Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’

TWO KINDS OF THEATER

During a recent visit to New York for our nephew’s wedding, Carolyn and I attended six Broadway shows. One put in perspective recent Palestinian efforts to mark “Land Day” and the 1948 Naqba or Disaster stemming from the birth of Israel.

The Band’s Visit(11 Tony nominations)—a play with music rather than a standard musical—is based on the 2007 Israeli film. In 1994—a year after the Oslo Accords—a small Egyptian police band—it bills itself as an orchestra—visits Israel to play at an Arab cultural center in Petah Tikvah, a suburb of Tel Aviv/Yafo. Inside Israel, they mistakenly take a bus to the fictional Beit Hatikva—Home of Hope—in the Negev desert. They must wait until morning for a new bus.

The owner of a small café offers hospitality—hers and her employees. Only nominal peace exists between Egypt and Israel. But these men are strangers in a strange land as were the ancient Hebrews in Egypt. The band members spend a long and melancholy night discovering that these Israelis—these Jews—endure their own suffering. Beit Hatikva bears no resemblance to Tel Aviv with its office towers, lively beach scene, marvelous restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Its residents feel isolated, lonely and bored. Soured relationships and thwarted ambitions have left them wounded.

As the band and their hosts get through the night, all experience moments of understanding. Their mutual humanity becomes apparent. The show’s message is heartening. Real peace is possible if only Egyptians and Israelis encounter each other as individual human beings.

Demonstrations on Land Day and the Fridays preceding it constituted street theater. The results proved anything but music to anyone’s ears. Under cover of smoke from burning tires, Gazans failed to take down the border fence and intrude into Israel. About 60 were killed by the Israeli army. Most were members of Hamas, the thugocracy that runs Gaza and pledges to destroy the Jewish State.

The demonstrations revealed yet again that mob-to-army contact usually generates terrible—if desired—repercussions. Hamas supported the demonstrations hoping that the Israel Defense Force would kill enough Gazans to earn global condemnation. Some condemnation has come Israel’s way. But not much. Israel’s short-term policies—for good and bad—will remain unchanged.

Regrettably, Land Day never had to happen. In 1947, Palestinians and the Arab states could have accepted the United Nations partition of the British mandate. A Palestinian nation—one never existed before—would have had its capital in East Jerusalem. It also would have held more territory than after the 1967 war, which produced borders Palestinians now insist upon. What’s more, no refugees would have been created—those forced to flee by a war of their leaders’ choosing and the many who fled voluntarily at the urging of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem pending Arab victory.

Palestinian desire to eliminate Israel or trigger Israeli “one-state” national suicide reflects pure fantasy. Right-wing Israelis’ desire to ignore Palestinians represents a parallel fantasy. Peace can only be achieved by accepting reality and embracing our common humanity.

The Band’s Visitmay win many Tony awards. Future Land Days will bring Gaza only more losses. Israel won’t be a winner, either. Tikva—hope—remains in short supply.

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ISRAEL ON MY MIND, PART ONE

Carolyn and I just spent three weeks in Israel. Let me share some of the experience.

Let’s start with visiting leafy Perlstein Street in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv/Yaffo. In 2014, I discovered the street and “walked” it via Google Maps. It was a kick to be on a street bearing our name. Well, that of Jacob Perlstein (no relation), a developer. Life is good, right? But Elisha, our taxi driver, told us how hard life is in Israel. As in San Francisco, buying a home is out of reach for many people.

In high-energy Tel Aviv, we ate several breakfasts and a lunch (gigantic portions) at a café on Habima Square. It contains two theaters where large groups of new soldiers—men and women—see films and hear lectures there about Israeli history. Recruits—military service is mandatory except for the ultra-Orthodox, some of whom serve voluntarily—also visit museums like Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and archaeological sites. All to better understand what they’re defending. By the way, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Israel Museum in Jerusalem are standouts.

The young soldiers made me want to cry. They’re drafted after high school at about 18. (Torah sets military service—men only—at 20.) Why should young people—Israelis and Palestinians—continually face death? Chalk that up to the intransigence of Iran-backed Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Former prime minister Golda Meir said it best when she castigated the Palestinians not for killing Israeli children but forcing Israelis to kill theirs.

I mention this because English-language newspapers reported Palestinians in Gaza being killed during Friday protests near Israel’s border fence. It’s terrible. But let’s not delude ourselves. Protests urged by Hamas don’t seek a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The goal remains getting “their” land back—the right to return to all of Israel. Which would annihilate the world’s lone Jewish State.

