Sunday, January 7, 2007

How I became a born again Zionist

September 11th jolted my attention, but it was only after the Netanya Park Place Hotel Massacre during a Passover Seder in March of 2002 that I realized a fundamental shift in understanding would be required to integrate the new, impending realities on the world stage. The old paradigms could no longer sustain the changing landscape and an urgent reassessment of my beliefs, values and world view was in order. The dilemma was how to maintain a humanistic, pluralistic, open vision of society while recognizing that the new dangers facing western civilization had to be combated within an entirely new framework. How could the old hippie make room for the cautious realist who still wished to extend his hand in peace, but didn't want to foolishly leave it vulnerable to being bitten off in the process.

A Born Again Zionist
April, 2004
David Brumer
The suicide bombing of a Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya at the end of March 2002 was the beginning of a major shift in attitude, if not consciousness, for me. By the time Sharon and the Israeli government began ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ that April, I understood that we were fighting a different kind of battle and that this was no longer a struggle about ‘Occupation.’ Slowly, I began to realize that the Palestinian leadership, if not a sizable portion of the populace, was not so interested in a shared vision of compromise. It was clear from the tactics being employed (the blowing up of bus after bus, pizzerias, discotheques, hotels, restaurants and any place where Israelis gathered in public), that Arafat and his minions had embarked upon a strategic war of terror. Instead of continuing on with negotiations, Arafat had turned to violence to achieve his goals. This was no small truth to accept and digest. I understood that it was not just extremist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad that were obstacles to peace. It was the leadership of the Palestinian Authority itself.
It became obvious that suicide bombings were not the acts of a desperate people, but rather, they were the calculated acts of war. Apparently, Arafat had concluded that there was no reason to accept the kind of compromise last offered by Barak at Taba in early 2001. Rather than going back to the bargaining table, Arafat opted to launch a strategic war of terror against Israel. Believing that Israel had gone soft and taking a page from Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in the summer of 2000, Arafat concluded that terror works. In retrospect, it would appear that pre 9/11, he was also betting that President Bush, with his oil business connections, strong family ties to the Saudis and by extension to the larger Arab world, would be far more sympathetic to the Palestinians, than he would be to the Jews. By the time of September 11th, the second intifada was already into its second year. And for Arafat there was no turning back.
All of this is a necessary backdrop to understanding how an American Jew who has always aligned himself with the Left, could find himself drifting away from that position. As a social worker and a Jew, my sensibilities have always led me to fight for justice, stand up for the downtrodden, and never lose sight of the essential humanity of all peoples. But by the time of the Netanya Massacre-and that is truly the only way to describe what happened at the Park Hotel during that Passover Seder when children and grandmothers alike were blown apart in one hellish moment-I had to allow for the fact that once again, in this very generation, there were those who were rising up to destroy us.
So the question became, what is a legitimate response? How does one maintain his
moral bearings and at the same time realize that there is an existential threat against his people that must be addressed? It seemed to me-and of course, to many like-minded Jews the world over-that Israel had to show its strength and military might in a decisive way. This was no longer Lebanon. Israel itself that was under attack. And Israel did show its muscle, re-entered the West Bank with its army and in no uncertain terms began to root out the terrorist infrastructure that had been operating there with virtual impunity. The world, and it seems, the Europeans in particular, with the French leading the way, was appalled. Israel was now the Goliath, the aggressor, the ‘Occupier’, and in the ugliest of slanders, the new Nazis. The Europeans were likening-and still do-Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians to their colonial past. The only problem with that analogy is that France never had any business being in Algeria (or Tunisia, Morocco, etc. and likewise for the other European colonialists). Jews, on the other hand, have a four thousand-year connection to the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. And forgotten too was that Israel was on the verge of relinquishing its claim to Greater Israel, not because it didn’t have any valid historical reasons for being there, but because it understood that only through compromise could it hope to live in peace in the middle of the Arab world.
