Archive for the 'Israel' Category

Trying to explain

Aliyah is like a good pop song. It looks silly and trite on paper, until you’re there at the concert. Then, you’re just gaping at it all, with this dumbstruck-lovesick look on your face, as if to say, “oh, now I get it. But no, I can’t explain it.”

I mean, there are no power chords in aliyah. Not always. But still.

Reactions to the shooting

Last night, upon hearing about the horrific terrorist attack (is there any other kind?), I changed my Facebook status to “Ilan is mourning the victims of the terror attack.” this morning, I changed it to “Ilan woke up and realized it wasn’t all just a bad dream. Sometimes, it isn’t.”
This is one of the things we do. Our generation posts the thoughts off the top of our heads in short, concise bits, so our friends know. So, I compiled a list of my friends’ reactions to the shooting last night, as posted in their Facebook status updates. I thought it might be worth sharing these. Feel free to post more in the comments. I will update this post if more come in.
Note that the names are removed to protect privacy, but with a few exceptions, each of these is from a different person:

  • _____ is very angry because of the מצב.
  • _____ is thinking of everyone by Merkaz Harav.
  • _____ thinks its important to still go out tonight. Who’s with me?
  • _____ had been remembering another terrorist attack today, and now this.
  • _____ is feeling a bit numb after hearing the news.
  • _____’s family is all safe.
  • _____ is mad, angry, frustrated, and at a loss. I hate our government!
  • _____ is sad.
  • _____ is welcoming in Adar, and mourning for Jerusalem.
  • _____ is ok.
  • _____ feels transported back to Jerusalem, circa 2001.
  • _____ is wondering how long the Israeli government is going to keep trying to make peace with our enemies instead of throwing them out of Israel!
  • _____ is safe after the terrorist attack, and is sad…………….
  • _____ May Hashem Avenge their Blood.
  • _____ is falling asleep to a lullaby of ambulance sirens.
  • _____ is in pain for her nation.
  • _____ is not able to comprehend.
  • _____ is השם ינקום דמם.
  • _____ is playing david broza to get some clarity.
  • _____ is praying for those hurt by the terrorists in Israel today.
  • _____ is wondering when the terrorism will end… just horrible news…
  • _____ is crying to hashem..
  • _____ weeps for the children who have returned to borders breached by what the universe must be given.
  • _____ is sad and can’t fall asleep. may Hashem avenge their blood.
  • _____ is trying to comprehend how it happened.
  • _____ is wondering why she’s in america.
  • _____ decries the cowardly Jihadist attack on Mercaz HaRav.
  • _____ is waiting for the requisite post-bombing UN cycle of violence statement.
  • _____ Can’t believe what happened tonight. I was scared for the first time EVER to walk around Jerusalem. What is going on here? Anyone in charge here????
  • _____ is excited about [statement of hatred deleted] in the powerful month of Adar Bet. HaShem Yinakem Dmam.
  • _____ is deeply saddened by the shooting in the Jerusalem yeshiva and is disgusted by others rejoicing this.
  • _____ is really upset by the tragic events in Yerushalayim today. Hashem yerachem.
  • _____ is literally sick from looking at the news.
  • _____ is very sad.
  • _____ doesn’t understand why the government is so incompetent.
  • _____ על אלה אני בוכיה.
  • _____ is hurting. She wishes a Shabbat Shalom of Geulah Slemah for ALL KLAL YISREAL!
  • _____ is upset over today’s events.
  • _____ Yochai Lipschitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shiloh; Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashahar; Neriah Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem, Roe.
  • _____ is wondering what G-D is trying to hint to us on this fateful rosh chodesh adar – that itself is a contradiction in terms!
  • _____ is shocked and sad at the murder of 8 young yeshivah students in Jerusalem by an Arab terrorist. Jews, wake up!!!
  • _____ is looking forward to Shabbat Across America-Together, while Shabbating in Jerusalem, blocks from Yashiva Mercaz HaRav, where 8 Souls were taken from this World.
  • _____ is still trying to comprehend…
  • _____ is mourning with the families.
  • _____ simply has no words.
  • _____ is looking to a peaceful healing shabbat for all of am yisrael…
  • _____: May God protect Israel, since our government certainly can’t.
  • _____ hopes shab will make things better. why dont they get it?!
  • _____ is trying to balance simcha and etzev…
  • _____ is המקום יינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון השם ינקום דמם.


