Again ..?


The image above shows the barbed wire fence that marked the boundary of the Krakow ghetto in WWII.  Am I alone in having the sickening feeling that Gaza perversely echoes hideous enclosures like these?

No, I am not equating the two:  there is no organized plan to exterminate the inhabitants, nor even to abuse and starve them.  But Gaza is a small, restricted place in which there is little work, much poverty, and no hope.  It is a stinking, garbage strewn place with poor sanitation, hardly any economy, and a lot of angry, desperate people.  It is pretty much walled in…the distressing irony of Israel having created a mega-ghetto is almost too depressing to contemplate.

Some unpleasant facts and questions:

  • The bloodthirsty fanatics in Hamas who launch rockets at Israelis have killed a couple people.  The Israelis have killed or injured hundreds of civilians.  Isn’t proportionality a goal of armed conflict for ethical people?
  • Knee-jerk supporters of Israel are dismayed by negative “world opinion” of Israel fueled by TV images.  Should people not get upset at the sight of civilians being killed?
  • It is not much talked about, but in the 1890’s and early 20th century, many Jews were not very enthusiastic about Zionism, at least not in Palestine.  A fancy delegation sent to look the land over famously telegrammed, “We have met the bride-she is beautiful, but she is taken,” meaning that people were living there already!  All such misgivings are forgotten now.
  • Oh well, is there a nation among us that does not have injustice, expropriation, and brutality intimately woven into its birth-history?  (Ask the Native Americans!)  Why should Israel be any different?  Six million Israelis aren’t going anyway so it’s no use talking about “what was.”  They have as much right to be there as anyone else right now.
  • Millions of Arabs and Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, so it’s no use pretending that one more kick in the teeth will send them packing.  No use talking about non-negotiable principles.  Everything in politics is negotiable.
  • Yep, simple choice.  Keep killing one another, or stop and talk.  Is talking to terrorists giving in?  What is gained by not talking with them?  Does anyone honestly believe that they can stop the attacks this way?
  • Does anyone honestly feel that firing some crummy rockets at Israeli towns is going to bring on a Palestinian state?  Yep, they’re nuts, just angry young men whose who lives have been lived through this political conflict.  Israel deals with them from a position of strength.  And those poor civilians are held hostage to the armed forces of them all.

9 Responses to Again ..?

  1. Man of Roma says:

    True, Gaza reminds that terrible ghetto, although, as you say, the two things cannot be equated.

    As far as fact 3 of your list, I’ll say something I’m afraid it is not politically correct. From a broad point of view, the West has its responsibilities towards the Muslims. They have been colonised and exploited for their oil. I am not against Israel and I understand the Jews and their idealism, but the West has encouraged them out of greed (and you confirm they really were) in returning to their land after 2000 years, which, sorry to say that, is absurd, it is like the Italians decided to go back to North Africa because it was a Roman province 2000 years ago.

    Now the damage is done. Israel has its right to exist. But infinite hate has come out of all this.

  2. lichanos says:

    …it is not politically correct.
    I’m sick of this phrase. When I was young, it was used by left-wingers to make fun of themselves for being too doctrinaire. Now..?

    …it is like the Italians decided to go back to North Africa…
    I like that example. Well, you can always find an excuse in history if you dig deep enough. Of course, this “homeland” business is so deeply engrained in the West – nationalism, romanticism – plus the Old Testament thrown in!

    I’m pretty sure that if I’d been around in the 20’s, I’d not have been a Zionist. As an atheist, secular Jew, I’m firmly assimilationist. Of course, perhaps that’s easy for me to say, living in the USA now, but it wasn’t so easy for my parents’ generation, I think.

    As you say, “the damage is done.” History is full of such damage. You musn’t forget the past, you can’t deny the past, but must we relive the past today? You can reject the past.

  3. Man of Roma says:

    I’m firmly assimilationist.

    You mean the solution could be that the Jews and the Arabs mixed up? Or I got it all wrong. In any case it would be great! But religion would be in between, I’m afraid. This also why I am out of any religion. One can think that peace might prevail in the end because people are basically the same: they want to raise their families etc.

    The fact that you have a Jew origin and have written such a balanced post honours you.

  4. lichanos says:

    Assimilation is a big issue in the USA for all immigrant groups, and still is for Jews. There is a movement toward more orthodoxy among Jews – going to synagogue is becoming popular as opposed to a hated obligation (until 13 years old) as when I was a boy. I meant that I have no interest in religion outside of intellectual curiosity, and I am happy to blend into the American mainstream. I don’t care if my children marry Jews, or white people either, for that matter.

    Really, one thing about America that is great is that assimilation is truly possilbe here. I don’t think so in Israel, now at least – I wasn’t posing it as a solution. However, many very assimilated and unreligious American Jews still “identify” with Israel emotionally, i.e., they are crypto-Zionist. I can’t deny that I feel some tug in that direction, but fundamentally, I see two peoples killing each other, and I just want it to stop so they can all concentrate on important things like raising their children, and wasting their money on consumer junk. I don’t see Israel as having any special status, good or bad in the world.

    Regarding assimilation and rejecting the past: I was speaking to my father a while ago about his family. He told me that he had aunts who arrived in the USA as infants or young girls who grew up and married Presbyterians! I was surprised. He said, “Oh no, it happened all the time.” This was in the 1900-1910’s. Perhaps he exaggerates, but I thought, “Gee – that’s ONE thing that’s great about the USA. You come here, decide, I don’t want to deal with this Old World crap, and become something different!” Great to have that choice, if you want it.

  5. troutsky says:

    This idea of “equating” has turned into an absurd exercise. No one suggests the situations are identical. But the similarities are enough to condemn ,as you ably demonstrate. The intellectual dishonesty of such “argumentation” is not accidental. The reference to Native Americans is right on as well, smaller and smaller enclosures are de facto genocide.

    I’m not sure the concept of “proportionality” can be defended in the context of war. When,why, or how has it ever or could it ever exist?

  6. Man of Roma says:

    That’s ONE thing that’s great about the USA. You come here, decide, I don’t want to deal with this Old World crap

    Yes, one of the reasons why people from Europe and other regions of Earth went to the USA is because of these burdens (class, race, caste, religion etc.) that like shackles impeded them to live a free life with a hope in the future. I believe that the American dream is still alive, and Obama – as you also said – proves it.

    A friend of mine from the USA comes from a family originated in a small Pacific island. They were poor. He now has instead a degree and has found a good position in an important American organization in Rome. He keeps telling me that the American dream worked for him.

  7. lichanos says:

    I think proportionality has existed as a concept governing hostile action for a long time. It’s an ethical concept – don’t carpet bomb a city when the infraction was an exchange of gunfire over a border – and it’s also self-preservation, i.e., a way of avoiding horrific escalation. Of course, war is always a pretty cynical business, but if you think there are never standards applied, you’re wrong. Things can always be worse!

    Anyway, the news today is that the Israelis feel they are finally engaging with the bulk of Hamas’ army, and hitting them hard. Thus, their strategy may have been quite rational. Unfortunately, it entails heavy civilian casualties.

  8. Pancime says:

    Hi Lichanos and MoR,

    Your exchange prompted me to post something I wrote a few years back about the ‘just war’. i really just posted it for you two, so if you want to remove this link that is fine:


  9. Man of Roma says:


    Thank you Pancime.

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