President Bush – My House Is Not An Obstacle To Peace

Dear President Bush,

There are many reasons why there is no peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but my house is not one of them.

In order to prove this I don’t need to give you a history lesson, although that would be beneficial for background information. I don’t need to give you a lesson in the Bible, although that too would add to your understanding.

All I have to do is point out a few articles in the news from the last few days.

This article (surprisingly enough in the New York Times) portrays the pain and fear felt by the residents of Sderot, a small city in the south of Israel, where over 2,000 kassam rockets have fallen in the past four years (most after August 2005). These rockets have been fired from various places in the Gaza Strip, AFTER all of the Jews who had lived there were forcibly removed by the Israeli government. There were those who claimed that the cause of the constant wars in our area were just these Jews, and their audacity to live in “disputed territory”. So Arik Sharon, despite our protests and warnings, did what some claimed would bring peace. He forced the Jews from their homes.

Well now we know that this claim was false. After the Jews were removed the rockets just continued – and this time they were fired from closer range.

The problem (and the proof) isn’t just in the south – the north suffers too. Katyusha rockets were fired Monday night at Israel from Lebanon, a unwelcome reminder of the last war.

The real “obstacles to peace” President Bush, are, simply put, the people making war – not the ones building homes and communities.

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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tnspr569
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 01:51:05

    Right on the mark.

  2. ted
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 16:19:38

    hi

    Just wanna say that (while only speaking for myself) if it were not for the continued expansion of israeli settlements into the west bank, I would be a passionate and committed israeli supporter. Israel now has the moral high ground in gaza, it does not in the west bank. im sorry but i do consider your house to be an obstacles to peace, and so does just about everybody on the planet who observes the arab israeli conflict.

    Sorry (love your blog though)
    Ted from Ireland

  3. westbankmama
    Jan 10, 2008 @ 17:45:00

    tnspr569 – thank you

    ted – With all due respect, the only time Israel enjoys the status of the “moral high ground”, as you call it, is when Jews living here are being killed. Frankly, I’d rather be vilified by the whole world and do what needs to be done to keep the Jewish people safe. My home, standing on a high point in the mountains overlooking the coast of Tel-Aviv, is doing just that. If I lived in an area where reason and compromise were respected by all sides, then territorial compromise might be the answer. Unfortunately, I live in an area where my very existence is unacceptable to the other side.

    You can’t compromise with people who want to kill you – you have to protect yourself and prove to them that they won’t win. My building my house where I did is doing just that.

  4. Batya
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 04:43:43

    Excellent post!!

  5. RR
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 12:28:01

    Amen!! You are 100% correct!

  6. Yehudi
    Jan 11, 2008 @ 20:13:07

    WBM, the link to my site in your blogroll doesn’t work! Thank you for putting me in there!

  7. Jenifer
    Jan 12, 2008 @ 22:19:18

    I’ve just been reading through the book in my Bible called Genesis (sorry, I don’t know the Hebrew word), but it’s pretty clear that you are living on the land your ancestors were given by G-d. He does not change His mind; it is Jewish land. Stand firm.

    I don’t understand what is going on with President Bush. Honestly, it really saddens me that he who once claimed to be a proponent of Israel, now is waffling. It’s not the direction I want my country to be going.

  8. Yehudi
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 00:37:06

    Jennifer, thank you for being our friend. May God bless you and your family, and by the way…the word for Genesis is ‘Beresheit.’
    L’Shalom,
    Yehudi

  9. aliyah06
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 18:09:28

    Great post! I’d like to let Ted know that our home being built in Har Homa is not an obstacle to peace either….Ted, Palestinian polemic describes Tel Aviv as a ‘settlement’ so the Palestinian definition of a ‘settlement’ is any place Jews live. Please take the time to read more of the history of this region. You might want to know that Har Homa was mostly Jewish-owned land prior to the Jordanian/Iraqi invasion of 1948, as were Kfar Etzion, Atarot and other places now demonized as ‘settlements.’

    If you want to encourage peace, then ask the Palestinians to quit firing rockets at us, quit sending suicide bombers to our borders, and quit teaching their children hatred and glorification of mass murder. No Jewish textbook in Israel calls for the genocide of the Arabs, yet the Arab textbooks glorify Jewish genocide.

    Rockets kill. Suicide bombers kill. New houses for young families don’t kill anyone, and don’t displace anyone from the empty land they are built upon. If the Palestinians want peace, they need to teach peace, stop terror and quit whining about our housing developments.

  10. westbankmama
    Jan 22, 2008 @ 08:32:48

    aliyah06 – great comment. I have a feeling Ted doesn’t really live in Ireland, and doesn’t really want to hear logical arguments. Chances are he is a leftwinger living right here in Israel.

  11. ted
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 12:52:22

    Hello again,

    Some very interesting points have been made. All I can do here is speak from my own experiences. In northern Ireland(oh, and I am Irish by the way)peace was only achieved when both sides eventually began to re-evaluate some of their core beliefs. many protestant extreamist whose true objective was the expulsion of all catholics to the south had to be confronted and isolated by their own camp. likewise catholics that longed for a united ireland by whatever means (and if the prods didnt like it, they could go back to the uk) had to be reigned in.

