Thursday, July 24, 2014

"You want war, we want peace"

    "Racists go home! Racists go home!"
     You could not actually hear the Palestinian counter rally from the heart of the pro-Israel rally held in front of the Israeli embassy, in  the middle of Madison Street, just west of Canal, at noon on Tuesday.
    But if you skirted the edges, as I did — less crowded — their amplified chants became clear.
    "Racists go home!"
    Which almost made me smile, because we were home. I suppose they meant in Israel, though it sort of is a universal directive to any situation where Jews find themselves living on a spot. The Germans didn't think they belong there either, and they had lived there for 500 years.
    "Racists go home!" the Palestinians across the street chanted.
     Meanwhile, the pro-Israel side sang "Am Yisrael Chi" — "The nation of Israel lives."
     The official noontime demonstration had broken up and I gravitated along with the mass of blue and white flag wavers across Canal to the unofficial post-demonstration standoff, where the two groups stood shouting at each other, while cops on horses and on foot stood in the street between.
    "Terrorists go home!" the pro-Israel side started up, reactive as always. If there was one major mistake Israel has made in this whole process, is they let the Palestinians, however ill-led, call the shots. Its policy is to wait, see what they do, then respond.
     "Terrorists go home."
     "Racists go home."
     It wasn't lost on me which side I was on, literally. I had gone over to the Palestinians earlier. But their protest was a hotter, more condensed knot of about 150 people on the corner, and I hadn't had the fortitude to insert myself among them. Instead, I snapped a few pictures, talked to one person, and skedaddled away.
     The Israeli gathering was much larger--say 1,000 over a much greater area than the Palestinians': that seemed apt. Not that size matters: Pro-Palestinian rallies have been going on all week, and this was more of a hastily arranged, let's-spoil-their-party kind of thing. I noticed that the police screened the bags of people entering the pro-Israel rally; the unspoken assumption being the Palestinians were safe from bag-carried bombs.
     The "You want war, we want peace," chant threw me a little. Really? And on what do you base that claim? Like much in the Palestinian rhetoric, it had a mere words quality. They way the rockets randomly fired into Israel are called "defensive" or "resistance." Like Republicans, they seem to feel that if they find the right label for something it'll then be okay. The truth is, I've never actually hear anyone in authority on the Palestinian side laying out a map to peace that doesn't involve them magically regaining the country. Even the two-peoples-existing-together rhetoric—the latest and-then-you-give-us-your-country argument—doesn't have a lot of on-the-ground evidence to back it up. If the Palestinians are trying to establish their ability to exist peacefully within a secular state of Israel, they're doing a botch job of it.
     Israel, on the other hand, has a 20 percent non-Jewish minority actually living in peace within its borders. Maybe rather than fighting the Israeli settlers the Palestinians should embrace them and wait. But then that would involve long-range strategic thinking, something the Palestinians are even worse at than the Israelis, which is really saying something.
   "You want war, we want peace," the Palestinians chanted. Others in the pro-Israel faction reacted similarly. Being Jews, they argued, even though the other side couldn't hear. A lady next to me was actually talking to them, almost muttering--even I couldn't hear what she said.
     Eventually the pro-Israel side, again, reflected the Palestinian chant, this time identically, "You want war, we want peace." A little embarrassing, if you ask me. So much for Jewish creativity. But they were improvising on the spot, and the results of that are seldom good, as the situation in Israel shows.
    There was something extra ludicrous at that point, ludicrous about the whole thing. These two groups, screaming their desire for peace at each other. Then get to it, idiots. The idea of protests is to make beliefs known -- the public, telling its careless leaders what the real situation is. If only the czar knew... Though Jews supporting Israel is not exactly an epiphany, nor is Palestinians supporting their own brethren.
     What's the point of protest if nobody but nobody is listening?
      Maybe that's better. Is there a conflict in history where the divisions are not insanely petty and local? Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Serbians and Croatians, Sunnis and Shiites. I couldn't tell a Tutsi from a Hutu if you put a gun to my head, and neither could you.
    Both sides seemed set on proving something to some imaginary impartial arbitrator. The United States? The world? God? They don't realize they're by themselves. The world is not going to bail out the Palestinians. It sure hasn't up to this point. Nor are they going to go away. Both sides are stuck relying on a losing strategy in a game where they both lose, year after year.
     So sad and, if I may, stupid. Maybe that's the path to peace, the message that the world needs to convey back, loud and clear. Not parse the bottomless grievances of both sides. I think there is more validity to Israel's, but then, I'm on their side, and at some point being right doesn't really matter anymore. It's just another road to folly. Maybe that's the central, unsaid fact of the stand-off: it's stupid. That could be concept strong enough to counter-balance the rebellious zeal of the Palestinians, the military pride of the Israelis. A simple chant back, shouted by the world: you're stupid. You're both stupid. The whole thing is stupid. Why don't you stop being stupid and go figure it out, at long last? Because you're blocking traffic, the both of you, on Madison Street.