Note: Fifty-seven totally or heavily Muslim nations belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Fifty-seven!

Do Gazans and West Bank Palestinians expect Israel’s 6.5 million Jews to desert the thriving nation they and their ancestors built over 70 years of statehood and in previous decades since the late 19th century? In 1947. the U.N. partitioned Palestine—an administrative area, not a nation. Israel accepted partition. A Palestinian state was available. The Arabs rejected it.

Easily overlooked: Many “Palestinians” migrated to what is now Israel from other nearby regions of the Ottoman Empire and following World War One, the British Mandate. Jewish economic development created jobs.

I’m no fan of the Israeli right’s desire for either a single state—which likely would disenfranchise Arab citizens—or Palestinian autonomy in part of the West Bank rather than independence. The former, would legitimate Palestinian cries of “Israeli apartheid.” Palestinians show no inclination to accept the latter. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to oppose Israel’s right to exist. Gaza’s suffering worsens.

Israel is a marvelous country built with pluck and brains. Still, beneath the glow of technology, medical breakthroughs, great restaurants and superb arts—in Tel Aviv, we attended a Batsheva company dance performance—an undercurrent of anxiety remains.

It’s easy to comment—and sometimes condemn—Israeli politics from the safety of North America. Also, no matter how well-intentioned—a bit dishonest.

Next week, I’ll offer thoughts on religion based on visiting the Western Wall and family re our Passover stay at Masada.

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GENOCIDE—FACT AND FANTASY

On August 1, The Movement for Black Lives issued its platform. The group represents a coalition of 60-plus organizations calling for equal treatment for African Americans in the criminal justice system and rebuilding Black communities. Among the platform’s statements: “The US […] is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” Around the same time, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party issued an equally outrageous statement. What are the facts?

If the writers of the MBL platform had any idea what genocide entails, they’d think twice. (Perhaps they did: I just checked the platform, and the genocide reference seems to have been removed, although solidarity with “Palestine” remains. Fact: If Israel sought to slaughter the Palestinian people, it would have done so.

Fact: On May 6, France24.com reported that Palestinians engaging in the “Knife Intifada” had to date staged more than 350 attacks on Israelis leaving dead 34 Israelis and nearly 200 Palestinians. Understand that these Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers, police and the occasional armed civilian, who responded to the attacks. Does this constitute an Israeli strategy of genocide? I’d more of a case that it doesn’t, but the idea is so bizarre that I won’t waste my time writing more words on this matter and your time reading them.

But I will turn to an August 4 report in The New York Times: “Fatah Makes Incendiary Claim of Killing 11,000 Israelis.” Fatah, the political party headed by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, made an ugly boast in Arabic on one of its official Facebook pages. As writer Diaa Hadid reports: “’For the argumentative … the ignorant … And for those who do not know history,’ begins the Facebook post, ‘The Fatah movement killed 11,000 Israelis.’” The Fatah website had previously made the same erroneous claim in August 2014, according to the Times.

Is this the norm on Fatah’s part? Writes Hadid, “Mr. Abbas, who succeeded Mr. Arafat, has repeatedly said he supports nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. But Fatah has historically championed armed resistance as a central tenet of its doctrine for the liberation of the Palestinian people.” Given the Facebook post, which side exhibits genocidal tendencies?

Fact: The situation between Israel and the Palestinians is not optimal. Tension and violence mar what passes for peace. Thankfully, the situation isn’t worse. Hopefully, it will get better. I’ve stated before and I’ll state now that I believe only a two-state solution will end these hostilities. But I’ll also emphasize that while Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will drag his feet as long as he remains in office, Palestinian leadership (let’s not even mention genocide-oriented Hamas in Gaza) digs in its heals to avoid negotiating a realistic two-state agreement.

As to The Movement for Black Lives, I support Black Americans (and Black French and Britons) being treated equally in every phase of life. I’ve always supported that. I always will. And where help is required, it needs to be given. But I will not support MBL in any way.

Fact: The issue does not involve Israel. Fact: Israel is not committing genocide. Fact: Doing nothing but muddy the waters by self-righteously defaming a nation, its people and their supporters will not move forward this important matter of social justice. Thinking that it will represents pure fantasy.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And give a fact a break today.

