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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The danger in coming out of the trenches too soon

On my daily commute through the many small Arab villages along my route, I often force myself to think about the people I see as individuals instead of as members of some real or imagined monolithic group.

I've written in the past that it is important to remember that just as their blanket assumptions of me and my countrymen are at least partially incorrect ... so too, no single idea I might hold about Arabs/Muslims could possibly apply to all (or even most) of them.

This perfectly rational humanist sentiment is at the core of the thinking of many Israelis I know and respect.  Their in-person and on-line contact with Palestinians and Arab/Muslim bloggers from around our region has convinced them (quite correctly, I might add) that these people are not monsters and that they want their lives to return to a semblance of normalcy as much, or even more, than the typical Israeli.

Intellectually I totally get this, but it is in total conflict with the another semi-rational part of my brain... the part that deals with the ultimate human instinct; self preservation.  And for whatever reason, even with wise counsel and information from friends on both sides of the political chasm, I have not had any success in getting my inner humanist to sit quietly alongside my inner human.

This morning I woke up understanding what I think is the crucial stumbling block to achieving this inner peace.

During World War II the Allied governments went out of their way to deliberately vilify the Germans and the Japanese.  Admittedly they had a much easier time turning our Asian enemy into a sub-human devil because of the natural suspicion that accompanies large cultural/racial divides. 

But even with the Germans, our leaders were extremely successful in portraying a people who had historically epitomized the very apex of continental civility and culture as something suitably evil and sub-human to be considered an enemy.

So why was this intentional vilification process necessary?  Why wasn't it enough to hate the German and Japanese leadership and leave the perfectly nice German and Japanese people intact in our collective imagination as wholesome, family raising, hard-working people?

The simple answer is that it is impossible to wage war only on the leaders of a country or national entity.  You can argue all you want that the people are essentially good and more like you than not... but entire nations and national entities wage war, not just their leaders.  When the leadership of a national entity declares war on another, everyone is at war. 

With the decision to go to war the nature of the citizens doesn't change.  But no matter how many individuals you can locate who are wonderful upstanding people, the entire population is now actively part of an entity that wants to do another entity (yours) harm. 

To make it possible for soldiers to mow down human beings with machine guns or level cities with bombs, a great deal of mental groundwork/preparation has to be accomplished whereby the enemy ceases to be completely human.

For a perfect illustration of this dilemma we have to go back to Christmas of 1914 during World War I:

During the terrible trench warfare at Flanders during the winter of 1914, the German and British lines were less than 60 yards apart and the two sides were doing unspeakable things to one another with some of the most vicious weapons imaginable.  The Pope had begged both sides to call a truce for the Christmas holiday but both sides rejected it as 'impossible'.

However, on Christmas eve some German officers placed Christmas trees on the parapets of their trenches and began leading their men in traditional carols.  The English troops didn't understand the language but many of the tunes were familiar enough that they stopped shooting and crawled closer to listen.

Christmas morning saw both sides out of their trenches exchanging rations and tobacco, singing traditional songs and even playing several well documented games of soccer in the muddy no-man's-land between the trenches.  During this spontaneous recognition of the enemy's essential humanity, both sides were able to put aside hostilities for a little more than a day.

This may seem like a heartwarming story to most... and is even retold by those who would like to illustrate the futility and folly of war.  But in doing so they will always sidestep a couple of crucial issues.

First of all, this was 1914 and the war would rage on for another 4 years before one side would be beaten into submission and forced to accept terms of surrender.  That it took so long was as much a result of fairly equally matched combatants as the leadership's refusal to contemplate a non-military solution.  In fact so long as a military victory remained in the realm of possibility, a diplomatic solution was never seriously considered by either side.

But more important was the demotivating/demoralizing effect this impromptu holiday truce had on the troops who had eaten and drunk with their enemies as well as those who had heard about this startling event.  Discipline broke down for several weeks up and down the lines while both sides sent angry messages through the chain of command demanding that the soldiers in the trenches resume hostilities.

Obviously the war resumed in all its horrible manifestations and millions more died after the leaders on both sides ignored this potential opportunity to emulate their citizens.  But was an opportunity for peace really missed in 1914?

The answer is 'no'. 