Tonight, a man walked into a yeshiva here in Jerusalem, and shot and killed 8 people, 7 of them teenagers, and wounding dozens of others, 11 of them seriously. They were celebrating the first day of Adar Bet, the happiest month of the year. I don’t have more to say. What can I say? I can remember the fallen, but frankly, that just isn’t enough right now. When there’s a real hurt, a physical pain in the pit of my stomach from this…bedlam, then all of the pretty words or high-minded ideals don’t help. It’s just, sometimes a thing gets broke, can’t be fixed.

Yelling With You?

A story today – one of the best illustrations of typical Israeli behavior that I’ve ever heard. A friend of mine made aliyah with her family when she was 10. She had 3 sisters (one older, two younger) and their father stayed back in the U.S. to finish up some business stuff, intending to join his wife and 4 children as soon as he could. Their first apartment was 7 floors up, in an otherwise empty building that (as luck would have it) had the electricity and water turned off. (Let me emphasize for any readers out there who are not familiar with Israel: Israel has a first-world infrastructure. This was an oddity.) The mother of the family called and tried to get the city to turn on their utilities, as they were supposed to, but despite promises she received, nothing changed. This, in addition to dealing with everything a new immigrant has to deal with, on top of having 4 children under the age of 13 in a country fairly foreign to them, with her husband over 6000 miles away, was more than a little stressful.

So one day, she was driving the car they had rented for the first couple of weeks, and she accidentally turned the wrong way onto a one-way street. It happens to the best of us, especially when we’re stressed and preoccupied. She encountered another car driving the correct way, who responded in typical Israeli fashion by honking his horn vigorously, to alert the poor woman that she was wrong and he was right, and she should therefore get the heck out of his way. He soon escalated. He got out of his car, walked over to hers, and started yelling at her, a far more effective way of informing her in no uncertain terms that she was driving the wrong way and what the heck was wrong with her and was she an idiot and so on and so on. It was too much. She got out of the car and started yelling back, letting all of her troubles out, emphasizing that she wasn’t an idiot, she just had no power, no water, 4 daughters underfoot, an absentee husband, and she was a new immigrant. The other driver still worked up, just got angrier, but this time on her behalf. “You have no power, and no water? That’s just unacceptable!” He promptly marched down to the city offices with her and yelled at enough people till they turned on her power and water.

That’s Israelis. They’ll yell at you about the small things, and yell for you about the big things.

Dreaming for a Day

So I wrote about Yom HaZikaron and put off writing about Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day) for almost two weeks. But I really should write about this one. Here goes.

I was walking back home from Yom HaAtzma’ut festivities with a (new) friend at 3 in the morning. Like all Jewish holidays, it started in the evening and would continue until the next evening. I had spent all night in town and I was exhausted but elated. It had been a good night. She, who’d made aliyah several years ago, turned to me and asked, “So what do you think of your first Yom HaAtzma’ut as an oleh?”

I was too jumbled to answer properly. “Ask me again in a few days,” I replied.

But she pressed me. “Come on, what’s your first impression?”

“Ummm….” I hesitated for a moment and thought back on the evening’s events. I thought back to Yom HaZikaron, and how it worked as a lead-in. The siren sounded, and the country became one organism and that organism held its breath for a minute. And this? Well, in some ways, this was the opposite. Lots of noise – people singing, dancing, teenage hooligans crowding the streets and having shaving-cream fights. And the following day? I knew what was coming: barbecues, hikes, and family time. Religious Zionists said a special set of prayers, as the day has both religious and nationalist significance. And most Jews – religious or not – were joining in the festivities in one way or another. Myself, I prayed the evening prayers with Bnei Akiva, the Zionist youth organization that had some influence on my decision to move here. It was really nice. It was right and good and appropriate. Afterwards, they showed us a video, a typical “Israel is great, look at all of our accomplishments” presentation. I found it odd, and I got the sense that those around me just weren’t that interested in it either. Because this all seemed very after-the-fact, very much preaching to the choir. We were there already, living in the Land of Israel, contributing to the State of Israel in one way or another. We didn’t need to be told how great Israel is. And in any case, if we wanted to see something to be impressed by, we could just walk outside, and marvel at everything around us that wasn’t here 60 years ago, and how it’s connected to everything that was here 2000 years ago.

