Wednesday, November 1, 2023

"From the river to the sea..."

Cain murdering Abel (Met)
    I try to write an honest, thoughtful column, one that considers issues fairly and in a logical way. Of course not everyone agrees. And some issues defy abstract reason — the gut-wrenching horror in Gaza, for instance. Not a situation, perhaps, where deliberation is much use. It's like trying to measure a scream with a ruler.
    I'm tempted to just declare the war unspeakable and address other things — but that strikes me as cowardice, a failure of my duty to myself, to the paper, and its readers. The Israel-Hamas war is a huge story. People are scared and in pain. I know I am. Perspective is needed.
     Maybe not my perspective though. The column below isn't running in the Sun-Times today — nobody explained to me why. I thought it made an obvious, undebatable point — the Jews are there to stay; this from-the-river-to-the-sea business is counterproductive. Maybe it was the way I said it.  Or maybe its acceptance of Israel as a country that exists isn't fit to print.
      Anyway, my apologies to co-workers who were upset — that's the last thing I want. These are heartbreaking times aplenty without my adding to anybody's suffering. I mean that. You can't imagine how profoundly I hate what's going or how sincerely I wish it would go away. Maybe covering your eyes is the next best thing. I'm a humorist at heart; that's what I set out to be. Maybe I can find my way back to that enviable, oblivious state. I'm going to do my best to focus on lighter matters. Readers need that too. I sure do.

     “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is often heard at rallies supposedly supporting the Palestinian people. While the media sometimes points out that it’s a code for genocide — they’re basically saying, “Let’s kill the Jews and take over Israel” — I include the word “supposedly” because someone should consider its effect on Palestinians.
     Belief that they are entitled to all of Israel is what kept them, tragically, from accepting past peace deals that fell short of the Israelis handing over the keys to the country and then magically vanishing.
     It’s what inspires the charmed notion that Israel, one of the most advanced militaries in the world, will be defeated through a series of terror attacks, even one as severe as Oct. 7.
     It’s a mindset that discourages Palestinians from creating a nation where they are — why live jammed in the West Bank and Gaza when the wide sweep of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is theirs for the taking? Though if we look at history — a handy guide — for the first 20 years of Israel’s existence, it didn’t possess sections its people highly desired, such as Jerusalem, but the Israelis built their country anyway.
     Because of that attitude, for all the heartbreaking death and suffering being inflicted by Israel on Gaza, appeals for a ceasefire are directed at Israel and not at Hamas. Surrender is not an option.
     That’s a shame. Surrender is underrated. Look at Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II got World War I going by sending his troops into Belgium on their way to France, which the Germans always fancied they deserved (“From the Atlantic to the Rhine, France shall be mine ...” — not quite as catchy). The four-year bloodletting cost 20 million lives.
     Germany gave up in 1918 but didn’t really surrender — the position the Palestinians keep finding themselves in. The Germans decided they didn’t lose because of all those American doughboys. No, they had been betrayed, stabbed in the back — by the Jews, natch.
     In that frame of mind, after 20 years spent siring a new generation of cannon fodder and rebuilding its military, Germany tried again.
     World War II cost over 50 million lives — 15 million military deaths and at least 38 million civilians, because civilians always take the brunt of war. It didn’t start in Gaza. After World War II ended with their complete defeat, again, the Germans looked over the ruin of their once prosperous nation and did something surprising: They learned. They decided to surrender sincerely this time. They gave up their dream of possessing the Sudetenland. They stopped fighting, and endured seven whole years of Allied occupation.