For hostilities to have ceased long-term, both sets of leaders would have had to agree to pursue an exclusively diplomatic solution.  For only one side to have done so would have been tantamount to suing for surrender terms.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves today.  The Arabs who live in the countries that surround Israel are not bad people.  They do not have horns and do not have a thirst for Jewish blood.  And the Palestinians who live in Gaza, Judea and Samaria (or whatever terminology floats your boat) are not bloodthirsty killers or sub-human monsters.

Granted the cultural gulf that exists between them and us is more reminiscent of how we and the Japanese viewed one another during WWII.  But even if the conflict more closely resembled the cultural fratricide that existed between the various European combatants during WWI, we would still be left to deal with the only thing that matters; the decisions and orders issued by the leaders.

You can write all the heartwarming anecdotes you want about mothers in Gaza and students in Bethlehem.  Those nice people are not in a position to call the shots and are as much victims of this conflict as we are. 

Until their leaders (and by this I mean the unambiguous, democratically elected leaders of the Palestinians people) unequivocally and finally denounce all armed hostilities against the people and nation of Israel, the two peoples... ALL OF THEM... will remain in a very real state of war.

If in 1914 the German and English leaders had decided to sit down and negotiate a peaceful solution while the German troops continued to wage an open war against the British troops who had agreed to respect a cessation of hostilities, the negotiations would have broken off immediately, and rightly so. 

It wouldn't make any difference that the majority of Germans were ready, able and willing to have an end to hostilities and see their beautiful children out from under the destructive cloud of war.  So long as even a few organized German units continued to perpetrate substantive lethal attacks against the Allies, no allied leader could consider an offer of peace to be even remotely credible.

I don't care what the rest of the world tells Israel it should do.  They have their own agenda in mind and it doesn't matter what motivates that agenda. 

What concerns me is that nearly half the Israeli population... MY PEOPLE... are willing to delude themselves that the reasonable voices they hear from 'the other trenches' are actually the voices of the decision makers... and they are not!

To act as though friendly, reasonable Palestinian journalists and bloggers speak for their leaders... and to attempt to influence our government's foreign policy according to this mistaken perception while the elected leadership of the Palestinian people continues to actively work towards the destruction of Israel (a country whose name many of their leaders won't even publicly utter)...  is to aid and abet the enemy in time of war, and this is tantamount to treason!

The German troops who came up out of the trenches on Christmas morning of 1914 were not the exceptional in any way.  They were absolutely representative of the humanity and goodness that the German people possessed.  But their leaders, like the Palestinian leaders today, were not ready or willing to seek a peaceful solution... and therefore the Allied leaders were forced to continue pursuing the only solution at their disposal; a military one.

Our leaders seem to be listening too closely to the 'men playing football in the mud between the trenches' and those who have been witness to such heartwarming events, while ignoring the enemy leaders who are unambiguous about actively pursuing their next military offensive.

This will be our national undoing.

220_52

Posted by David Bogner on June 28, 2006 | Permalink

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"To act as though friendly, reasonable Palestinian journalists and bloggers speak for their leaders... and to attempt to influence our government's foreign policy according to this mistaken perception while the elected leadership of the Palestinian people continues to actively work towards the destruction of Israel (a country whose name many of their leaders won't even publicly utter)... is to aid and abet the enemy in time of war, and this is tantamount to treason!"

I don't know that I have ever heard it said (or more properly, seen it written) that the blogging/media world speaks for Palestinian leadership. But I don't think I can agree with you that a grass roots (which is how I've come to think of blogging) attempt to bridge gaps, correct misconceptions and share life experiences--with or without the result of a more peaceful Israeli/Palestinian existence--can be called treason.

But it was an interesting idea that the Christmas experience may have actually helped WWI to continue longer than it may have otherwise done. I have no military experience, nor do I ever care to acquire it, but it seems very sad to me that seeing another human being as just that- human- can have a demoralizing and demotivating effect. But I suppose that is natural if you are meant to be motivated to kill them...

Do you think that citizens can/should try to have any effect on the actions of their governments? I think that grass roots organizations can achieve a great deal, but your post says to me that citizens must always follow the lead of their government because the government will never follow the lead of its citizens. Is that a correct interpretation, or have I misinterpreted your words?