Normally, while watching these presentations, I kind of get a little uncomfortable. Because when you get right down to it, they’re propaganda. They do more than put Israel in a positive light. They don’t mention all the problems we have here and therefore (1) give people a distorted image of Israel (as distortion in the positive direction is still distortion) and (2) prevent people from grappling with the issues more with the aim of resolving them.

But amid everything I was feeling, that uneasiness wasn’t there this time. I thought maybe that we could lie to ourselves just a little bit, just that day. For a moment, I focused on the positives and only the positives. For a moment, the problems – and boy, do we have problems – faded into the background.

For a moment, Israel was perfect.

I think that that moment extended for the rest of the day. I saw a friend later who I had corresponding with about political issues. It was her turn to respond. When she saw me in person, she said, “I haven’t forgotten you. I’m still thinking of what to respond.”

“It’s ok. I don’t want to talk about politics tonight anyway,” I replied, and as I said it, I realized just how true that was.

Then I saw rikudei am. It means “folk dancing,” and the closest thing we have to it in the U.S. is square dancing. But in the areas I come from, at least, it’s unpracticed and obscure. But in Israel, it’s more a part of the fabric of life. And so I found myself in Kikar Safra (Safra square, a large plaza near a bunch of the government buildings in Jerusalem) watching hundreds of people dance in synch. Most people seemed to just know the steps – at least well enough to fake it. It was surreal, like I had just walked into the middle of a musical. But the Israelis didn’t find it the least bit odd. Yes, they realized it was campy and quaint, but no one was bothered by the campiness. Rather, they reveled in it. For a moment, I could see in that group of dancers the children and grandchildren of the chalutzim, the pioneers, who hold a legendary status in Israeli cultural memory, as the original kibbutznikim, who proudly worked the land by day, spoke of a glorious future at night, and joyously danced the hora somewhere in-between. Oh, they had problems themselves aplenty, and in our day, we see some of their legacy in that regard as well. But not the night of Yom HaAtzma’ut. That night, I just saw the legends. And somehow, that felt right.

I turned to my friend to answer, and these thoughts came pouring out much more articulately than I had formulated them in my head. It was something like this:

“I think it’s a day of escapism. Normally, escapism is bad. It prevents us from dealing with the reality as it is, and excuses us from responsibilities we should be facing. But for one day, it’s inspiring. For one day, we let each person see Israel as an ideal, whatever that may be for that individual. For one day, we let people believe that Israel is as it should be, to remind them what it could be.”

And for me, that’s as it should be.

600,000 Flowers

So here we are again, on the eve of another Yom HaZikaron, (Israeli Memorial Day), only this time it’s different. At least, for me, it’s different.

Last time, it was the Other People we were mourning – people from stories, people from history. Even when I was living in a Yeshivat Hesder, where many of my peers were soldiers on active duty, even (and I truly hate to admit it) when those I knew were affected or even killed, I still had a level of detachment. I see that now, because I can feel that falling away. Now these people don’t just include my friends or family. They’re also the neighbors downstairs whose kids make so much noise, the barber who cuts my hair, the strangers I exchange glances with on the bus.

And now, I look at the soldiers still protecting us, mourning their fallen comrades, and realize I could be one of them. Because I recently received a tzav rishon, the first step in the army draft process. Now, I know that at 24 years old (having moved here at 23), I won’t be assigned anything resembling a standard tour of duty, and I might not end up getting drafted at all. But I’m on the list, and when I saw that letter, it affected me more deeply than I’d expected. I mean, I knew it was coming, but like a lot of things in my life lately, seeing it out-there-in-the-world caught me by surprise. There it was. The Israeli army, talking to me, asking me whether I should join them. Israelis are ‘us’ now, not ‘them.’