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33 comments:

  1. It is coming to light that the Palestinians had constructed all of those underground tunnels, which obviously took some time. The thought of peace was the furthest thing from their minds when they constructed the tunnels. Evil has been their MO since the get-go. If any other religious group on the planet did what they did a few week ago to unarmed civilians living in peace, then there would be a unified response to a terrorist organization. I don’t want to see anyone suffer, but I’m sorry, I cannot feel sympathy for the Palestinians. They had very throughly planned this attack, and now they want my sympathy? Nope, never going to happen.
    Hate will not win this fight. Hey, they tried…Israel tried with the Gaza Strip. It obviously didn’t work out. They can only understand hate. How would they like it if THEY become the ones swept out to the sea? They claim Islam is a peaceful religion. Why do they keep proving themselves wrong? Where is the outrage over this carnage, and the escalating tensions? Why can’t anyone from the Islamic community condemn the original act of terror against Israel? I’m really sorry that so many are suffering, but peace has never been in their minds or hearts. Never. It’s not a peaceful religion if you go around slaughtering humans.

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  2. Perfectly said. Some of us listen and learn.

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  3. Helpful to read your posts on this hot mess. I encourage you not to stop. Such educational and compassionate writing. Some of your best.

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  4. Most excellent as always, Bruce

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  5. I love men, I was married to the best of them. However, it’s time for men to move over & let’s see what women can accomplish. Doesn’t war & aggression seem to be a gender thing? So I ask, “How Are We Doing So Far”?

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    1. WOW! Are you wrong!
      Women are just as aggressive as men, just ask the women snipers at Stalingrad that killed hundreds of Nazis.
      Or Margaret Thacher!

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  6. You have no need to apologize for your column Neal! Your colleagues haven't apologized for their erroneous and contrary opinion, I'm sure! I appreciate your words today and very much agree! Please continue to maintain the courage of your convictions and know you have the support of people who also remember and know the history of the last 100 years! I am proud to say that I stand with the Israelis and with the legitimacy of the state of Israel, without apologies! Doing so does not imply that I am anti Palestinian people and I should not have to qualify my support in this way and will stop doing so from here on in! It was 1200+ ISRAELIS who were slaughtered on October 7th, after all!!!
    Sorry that I haven't figured out how to comment under my name, Kathleen Jurek, yet!

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  7. Do you mean this only ran in the digital Suntimes? That they did that but not the online version? I’m definitely confused. And your your colleagues upset?

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    1. It ran online but not in the print version — the difference being that it was already up when someone complained. There was an email, apparently.

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    2. Shame on the Sun-Times. Do they always withdraw columns when they get an email with a complaint? Or only when the complaint is about supporting Israel?

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    3. Why didn't the editors invite the person(s) who complained to write an equally-long piece defending a different point of view?

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    4. I could speculate, but it's probably better that I don't. Let's just say I'm usually very proud of the paper. Today, not so much.

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    5. Upon further review, I'm curious about the apparent inconsistency with regard to the decision not to print this column. On the one hand, it must not be published in the paper. However, we will choose to prominently feature it on the main page of the website, right below the top stories. Perhaps that would have made sense in 2005. These days, it seems pretty odd to me, unless different people are responsible for the respective decisions. If it shouldn't have been printed (which it certainly should have, if you ask me), then should it still be on the website at all?

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    6. My sense is, because it was already up when staffers started complaining, and while they realized that "taking it down" was a surrender, not putting it in the paper at all seemed a choice.That's my theory anyway. I have to write a new column in the morning (that might just get printed). So I'm moving on.

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  8. The column was pulled because “someone complained “? Is this the first time someone complained about something you wrote? No other explanation? No factual errors? This is disturbing coming from a major big city newspaper.

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    1. As a native Chicagoan who lived half his life in his hometown, I'm guessing that the complainant here is not just any "somebody"...who would maybe get a form letter-- or just ignored. A somebody with substantial clout. Enough clout to get the column killed in print.

      Like maybe a major advertiser, perhaps. Ya think? Could be somebody who's a Bibi Backer, but it's more likely a pro-Palestinian....maybe someone Jewish, even. You never know, boychik. Not all of the Tribesmen are waving the Star and Bars right now. But, hey, I've been down that road already, so I won't go there again. And anyway, it's mined.

      Gotta be somebody who wields enough economic leverage to kick the Sun-Times where it hurts. Not in the ass. Not in the nuts. Right in the goddamn wallet. So they put the quietus on Mr. S, in a way that your average Joe Shmoe could never do. Because money talks, and bullshit walks.