Posted by: nrg | Jun 28, 2006 3:18:05 PM

Your comments underscore the practice of the most widely-read Israeli press, which regularly embraces any positive statements made in order to continue to chip away at the negative imagery that was built up over so many years, while downplaying the acerbic comments made daily as well.

Saw this quote on Reuter's today - speaks volumes:

"It will be a chance for the fighters to show the enemy that we love death more than they love to live," said Abu Qusai of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Fatah.

They love to die even more than we want to live. Think about that for awhile. And this is coming from a Fatah (albeit Al-Aqsa) person. Fatah, the party so many folks would have preferred over Hamas...as if there's a difference.

Posted by: Yonah | Jun 28, 2006 3:21:15 PM

nrg... No, you haven't misinterpreted my words (at least not intentionally), but you have missed the point of my post.

There is nothing wrong with a citizen... or even groups of citizens... trying to influence the actions of elected officials. That's actually the point of a democracy. But for citizens to carry out what is essentially free-lance diplomacy behind the government's back during time of war and then use that to try to convince elected officials that their positive results are a model for crafting foreign policy... well, that's a recipe for disaster.

Essentially my point is that war is not fought because one country's citizens are not nice people and deserve to die. Wars are fought when the leaders of one country decide to kill the citizens of another country in order to impose its will on that other country's leaders. For the citizens of that other country to try to tell their government not to defend itself simply because the citizens on the other side of the border are such nice folks is suicidal. Those nice folks over there aren't calling the shots!

Yonah... If your point is that our press gives equal value to positive statements without regard to the influence wielded by the person making them... or the possibility that the statements might not be based on reality... then I agree with you.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 28, 2006 3:31:03 PM

I don't think I entirely missed the point of your post, I just commented on the part that gave me one of those gut reactions. I suppose I did misinterpret a bit, but at the same time, I'm still not sure it's treason. I would venture to say that the bloggers and media in Israel won't run the show where the government is concerned anymore than Palestinian bloggers/media are going to get to call the shots there. They may be naive in their attempts, but they may also be working from the ground up (on both sides) to change perceptions, ways of thinking, and ultimately the direction that both governments choose to take. I don't only see a recipe for disaster, I see the opportunity for positive change when individuals get involved. And from what news makes it to the great north, I think new ideas and approaches may work better in the long run than 132 Palestinian legislators on the wall. It could be worth a try.

Posted by: nrg | Jun 28, 2006 4:12:06 PM

Well, looks like you've brought Doctor Bean out of self-imposed hibernation.

Every single thing you’ve said is absolutely true.

So if the ultimate target in any war is psychological – the enemy’s willingness to fight and to believe that victory is possible, when will Gaza be burned to the ground? Israel just got accused by Abas of “crimes against humanity” for destroying a power station. You’re all going to be painted as genocidal devils whatever you do, unless you roll over and let Hamas kill you. Is the international criticism going to be that much worse if you actually do something that horribly demoralizes the Palestinian people and kills a significant number of Hamasnicks? How much worse could the New York Times editorials really get?

We have not lacked for a peace process this last decade. What is missing is a war process. You know with battles and stuff.

Israel: Go. Fight. Win.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jun 28, 2006 4:36:12 PM

"What concerns me is that nearly half the Israeli population... MY PEOPLE... are willing to delude themselves that the reasonable voices they hear from 'the other trenches' are actually the voices of the decision makers... and they are not!"

That's a very sudden twist of a perfectly reasonable and interesting post, David. Where did you find that "nearly half" figure?

And that talk about treason...

Posted by: SnoopyTheGoon | Jun 28, 2006 5:12:42 PM

The last Allied soldier present at the Christmas armistace recently died in Scotland.
Good post and you make some excellent and accurate points, probably too many to really discuss in a tiny comments box on a busy morning, and definitely deserving of more time than that.

Posted by: lisoosh | Jun 28, 2006 5:21:19 PM

Yeah, what Dr Bean said.

What I've learned in the past four years: If a liberal whines in the forest, but nobody gets impeached, do I really care?

Posted by: Tanya | Jun 28, 2006 6:33:07 PM

Dave, I agree with you. but I don't see any solution. there is no leadership on the right. maybe Nadia Matatr can run for PM.