This morning, I opened the newspaper and saw two stories plastered across the front page: “Israel Remembers the Fallen, page 2,” and “Kassam Rocket hits House in Sderot, page 3.” One can’t help but be struck by the odd juxtaposition. We are remembering those fallen in the past even as we tearfully add the recently killed to the list. I’ve heard it said once that Israel’s problem is that it remembers too much. Past injustices and hatreds and problems don’t go away, because we’re always caught up in what happened, never able to put it behind us. That may be so – I don’t know – but I wonder if we really have a choice. We aren’t just remembering the past; the past is constantly protruding uninvited into the present. We’re putting flowers on the graves of the fallen, while missiles crash into our houses.

And the flowers. 600,000 of them are being laid on graves tomorrow, according to the newspaper. 600,000. A significant number: the population of battle-ready Jewish males that left Egypt for the Land of Israel, and roughly the population of Jews in the very same Land of Israel in 1947, right before the creation of the state. In Ancient Egypt, there was an enemy with an irrational hatred of us, who subjected us to inhuman suffering just because. And we left, the 600,000 men taking their families with them. 3000+ years later, 600,000 Jews faced a similarly implacable enemy. And now, we put 600,000 flowers on 22,305 graves, get up, and continue fighting the same war we’ve been fighting for 60 years, the same war we’ve been fighting for 3000 years, ever since we were forged into a nation in the iron furnace of Egypt.

Put the past behind us? Some days I wish we could. I really do. But it’s simply not possible.

The question here, the real important question, is what do we do on Yom HaZikaron? Because I think this says a lot about us – how we remember, how we mourn. Rather than succumb to the bitterness that, arguably, we have a right to, we hold our ceremonies, and we tell our stories. We honor our fallen and commit ourselves to pursue the values they died fighting for. And we sound a siren, and for a full minute, everything else stops. Everything listens to the siren wailing for potential lost, families torn asunder, and rivers of tears shed. The same siren is sounded on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, but the two couldn’t be more different. True, both are for Jews killed by their enemies, and both are a way of remembering and honoring the departed. But while the deaths in the Holocaust stand silently in defiance of explanation, dragging reason kicking and screaming from the room, the deaths in Israel’s wars are a result of people fighting for Israel. They’re a result of people living lives of meaning, lives of purpose, lives of dedication to something greater than themselves. And when you look at it that way, it’s a bit easier to staunch the flow of bitterness. When you look at it that way, it makes a lot more sense that at the moment that Yom HaZikaron ends, Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day) begins. We’re not just fighting the wars of the past; we’re also living the dream of the past. The two are linked.

Last night, I heard in great detail, the story of Roi Singer, a doctor who was among the first miliumnikim (reservists) sent into Lebanon last summer. As he told his story, I tried to imagine myself in his shoes, performing surgery under fire, or as one of the soldiers he was treating. It was a weird feeling, to say the least. Yes, I know: I likely won’t see active combat any time soon. But there’s still that letter from the army sitting on my desk. I still have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to see if I’m fit for combat. And I’m still going to the enlistment office in a week or so, as ordered by the government. No matter how this turns out in my particular case, that little letter was an important one to me. Here’s the government saying, in its own bureaucratic way, “like it or not, you’re part of our story now, not just a spectator. You can’t stand on the sidelines anymore; we have more than enough people there. It’s time to be an active participant.” I just hope I’m up to the task.

Apart At The Seams

I moved here to Israel two weeks after the Second Lebanon War ended, when the bitter taste of it still lingered. As the nation now prepares (or braces itself) for Lebanon War #3, people are looking back to last year and what happened then. I recently stumbled across this article (via Good Neighbors) and it threw me for a loop:

Together, Helen and I had tried to create a tidy little universe with a population of two. In this universe, it didn’t matter that I was a Jew and Helen was an Arab. We were beyond the politics….

Politics slumbered alongside us. Sometimes it spoke in its sleep, sometimes it rolled over, but it did not wake up.

And then, the war.

When the morning newscast announced that two Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped along the border of Lebanon, I felt the dream world that Helen and I had constructed around ourselves begin to evaporate….

