Friday, June 29, 2007

It Is Obvious

I received an e-mail from my cousin, forwarding me a letter she received that was originally written by a woman who currently lives in Israel. I thought it was incredible, and received permission from the original author to post it in its entirety here. Feel free to express your thoughts on the letter in the comments.

I heard a BBC interview yesterday in which a member of Hamas, a PhD, was comparing what is going on in Gaza to having two children locked in a room with nothing but a small piece of bread - what else could they do but begin to fight over the bread? This is obvious. Eventually they will figure out that they can share. Like the two children in the story, we must give residents of Gaza time to sort things out.

My parents, both Holocaust survivors, were locked in bunkers with five people per sleeping board and not even a crust to share among them. They never did what those two fictional children locked in a room see as the only thing to do. Throughout the millennia, Jews have been locked in ghettos and oppressed with hardly a slice of bread between them, and they too used sticks and stones. They used them to scratch letters on the floor to teach their children to read. They took that crust and found a seed on top that they could plant to grow more wheat. Did you ever hear the old Jewish tale, "Something From Nothing"?

To the Hamas PhD it is obvious that when two children with nothing but a small piece of bread are locked in a room, they will fight. And so the population in Hamastan fights. And when they run out of enemies to fight, they fight each other.

To Jews it is obvious that when two children with nothing but a piece of bread are locked in a room, they will ration the bread until they figure out how to get more bread or get out of the locked room.

To the members of Hamastan, it is obvious that when you are left with the hothouses abandoned by your enemies, you break it apart and loot and destroy it to show your frustration with your situation and erase anything that reminds you of your enemies.

To the Jews it is obvious that when you find parts and broken pieces, you try to fix them or use them to build something useful.

To the members of Hamastan, it is obvious that when you have a small, crowded, barren piece of land with nothing to recommend it, you fight until the world recognizes your plight. You bravely sacrifice lives to destroy the neighboring enemies to make room to expand into their land and their homes.

To Jews it is obvious that if all you have is a small, crowded, barren piece of land, you drain the swamps and make the desert bloom, sometimes sacrificing lives to help build a future.

To the members of Hamstan it is obvious that if you manage to get hold of resources or money, you use them to bolster your leaders and buy weapons to fight your enemies.

To Jews, it is obvious that if you manage to get hold of resources or money, you feed your children, build hospitals and schools, then businesses that can generate more resources and money.

One of us ended up with a country that in 60 years' time rivals countries many-fold its size and many times its age.

One of us ended up with nothing but fear and destruction, and blaming everyone else but themselves for their situation.

Which type of people would you rather have as a neighbor and a partner in this world?

~ Tzirel Shaffren


  1. ...8...9...10, it's over!


  2. Wow. That should be framed and hung up somewhere.

  3. If I'm locked in a room with one piece of bread and another guy, I probably kill myself, unless he was a big sport fan.

  4. Well said, but it only rings true in our own ears.

    The audience that the Hamas Phd was/is addressing uses a grading system weighted heavily in favor of these spoiled, destructive 'children'.

  5. The following blogger in his list of the top 8 lies as the 2nd biggest like that Hitler was evil. Mind you he isn't a White NeoNazi but some guy from India.

  6. The children in the room with one piece of bread is a bad example. So is comparing it to the concentraion camps. We are looking at it with a Jewish-Isreli bias, much the same this Hamasnik is looking at it with a Palestinian slant.

    Firstly, a better argument/parable for this PhD shouldve been a child (Palestinain) who had a little piece of bread was forced to give up half to this other child (Israel) by some adult (the wolrd). The child would fight and yell and rather destroy than share.

    As for your comparison to the holocaust, it all seems nice but your ignoring the truth. What about the horrors of concentraion camp members who stole pieces of food from their own parents? What about the Capos who turned against their own people for a chance at some additional rations? Obviously these people cant be judged - none of us know what we wouldve done in such horrible circumstances. But lets not look at things so blindly.

  7. You are right, the analogy is not fair. During the Holocaust, a small percentage of the population of Europe - Jews and other unpalatable types - were systematically oppressed and murdered by a population many times its size. Unarmed, they were rounded up into ghettos, and shipped by cattle car to concentration camps and burned in crematoria invented uniquely for that purpose. They truly had only a piece of bread to keep them going. On the other hand, the Palestinians - close to equal the population of Israel - are the ones who are committed to wiping Israel off the map, yet call Israel their oppressors and occupiers. They have autonomy. They are provided with water, electricity, money, other forms of humanitarian aid, and even weapons from the very people they want to destroy. They are not fighting over a piece of bread - they have access to way more than that. What they are really fighting over, however, is power and the desire to eliminate the Jews.