      And as Bob Dylan sang, "Money doesn't talk...it swears..."
      As in, "Kill that fucking column, mother trucker, or I'll pull my fucking ads."

      Hey, it's the Chicago way. Lawyers, guns, and money. Usually just one of those...or sometimes two. Or even all three. In this instance, it's probably the money.

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  9. I'm sorry it didn't appear in the print edition. There are too many people on the political left who have adopted a simplistic view of the situation in Israel/Palestine, and they need to consider the complexities of the situation.

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  10. Well said to Audrey and Millerbeach. And NS, great column. And Japan learned after WW2 as well.

    No wonder I didn't see this in the paper today. What a travesty if that is the ST editorial attitude.

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  11. I read the Sun-Times today before visiting EGD. Largely because I expect the column to be in the paper and I like to see it in the wild, rather than just clicking on the link. Uh, I noticed that there was no Steinberg piece in the paper today and concluded that Neil must have had the day off for some reason.

    Reading the intro and column here, I'm mystified as to why it would not run as usual. It seems like a fine effort, and certainly doesn't seem offensive.

    I pretty much steer clear of commenting on this issue, because a.) I don't feel like I have anything compelling to add, b.) I don't know nearly as much about it as many, many others, and c.) I don't want to write something that's inflammatory and I'm never quite sure what might be.

    That being said, when the first Palestinian protests were being held in Chicago with regard to the latest war and I saw photos in the paper of the "From the river to the sea" signs, I was a bit shocked. I was familiar with the concept of course, but I thought it was a more radical goal than it appears to be.

    I just ended up thinking that, if the Palestinians are unwilling to accept any sort of solution short of the one expressed by that motto, it's not too hard to understand why a positive outcome to the situation in Israel seems hopelessly elusive. (That sentence may be filed under "nothing compelling to add," alas.)

    In addition to the history aptly set forth with regard to Germany here, South Africa also offers an example of an instance where compromise saved countless lives.

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  12. What I thought was interesting, in a significant case of "art" imitating life, was that I happened to be looking at the Comments section here earlier this morning, shortly after some idiot (or group of idiots) carpet-bombed it with fifty or more replies. Evidently someone on the Blogger site was asleep at the switch or had left it on auto-Approve, so someone else snuck in and laid waste to the Reply section.

    Unlike the Israeli settlements, the damage here was just temporary. The exact wording of each had already been deleted by the time I saw them (probably the same illiterate rant over and over), and shortly thereafter, the Deleted entries themselves were removed, leaving the space available for normal people to converse once again. If only it were that easy in real life...

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  13. for what it's worth, i sent this email to the publisher and editorial page editor. doubt that it matters to assholes like them, but...

    Todays’s spike of steinberg’s column was one of the most chickenshit acts I’ve seen this paper do in the 60 years I’ve been reading it.1st, it wasn’t all that strong and, 2nd, if there were people whose little feelings were hurt-or disagreed with Neal, LET THEM WRITE THEIR OWN FUCKING COLUMN.
    Actually, and upon reflection, I was being kind by calling your decision chickenshit- it’s censorship and it’s cowardly and vile.
    paul w
    roscoe vil

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  14. 🚢🏽‍♀️ Trans John/Karen 3/22November 2, 2023 at 9:02 AM

    Pondered the column off and on yesterday and into this morning, and I still don’t understand why it was pulled. That must have been one helluva a complaint. Or threat?
    Was it the idea that Hamas should surrender? That the Palestinian people were disposable pawns of a hateful Iran and Hamas? Or that they might eventually regain the territories that had been lost to the Israelis due to past conflicts. (Which had been initiated by hostile neighbors, who, as you noted, seem to have learned their lesson.) Not now, but in due time, say a generation or two down the road. Certainly not under the Netanyahu government.
    This must seem like meteorological Christmas, as Tom Skilling might call it, for the same people in America who have been spewing hatred toward both Jews and Moslems probably are finding it difficult to decide which present to open first. Or which side they’re on, like the ‘gentlewoman’ from the state of Georgia. Just think how embarrassing this must be for her.
    The column is still available to read on the e-paper, along with your past columns, when you tap on the ‘pick and choose’ option.
    You’re closer to the situation than any of your readers, some of whom still can’t spell ‘Neil’🧐, and I hope you’ve learned more in the last 24 hours about the specific nature of the complaint(s). Does not look good on the part of the Sun-Times.

