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The Same Old Story

Lately all of the political discussions I’ve been having with people on the left have more or less gotten to the following point:

True, Arafat isn’t trustworthy. But what choice do we have? We have to negotiate with him.

Then, of course there is the usual back and forth about what value there is in reaching an agreement with someone who has no credibility, a history of ignoring every compromise reached, and a tendency for Goebbel’s-like propoganda to deflect any hope of real peace – or even just a cessation of hostilities.

And then we get to the third part: “Do you have a better solution?” my partners in discussion inevitably say, a bit put out. After all, in the end, we will wind up at the negotiating table. Why shed more blood? They usually say this after an Israeli bus blows up, or a mother of five is shot in the head by Palestinians while in her car.

The incredible naivete of this argument always boggles my mind. Who in heaven’s name promises you, my dear friends, that there is a solution to the problems of the Middle East that can be reached by negotiations? When has crude, relentless power-seeking, religious fanacticism and blind hatred been amenable to the blah-blah of well-dressed diplomats?

I’ll tell you when. When one side has no military option. Which is why Hitler blitzed London, and the Americans blitzed Berlin. True, in the end, they all wound up negotiating. But the ones who won got to dictate the terms, remember? It took five military victories to convince the Arab world to negotiate. Had even one ended in defeat, there would have been no diplomats and no blah-blah.

And no Israel.

At this point in the discussion, I always turn to my very sincere friend on the left and say: No. I have no solution. This is the way Jews have always lived in every generation: fending off hatred, baseless attacks, blood libels, attempts to throw them out of their peaceful homes (there is always a good reason to throw Jews out of their homes – every single nation in the world has always had a very, very sound reason…)., or murder them in their beds.

Why assume we were destined to fare differently? Why do you think our generation is destined to live any differently? Are we, after all, so special? Are we seeking peace more fervently than the Jews of Czarist Russia? More eager to be part of the greater world than the cultured, assimilationist Jews of Germany? Smarter or more accomplished than the talented Jews of Europe?

What is the solution to the irrational disease of Jew-hatred that is once again erupting all over the world, charring synagogues in Australia, defacing Hebrew schools in France, sending crazies to attack Jewish institutions in America? You tell me, friend. I’d love to know.

Some Jews are certain they do: if only the Israelis would be nicer, giving Arafat the West Bank, Jerusalem, his own state, more guns….then there wouldn’t be any Jew- hatred. Then I, in Palo Alto , Buenos Aires, and Toulouse would be safe, beloved by my neighbors.

According to that theory, fifty-five years ago , when there was no PLO, no West Bank, no Israel, we Jews should have enjoyed unprecedented popularity the world over. When the boat of Jewish refugees, the St. Louis, was wandering around looking for sanctuary, people in every nation should have been begging: Please, please, come live with us you wonderful, non-West –Bank-settler –Jewish- people! Even the Americans — our liberal uncle with the good advice, the great believer in a solution to every problem, couldn’t find a solution to the Jews on the St. Louis and so sent them back to be gassed in Germany.

That’s why we needed the State of Israel; why we fought so hard for it. Remember?

So, what’s my solution, you shrug and ask? Sorry. Don’t have one. What I do have is a philosophy: I think we Jews (Israelis, if you like –- it’s all the same to the folks out there, something Israelis find difficult to digest) are stuck with our fate, our history, our place in the world. In the Middle Ages, everyone agreed we were damned for refusing to accept their own particular Messiah. Then they were convinced we were poisoning their wells, draining their children’s blood to use as baking liquid ;that we ruled the world with a secret conspiracy and/or that we were genetically inferior and corrupting their perfect bloodlines…

And in this generation, they are telling the tale of the evil Jewish soldier who – when he can take time off from raping Palestinian women (hey, they show it on Palestinian Authority television every day — so what if they use actors?) just marches into those idyllically peaceful little West Bank villages and shoots innocent Palestinian children as they sleep sweetly in their beds…

As with all anti-Semitic blood libels, there is no point in trying to enlighten the true believers. Mr. Time Magazine, and Mr. CNN (now partners-lucky us) are just giving the public what they want to read. CNN never, ever fails to mention that the “settlements are illegal under international law.”

What law is that, Mr. CNN? As far as I know, the Arabs never accepted any demarcation line as a border with Israel. And thus, after the Six Day War, Israel was under no legal obligation to return to her previous borders. UN resolutions 242 and 338 call for the Arabs and Israel to negotiate “secure and recognized boundaries.” That has still not been done, and thus there is nothing illegal about the settlements.

But from what I gather from my friends on the left, that’s not the point.

For them, the unforgivable crime of the settlers is that they’ve deliberately chosen to build their homes among thousands of Moslem Arabs. Excuse me? Is this not the Middle East? Look around you. Moslems, Moslems everywhere. And they’ve convinced the rest of the world that they have the inalienable right to prevent people of any other religion from living in peace in the region. Look at the Christian Arabs in Lebanon. Or in Bethlehem…

And now, having convinced no one, especially not my partner on the left, I must say the following: The Jews of our generation have, it seems to me, two choices: We can live with faith and courage, facing the truth about the irrational hatred that has once again erupted and engulfed us, and doing what we can to defend ourselves, verbally and militarily. Or, we can give up and give in, siding with our enemies and losing no opportunity to disparage, excoriate, and condemn ourselves in the hope of being considered “good Jews,” as opposed to the “bad Jews” with whom we will cut all ties, thus sparing ourselves their obviously well-deserved and awful fate.

Those who know Jewish history realize that the latter doesn’t work: We’ve unfortunately been there, done that. Hitler was not impressed.

So, I guess, that leaves us with option one: faith, courage and self-reliance, which is, come to think of it, not a bad legacy to hand down to the next generation. They will no doubt need it. For whatever they do, they too will find themselves struggling with different versions of the same old story.

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