    I take exception to the analogy you offer. At the time that modern Israel was created, it was not owned by the Palestinians who then had it taken away from them by the Jews. It was under British control and before that it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 400 years. Throughout this time, both Arabs and Jews were living there. The Arabs had no more claim to the land than did the Jews. In fact for a hundred years before the creation of the modern State of Israel, the majority of the population of Jerusalem was Jewish. Still, in 1922, 80% of the British Mandate was handed over to the Arabs and became Jordan.

    When the "world" decided to formalize a land for the Jews, they were not taking away the Palestinians' small piece of bread and forcing them to share. There were no indigenous "Palestinians." The Jewish families living there could trace their families’ history of inhabiting the land continuously for thousands of years. Yet, in 1948, the remaining 20% of the British Mandate was split between the Jews and the Arabs. In other words, since 1922, the Arabs living in the area were given 90% of the British Mandate. Meanwhile the Jews were given only 10% of the British Mandate - 60% of the Jewish part was desert.

    The population of Arabs living in areas designated as Jewish could easily have moved to a wide choice of areas. Just as the Arabs had to move, so did the Jews living in the much larger Arab area, but they did not have quite the choice the Arabs had. Ultimately, Arabs were allowed to have Israeli citizenship, so they really didn't have to leave. There was no reciprocity for the Jews in Arabs lands. The small sliver of Jewish land was to be home not just to the Jews, who had inhabited the land for millennia, but all those Jews who had to flee for their lives from the Holocaust, plus all the Jews who were summarily expelled from all surrounding Arab lands.

    So you see, if anything, your analogy is reversed. The Arabs were given a big piece of bread and the Jews were given a piece one tenth the size, and yet the Jews did not fight; they built and got on with their lives, even after something as horrific as the Holocaust, even with more and more Jews pouring into their tiny borders. It was the Arabs who started to fight the Jews in an attempt to take away the small piece that the Jews were given. Were the Jews on this small piece of land - many of whom were weakened and hungry from concentration camps and expulsions – the oppressors when the five surrounding Arab states attacked Israel immediately after its creation?

    Please check the following link for a slide show of the history of the modern State of Israel:

    Can an Arab live in Israel with all the rights of a citizen? Yes. Can a Jew live in an Arab country with all the rights of a citizen? No. Arabs living in Israel as citizens have more rights than Arabs living in Arab countries. And before anyone screams Apartheid, I invite them to ride any bus in Jerusalem and see if Arabs have to sit in the back or stand at separate bus stops – despite the fact that they’ve blown up many buses. I also invite anyone who claims Apartheid to sit in the lobby of any hospital and count how many Arabs are sitting beside you waiting to receive the exact same care from the exact same doctors.

    Were there some Jews during the Holocaust who behaved less than nobly when faced with systematic extermination? Yes. But what percentage? Percentages matter. In a classroom of 30 children, it makes a huge difference whether there are one or two bullies, or 20-25 bullies. For every negative story one can tell there are ten stories of superhuman nobility in the face of insurmountable odds. The percentages completely change the outcome.

    The Jews build. The Palestinians destroy.

  8. Tzirel,

    I think you are making some excellent points, and dont get me wrong I am no fan of the Arabs. I just think some of the things you are presenting are biased or all together off.

    I am familiar with the history of Israel - my point was that you are making blanket statements that everything the Jews did was right and everything the Palestinians did was wrong.

    When you recount the history of Israel, you make it seem as if the Jews just nicely and peacefully took their land. You fail to mention the Jews blew up the King David hotel (killing innocent people) and the hundreds of other murders that took place. Granted, they took the land and build it into a wonderland in the desert. But lets not forget how it started.

    And you make it seem as if the Palestinians are treated extremely well by the Israelis... have you ever seen the conditions these people live in? Have you seen them stopped in the sreet, humiliated and strip searched? I have. I am not blaming Israel, they must secure themselves, but your words make it seem that the Palestinians are living it up in luxury. They are not provided the same rights as Israelis. They can't go where they wish, they can't get the best medical treatment, they live in filthy refugee camps!

    Just remember, when the Jews were put in a similar situation by the British they reacted in the same way. They too, blew up buildings, killed soldiers, etc.

    You say "Percentages matter. In a classroom of 30 children, it makes a huge difference whether there are one or two bullies, or 20-25 bullies." So in your estimation are 90% of the Palestinian people suicide bombers or terrorists?

    Lets just look at things from both points of view.

  9. GC - Almost 100% of the Palestinian population voted for a terrorist party - either Hamas or Fatah. Over 70% (21 of your average class of 30) support suicide bombings against Israel.

