace , there were secret discussions between Syria and Israel . I was actually looking forward to world where Bush was gone and forgotten and Obama was setting up the peace...I was hopeful of a happy new year , sadly thats all gone ,
    I wonder if the Israeli puplic have any idea of how they have been used by their own goverment and the US goverment as pawns in their plan. No one wants to even talk about peace now ...not even a ceasefire, why ? Do they really want to start another war? You said that "the Arabs only understand force" and the Arabs say the same of the Israelis , no country can survive like that , and the two sides are being pushed into something too awful to comprehend , all because of the ambitions of wicked people .
    The operation in Gaza will fail because violence only breeds violence, not security , let alone peace..Pamela

  14. Very good and thoughtful, thanks.

    I do take issue with a couple of points, and agree with the comments above on the issue of whether and how firmly Hamas is really dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

    But leaving that aside, I have to question your exclusion of Hamas policemen from the ranks of innocent civilians killed by Israel. These men are part of the civil infrastructure established by a democratically elected government, and as such I believe they should definitely be ranked among the civilians in Gaza.

    A quibble, perhaps...?

  15. Thank you and bless you.
    You views truly are an oasis in the desert.I am feeling so desperate and hopeless about the situation and you have given my heart and soul some hope.

  16. Avner, I really enjoyed seeing an ex-Israely army official to speak out like this for both sides. This is the kind of attituted that "might" bring peace into middle east. I'm saying 'might' as you already noticed quotes around it because even this attitude becomes the general consensus of people on Israeli side, there is still a case of legality of Israel in middle east.

    I know, it is really to late to talk about it and it might even annoy some Israelis who were already offended by your article, saying 'if you give up little, these muslims will ask more' however my point is being; Israel was established in basis of "promised land" 60 years ago and we lost peace in middle east since then. If you talk with Americans, this is the very first response you will get "Israel was promised to Jews by God".

    However we (muslims) and Jews lived together side by side for hundreds of years in other parts of the world, exchanged traditions and did business as well as other things as neighbours. Why can I eat Kosher food? Because it really tastes like my food! However, Israel was established as Jewish state in Palestine which belonged to Arabs for nearly 2000 years. Invasion of another country on the basis of 'promised land' and kicking those people out (please check the maps: http://www.zaman.com.tr/haber.do?haberno=792476) made all sorts of communications and relations between Muslims and Jews devastated.

    Personally I and many others who live outside Palestine are still on terms of this article (http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/kabd_eng.html) , more like a denial of the reality - however those many who are suffering in Palestine, loose family members daily basis will agree to live with Israel reality (because they are destroyed) if Israel stops siege in Gaza and West Bank, come to the terms of historical agreements. My comment might look like a frustration for Israelis but it is my frustration to see Jews who suffered so long in Europe but lived in good terms with Muslims for hundreds of years and then betrayed to things that we had in common and came back to Palestine which is the second holy place in Islam and invaded it.

    I again would like to thank you for your truth talk.

  17. Hi,
    First of all my sentiments echo those of the vast mojority of readers...good to hear the 'humane voice' of an israeli... where i understand your feelings and reflections on the palestine/israel situation i have to say..The town u live in, the army you fought in...is all illegal, it is all stolen land..

    Hamas is not a terrorist group but the democratically chosen government with a army for self defence as every nation in the world has...killing of israeli civilians is wrong and vice versa...but when you steal a peoples land,their rights, encage them in an open prison, control their basic neccessities of life then your unfortunately waitng for the time bomb to explode..in despair they will fight back...

    I'd also like to point out that this war isnt between the muslim and jews but the muslims and israelis/zionists.. God help those of us who murder, torture, kill, mutilate, rape, steal and all in the name of God! God forgive us!

    THE ONLY SOLUTION TO THIS CONFLICT IS FOR THE ISRAELIS TO GIVE BACK TO THE PALESTININANS WHAT THEY WRONGFULLY TOOK...AL THE LAND, RIGHTS ECT...But can they ever return their dead brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, parents, babies....
    Hate is not the answer...fear of God is!.