Posted by: dave | Jun 28, 2006 7:08:24 PM

One of the bothersome conditions in the friendly cross-cultural exchanges with the Arabs, is the lack of any sort of symmetry... balnace is missing. The Israeli participants have a genuine opportunity to encourage change in their government. The Arab participants do not. The Israeli Press is free, the Arab press is not. The Israelis have a professional Armed Force, the Palestinian Arabs do not. The Israelis speak for themsleves, the Arab World speaks with the Palestinians. Both parties, however well-intentioned, wind up playing the 'useful idiot' role.

I'd love to see a real benefit , but beyond the effects felt by the immediate participants, the results are a net negative. Your WWI example is a great example.

Posted by: Oceanguy | Jun 28, 2006 7:44:43 PM

David, I agree with you, but I think you are missing a point. Not only do the leaders of the other side ignore the nice human beings who supposedly don't want to wage war with us, there is no way for those people to really be heard, because they have no free press, and fear for their lives if they do speak out. Just because they had an election doesn't mean that their government is a democracy, and those friendly bloggers really have no power at all.

Posted by: westbankmama | Jun 28, 2006 7:53:54 PM

Even if one concedes that most Palestinians are decent, peace-loving people (which I think is demonstrable rubbish given the history of Islam), it doesn't change the simple fact that Israel is engaged in an armed conflict with a foreign power that whose stated objective is your utter annihilation (the slaughter of every Jew everywhere). In the face of such a threat, one cannot afford the luxury of self-doubt over the loss of "innocent" Arab lives. Such vacillation will only encourage more attacks.

Your argument here and your earlier post (where you endorse targetting Hamas leaders) form a cogent strategy -- attack the root of the problem; i.e., kill a Palestinian leader each time an attack occurs. In this you have the concurrence of Michael Oren.
http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008577

Posted by: Bob | Jun 28, 2006 7:54:47 PM

I have a suggestion for all the wonderful Arabs who want to make nice with Israel from Gaza and the West Bank.

You want hostilities to stop and to have a normal life?

Become spies for Israel within the murderous terror orgs of your brothers.

Posted by: Scott | Jun 28, 2006 7:55:45 PM

This was an excellent piece of writing David. A perfect analogy powerfully illustrated. Genius actually.

Didn't borrow any of it did you? :^))

Posted by: Scott | Jun 28, 2006 8:06:26 PM

This post seems to go back and forth.

"You can write all the heartwarming anecdotes you want about mothers in Gaza and students in Bethlehem. Those nice people are not in a position to call the shots and are as much victims of this conflict as we are."

OK, so the Arabs are NOT responsible for the actions of their leadership.

"Until their leaders (and by this I mean the unambiguous, democratically elected leaders of the Palestinians people) unequivocally and finally denounce all armed hostilities against the people and nation of Israel, the two peoples... ALL OF THEM... will remain in a very real state of war."

Your acknowledgement that these barbarians were overwhelmingly elected by the people would seem to imply that the people are, in fact, responsible for their leaders' actions.


So which one is it?

Posted by: Evan | Jun 28, 2006 8:08:15 PM

Really good post. It's impressive how thoughtfully you address the situation. ("Thoughtful" both in terms of "thoroughly considered" and in terms of "considerate, humanizing")

Posted by: Avishem | Jun 28, 2006 8:51:44 PM

So it's only the Leadership of Amalek we should remember........ right?

Posted by: Yeshara | Jun 28, 2006 9:09:29 PM

A very interesting point about that incident actually contributing to prolonging the war. See, I don't necessarily agree that there's ALWAYS a separation between what the leadership wants and what the people ACTUALLY want. Let's take the same country - Germany - and move it a couple of decades forward. There were obviously Germans who were against the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi regime... but there were just as many, if not more, Germans who were very much imbued with very real hatred. I really think it makes no sense to try to see the entire nation as a mere tool of its government to kill you, because in many cases they are MORE than willing to follow their government. In other words, I don't see AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Palestinians opposing what is going on. I don't think blogging negotiations will serve any purpose except with a minor exception of individuals. Not until they show the willingness to stand up against acts of war towards Israel.

Posted by: Irina | Jun 28, 2006 9:32:52 PM

בס"ד
I think you hit the nail squarely on the head with this post, David. As a person who does Jewish-Muslim interfaith work here in the galut of Lotus Land, I can tell you that what you're saying isn't just happening in Israel, it's happening in Canada too. Thank you for this post!