    The Jewish actions against the British were not at all similar to what the Palestinians have done, nor were they dedicated in wiping out the British. There were no calls for the wanton murder of Britons worldwide. There are no two equal sides here.

    One can feel as sorry as they'd like for the Palestinians being strip-searched, but as you note, there is a perfectly good reason for doing so. Therefore, as bad as one may feel, it is completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

    They live in filthy refugee camps because they *chose* to leave Israel in 1948, with promises of all the land when the 5 Arab nations wiped Israel out. They live without great medical access because Egypt and Jordan and Syria and Lebanon won't let them in because they want to force Israel to look to be occupiers, to give them the moral low ground. Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians make use of Israel's incredible medical resources daily - go walk into any Israeli hospital at any time. Finally, Palestinians have more rights in the West Bank than they would in Jordan or Egypt.

  10. GC,

    (This is a long one, please bear with me.)

    I would be curious to know specifically which points I make that seem to you to be altogether off. I have no problem with acknowledging that my views are biased. That is as it should be. I do not have to be objective or philosophical, nor do I have to try to understand the other side, when discussing enemies who have an openly stated goal of wanting to wipe my people and my land from the face of this earth. In fact, I think a great deal of Israel’s troubles, and indeed the Western world’s troubles, stem from a long line of leadership who have forgotten just that. I listen in horror as the BBC rewrites the history of the Six Day War while those who lived it are still alive and in full possession of their faculties. I stand in shock while academics and others deny either the extent of or the simple fact of the Holocaust while witnesses, victims and physical evidence abound. There are people who twist themselves into pretzels trying to understand the other side because they are uncomfortable with labeling anyone “Bad” or “Evil.” The sad fact is that sometimes the other side is bad or evil, and our inability to recognize, label and deal with it allows it to fester and grow rather than be stopped and either rehabilitated or destroyed for the good of humanity.

    One of the saddest things is that the soft Jewish heart has trouble not feeling others’ pain, even when the others want to kill us and the hesitancy caused by that sympathy increases the chances that our enemies will succeed. Even sadder is that the constant barrage of twisted information has twisted not just our enemies’ view of history, but even some of our own people’s view of our own history. They have chipped away and chipped away until many or our own cannot distinguish truth from lies, and some find it hard to give our own the benefit of the doubt when situations are complex and clouded. That great Jewish guilt complex makes many of us unable to draw the line anywhere, even for self defense.

    I don’t feel that I painted some rosy picture of a life of luxury for the Palestinians. In reality, life is not luxurious for most Israelis either. Here is an excerpt from a Ha’aretz piece from 2004: “28% of Israeli citizens, or 1,600,000 people are living in poverty….A family's situation is considered moderately insecure when the parents deprive themselves of food to ensure their children get what they need. In families whose situation is severe, the children are deprived as well. 60% of nutritionally insecure are Jewish, 20% are Arab, and 20% new immigrants.” In other words, Arabs are not the only ones suffering in this war torn area. The difference is that for the Jews it is thus despite our best efforts, and we do our best to deal with it by donating food, money and work as best as we can. On the other hand, for the Arabs it is a result of bad choices on their part. They would rather cry to gain world sympathy than do anything to correct the problem. The Arabs in Israel had plenty of opportunity to live just as well (of should I say, as poorly) as Jews. They are given huge amounts of funding, but it is squandered away by their bad leadership and their thirst for weapons. Where does the money for all the suicide belts and explosives and Qassam rockets and all the factories and equipment that it takes to produce them come from? Where does all the money for their matching black face coverings with the green bands come from? And why isn’t any of this money being channeled into improving the quality of life for the average resident? Why isn’t it being used to build roads and schools and homes which would generate construction jobs, which would, in turn generate money to spend on groceries which would in turn support the grocer who would in turn support the farmers and the manufacturers? Where is all that money coming from and where is it all going? Look at Israel in 1948 and look at Israel now. This land did not have a decent standard of living until it was given to the Jews and the Jews built it up. Why didn’t the Arabs in Israel at that time take the money that was poured into their hands and do the same thing the Jews did? And if they didn’t, whose fault is it?

    Some decades ago, the phone company in NY stopped providing certain low-income, high-crime areas with public phones. Activists in those communities said that it was racist of the phone company not to provide phones specifically to communities that had a large numbers of households that could not afford a private phone. The phone company responded that they had been providing phones for years. However, the public phones in those areas had been vandalized and robbed at a frequency that by far exceeded the national average and the phone company could no longer absorb the financial loss it had been incurring. Who was responsible for that neighborhood’s lack of public phones? In my politically incorrect opinion, the phone company was completely free of guilt. You can only give so much to a population that destroys everything it receives.