  18. THANK YOU!!!

    i have no more words. well done for yours. wish we could do more than words, in the mean time just going on protesting in the streets as much as we can.

    another distressed ex-israeli,

  19. I think we can do more than just protest on the streets..

    #..The british government is our elected government we can write to PM, MP's, email them and make our disgust clear to them n the fact that we want the british government to stop all trade and diplomatic relations with israel and STOP SUPPLY OF ARMS AND WEAPONS to israel immedietly.
    #...we can boycott israeli goods and slow them econmically/financially.(http://www.inminds.com/boycott-israel.php)
    #..also we can TALK to people, most of the british public only know/believe waht the BBC tells them...we can talk to family, friends, neighbours and inform them of the full context of this war not just the past 2 weeks...
    #..True muslims jews and christians need to unite and improve relationships with each other as individuals and nations...we are all gods children and will be asked on day of judgment 'you saw such n such injustice happening around you, what DID you do to speak/act against it'


  20. We should stop this rubbish about israel's right to exist. This so-called right was always on an extremely flimsy legal platform. Isreal's stomach-turning behavior has caused it to forfeit any righs whatsoever. The solution is for the Jews to vacate the region.

    I'm jewish. I view the israelis with total, unmitigated contempt. They are not Jews and i question whether they have any right to consider themselves human beings. As far as I'm concerned, they're vermin.

  21. I salute your brave analysis. Brave because you are an Israeli and from that community.

    The Kurds suffer the same racist hatred as the Palestinians and there are few such sensible voices coming from Turks.

    When they came for the Palestinians,
    You are not a Palestinian but you spoke out!

    You have dignity and honour!

  22. I salute you for your BRAVE stance in this mad times. It is good to know, despite what the press says, that all israelis have not gone totally mad, and despite what even Haartz says, the voice of conscience are not silence.

    At the same time, I have to tell you that I have lost all faith that Israel would EVER give back any of the land, which is a precursor to lasting peace.

    Listen to Bon Simon (of 60 minutes) on charlierose.com talk aboiut 300k settlers in W.Bank, and that they cannot be dislodged ever (unless an ami president forces, fat chance).

    Listen to Aaron David Miller saying that US admins never seriously pushed for curtainlment of settlements. NEVER he says, none of the presidents.

    What does this tell me? Isreal has braced itself for continued apartheid into forseeable future and has accepted the cost. The approach is to massively intimidate the neighbors (like now) so they think twice about taking action. The current holocaust is a massive lesson to the more powerful actors.

    Any thoughts?

  23. The Arab states of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are as guilty of this holocost as Israel...The Qatari foreign minister said today on Arabic TV that he knows all this was planned in advance , the Saudis are supporting the Israeli war with money and the Egytians are supporting by weakening the Gazans by not allowing aid to enter and today by giving permission for the Israeli airforce to use Egytian airspace.. their aim is not only to destroy Hamas , but to put in a puppet regime obedient to the West , such as Abbas,s regime ..effectually killing any aspirations the Palestinians had of a Palestinian State
    The Gazans are saying this time the attacks are different , yes they are because they are being attacked by their "muslim " brothers
    Saudi Arabia,s regime is worse than the Taleban , but their crimes against humanity are covered up because,1 they pay well ,( ahuge donation of billions of dollars was given towards the bailout to USA) 2,they support any future war with Iran ..and they repress their popuation very savagely, they have bought billions of dollars of munitions recently...why ?Certainly not to pose a threat to Israel
    I lived In Saudi in 1980s, the word "Israel" wouldn,t be uttered by news men ..it was always the "terrorist occupiers of Palestine" now Shimon Peres recently said they were Israels friends...I,m glad to say Syria has no diplomatic realtions with any of these countries Pamela

  24. to "Anonimous" who referred me to the Post interview:
    thanks for the reference, I didn't know about it. obviously, this was not mentioned in the Israeli media, or maybe I just missed it...
    regarding negotiating with Hamas - I couldn't agree more.

  25. to "Edinburgh, UK", and also to "Baffled":
    You actually touched a very sensitive nerve in the Israeli society. My take on this one is quite complex. I see myself as one of thousands of students of one of the most distinguished intellectuals in Israel, the late Prof. Leibowitz, who was a scientist and a philosopher. He was far from "liberal", being an Orthodox Jew, whose ideal state was ruled by religion, but at the same time he was the Guru of the Left camp in Israel, since he bravely and relentlessly preached for the end of the occupation of the Palestinians. So much so, that he declared the Gaza Strip "the biggest concentration camp," and he called some of the Settlers in the occupied territories "Judo-Nazis"!
    I admired his ideas, but didn't like his style. I don't think that Israel's actions equal those of the Nazi regime. But that doesn't make them any better than just "regular" war crimes. I think that the vast majority of Israelis are good people, but at the same time they are taking part in something that has a terrible outcome. Unfortunately, this is possible.
    In that sense, yes, many Israelis, including holocaust survivors, fail big time. They don’t fail to prevent actions that are the same as the Nazi’s, but they fail to not be racist, while one would expect a nation which suffered so much from racism, to not fail in that.
    Some people who oppose my views, who say that the occupation is not so terrible because it’s far from Genocide or from the holocaust, are ironically and tragically doing something similar to holocaust denial (which is a big crime in their view). Because the holocaust was so huge, so enormously terrible, that even something a thousand times “smaller”, such as the Israeli occupation, is still quite terrible by itself.

