Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

SHOULD JEWS LEAVE EUROPE? — PART ONE

In the April 2015 Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg’s cover article asks, “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” Goldberg surveys anti-Semitism, particularly in the context of Europe’s Muslim population. His question is timely. The answer is challenging.

Part of Goldberg’s article analyzes Sweden’s southern city of Malmö with a population of 300,000, including 50,000 Muslims and fewer than 1,000 Jews. Anti-Jewish feeling runs high. Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, a Chabad emissary from Brooklyn and the city’s only rabbi is the one recognizable Jew in the city. Distinguished by his black hat, black coat and beard, he is constantly targeted for verbal abuse and worse. “I asked Kesselman whether he was scared to stay in Malmö. ‘Yes, of course I’m scared,’ he said.”

Malmö’s other Jews blend in. But do they experience anti-Semitism? And should they leave Europe? I asked two young Swedish Jews about their experiences and the conundrum they face.

Sara and Michael are young professionals. (I’ve changed their names and blurred details for their security.) Sara is Jewish by birth. Michael, an ethnic Scandinavian, converted to Judaism. They met in university. Sara’s family is “pretty traditional.” They went to synagogue for the High Holy Days, occasionally for Shabbat. They kept kosher. Michael’s family, like most Swedes, is secular. Growing up, he had no Jewish friends, but his grandfather was friendly with the leader of the local Jewish community in his suburb. As a teen, Michael loved Jewish comedians like Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Gary Shandling.

Sara knew that being Jewish was different and perhaps dangerous. People would call Jews names and write hateful graffiti. Still, she never experienced hostility. She did notice, however, that security was plentiful at the cheder—small religious school—she attended. Israel was—and still is—a sensitive subject. She does not involve herself with Israeli politics but maintains a warm, “family” feeling towards the country. She believes the general mood of Sweden to be anti-Israel. “They think the matter is black and white. There are so many other conflicts in the world; there’s too much attention paid to it.”

Today, some of Michael’s friends and acquaintances are academics—leftists who are anti-Israel. When he told a colleague he was going to visit Israel—he has traveled much of the world—he got a strong, “weird” reaction. “I think it’s okay to be Jewish in Sweden as long as you don’t say anything about Israel,” he says. At the same time, he believes that some, but far from all, Swedes tend to overlay anti-Israel sentiments with anti-Semitism.

As to Sweden’s growing Muslim population, Michael relates that the majority of Swedes support the current, open immigration policy. “From the moral perspective, it’s a good policy to help people fleeing from wars. But it may also affect another minority in a secondary way.” Sara notes that some Middle Eastern Muslims have been in Sweden for generations. The new wave of immigrants poses challenges. “Many politicians are talking about how to integrate immigrants regarding learning Swedish and getting jobs.”

The couple might have accepted their shaky status as Jews if not for a shooting outside a synagogue in nearby Copenhagen, Denmark (where Sara has a close relative) this past February. A gunman—identified as a Danish Muslim—murdered a Jewish security guard and wounded two police officers. Michael and Sara started serious discussions about whether they have a future in Sweden.

Next week, Sara and Michael offer a heart-wrenching analysis of their situation.

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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DEAR BIBI

An open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Bibi, times remain challenging. As an ardent supporter of Israel, let me respectfully offer a few comments. Because while you’re correct that a significant segment of Palestinians promotes the destruction of Israel, the best strategy Israel can adopt is that of a peace seeker. Before you throw your hands in the air, note that I didn’t say victim.

Let’s start with the recent murders at Jerusalem’s Har Nof synagogue. Five Israelis—four Jews and one Druze—were killed. It was heinous. Hamas’ supportive comments and Palestinian distribution of candies to celebrate reflect grave moral impoverishment. But destroy the homes of the murderers? Bar Israeli-Arab citizens from their construction jobs as the mayor of Ashkelon did yesterday? And build new settlements while we’re at it? That won’t stir the cauldron and bring more violence? Israel won’t look as mindless as many Palestinians do on a daily basis?

Yes, you want to show leadership. But when you embrace the right, you don’t lead. You follow. You say you support a two-state solution, as do I. Why not speak out when Economy Minister Naftali Bennett promulgates his plan to offer Palestinians limited autonomy, not a state—and only in part of the West Bank?

It hurts me to disagree with Naftali. He’s my cousin Maxine’s nephew. I certainly understand Naftali’s concerns. But his plan sounds reasonable only if you’re an Israeli. A one-state strategy will only provoke continuation—and escalation—of the conflict. Not that I believe that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is an effective peace partner. He doesn’t have the beitzim—or as they say in Spanish, cojones.