    And while I do not dwell on the flaws or ugly spots that exist amongst my own, I do not deny their existence. Jews, like everything else in life, are not perfect. But there is a great chasm between the actions and intents of the Palestinians towards Israel, and the actions and intents of Israel towards the Palestinians. Also, as I said, percentages matter. Another recent popular phrase that pulls the heartstrings is “moral equivalence.” Bah, humbug! Defense is not equal to offense, and sometimes defense means cutting it off at the pass. Did you ever see the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Arc” where some native tries to attack Indiana Jones with fancy sword work? Indiana pulls out his gun and shoots him dead. If you are trying to kill me, it is a moral imperative that I stop you. If you won’t take a warning, then I will kill you first by the most effective means available to me. People who don’t understand this principle fill the papers and the courts with accusations of “disproportionate response.” When an enemy is trying to drive you into the sea, you cannot pretend you are at target practice and aim only for the bull’s-eye. To protect your children, to protect your neighbors, to protect your right to exist, you pull out the big guns and stop the enemy. The enemy is not stopping to assess the minimum force they must use to accomplish their goal before they attack. They are not wringing their hands or searching their souls trying to feel our pain. They want us dead at any price, even if they have to commit suicide in order to take a few Jewish children with them. Even if they hide their weapons in civilian populations and there is, as there is in all wars, collateral deaths as a result. Accusations of disproportionate response are just another method of chipping away at our collective weak spot so that we hesitate some more.

    (As an aside, those who carried out the bombing of the King David Hotel issued warnings so that people could evacuate, and even personally chased the Arab kitchen staff out of the building. The attack was aimed at the governing body, not at civilians. The press took the warnings seriously and were present outside the hotel to take pictures. The Irgun even went so far as to explode a smaller bomb outside before the larger bombs inside to make sure the street stayed clear. The British, for reasons they will ever only know, refused to evacuate. Palestinians do not give warnings and continuously purposefully target civilian populations. No moral equivalences here.)

    The Arabs who are Israeli citizens most certainly do have equal rights to Jewish, and other non-Jewish Israeli citizens. They may vote and they may go wherever they wish within Israel. They receive the same medical care as every other citizen and their neighborhoods are as clean or as dirty as they keep them, just like every Israeli neighborhood. Israel affords Arab citizens rights to the point of self destruction. What other country would allow a member of parliament to encourage the country’s enemies to destroy the country they represent? (MK Azmi Bishara, who, thankfully, has finally been tossed out.)

    Do Arabs in the “occupied territories” have equal rights? I’m not clear why they should. They are autonomous. They receive plenty of funding and elect their own government. Why do they come into Israel so much in any case? Are they crossing the borders into Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt all the time without being checked? For all the years until the Arabs attacked Israel in 1967, the Arabs in the now “occupied territories” were living in refugee camps while their Arab brothers in Egypt and Jordan refused to allow them to resettle and nobody had a problem with that. Lately the Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon has made it into the news – how come nobody every complained about that until now? Will the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza be attacking Lebanon now? Egypt has a checkpoint on its border with Gaza that has even had international troops and nobody has a problem with that. Canadians must produce passports when crossing into America. For far less provocation, America has put up a wall at the Mexican border. As for checkpoints, you already understand the need. But do you realize that every commuter in Israel has learned to accept that they also must allow more time to go anywhere by public transportation. Arabs are not the only ones who must go through security and have their bags x-rayed when they pass through any central bus station or enter any store, bank, university, etc. within Israel. Do you remember the days when you could just get on a bus or train and go? Anyone under voting age in Israel does not remember those days.

    Do I think that 90% of Palestinians are suicide bombers or terrorists? Perhaps not as high as 90%, but in a poll conducted this year by Near East Consulting, 75% of Palestinians do not think that Israel has a right to exist. They haven’t all carried out attacks, not yet. But yes, I’m realistic enough to believe that they would if the opportunity presented itself. Israel has seen pregnant mothers attempt to carry out suicide attacks. Nothing is beyond the pale. Their children’s television programs glorify martyrdom. What else do they know? Jewish mothers cry when their precious children are killed in the line of duty when serving in the army. Palestinian mothers get on television and express their pride that their suicide bomber child has achieved martyrdom and offer their hopes that their other children will too reach such heights.

    Bottom line, we are long past the point of seeing things from both sides. This is not mediation counseling it is survival. When you are dealing with someone who has been brainwashed into believing it is his holy duty to murder you, you do not try to see things from their point of view since his point of view is sick. You simply don’t allow them to destroy you, even if it means that you have to do some unpleasant and less than perfect things.