Posted by: Soferet | Jun 28, 2006 10:33:29 PM

David:

With all due respect, but as to the alleged decency of the Palestinian people.

These are the people who voted Hamas into power. Hama's covenant is clear in its genocidal intentions towards Jews and Crusaders and, you betcha, towards the "Zionist entity." This is a society where homicide bombers are given the highest status passible; this is a society where grade school children are indoctrinated, to embrace Jihad, hate Jews and all non Muslims; this is a society where "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is a perrenial best seller.

In short, if any cociety can be viewed as grimly dysfunctional, repellant and built on a foundation of hatred, this Arab society stands head and shoulders above all, and deserves nothing but well deserved scorn.

As to those Arabs who stand in opposition to these disgusing values, well they are few and far between, and those who are truly interested in peaceful dialogue usually end up dead, murdered by their Arab brothers.

P.S. Once again, David and Zehava, Karen and I thank you for visiting the Singer house of shiva.

Posted by: Robert J. Avrech | Jun 28, 2006 11:12:23 PM

nrg... Fair enough, but let me put this in a different setting for you. It's 1944 and WWII is raging in Europe and the Pacific. A bunch of well-meaning American journalists and academics begin publishing essays about the horrible conditions under which the typical German and Japanese families are living. It stresses that they are apolitical people and just want an end to the constant bombardment. They want their husbands home from the front and from prison camps. They don't have enough to eat and their children are suffering the ravages of malnutrition. These articles outrage the American public and help humanize our enemy to the point that support for US involvement in the war starts to slip week by week. The Daily Allied death toll published in the media further demoralizes the population and each new article by this cadre of journalists and academics makes people people begin loudly asking what the Germans and the Japanese ever did to us to that we've forced them to start killing our sons, husbands and fathers. This grassroots up swell of hostility towards the war begins to reach the ears of the soldiers in the field through letters and new replacements arriving on the front. The soldiers start refusing to attack specific targets because they fear too many civilian losses will result. I could go on with this scenario but I hope you see that one doesn't have to call the shots to cause a war to be lost.

Doctor Bean... If only someone would listen to you. Today we really scared them We sent a couple of fighter jets to make loud noises over Syria and announced to the enemy that we are not punishing them for the kassams but rather that we are just going to be in Gaza long enough to find our missing soldier. That should shake things up, no?

Snoopy... I got that figure from the number of people who voted for parties that openly advocate the sentiments I am criticizing. And please see my reply to nrg if you need to understand treason. For a simpler explanation please google 'Hanoi Jane'.

Lisoosh... You never cease to surprise me. :-)

Tanya... Now, now. Just because you're one of the charter members of the round table doesn't give you the right to throw around labels (only I get to do that!). :-) Seriously. There are also responsible liberals and whackjob conservatives. The finger pointing is only appropriate in context.

Dave... Oh puleeze! I have to deal with her as a neighbor and cringe at her destructive 1960's era street theater. I wish she would take a lesson from the Arabs and hire a good team of lawyers to represent the settler interests. She's doing more harm than good at this point (IMHO).

Oceanguy... That's why they call it 'asymmetrical warfare'. It's like being the big kid in school. If a smaller kid takes a swing at you and you clean his clock, you're a bully. If you don't and he bloodies your nose... your a wimp. Personally I'm more comfortable withe the bully label than with a bloody nose. How about you?

Westbank mama... That's my point. The bloggers, journalers and journalists on OUR side are giving these 'good Palestinians' a voice and using their suffering to demoralize our government and our people from fighting the real bad guys.

Bob... I can't argue with anything you said except that you and I don't know nearly enough about Palestinian society to be able to say with any certainty whether they are bad or good. However, that is a moot point until they and their leadership are soundly defeated. It took such a defeat for us to find out that the German and Japanese monsters were actually mostly nice folks.

Scott... I have a news flash for you. All those alerts that the police and army get that help us intercept almost all the terrorists before they get to carry out their deeds? Those alerts come from Palestinians doing exactly what you suggest. And a lot of them get executed as collaborators for their efforts to help us.

Scott # 2... Thank you... and no, its all mine. I will admit that a History Channel piece on the Christmas truce influenced my thinking though.