And you? You’ve said Israel is willing to make major concessions for peace? What concessions? Why not announce them and let Abbas struggle to respond? Why not show the world, including many of Israel’s friends expressing doubts, that Israel is willing to walk the bilateral walk?

Why play up to rightists like the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson? At a recent Israeli-American Council gathering, he took the position that Israel can freely ignore the rights of its Arab population in the present or an expanded state. “So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what?” Adelson said. Really?

Look, Bibi, I’m not suggesting that Israel compromise its security. Hitting back at Hamas last summer? I supported you. Preventing Jews from praying on the Temple Mount (security personnel even took a pair of candles from my wife when we went there) to keep order regardless of how one-sided the Muslim position? Prudent.

But let’s make sober choices in response to attacks rather than flailing wildly. Make clear to the world the truth it often willfully dismisses—that Israel is a boon to the global community, and that when we say we want peace, we mean it.

I’m not naïve. World opinion alone won’t safeguard Israel. But leveraging world opinion instead of circling the wagons can help. Over a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” That’s wisdom worthy of the Talmud.

I’ll be taking off for Thanksgiving weekend. My next post will appear on Friday, December 5.

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SILWAN

A newspaper article from decades ago concerned the wise, heroic act of a teacher in a tough Chicago high school. I wish I could personally tell the story to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu.

A student pulled a gun. Let me be clear. No one has the right to bring a gun into a school. The teacher entered the scene but didn’t threaten the student. He knew that might set the student off. So he said, “Let me hold that for you.” The student, seeing a way out, surrendered the weapon. The teacher’s considered words prevented a possible catastrophe.

Israel faces a similar situation in East Jerusalem. Let me be clear. Israel has every right to exist. Moreover, I defend Israel’s right to strike back at Hamas and other terrorists with whatever force it deems necessary. But the Israeli government’s strategy regarding East Jerusalem—the Silwan neighborhood in particular—seems self-destructive.

Silwan, which borders the southern portion of the Old City, is thoroughly Arab. I’ve been driven through Silwan several times, so I’ve had tires, if not feet, on the ground. Some right-wing Israelis have moved to Silwan to establish a “substantial” Jewish presence in Arab East Jerusalem (as opposed to the huge Jewish suburbs in areas annexed by the Municipality of Jerusalem). Recently, Jews purchased several residences through an Arab intermediary and entered them under cover of darkness.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Jews in Silwan number 500. The Arab population is 50,000. So the Jewish presence is anything but substantial. Yet the right seeks to settle enough Jewish residents to void Arab claims on Silwan and the rest of East Jerusalem. Bibi and the right insist that Jerusalem, East and West, is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel. They see Jewish residents invalidating any claim on East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The right-wing position represents a fantasy that keeps tensions high. Arab East Jerusalem is just that. Jews lived there in the past, yes. But Palestinians once lived in West Jerusalem. That’s also the past; they won’t be returning. We should remember the past but more important live in the present with an eye on an attainable future.

Let me also be clear. Arab/Palestinian violence in response to the situation is wrong. On Wednesday, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem drove his car into a group of people at a light-rail stop. He killed a three-month old Jewish girl. That’s monstrous. Bibi’s response condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for making incendiary statements about Muslims defending the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount to Jews). Bibi may be right. But his self-righteousness has not helped matters.

Does it make sense to toss a lighted match into a barrel of gunpowder? The teacher in Chicago might have been “right” to threaten the student, but he chose to defuse the situation. Yes, East Jerusalem has been part of Israel (though two previous Israeli prime ministers offered it to the Palestinians and were rebuffed) since the 1967 Six-Day War. And Arab residents of East Jerusalem take advantage of generous Israeli social benefits. But as to Silwan, this Israeli government’s approach remains needlessly heavy-handed. Cornering the market may pay off. Cornering an opponent risks disaster.

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WHY WE ALL CAN’T GET ALONG

In 1991, Los Angeles police beat a black man named Rodney King. This sparked the riots of 1992 in which 53 people died. King uttered words often repeated: “Can we all get along?” In the geopolitical arena, it doesn’t seem likely. The cause often lies in differences among civilizations and cultures.

Wait, you say. All people are essentially the same. That must go for nations and cultures, too. The historian Francis Fukuyama might once have agreed. In The End of History and the Last Man (1992), he proposed that the Soviet Union’s collapse ended competition between political-economic philosophies. Democratic capitalism won. The rest of history would only involve all countries adapting to it.