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PALESTINIAN SHYLOCK

An old ad campaign in New York displayed photos of Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans and other ethnic types with the headline, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye.” This May, theatergoers at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon will again discover that you don’t have to be Jewish to play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. The role will be performed by a Palestinian. It’s a good thing.

No one demands that Shylock be ethnically cast. Al Pacino was fabulous in the 2004 film. In movies, non-Jews usually play Moses (think Charlton Heston). Jesus, too. So while casting Makram Khoury, who grew up in a Lebanese refugee camp and received the Israel Prize for a distinguished fifty-year acting career, might seem big news, it shouldn’t be. Openness is a hallmark of Western thought.

A week ago, a call for openness was issued by another non-Jew playing a “Jewish role.” George Deek, 30, an Arab Orthodox Christian, works for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He recently served in Israel’s embassy in Oslo, Norway and before that in Abuja, Nigeria.

I saw a YouTube speech of Deek’s recently then went to Congregation Sherith Israel to hear him. His message was straightforward and instructive. Israel is not a perfect nation, but it offers its Arab citizens opportunities to build good lives. Moreover, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza can enjoy those same opportunities. The key, according to Deek, is a people not being fixated on where it has been but focused on where it’s going.

Israel, often called “Startup Nation,” has turned to technology to produce a vibrant economy. (No, not everyone shares in the production of wealth; they don’t in the U.S. or anywhere else.) According to Deek, when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas foster more education and business development in a peaceful environment rather than turn to the international community for aid, Palestinian lives will improve dramatically.

The problem, says Deek, is a culture of victimization. He understands. When Arab armies attacked the new state of Israel in 1948, Arab authorities instructed many of their people to flee the battle zones. They promised that the Jews would soon be routed. Deek’s grandfather fled with his family to Lebanon. But the Jews weren’t routed. Israel, in fact, gained more territory than it had been accorded by the United Nations partition agreement. Deek’s grandfather smuggled the family back to Yafo (Jaffa). There, he worked and raised educated, successful children.

Few Palestinians followed that example. In 1948, they could have accepted Israel and built their own state. They didn’t. Nor did they following wars in 1967 and 1973. Sadly, Palestinians remain refugees in the Arab world—and a people apart. Deek has cousins born in Arab lands. They have no citizenship. Yet his cousin in Canada is a native-born citizen and former Olympian, part of the fabric of Canadian life as Deek is part of the fabric of Israeli life.

My friend Dan has a buddy in Israel. His name, as it happens, is Israel. He checked out George Deek, “I wish he grows up to become foreign minister,” Israel emailed. He added, “Israeli Christian Arabs are an untapped asset.” When an Israeli Jew concerned about his nation’s perilous situation offers that opinion, you see why casting Makram Khoury as Shylock is simply good theater.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—$20 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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ORWELL RESPONDS—ANOTHER MEDIA FABLE

Last week’s post, “Orwell in Gaza,” drew much response, including an email from Becca Orwell received yesterday. I reprint it here. In the interest of responsible journalism—the hallmark of modern media—I make no editorial comment.

Dear Mr. Perlstein:

I am disturbed, to put it mildly, by your post of July 18. While you reported my interview with Abu Jihad verbatim, you offered no context for my questions and his statements. Or my statements in question form. Or maybe more accurately, my clarifications of his statements, which some people might interpret as statements. Which they shouldn’t, since I am a journalist. Well, you know what I mean!!!

At any rate, context: I was, am and always will be entirely objective in my reporting. So some clarifications you owe to your misled readers…

I no longer attend Passover Seders because I no longer consider myself Jewish but rather an atheist (or am I an agnostic?) and a universalist, identifying with all downtrodden peoples of the world and condemning the bourgeoisie (does anyone still use that word?), which would prevent me from being objective about Hamas’ heroic attacks on Israel in support of its charter to destroy the criminal Israeli state and secure Palestinian self-determination from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. (If you feel this sentence is too long, you may edit it—but without perverting its context!!!)

The chador I wore at the time of the interview was given to me by my husband Mohammad. I never leave our apartment in Gaza City without my chador in order to maintain what you must know is a principle Jewish value—shalom bayit—meaning peace in the home. If a woman isn’t attentive, a home can be a very unpleasant place. (You get my drift.)