  26. dear Pamela:
    your comment touched me, and hit the target head on. This is exactly what I think our number one problem is: the politicians. Two ethnic groups of basically good people are driven to do horrible things to each other, just because a small group of wicked persons, namely the leaders, are able to instigate them to do so. I believe that the only motivations of politicians are power, ruling over others and ego games. I believe that on the Israeli side, this is to a great extent a political war, aimed at the general elections which is in one month.
    And of course you are right in saying that violence, when not done in self defense, only creates more violence.

  27. To “British Muslim” and to richard,
    What Hamas is doing IS terror. You state that killing civilians is wrong, on both sides, and I agree. I also agree that Hamas is engaged in welfare activity too, they put food on poor people’s tables, and therefore I don’t blame anybody who votes for them. I find it hard to judge people when they retaliate against a 42 years of oppression, but still I can’t justify terror, on both sides.
    I don’t know what you mean by “give back ALL the land.” If by “all” you mean that my people must go back to Europe, then forget it. We will keep on fighting forever. We don’t have any other land to live on. But if you are, as I trust most Palestinians are, and you believe in a fair compromise which will be around the 1967 borderlines – then I’m with you.
    Palestinians who fight for their independence are NOT my enemy. But it seems that Richard wants my people completely out of the land. In this case, I’m afraid that he will be my enemy, and once a Palestinian state is established within decent borders, my people’s war against him will be well justified.
    Furthermore, if you really are a Jew, then you give ammunition to those who can’t deal with my views to-the-point, but rather say that I suffer from “self-hatred.” Your reference to my people as “vermin” doesn’t help your case much, either.

  28. For so many centuries Palestinians (Christians & Muslims) lives side by side with Jews and others in the Levant and Palestine, often even intermarrying, sharing tradions and respecting one and other. It was still much like this when I was born in 1940 and my mother in 1916 in Haifa.

    Jews have a long history of seeking refuge in Islamic countries while fleeing Christian persecution and have always received it so it is with great horror that some of us watch what European (Ashkenazi) Jewish leaders of Israel have lead the Jewish people of Israel to do to their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Sephardim, I think have more in common with Palestinians when it comes down to every day life and customs. Palestinians have even taught Israelis from Europe how to exist on the foods grown here, you have taken from Arabic Music, dance, design, even your language is not as ancient Hebrew but taken from Arabic and Aramaic. What I see as the problem are the supremist racist attitudes of the Ashkenazi leaders, rabbis and settlers. Israel, prior to 1967 was a better place to be. Before the influx of the religious right and Charedi settlers. Bringing in such a huge Russian population wasn't a good idea either because we are not a European country and our leaders did this to maintain the status quo Askenaki leadership in government. That is a big problem here in Israel and it will be for a very long time. We have Ashkenazis who do not accept Sephardim or Mizrahi, then come the Yemeni and the Falasha and last of all the Arab-Israels, Druze & Bedu.
    If we Jews cannot treat each other as equals then we have a huge humanitarian failing amongst ourselves.
    We need to remember everything that, prior to 1948 Muslims did to help us as a people over the centuries and then look inside ourselves carefully. We need to sit down with the Palestinians and offer them our thanks for the land we now call Israel and ask them to forgive us for our lack of understandidng. We need to pull back to June 5, 1967 borders and live in peace with these people whom we have wronged and forced to resist us.
    We are all human beings and all are equal in the sight of God. I hope that we have not gone too far to go back this time because I feel HIS patience is waining with us.

  29. Shoshanna, you showed something that many people outside the Middle East don,t recognise or don,t want to know...that yes inded Jews lived side by side with Muslims and Christians, peacefully , engaging in business and socialising.My husbands family are old Damascenes , the Jewish area was right next to their area, the old people remember the Jewish doctors who treated them .My father in law had many Jewish friends and they mourned him when he died..
    When they were allowed to leave Syria , most Jews in Syria preffered to go to America, for financial reasons. Some didn,t leave and there is still a synogogue in Damascus. My husbands family are good Muslims..things could be different but I,m afraid this war has done so much harm ..here is an article
    You might have read it already , but it puts things into perspective...Pamela

  30. This is a very interesting blog, and I thank you for it. It does help me to know that many Jews are opposed to what Israel is doing, and has done, to the Palestinians. And I didn't like Richard's comment, either. At the same time, I do have problems with Israel as a state, and believe a single Federation or state that was clearly recognized as the spiritual homeland of all Jews and the physical homeland of both Israelis and Palestinians would be better and more just than a two state solution. As the commentator above pointed out, Jews, Christians and Muslims can and have lived together in peace in the Middle East.