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  15. You ought to quit. You’ll still be able to earn a living, and you’ll send the paper the message (much needed, evidently) that talented writers and loyal employees are not to be taken for granted.

    The Sun Times must decide whether it wants to assert its strength by retaining valuable journalists, or succumb to weakness by payrolling a bunch of ill-equipped, emotional hemophiliac staffers who throw temper tantrums whenever they encounter ideas that offend their delicate sensibilities. Specimens of this sort will drag the paper down like a millstone.

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    1. Bad advice. This is still the best job in the world, for me. You can't send a message to someone who isn't listening.

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  16. Too bad John Fountain didn't take think that over before he left in a huff.

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    1. Oh, we seem to be stumbling on well enough without him. That's the beauty of my position. Look down, cough into my fist, count to ten, then look up and everybody has left and been replaced by a new crew, which promptly begins to inform me of what's what.

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  17. To Trans John: Moslems? there's an old spelling form

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  18. Or perhaps the powers that be there thought you might be in danger if you said Hamas is wrong or must surrender?

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  19. From the river to the sea. Wasn't that the situation in the late 19th century when groups of Jews bought property and moved back to Palestine? The locals were the majority, their lands were not stolen, their lives affected negatively only by their own prejudices. Those first returnees were periodically attacked and murdered because they were Jews. While today people on both sides are being murdered, it's not a fifty/fifty situation. The moderate Jewish response stands alone, if there is a corresponding Arab bloc I've missed it. It may not be possible for cooler heads to prevail now or ever, but I reserve the right to spread my outrage to both sides, if not in equal measure. I have never seen an Israeli gloating about dead opponents with claims of doing Gods will. A particular; claims after a mass civilian casualty in Gaza that the bomb had killed a major Hamas leader should be taken with suspicion. Through the years, before and since 9/11 I've heard claims that we took out the Number Two or Three leader of a terrorist organization. The more I heard those claims the less I believed, the more they seemed like boilerplate press releases to mollify an anxious public. And in the end, how many innocent children dead is an acceptable figure for one Hamas leader?

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  20. Did you look at the video of the strike within the refugee camp JP? Heavy equipment , digging deep into the soil. Not people
    ( civilians) in sandals looking for their families.
    20 something men, excavating below ground.
    Unearthing 20 something men from ? Tunnels? Beneath the building.
    Enraged by the actions of both sides, I understand. But in this instance it looked like the Israelis found a legitimate target
    People had been told to evacuate and it looked like the only ones that stayed behind were fighting age.
    The Hamas fighters while at a great disadvantage against Israeli military power are fighting an asymmetrical style of warfare and they are as responsible for the death of civilians has the Israelis . Hamas leaders are unlikely to be alone or completely in the midst of civilians. They're surrounded by other fighters, many of whom look to have been killed in the strike.

    There's a lot of assumptions in my comment but there are also many in yours. Do we really know what is going on in a war zone? Very difficult to determine, but this one seemed to present evidence of a legitimate strike

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  21. The saddest part of all of this...other than the death and destruction in Israel and Gaza .is that some people never learn..and we must allow that they never will. However, we should not be so blind as to let them and by then I mean anyone .impose their will at their discretion and by their chosen means. I have always favored the w state solution. But if Hamas thought they were going to launch a massive attack on Israel and not face a massive blow in retaliation on themselves and the civilian population in Gaza they were quite mistaken. Be careful of your actions...we all face the consequences for them individually or collectively. ES

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