As the war raged on, our morning ritual of listening to the news on NPR became agonizing. Helen still hadn’t heard from her aunts and uncles and cousins, and she feared the worst. I switched my alarm clock from “radio” to “buzzer.”

One morning, about a week after the conflict had begun, the tension was especially palpable. All of a sudden, Helen threw down her boots in frustration. Her fingers balled into fists.
“We have to talk,” she said.
“I know,” I replied.
“You are so distant,” she said. Helpless and angry, she stared out the window.
I picked up Helen’s boots and brought them to her.
“I don’t even know what to say,” was the best I could do. I was afraid that if we talked, we would discover that we just could not be together. I was afraid of discovering that love had failed to elevate us to a place beyond politics. “Please,” I begged, “give me some time.”

….I was terrified. Terrified that someone from Helen’s family could get killed by an Israeli bomb. Terrified that every time I saw her Caller ID, I thought it would be our last conversation. I kept imagining her carefully chosen words, her contrite tone as she whispered through the tears, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this anymore.”

My friends were supportive, and a few admitted to being inspired by us, framing our relationship in hopeful, hyperbolic terms, a microcosm of the peace process itself. When I expressed my own doubts, one overzealous friend scolded me, “You can’t give up! You owe it to humanity to make this work.”

As if I didn’t have enough on my mind. Now world peace hinged on my ability to find common ground with my girlfriend.

And so on. They go through some really rocky times, and the emotion is real and needs no hyperbole to validate itself. (Read the article itself to see how it turns out.) My issues with intermarriage and interreligious couples aside, it was touching.

In any case, after reading it, a memory bubbled up from the depths of my head – something I’ve hardly thought about in 3 years, even though at the time, it seemed like one of those moments, the ones you remember in a very real way. Back when I was in college, during my sophomore year, I was hanging out in my room in the CJL, the Jewish living house on campus. My door was open, and I heard (or maybe saw) a girl about my age wandering around cautiously. She clearly was looking for something and was not familiar with or particularly comfortable in our house. Being the friendly guy I was (am?), I walked out of my room to help her out. She her name was Tori (I think) and she was looking for the Hillel and I explained (as we often did) that we were not the Hillel, but I could show her where to find it. She dismissed my offer wearily, too emotionally drained to go wandering around another unfamiliar building. I invited her to sit down, she collapsed on the couch and started breaking down in tears.

The story came out: she was Jewish and going out with an Arab guy, I think a Palestinian. At some point, The Conflict came up. One of his friends said something negative about Jews, and she protested. Her boyfriend said “your people are f-ing unpleasant.” She was floored. She hadn’t expected this at all. From what she said, it seemed like that, and the brief fallout afterwards, were the last words they’d exchanged. He and his friend called several times during our conversation, but she hung up on them each and every time. There was no bridge-building here. It wasn’t even a consideration.

Back to her sitting on the couch, crying. Here I have a girl crying because politics and bigotry reared their ugly heads in this place she thought was safe. Tori felt so helpless, she told me, since she didn’t know much about The Conflict and couldn’t argue with them. I started to explain the issues and complexities of the whole messy situation in Israel, but it was clear (or at least, it’s clear to me now) that she didn’t need a history lesson. She needed a friend. She didn’t need someone to solve this; there was no solution. She needed someone to listen. And I did somewhat, and I hope it was sufficient. She left, with nothing resolved, nothing accomplished, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had just missed an opportunity. But for what, exactly?

This story has a postscript. I emailed her shortly after her visit, offerring to help if I could. She didn’t reply in any meaningful way, and I didn’t hear from her again. Months later, I was leading a seder (among many others) at school, and who should show up at my table, but Tori. But not weeping, uncertain Tori. This was dressed-up, confident, sorority-girl Tori. And since I hadn’t met this version of her, she acted the part. There was a flicker of recognition, a brief nod, when I started pointing out that we’d met before, but then it was gone. We went through the whole seder and throughout, no one but us could’ve guessed that here was a girl who’d broken down crying and poured her heart out to me. I was like her psychologist; I had seen her at her most emotionally vulnerable. We’d been strangers from the moment she’d walked out of my room that day.