    But why do I think Israel/Palestine should become one country? Because, as a Christian, I do have a problem with the fundamental reasoning behind Israel's founding. Basically, that reasoning is that (1) the Jews are a nation, like the English or the Irish or the Palestinians. I'm not sure that's true. I see Judaism as a religion, not a nationality. It was Hitler and other racists like him who insisted Judaism is a nationality. It's not even an ethnicity, in that people of many different races, nations and ethnicities can be Jews. It's a religion.
    So: (a) As an American who believes in separation of Church and State, I do have some problems with our supporting a theocracy, and
    (b) I'm also bothered by the idea that Jewish people should live apart from all of us non-Jews.
    2. This brings me to my second point. Israel relies on anti-semitism to justify its existence. I'm getting told that I, as non-Jew, would always persecute and harm Jews and that they need their own country to be safe from people like me. That's insulting! And, again, I'm an American. We found here that segregation not only resulted from prejudice (and there was certainly a lot of prejudice against Jews, and a great deal of suffering), but also led to it. Integration really can lead to tolerance and cooperation.

    Sorry. I had to say this, even though I realize I've strayed far from your original post. I would object very strongly to anyone who sought to drive Israelis from their land - but I don't see that sharing that land with the Palestinians would be a bad thing.


  31. I hope you are witnessing the "operations"today ...as the international media are banned inside Gaza , I,m following the blog of young Australian woman who is trapped at the Al Quds hospital, she is helping out and describes some events today
    there are pictures as well ..I,m extremely upset ..Pamela

  32. To Avner

    Thank you for your reply. It helps to know your perspective on this question (and also that there are at least some others who share your views). If only there were more good men like the prof Leibowitz today. But at least you are making an effort in getting this viewpoint out.
    I also agree with your response to Pamela's comment. I was thinking the same thing at the start of this invasion. It saddened me to see the atrocities taking place, with all the worlds leaders looking on silently, while the voices of conscience were falling on muted ears. Seeing people all over the world voice the call for justice and peace showed me that there is humanity in the majority of us..and that it is the political leaders who lead us all in war. It is a common misconception then, that all wars are caused by religion. Rather, the wars are caused by politics...therefore, war on politics (well, any such ideology which pushes for greed-fuelled war anyway, be it for monetary or land gains!).

    Just as an aside, I do not agree with the views of those who say all the land of historical palestine should be returned. I think too much has happened for Israel to be extinguished, and I can't bear the thought of uprooting an entire nation (some) of whose people have really lived there for a few decades. That is home to families. It would not be nice to take that away from them. But I think there has to be justice for the palestinian people. A real state, not bantustans cut off from one another and their relatives. And I think Israel would have to be at least fair to compensate those families who had their land stolen from them. Least of all, I don't think it should be too much to ask for the palestinians to be able to live with some hope and dignity in what little land they have left. No more seige please! In truth, we all really just want the same things for our families. We just need to care for our neighbours needs as much as we care for ours. I'm not sure about the torah or bible, but for sure in the Quran The Almighty informs us of the importance of fulfilling the rights of our neighbours and it is one of the things we will be questioned about on Judgement day.

    I like the posts about muslims, christians and jews historically living in peace together. I have never known a jewish person, but I once saw a documentary about an orthodox jewish family in the UK. I was amazed at the similarities in the practical aspects of the faith...like reciting prayers before eating, entering/leaving bathroom, upon waking etc. I thought, wow, just like us! These are my brothers and sisters in faith, believing in the Almighty One who created us all.
    Now if we could all just kill the ego...I think the world would be a much nicer place.

    Shalom, salaam and peace to all.

  33. I really beleive now is the time like never before to solve this problem .If the world,s "leaders" don,t show some justice to the Palestinians then there will be plenty of people who will use the horror to urge revenge and that will only lead to more horror, "An eye for and eye" just leads to a lot of blindness
    The palestinians have Jewish blood in their veins ..shocking! Yes they do because they have been in Palestine for thousands of years , converted from Judism then Christianity and then to Islam , so when the IDF are sharp shooting civilians they are killing their own people !
    Living in an Arabic country I can say that no one wants to throw the Jews into the sea, Israel is here and won,t go away , so go back to the 1967 borders, let the rest of the world stop interfering , it has to happen or else there will be disaster after disaster ..pamela