November 3, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.
Further thoughts on the Middle East conflict
I would like to add to James Novak's recent letter concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He makes some good points regarding the parallels to the current U.S. political environment that cannot be ignored. I offer these comments as a heritage Jew who supports Israel and has spent time there. At that time, Hezbollah was bombing the Golan Heights and I can attest that existing under these circumstances day in and day out is a harrowing existence neither the Jews nor Arabs want.
Politically, Israel operates under a parliamentary system, not a constitutional democracy. At the present time, there are 12 major political parties (two of these are subdivided) and an additional 44 political parties who did not meet the 1% threshold to gain a seat in the Knesset, (the Israeli parliament) in the most recent election. When the votes are split among so many parties, mathematically, it is possible to become the ruling party with only a very small percent of the votes cast, For example, the "majority" party could represent as little as 5% of the vote, with the remaining 95% split among the other 55 parties. The current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, operating out of the Trump playbook, is a member of the right-wing populist Likud party. He does not represent the will of the majority of Israeli citizens, he only represents the party that got the most votes in the last election, which was 26% (32 of the 120 seats in the Knesset). Don't assume every Jew agrees with Netanyahu's policies, because the vast majority (74%) do not, and want him gone, as do I. To the extent his Trump-like policies have fueled the current conflict, he has blood on his hands.
Some additional points:
First, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a result of the UN granting Israel a homeland after the Holocaust. It is much deeper than that – all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, and from this perspective, there is no solution because the conflict is biblically ordained.
Second, Hamas and Hezbollah operate at the cellular level and there is no centralized Palestinian government to negotiate a cease fire or a lasting peace with. These renegade terrorist cells do what they want to do independent of any central organizing structure, and like Netanyahu, who does not represent the majority of Israelis, they do not represent the majority of Palestinians.
Third, this a massive humanitarian crisis with deep suffering on both sides. This said, Hamas started it. Any nation that is attacked fights back and Israel has no choice other than to retaliate. Hamas knew this from the beginning and the result should not be surprising.
Fourth, antisemitism was already dramatically on the rise world-wide and there's no question that even though Israel was attacked, the Jews will be blamed for what has occurred. This is neither fair nor just, but for centuries the Jews have been the world's favorite scapegoat – and have suffered greatly as a result. My grandmother, a German Jew, passed through Ellis Island early in the last century and found American antisemitism so frightening, especially toward German Jews, she decided it would be safer to raise her daughter in denial of her Jewish heritage. At that time, hatred of Jews was worse in America than in Germany.
Despite this entrenched hatred, Jews continue to survive, which is our enduring strength, and a reality I imagine our enemies over the last several thousand years find very frustrating. Conventional wisdom suggests that by now the world would have given up this fight, but the world obviously prefers the conflict over peaceful coexistence.
Finally, I agree with former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's observation that there will be peace in the Middle East when the Arabs decide they love their children more than they hate the Jews. Until then, when necessary, we defend ourselves – again and again, for as long as it takes.
Paula vW. Dáil, PhD
Emerita Research Professor of
Social Welfare and Public Policy
Spring Green, WI