Archive for February, 2014

THE FOLLY OF FRATRICIDE

THE FOLLY OF FRATRICIDE

There’s an old saying: “Two Jews, three opinions.” Yes, it’s a stereotype, but Jews laugh at this one. We know it’s true. A multiplicity of opinions leads to lively discussions, new ideas and even consensus. Respect is the key. Without it, opposite views can lead to crippling disunity. That’s the case with some commentary on the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

A few weeks ago I wrote in “John Kerry’s Framework” that the Secretary of State would offer proposals requiring major concessions by both sides. The “framework” will call for East Jerusalem to be capital of Palestine and no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. What’s new won’t be the proposals but an American secretary of state publicly espousing them.

How do Israelis feel? Six million Israeli Jews, nine million opinions. According to former Mossad head and former member of the Knesset Danny Yatom, polls show that most Israelis favor a two-state solution. At the same time, most don’t trust the Palestinians.

So Israelis are torn by a desire for peace and a fear that they have no partner. Those who favor a Palestinian state must contend with their own doubts and the Israeli right, which opposes Palestinian statehood. The Israeli right and its American supporters view those who favor the framework as naïve—at best.

Passionate differences of opinion have long been with us. Over 2,000 years ago, Jews for and against Greek culture in Judea engaged in bloody warfare. Jewish zealots seeking a purer Judaism attacked Hellenized Jews mercilessly and drove out the Syrian Greeks. Hence the holiday of Chanukah. The same antagonism continued under Roman rule. It produced two rebellions, the destruction of the Second Temple, crushing defeats, the exile or death of much of Judea’s Jewish population and even a name change to Syria Palestina.

This brings me to last Wednesday night. J Street, a Washington, DC-based Jewish organization favoring a two-state solution, held a town hall meeting at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. Danny Yatom was the featured speaker. The American-Jewish right castigates J Street as betrayers of Israel. Yatom, once commanding general in the West Bank, is hardly an Israeli traitor. He favors Secretary Kerry’s framework. There are risks, says Yatom. And if attacked from Palestine, Israel will defend itself. But Israel must seek the two-state solution, according to Yatom, because the status quo or a single Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan will destroy Israel as a Jewish democracy.

I’m not a member of J Street. And I was a bit skeptical when I arrived. But nothing regarding J Street’s “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” theme rang false. No speaker suggested anything other than that Israel be Jewish and secure.

However, another theme presented itself: affording Palestinians dignity. It’s not easy to recognize as fully human others who’ve sought your destruction. And dignity must be reciprocal. Arabs will have to look at Jews in new ways

Still, peace and security need not be at odds. Israeli Jews and American Jews can come together, too. Not by diminishing our opinions but by speaking rather than shouting to offer each other the dignity and respect we all deserve.

J Street’s website presents an FAQ debunking myths about its positions. It’s worth a look.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village. And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.

GAYS AND THE NFL DRAFT

Missouri All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam recently came out of the closet. That turned sports fans’ attention not only to the opening of baseball spring training but also to April’s National Football League draft.

Some NFL insiders question whether Michael Sam’s in-between size—he weighs 255 pounds—will enable him to find a position at which to excel. Others wonder if Michael Sam will bring too much baggage to their locker rooms. Or more accurately, if teammates will bring their baggage. NFL culture has not proven receptive to gays joining the player ranks, although it’s reasonable to assume that some current players are gay.

Certainly an interesting cross-section of college players is eligible for this year’s draft. While scouting reports remain guarded, I’ve uncovered a few leaks. Here’s a peek at four other players—their names must remain confidential—analyzed by NFL scouts.

Defense back A: Strong safety with rep as a vicious hitter as attested by two ex-girlfriends. College coaches and fans loved his mean streak, so the local district attorney is reluctant to try him on assault charges fearing loss of his season tickets. Player’s philosophical comment: “Can’t we just move on?” Projected first-round pick.

Quarterback B: Gambler who keeps both defenses and university officials off balance. Told arresting officer at illegal dice game he was studying theories of mathematical probability. Was only enrolled in three physical education classes at the time. Explained five thousand dollars in jacket pocket as money collected for purchase of Girl Scout cookies. Everyone loves his swagger, including pre-draft move to condo in Las Vegas. Projected first-round pick.

Offensive lineman C: Nicknamed “The Human Roadblock.” Great tenacity fighting off pass rushers attempting to sack his quarterback and police attempting to sack him after driving 95 miles an hour on city street and rear-ending another vehicle. Accident left a seven-year-old girl paralyzed. Claims, “That wasn’t me. That was the alcohol.” Projected first-round pick.

Linebacker D: Known as “The Assassin” for his bone-crunching tackles and trademark celebration miming holding a gun and pulling the trigger. Denies shooting anyone after leaving a house party following an argument and returning in a friend’s Honda Civic. “I was holding the gun for someone else. Besides, you stuff some big guys in a small car and everyone ends up with powder burns on their hands.” Projected first-round pick.

No question, sports reveals a lot about what makes America great: If you can deliver, you’ll earn a place on a team and the big money that comes with it.

As to Michael Sam’s draft prospects, I really don’t know. Yes, he was a game changer at the highest college level. But as fans know, physical ability isn’t enough. Athletes need character. Teammates are like brothers. They have to be comfortable with each other. To become champions, teams need not only skills but also chemistry.