Samuel P. Huntington disagreed. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996) predicted hostilities among major civilizations. These included the West, Orthodox Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Muslim world. These civilizations uphold differing political, religious, cultural and economic norms, and would struggle with each other regionally or globally. Many academics and commentators faulted Huntington—foolishly.

Granted, all human beings may pursue the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: self-actualization, esteem, social relations, safety and physiological wellbeing. And many people in a world grown smaller have much in common. But cultural views, particularly among “leaders,” often differ markedly about the meaning of those needs and their associated values.

Alexander Lukin, Vice President of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offers insight. In the July/August 2014 FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Lukin explains “What the Kremlin is Thinking.” The United States, he posits, hasn’t a clue. Lukin writes: “If one believes that the meaning of human existence is to gain more political freedoms and acquire material wealth, then Western society is moving forward. But if one thinks, as a traditional Christian does, that Christ’s coming was humanity’s most important development, then material wealth looks far less important… Religious traditionalists see euthanasia, homosexuality, and other practices that the New Testament repeatedly condemns as representing not progress but a regression to pagan times. Viewed through this lens, Western society is more than imperfect; it is the very center of sin.”

Russia and the West share affection for luxury autos, expensive clothes, pro hockey and basketball, and high-priced restaurants. But Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin see the world differently. Moreover, from Moscow’s viewpoint, writes Lukin, the West may be seen not simply as different but as evil.

Does this throw light on the Islamist State’s attempted genocide against Yazidis and forced conversion of Christians? Or the depredations of Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadis against Christians? Or why, after almost fifteen centuries, Muslim Sunnis and Shiites continue to slaughter each other?

And is Hamas exaggerating when it says it wants to destroy Israel and kill all Jews? Might the Gaza-Israel clash involve more than geopolitics and thus not be amenable to making peace? And might Israel (and the West) and Hamas (and Islamists) define peace differently?

If only we could all get along. But even that phrase may differ in meaning among cultures. Being a person of good faith offers no guarantee of good faith from others who see the world through a markedly different cultural lens.

Let’s hope. Let’s pray. But above all, let’s be honest with ourselves.

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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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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.

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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.

JOHN KERRY’S FRAMEWORK

My short story “White on White” in Summerset Review in a way suggests the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The tale offers an updated example of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” So do the negotiations.

According to Tom Friedman in the January 29 New York Times, Mr. Kerry is about to present a “framework” for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He will inform Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that an agreement can be reached only if both sides accept several specific concessions.

Duh!

Kerry will tell Netanyahu that Israel must concede East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Netanyahu has long championed a united Jerusalem, although most of East Jerusalem is Arab and treated quite differently from Jewish West Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, Kerry will say to Abbas, must forego any right of return to Israel proper and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Whatever concerns Abbas has about Israeli Arabs’ rights—as if human and political rights in the West Bank (don’t bother mentioning Gaza) were particularly meaningful—he, like Netanyahu, must acknowledge reality. If Palestine can define itself—Abbas opposes Jews living in the proposed new country—Israel can do the same.

Update: Yesterday former Israeli Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich stated that Abbas had agreed last May to allow Jews to live in Palestine as citizens. Abbas, however, has never made this public.

The connection to “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is obvious. Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah have refused to call a spade a spade. Claiming that an agreement can be reached without following these provisions is a hoax. Bear in mind that Israel offered East Jerusalem to the Palestinians in previous negotiations. Still, no agreement was reached. The present Israeli government keeps its distance from the former position.

What’s next? The Israeli right will oppose Kerry’s framework and pillory Netanyahu if he shows it support. Friction already exists between Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, a right-wing member of the coalition government. (Semi-disclosure: Bennett is my Israeli cousins’ cousin.) Abbas faces a raging storm. Members of Fatah (West Bank), along with Hamas (Gaza) and Hezbollah (Lebanon), will vilify the framework and renew pledges to destroy Israel. Abbas’ safety will be precarious.

Those who oppose the framework will continue to swear that the emperor is wearing the world’s most beautiful garments. Those who keep silent will remain complicit in the deception. Those with open eyes will see that, as before, the emperor is naked.

Giving public voice to this framework is long overdue. It’s not an endpoint. It’s a foundation. Previous American attempts to bring the parties together without first stating the obvious have been more than misguided. They’ve been dishonest and cruel, falsely raising the hopes of many Israelis, Palestinians and the world.

How will Netanyahu and Abbas respond to the reality that has been haunting us since Oslo? I don’t know. But if they turn their backs on Kerry, the situation will move in an entirely different direction.

The outcome will leave everyone dissatisfied.

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Read the first three chapters of my new novel The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Or go to Green Apple Books on Clement Street or Books, Inc. in Laurel Village.

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.