Even... It only seems that way if you aren't reading all the words. The point you seem to have missed is that it doesn't matter that much of the populace might be good people who are suffering terribly. Their leaders have placed their society at war against ours so for anyone of us to demoralize our war effort by focusing on the 'good Palestinians' is not just counterproductive... it is treasonous.

Avishem... Thank you. SO explain to me why I still feel so conflicted.

Yeshara... anyone who tells you they know the identity of Amalek is selling you a bill of goods. I will go so far as to say many of Israel's enemies exhibit similar traits to our historical enemy... but one needs to be careful pointing a finger and saying "that's him, officer... I'd know him anywhere!". The Torah commands us to carry out absolute, unapologetic genocide of Amalek... every man woman and child (even their livestock). I think I'd want a higher court to review such an opinion before I started carrying out that sentence.

Irina... I think there is a psychology of large groups that we don't yet fully understand. I can't find any other reason why the Germans could carry out such unspeakable acts in full view (and with the active cooperation ) of most of their population... yet right after the war most of them mysteriously came to their senses and have been voluntarily wearing a mark of shame ever since.

Soferet... Thank you. I would love to hear about some of your work.

Robert... During world war two I would have said the same ting about the Germans... but see my reply to Irina to better understand where I am coming from now. And please don't thank me. I'm just sorry we had to meet your wife under such tragic circumstances.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 29, 2006 1:31:53 AM

Interesting view on this issue. Great post.

Posted by: social worker frustrated mom | Jun 29, 2006 3:16:09 AM

> They love to die even more than we want to live.

Aah, that's your the reason to kill them.

Pathetic.

Posted by: attempt | Jun 29, 2006 3:40:44 AM

David, I couldn't agree with you more. This dilemma is at the heart of the struggle between individuality/compassion and community/safety.

When a subsegment of a community is hellbent on a goal that is destructive to the greater community, the greater community must resolve the issue or fall into dissolution.

The tragedy is not a new one, but it is no less tragic.

Posted by: christopher | Jun 29, 2006 8:27:48 AM

Yep. May God grant them an especially nice corner of His Kinddom for eternity.

Posted by: Scott | Jun 29, 2006 9:30:29 AM

Very well written David. Both you and Jameel have expressed yourselves very well.

Posted by: pk | Jun 29, 2006 10:00:45 AM

*sniff... sniff...*

Hmmm... I think I smell a troll........

Posted by: wogo | Jun 29, 2006 11:02:42 AM

I sense something profound, in your writing. This is the first time I am overloaded, visiting your blog. Let me think about this for a while. It is more than I can handle upon the first reading ...

Posted by: Seattle | Jun 29, 2006 1:06:45 PM

Social Worker... Why thank you.

Attempt... I really hate anonymous troll comments so I've taken the liberty of submitting your IP address to all the major spam filters on the web. Happy surfing.

Christopher... there is nothing new under the sky.

Scott... Now that's the spirit. In that case don't take my post today too personally. :-)

PK... Well, that puts me in good company. Thanks.

Wogo... Luckily I passed this troll's IP address around. He should have a fun day before he figures it out.

Seattle... Nothing profound here. This is what happens when someone lives in Israel and watches too much of the History Channel. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 29, 2006 2:04:09 PM

Sure, I know some great liberals. Some of my favorite bloggers, in fact, are liberals. But if you're insisting that I care when they whine? Not gonna happen.

Posted by: Tanya | Jun 29, 2006 5:23:24 PM

Trepp -- I promise this is the last comment I'll make on this post, but I feel compelled to add a personal remark about your reply (i.e., "It took such a defeat for us to find out that the German and Japanese monsters were actually mostly nice folks"). In general I agree with you, but one should note that by such reasoning you run the risk of over-correcting and imputing "niceness" where none exists. It's simply foolish to call those who commit attrocities (or heartily approve of them) "nice" at the time they're committing the attrocities.

A couple of years ago I co-authored a technical paper with an Austrian colleague (named Martin). In the course of our correspondence I happened to mention that my father was the only member of my family who has ever seen Europe, and that only from the waistgun of a B24 during WW2. Martin shared that his mother's family home, near Salzburg, was destroyed by Allied bombing. I then explained that my father's crew could not have been the one that bombed their home since Dad flew "Carpetbagger" (OSS) missions that dropped only spies and supplies for the resistance (not bombs). Martin replied, "Oh, that wouldn't have kept the farmers from shoving a pitchfork through him if they'd gotten the chance."