That’s where drafting Michael Sam could be a problem. He’s already earned his college degree. Moreover, he’s intelligent, thoughtful and well spoken. It could be it’s this—not his sexual orientation—some general managers, coaches and players see as a threat in the locker room.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village. And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.

CANCER IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Last Friday, Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani referred to Israel as a “cancer” in the Middle East. He accused Israel and the United States of trying to “sterilize” the Arab Spring. But what happened last week in “non-cancerous” countries?

Sunday: Six hundred Syrians fled besieged Homs under attack by snipers… A Pakistani family of eight was killed in the home of a pro-government militia leader… Mali’s minister for interior security said that MUJWA, The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, killed 31 Tuaregs near Tamkoutat.

Monday: An instructor in suicide bombings for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unwittingly blew up his training class. Twenty-two died, 15 were wounded… In Mosul, Iraq a roadside bomb wounded six guards of the parliamentary speaker… A doctor was found dead in Baghdad with bullet wounds in his head and chest two days after being kidnapped… A bomb near a Baghdad café killed four and wounded 11.

Tuesday: Assailants in Peshawar, Pakistan tossed grenades into a movie theater killing 10 people and wounding 16—the second theater attack in two weeks… The Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported that 15 percent of the world’s suicide bombings in 2013 took place in Syria. In 2014, a surge of similar attacks has taken place in Lebanon

Wednesday: Syrian troops and warplanes along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah pounded the Syrian border town of Yabroud before a government offensive… In Konduga, Nigeria Islamists killed 39 people, destroyed a mosque and leveled 1,000 homes… Seventeen civilians and soldiers were killed across Iraq.

Thursday: In Mogadishu, Somalia a bomb planted by the Islamist al Shabaab targeted a United Nations convoy, killing at least seven people… In Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, 11 people were killed in an attack on a prison that houses members of Al Qaeda… U.N mediator Lakhdar Brahimi stated that failure of the Syrian peace talks was “staring him in the face.”

Also on Thursday, Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and wounded another on the Israel-Gaza border. Relatives said the dead man was collecting gravel to sell. The Israeli military said soldiers fired at Palestinians tampering with Israel’s security fence. Israel played a role in just one of last week’s incidents, and it’s disputed.

Still, not only the Iranian leadership but also many “justice loving” people—including those in the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDM) movement—focus their attention solely on the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Yes, I support a two-state solution with proper security for Israel and full rights for Israeli Arabs. And no, the status quo won’t do.

I suspect, however, that there is more to this unbalanced focus on Israel than meets the eye. Perhaps much of the West assumes that Muslims will continue to slaughter themselves and others as they’ve long done for sectarian and tribal reasons. Perhaps the BDM folks hold Israel, a Western-oriented democracy with a thriving and open culture, to a higher standard

Or perhaps the image of Jews with power—which can be use for both right and wrong, witness America’s oft-checkered policies—and the existence of a Jewish state prove more than they can handle.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village. And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.

FEAR IN AMERICA

I check out Facebook. What I often notice—beyond dining and vacation photos—are aphorisms. These witty sayings reflect a variety of interests and concerns ranging from the human spirit to women’s issues to politics. They give the people who post them a chance to vent. They also get me to thinking about how fearful parts of America have become.

The U.S. has suffered a rash of mall and school shootings. Almost all take place in suburbs and small towns. While big cities like Detroit, Chicago and Oakland can be very dangerous places, few mass shootings occur in urban centers.

Why do so many people snap and murder in areas in which Christian identification and church attendance are high? These suburbs and small towns should be stable, peaceful communities. People say that’s why they live in them. I’m not sure they believe that.

I continually see posts from a young man who lives in suburban Dallas. His aphorisms focus on three main themes: Hunting and fishing are great. If you break into my house, I will kill you. And if you are a boy with intentions regarding my daughters, I will kill you. (Note: his daughters are little children.)

Let me set my own record straight. Hunting and fishing are good things though they’re not my interests. No one has the right to break into someone’s house. And no one has the right to harm children. (Many fathers of teen-age girls want to seem menacing to teen-age boys since the boys are preoccupied with thoughts the fathers had when they were teens.)

Further, I believe that anyone of sound mind having properly been vetted has the right to have a weapon in his or her home. Not a military-style assault weapon mind you, but a handgun or a shotgun. Many people do. And still, they live in fear.

My brother-in-law—who also lives in Texas—remarked that a friend had 5,000 rounds of ammunition in his house. Was he pulling my leg? I’m not sure. But this news flash: 5,000 rounds are 4,990-plus more than needed to stop an intruder. If you require 5,000 rounds to defend your home, you’re dead—or fighting a major war.

Given these attitudes—particularly the belief that “they” are coming for God-fearing Americans—the love of weapons and menace continues. The thought of controls on weapons—particularly military-style weapons and handguns with clips holding large numbers of rounds—greatly upsets the patriotic folks in America’s peaceful, religious heartland. A great number of these folks, by the way, have never performed military service.

What does this tell me? Despite the nation’s military and intelligence prowess, many Americans see the United States—and their own communities—as weak. So, despite high church attendance, Scouting and Little League, Smallville may really be a dangerous place.

Still, people on the Internet who declaim how tough they are and support the proliferation of more deadly weapons and ammunition, lead me to suspect that they suffer from an unreasonable and unhealthy dose of fear. The more they bellow about arming for strength, the more they suggest that they may be America’s weakest link.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village, too.And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.