I had no hand in writing Abu Jihad’s media release of Tuesday through which he praised American and European airlines for cancelling flights in and out of Ben Gurion Airport as a result of a single rocket fired by Hamas that landed a mile or so away. I can certainly understand Hamas forcing another closure of Ben Gurion, although not this coming Tuesday when I’m flying to Paris to cover Muslim protests against world Zionism—providing, hopefully, that the situation doesn’t calm down before I get there. (You understand that I have a career to think about.)

Never in my Abu Jihad interview did I use the word “genocide,” although I now point to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s remarks last Saturday that, “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” As you would expect, the Jewish media then condemned Mr. Erdogan. (If there’s a difference between 600 deaths and six million, perhaps you’d like to make that understandable for the rest of us who aren’t into semantics.)

Finally, didn’t Denzel Washington call for Black revolution in America “by any means necessary”? Or did you not see that movie? Given that moral authority, almost every people or nation has the right to defend itself against aggression. (Stylistically, do you think “almost” gets buried in that sentence?)

Regards,

Becca Orwell

The blog will take a break next Friday and resume on August 8.

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ORWELL IN GAZA—A MEDIA FABLE

ORWELL: This is Becca Orwell reporting live with Abu Jihad, Deputy Minister for Information of persecuted Hamas here in besieged Gaza. Minister, I want to be entirely objective about the Israeli war machine. What’s going on here?

ABU JIHAD: The Israelis keep bombing our rocket launching sites and targeting our military leaders. Now they’ve entered Gaza to destroy the tunnels we’ve dug into Israel to launch commando attacks. But God willing, we will keep trying to kill Jews. Every Jew is a legitimate target.

ORWELL: So you’re saying you will answer Israeli air and ground aggression designed to annihilate the Palestinian people.

ABU JIHAD: That’s why we’ve been firing rockets at Israel all these years. Now, we can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Our rockets may be inaccurate—like the one on July 13 that hit electricity infrastructure supplying power to 70,000 Gazans—but we’ve killed one Jew in Israel so far. Insh’allah, we’ll kill another. We want Israelis to live in fear.

ORWELL: So you’re saying that Israeli women and children abet Israeli war criminals killing civilians in Gaza just because your rocket launching sites find shelter in Palestinians’ humble homes and schools.

ABU JIHAD: Obviously, if we put rocket launchers out in a field, the Jews will destroy them in a New York minute. But Jews are soft. They wait and wait before they get angry enough to respond. Then they warn people first. They think that peace and life are some kind of virtues. But if the Jews kill a hundred or a thousand human shields, no worries. Who doesn’t want to be a martyr? Besides, nobody stages a more dramatic funeral than we do. It’s all about manipulating the media.

ORWELL: So you’re saying that Israel shot down that Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine to take media attention off its barbaric ground assault on Gaza.

ABU JIHAD: If we had such a weapon, we’d close Ben Gurion Airport in a heartbeat.

ORWELL: So you’re saying that Gaza simply seeks to defend itself against Israeli aggression like the withdrawal of Israeli forces and settlers in 2005.

ABU JIHAD: We will follow the Jews into Palestine and slaughter the Zionists. There can be only a Muslim nation between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. Read the Hamas charter. Then we will occupy the Jews’ homes and office buildings. I myself have picked out a condo on the beach in Tel Aviv. Praise God for Google Maps. If we have to kill a hundred thousand Jews or a million or more, this is only the will of Allah.

ORWELL: So there it is then. Israel wants to subject the Palestinians to a holocaust and bake the blood of innocent Palestinian children into their Passover matzahs, which I myself would never eat at my own family’s Seders, although I no longer attend out of solidarity with peoples everywhere seeking freedom from oppression.

ABU JIHAD: As a student in America, I once attended a Seder. I fondly remember the gefilte fish and brisket. By the way, you look lovely in a chador.

ORWELL: This is Becca Orwell reporting with the real story in subjugated Gaza. Peace!

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BLACK IS WHITE—AND BLACK

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, Big Brother, the symbol of tyranny, declares that “Black is white, and white is black.” This marks just one example of “doublethink,” which twists truth and falsehood. But doublespeak is more than fiction, as we learned in Gaza last week.

On Saturday, Palestinians celebrated Hamas’ twenty-fifth anniversary marked by the first-ever visit to Gaza by Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal. Doublespeak was the order of the day. Yet Meshaal also spoke quite plainly with no attempt at deceit.