Go Metric?

Interrupting your regularly scheduled blogcasting…

I eating lunch today with a couple of my Israeli co-workers, and one them mentioned Ashkelon, and how nice a place it is.

“How far is Ashkelon from Gaza?” I asked.
“One Kassam.” he replied, without smiling, without missing a beat.
“We measure distances in Kassams now. Ashkelon is one Kassam, Ashdod – two Kassams, Tel Aviv – three Kassams.”

I laughed. We all laughed. What else can you do?

“Interesting but kind of depressing” – Part II: Do the Right Thing?

Ok, on to part 2 of my series on “the Palestinian problem.” Here I am going to discuss the various value judgments usually used in the course of arguing about the current situation. I will discuss later how much all of this should be taken into account, when actually trying to deal with the situation. I must request the apologies of the reader that I am not doing the requisite research required to footnote and annotate all of this, arguably the most responsible way to present this information. Such is both the benefit (and detriment) of the blogger over the so-called “conventional media”: we can say just about anything we feel like saying. That said, I hope you understand that my words are not expressed out of some vast ignorance, at least not one that I myself am aware of. If I have made an error of facts, I hope that those reading this will correct me.

The general idea put forth by the Palestinian side is that a person living in a certain place – for whatever reasons, for a certain amount of time – has some sort of claim of ownership to that place. In a general sense, I think we can agree that this is valid, all else being equal. On occasion, the Palestinians may reference the centuries-defunct claim of ownership conveyed by their connection to the ancient Philistines (who bear a nomenclatural resemblance to the Palestinians, but no more) but more often the claim is simply: “we lived there from [some time, say in 1800-1900] until 1948, when the Zionists kicked us out, we deserve to have our homes back.” The factual nature of the first part of this statement seems to not be disputed too much. Yes, there were many Arabs, who now define themselves as Palestinians (or even did so then) who do not live currently in Israel proper. The second claim is the more controversial one.
Side note: when I say “Israel proper” a slight confusion may arise. This is partly due to my own ambivalence, and partly due to the long-standing ambivalence of the state of Israel itself. You see, technically speaking, with the exception of Jerusalem, Israel never formally annexed what is known as the “West Bank” in some circles, and “Judea and Samaria” in others. This land was last internationally recognized as the property of one single country back when the British owned it as part of the Palestine madate, up until 1947. Since then it was controlled by Jordan from 1948-1967, and by Israel from 1967-present, with certain parts of it under Palestinian control at various times. From 1967 until now, the Israeli government’s attitude towards that territory has been a confusing one, alternately encouraging/supporting and discouraging/uprooting Jewish settlement in the area. The attitude of the Palestinians (for as long as one has been able to speak coherently of an entity called “the Palestinians”) has generally been that they own the area, and like much (or all) of the current state of Israel, they should have jurisdiction and everything that goes along with that.
So now the basic question arises: what do various people or groups of people deserve, land-wise? It’s the question not of what will make people happy, or what will stop violence on either side but what is fair. And this is where things get very, very complicated. Because on one hand, you have the Jews who claim some sort of ownership/connection to/sovereignty over the area as far back as King David, around the 10th century BCE. (Those claims are only disputed by arguing that those calling themselves Jews nowadays aren’t the same group of people as those in King David’s time. I don’t think that this theory is really accepted by many, and besides, that starts getting into ideas about self-identification and group consistency that just muddle everything up further.) On the other hand, Arabs constituted the majority of the population of the Palestinian Mandate up until the Israeli War of Independence. Even though the gap in numbers between the Jewish and Arab populations was closing at that point, the Arabs were a majority. The British, for their part, see-sawed a lot between being pro-Jews and pro-Arabs, due to a long list of pressures from each side. Consequently, nowadays, Jews will point to the pro-Jews moments (e.g. the Balfour Declaration) and the Arabs will point to the pro-Arab moments (e.g. the 1939 White Paper). Let’s be honest, this doesn’t really get anyone anywhere.
Nevertheless, various historical ownership claims come into play in the public discourse about these issues (and basically any land dispute worldwide), so I thought it might be useful to kind of “zoom out” and categorize them:

1) Religious claim. This is very simple. It’s usually some variation on the argument that God gave the land to one group or another, and therefore they deserve it. Needless to say, this argument doesn’t really hold much water in modern diplomacy, the truth of the matter notwithstanding.
2) Ancestral claim. This argument says nothing about recent history, but claims that land is the ancestral property of a group. Somehow, it would seem, by living in a place for long enough, that place becomes ethnically ‘owned’ by that group, even if they are later displaced. It’s kind of a “we were here first/longest” argument, as are a couple others in this list.
3) Demographic claim. This is what I hinted at above, when I discussed the demographics of the area prior to statehood and post-statehood. The argument is that based on self-determination ethics and such, the group that constitutes the majority should be in control of the area. Since both Jews and Arabs were the majority demographically at some point, each side easily brandishes this one.
4) Ownership claim. This is a slight variation on (3). It says that whichever group owns the most land (presumably under some mutually recognized rules for land ownership) should have control of the area.
5) Group ownership/sovereignty claim. I wasn’t sure whether to separate these two, but decided to keep them together, because the idea that a group owns land is basically the same as saying that the group controls the land, and vice-versa. This argument claims that since the ethnic group at one point controlled the area and effective owned the land as a group, they should once more.
6) Third-party claim. This one argues that a third party that has some say about the fate of the area has bequeathed the area to one group or another. This argument would be the easiest to use in public discourse, due to the explicit written nature of the various declarations of the involved parties (usually the British Empire or the U.N.). However, problems arise from the simple fact that the various third parties contradict each other and themselves.

The main reason I’m going through all this is to get to one point, a point that I will expand upon in the follow-up to this post: the various historical claims can be made with various degrees of accuracy by both sides, and besides, history never forced anyone’s hand. So the relevance (not the truth) of these claims to any attempts at peace-brokering is in question. Like I said, more next time.
Ok, so if you’ve made it this far, I’ll acknowledge that this little essay (or whatever it is) wasn’t constructed in the best manner, for many reasons. But if I took the time to go through and add in references and edit for structural coherence, etc, I probably wouldn’t get around to posting it for a while. So I figure you can take this for what it’s worth, and let the comments roll.

“Interesting, but kind of depressing”

Story time again. I’m thinking that it’s unfortunate that I don’t really get discussions going in my comment sections, because for once I’m going to address controversial stuff, beginning here, but more so in the next or the next few posts.
On to the story.

I was at work, sitting in a room with a bunch of other engineers, running tests on the system we were working with. While there, two of my colleagues got to talking, one of them Israeli, and the other American. I did my work, and listened in on their conversation, because these meetings of cultures are always interesting. Wouldn’t you know, they started discussing the Native Americans. The American dutifully explained how we wiped out most of the Native Americans – largely through disease. Then the conversation went where you always knew it would:

American: Yeah, the kids learn about all this in school. It’s required. It’s really interesting, but kind of depressing.
Israeli: Yes, we have the same thing with our history.

And that was it. The conversation ended there, mostly because both people were busy and not too invested in the discussion, but I couldn’t help but be curious as to how it would have continued.
Because the Israeli was right. For better or worse, no matter who is to blame, there were many people who were living in Eretz Yisrael, in what is now the State of Israel and was then called Palestine, who are not living there now but never really wanted to leave. Whether by the Jews or by their leaders or by themselves, they were displaced, and their displacement paved the way for the creation of the State. It also created a fairly untenable problem which lasts until today: what to do with these people. The upshot of all of this is that the comparison to the Native Americans is valid, but the Palestinian problem is far more present, and far more pressing than that. As the Israeli hinted to, I suspect it’s an ethical discomfort – something that rankles at the edges of the conscience – for many Israelis. I believe that this is one of the reasons behind the pullout from Gaza last year: we just wanted to put our consciences at rest.

I know this is bound to get a bunch of people disagreeing (cuz dys? You there?), but bear in mind that I’m continuing in future posts. I’ll discuss more later about what we should feel bad about, whether pragmatism, idealism, or some combination thereof should be our guiding star, as well as some of the various typical responses to this problem.