Now it is certainly arguable that Barak’s final offer to the Palestinians was far less generous than the Israelis claim. However, what is undeniable is that a historic concession was being made by the victor of the two major wars (commenced by its adversaries) that put Israel in possession of the lands demanded by the Palestinians. There can be no doubt that both the Israeli government and the Israeli people were ready for difficult concessions and compromises. Clearly, the Palestinian leadership was not. As to the general Palestinian population, it is my belief that had the leadership done a better job preparing their people for compromise and reconciliation, they too would have shown a greater readiness for compromise. But the propaganda machines of the PA instead churned out one willing ‘martyr’ after another. As the war has waged on, the Palestinian leadership has shown no compunction to use teenagers, pregnant women, and lately, even children under ten years of age. And where is the outcry from the liberals and human rights activists in Europe and America against this kind of collective child abuse? Instead, the old canard is trumped out again and again that this is the only tactic left open to the Palestinians, suffering wretchedly under the yoke of Israeli occupation, rendered destitute and desperate by an Israeli superpower that attacks them at will from Apache helicopters. It is as if a collective amnesia has descended upon those who make such claims, because only that could explain how it is forgotten that the ‘Occupation’ was on the verge of extinction when Arafat launched his terror war. The Palestinians were already in virtual control of most of the land in the territories as part of the autonomy process put in place by Oslo. Which, of course, raises the uncomfortable question of why there continued to be ‘refugee camps’ run under the auspices of UNWRA, the United Nations Works and Relief Agency, established after 1948 and where third generation descendants of the original refugee population continue to languish over 50 years later, rather than being absorbed in their host countries. But these are questions for another discussion and another time.
The larger question looms: why is Israel singled out as the most egregious offender of human rights time and time again by resolutions in the United Nations? Why is not the occupation of Lebanon by Syria-and surely it is an occupation, with upwards of 35,000 Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon-decried by the loudest critics of Israel? And what of the 100,000 plus deaths of Arabs by Arabs in the Algerian civil war, after a contested national election in which Islamists won a majority but were denied the fruits of victory, at least in part through French interference? Where is the mass outcry over the genocide in the Sudan, where white Muslims are slaughtering black Africans by the droves? And why is it not acceptable to call the Palestinians to task, to demand accountability and responsibility? Poll after poll has shown significant sectors of the Palestinian population, if not outright majorities, in favor of continued terrorism against Israel, even after the creation of a Palestinian state (In June alone, already 11 attempted acts of terror inside Israel have been thwarted through the efforts of Israeli Intelligence and the security forces). Instead, we see logic turned on its head. The Palestinians cry victimhood, rather than demanding an end to a corrupt regime that fosters and perpetuates their misery. Why aren’t those in the Palestinian Diaspora demanding more of their own people? Where have the voices of reason and moderation been during the last four years in the Palestinian community, calling for an end to the barbaric and self-destructive acts of terror? Sadly, there are but a few and their tepid declarations offer too little too late. There has been a glorification of weakness and victimhood by the Palestinians, when legitimate assertions of power and strength were called for. Why have the Palestinians not yet had their ‘Altalena’ moment, reining in their multiple militias and armed factions under one authority, the only way to establish real legitimacy and sovereignty? And why has so much more energy been expended on the destruction of Israel at the expense of the creation of Palestine?
None of this is to say that Israel is without fault or sin. Unauthorized settlement outposts should be removed, olive trees of Palestinian farmers should not be destroyed, and the Israeli government should be more vigilant in enforcing its own laws respecting the rights of innocent Palestinians, to say the least. However, both the Israeli government and the vast majority of the Israeli people have shown themselves willing to make far-reaching concessions and compromises for the sake of peace. Can the same really be said for the Palestinians?
I will continue to keep an open heart and hold out my hand in search of peace and reconciliation. But I now do so with a guarded heart and hand. It is taught in the best of my traditions that we must always remember that we were once strangers in a strange land. Yet we must temper that compassion for the Other with the sanctity of the preservation and the flourishing of our own people in our own land.
David Brumer

1 comment:

Lao Qiao said...

A Palestinian state can exist only with Israel, not against it. If Iranian nuclear weapons ever wipe Israel off the map, the neighboring Arab states will divide Palestine oppress the Palestinians. Think of Black September. Think of the fact that states as rich as Saudi Arabia never did anything to ease the plight of the refugees.

The Palestinians, and the whole Arab world, are totally idealistic. If they accepted a deal with Israel, the world would give them money, and they would have wealth and independence. But they would have to share the world with Israel. They cannot be bribed with wealth or a state. It is more important to be virtuous, to die in a jihad while killing Jews, rather than to have a sovereign Palestine.