Let’s go first with the blatant lie. Hamas claimed victory over Israel in their recent hostilities. Following the declaration of a truce, Gazans celebrated their triumph. How obvious was Hamas’ victory? As obvious as their unguided rockets killing six Israelis and doing some property damage. I’m not sure that any other nation or group has won a war by inflicting so few casualties—although every life lost is precious—and so little damage.

The fact that 170 and perhaps more Gazans were killed—and the civilian lives among them also are precious—in no way seemed to diminish Hamas’ triumph. Why would it? Those casualties represent martyrs sent directly to heaven by Israeli missiles, which were guided with considerable precision towards military targets, often located in civilian areas of densely populated Gaza. The upshot? Being on the high end of a 28–1 kill ratio with considerably more damage to infrastructure—victory photos show many Gaza buildings in ruins—defines winning.

But black also can be black. Meshaal made no attempt at subterfuge when he told an adoring crowd he would never recognize Israel and vowed to “free the land of Palestine inch by inch.” Perhaps some in Europe and in other regions of the world took that as a statement devoted to peace and brotherhood (other than the Islamic kind). But Meshaal left little room for doubt. “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land,” he said. And, “We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.”

All this leaves the future a bit murky. Critics expect Israel to negotiate peace with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. I’d like that, too. But while Abbas says he wants a peaceful solution and vows no violence, he seeks unity with Hamas. And he never disavowed Meshaal’s remarks. On Monday, Meshaal repeated his own desire for Palestinian unity. Again Abbas, that seeker of peace, made no response.

So do me a favor. If you know how a united Palestinian people can negotiate a peaceful two-state solution while also seeking the destruction of Israel, let me know. For now, I can only conclude that in the Middle East—and among those in the West who would rather engage in fantasy than reality—black and white can be one and the same. Which leaves everything at least fifty shades of gray.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

AN AFFRONT TO HUMANITY

I was waiting for a bus the other morning when a woman I know slightly approached. A sling encased her left arm. “What happened?” I asked. She proceeded to tell me about an experience that left her confused—and me, as well.

Two days earlier she took the bus home from work. Standing room only. A seat opened up. She sat. Then a burly man approached the double seat in front of my acquaintance. “Get up!” he barked at a middle-aged man and a young woman, seemingly unrelated. “These are my seats!” he bellowed. The man got up. The woman remained in place gazing out the window.

The burly man sprawled in his new seat. His arms and legs intruded on the space around him. He turned to the young woman. “Get up!” he shouted. “That’s my seat!” The young woman ignored him. Then, according to my acquaintance, the burly man punched the woman in the arm. “Stop that!” the woman yelled. “Get out of my seat!” the burly man returned. Again he punched the woman in the arm. Again the woman responded, “Stop that!”

“What about the other passengers?” I asked. “Didn’t anyone confront the man or at least complain? Didn’t the driver stop the bus?” No one, my acquaintance related, did any such thing. “People don’t like to get involved.” I asked, “What happened next?” It seems that the burly man, having been given quite a bit of leeway, punched the woman yet again. This time the woman said nothing. She simply turned and drove her fist into the man’s face. He rocked back. Tears flowed down his cheeks. Blood gushed from his nose. He left the woman undisturbed.

My acquaintance’s cheeks reddened. “I was appalled. Outraged,” she said. “At the man’s violent behavior?” I asked. “His behavior?” she retorted. “Her behavior! It constituted an affront to humanity. He had every right to sue that woman.” I said her reaction surprised me. “Why?” she asked. “The woman obviously escalated the situation. Hitting that man in the face and drawing blood… that was out of all proportion to what he did. That woman should be banned from MUNI. She was probably just slumming anyway, taking the bus until her BMW was repaired.”

I glanced at my acquaintance’s sling. “And your arm?” She heaved an audible sigh. It seems that my acquaintance took the same bus the next day. Again it was SRO. But she found a seat at the window. And who should appear but the burly man, his nose bandaged. A woman with a shopping bag sitting next to my acquaintance rose to get off. The burly man sat. “Get up!” he shouted at my acquaintance. “This is my seat!” My acquaintance looked at the man with disbelief. Hadn’t she empathized with him as the victim of a terrible wrong?

We stood in silence for a moment. “And your arm?” I asked. She grimaced. “The fracture should heal in a month.” She shook her head. “I don’t drive so I have to take that bus.” She bit her lip. “You don’t think he’d hit me again, do you?”

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.