  1. Victory to Palestine. War without terms. No Cease fire, no negotiations.,

    1. The really sad thing is that they're all 100% sincere.


  2. Head of nail meets Steinberg the Hammer again.

  3. IMHO, it's going to be a diplomatic solution when someone who can ignore the dumb stuff, and who can pay bribes to both sides, finds reps to come to the table who have the political gravitas to go home and sell it.

    I had hopes of Kerry, who can ignore the dumb stuff and who can be pragmatic about both sides needing to bring something home, but the reps didn't have the weight.

    I don't know if this is much different from the essence of what you are saying - until the locals want it, peace goes nowhere


  4. The other day you ran a 2008 column that was, sadly, "current." This is what someone else said, some 40 years ago -- "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."
    Golda Meir

  5. Tutsi generally are quite tall and thin, Hutus of shorter stature. That contributed to the genocide because Hutu killers could identify their targets. They needed personal knowledge and lists to kill the moderate and non-discrimatory Hutus.

  6. discriminatory is the correct spelling-couldn't figure out how to edit after posting.

  7. Neil,

    You have a lot of wisdom which is on display in this column. I am finding it just amazing how much hatred of Jews is masquerading as being sympathetic to the Palestinians. I had thought we were getting beyond anti-Semitism but I was naïve. It's amazing how Hamas is willing to fight to the death of the last child by putting their missiles in schools and by hospitals but that seems to get ignored by even a lot of so-called liberals.

    1. I tweeted a line from Dante that I believe speaks to this, "The populace shall blame the injured party, as it always does." (Paradiso, XVII). Israel has been wronged by its neighbors for 66 years, 2/3 of a century. The Palestinian situation is a manifestation of that. Nobody presses Egypt to embrace Gaza -- it owned Gaza before 1967. No, it's all Israel's fault. I don't find it amazing. The mantra I use for understanding this is four words: "They hated us before." When Jews were tailors and grocers and farmers in Poland, their enemies painted them as an evil cabal that ruled the world. So how much more inflamed would they be if they form a country, defend it, inflict casualties? Of course the world goes nuts. Of course they pretend their scorn is earned. Every bigot who ever lives does that.

  8. I'm sure you didn't intend that Neil, but suggesting than people who take the trouble to understand why Palestanians hate Israelis -- as some Israelis hate Palestinians -- are for that reason bigoted is probably not helpful. Somehow there's going to have to be an end to all this, and outsiders of good will who have an inkling of what both sides might be willing to give up for peaceors are going to have to play a part.

    I suppose if I were a Jew I would be tempted to believe that sympathy for Palestinians is just another manifestation of historical anti-Semitism...but would hope to put aside the temptation, as an unfelpful oversimplification. It's my understaning that there are people in Israel who don't suscribe to all the policies of the present government, which I assume doesn't make them "self-hating Jews."

    1. You're missing the point Tom. People sympathize with the Palestinians who don't sympathize with any other downtrodden group. Not the Kurds. Not the Tibetans. Nobody. Why? And they sympathize with them in a big, impassioned way. Again why? I have a Polish gentleman who phones me every night, at work, and leaves a rant against the situation in Israel. Maybe, as you suggest, he has taken the trouble to understand why Palestinians hate Israelis. Maybe it is based on his big-hearted interpretation of the facts. But I know that's bullshit.

  9. O.K. But there's that big word "people" again. I'm not one of those "people". I guess the Polish gentleman is. And being a Jewish newspaper columnist, I expect you hear from many like him. But it would surprise me to learn that they make up a sizeable segment of the present population, something I wouldn't have been able to say even in my own early lifetime. There may indeed be a lot of latent anti-Semitisim about, but it hasn't, so far, found its way into the press or the halls of Congress. To Mr. Graf's point, I read a lot of newspapers of all political complexions, and have not detected any wave of enthusiasm among "liberals" for Hamas rockets, even in the Guardian.

    Forgive the many typos in my last post. It was late.


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