So I guess my point is this: Even those "nice folks" (as you call them) of the Third Reich were quite prone to doing some not so "nice" things. And need I remind you that if my father had had the very bad fortune of being both a downed American aviator and Jewish, then impalement on a pitchfork would have been the "nicest" hospitality he could have expected from these "Arians" -- gleeful as these "nice" people were as they waved at boxcars full of their Jewish countrymen?

Still, your point is well taken. The "niceness" of the enemy is a non-issue during the conflict. Yet, I would further argue that the "nastiness" of your enemy should not be ignored, since it factors into how quickly order can be restored after the enemy has been defeated.

The comparatively "nice" people of vanquished Nazi Germany, whom you cite, had only been seeking to exterminate the Jewish people for a span of ten years. It took ten years of Allied occupation and Marshall Plan reconstruction to uncover these Germans' inner "niceness". Perhaps we should not expect to find such deep abiding "niceness" among those who have been warring with Judeo-Christian civilization since the seventh century.

Posted by: Bob | Jun 29, 2006 10:55:24 PM

There is a 'hero of the first order' forsaken in U.S. Prisons... If he were such a hero, the Israel government would be more active in getting him released.

(I linked my 'name' to Jonathan Pollard.org, but I have no affiliation with them)

Posted by: :) | Jun 30, 2006 2:21:16 AM

Late again. I really should just blogroll you already!

I re-read your post a number of times. And the one above.

The viewpoints I come across through daily interaction with Palestinians (which incidentally range from "I would like Israel to disappear tomorrow" to "Kumbaya") appear to me as diverse as they might in a room full of Israelis. Yet the few times I have recounted conversations in a blog post on a pertinent topic, I always get several angry comments about how my colleagues (by and large NGO folks) are misrepresentative of the "real" Palestinians who would sooner put a bullet in my neck.

As I said, plenty of "real" Palestinians have told me quite plainly and often they would rather I wasn't here, and they anticipate animminent retaking of their entire homeland from their "occupiers". And my experience certainly isn't unique: I would venture that few Israelis, even those who take some solace in reading moderate Palestinian journalists or bloggers, operate under the illusion that the tree-hugging movement is big in Palestinian circles. Yet still, with my eyes and ears wide open, as a left-winger I get accused of being blind, naive, anti-Zionist and stupid. (And that was just this week!)

I would offer that perhaps what typifies the "nearly half the Israeli population... MY PEOPLE.." that you despair of is not so much delusion, but rather hope, based on a proven belief in Palestinian humanity, not governance. And being as the wider public aren't responsible for decision making, there is no harm in being hopeful alongside realistic.

A last point: Unfortunately, holding on to the stereotypes of the other (whether it is "Leftists", "Arabs", "Settlers" etc) as opposed to breaking them will always sit more comfortably alongside people's innate insecurities, especially in such an insecure situation. There is much for the regional leaderships to gain in exploiting that factor for years to come. Yet I'm still going to let myself be hopeful that it won't always be that way.

Shabbat Shalom- hope it is a quiet one.

Posted by: PP | Jun 30, 2006 11:40:21 AM

> Yet still, with my eyes and ears wide open, as a
> left-winger I get accused of being blind, naive,
> anti-Zionist and stupid.

What is a left winger in a fascist state of beggars,
thieves and murderers?
A fascist who says "sorry"?

Pathetic as usual.

Posted by: attempt | Jun 30, 2006 9:51:20 PM

Israel - is not only a nation of beggars,
thieves and murderers, it's a genocidal
state:

The Gaza aquifer is already contaminated
with sea water and sewage, due to over-pum-
ping (partly by those now-abandoned Israeli
settlements) and the grossly inadequate
sewage system. To be drinkable, well water
is purified through machinery run by elec-
tricity. Otherwise, the brackish water must
at least be boiled before it can be consumed,
but this requires electricity or gas. And
people will soon have neither.
Drinking unpurified water means sickness,
even cholera. If cholera breaks out, it
will spread like wildfire in a population
so densely packed and lacking fuel or water
for sanitation. And the hospitals and clinics
aren't functioning, either, because there
is no electricity.

Posted by: attempt2 | Jun 30, 2006 11:26:03 PM

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