    The same is true for the middle east. Peace will only be achieved when the Palestinians and the wider Arab world look within themselves and truely abandon the idea that they might one day be able to deliver a final knock out blow to Israel. They must except Israel, not just on paper but in their hearts. This will be done when as “aliyah 06” says, they “quit teaching their children hatred and glorification of mass murder”,and when they acurately educate their young about the holocaust instead of denying it.

    And peace will be achieved when Right wing Israelis abaondon the idea of a greater Israel, a concept clearly popular among many settlers. While “No Jewish textbook in Israel calls for the genocide of the Arabs”, how often have i heard, “there is no such thing as a palestinian, Palestinians were never a people, the palestinains have a state,its called Jordan”.

    I don’t deny their are arabs who will never except Israel and will always consider Tel Aviv to be a settlement. I dont have much to say about them except to wish the IDF good hunting.
    As for the settlements, im sorry westbankmama but i just dont understand how your home “standing on a high point in the mountains overlooking the coast of Tel-Aviv” or aliyah06’s home in Har Homa is helping to “keep Jews safe”. you will have to convince me, and it will have to be better that Jennifers explanation that God “does not change his mind”

    P.S. westbankmama, please clarify, you live in a west baank settlement yet are overlooking the coast of Tel Aviv, I didn’t think that was possible.

    Slan, sabhailte agus Go ndeiri an tadh libh (Irish for peace and good luck)

    Ted

  12. aliyah06
    Jan 26, 2008 @ 18:44:06

    Israel is a very skinny country—it’s very possible to live on the West Bank (which is hilly) and overlook Tel Aviv. There are a number of Jewish “settlements” on the sites of former Jordanian Army artillery sites and military bases, from which the Arabs would fire down into Tel Aviv, Petach Tikva, Ben Gurion airport, etc. One reason that so many of us are unwilling to simply hand back all the land on the other side of the armistice line is that much of that land was the ‘high ground’ used to launch weapons fire at our civilians below. That’s why UN resolution 242 calls for negotiated borders, not a simple retreat to the ’48 cease-fire lines.

    Two things I would note: first, there has been a change in thinking in Israel already. 30 years ago few believed in a two-state solution, many (including Palestinians, oddly enough) thought there was no such thing as a “Palestinian people” yet today the polls show a sea-change in Israeli opinion. The majority of Israelis think the solution is two states for two peoples, Jewish and Palestinian. The “Greater Israel” movement is still there, but has been marginalized by the mainstream. What HAS NOT CHANGED is the Palestinian narrative — the calls for jihad, the PLO Charter which calls for all Jews to be expelled from “Greater Palestine,” the dehumanization of Jews in the Palestinian media, their texts, their sermons, the sanctification of that mass murder exercise known as suicide-bombing, the firing of missiles into Israel proper.

    We’ve changed, and we’re prepared to meet them in negotiations. However, many of us believe from their words, their actions, their publications in Arabic, that the Palestinians have NOT changed since 1922–they want it all and are prepared to murder us to get it.

    Second, I have an Irish grandparent, and grew up hearing Irish ballads and history. I would say that first, I’m happy for the cessation of The Troubles after all these centuries. BUT, one cannot compare Ireland and Palestine/Israel. The Irish on both sides shared a common language and history, even when at odds with each other…Celtic/English, Catholic/Protestant, you lived together as neighbors for centuries. Gaelic was suppressed, so you shared a common language. Laws were prejudicial but you were subject to the same courts. You were, in reality, one people with two separate goals — the establishment of Irish Catholic sovereignty over ancestral land, “Home Rule” on the one hand, and the maintenance of the Anglo-Protestant supremacy on the other. Both sides shared a common European humanistic inheritance from the Enlightenment and Renaissance–no such Enlightenment is at work here in the Middle East. On the contrary, the forces of irredentism and religious extremism are ascendent in the Arab world. We don’t speak each other’s languages, and what ‘fairness’ we try to exhibit is interpreted as ‘weakness’ by a culture that is far from humanistic. Throughout the Arab Moslem world, the idea of a resident minority group, be it Jews, Copts, Kurds or Assyrians (Christians of Iraq) seeking “Home Rule” or self-determination in a national homeland of their own, is anathema and the trigger for Holy War.

    The “settlements” were so unimportant until their propaganda value was discovered, that they were barely addressed in the failed Oslo accords. Today, the ‘settlements’ are a favorite grievance trotted out to the unwitting public and the pandering press to justify everything from suicide bombings to Kassam fire.

    We build houses. They try to kill us. I’m not so eager to receive a piece of paper that says “Peace treaty” on it, that I’m ready to commit national suicide and give the Palestinians back all the ‘high ground’ they’re demanding—especially in light of our evacuation of Gaza and the “peace dividend” we’re reaping there–unceasing rocket fire.

    There is a price for losing a war you start. The Germans in recent history have paid it. For some bizarre reason, the Europeans seem to think that the Arabs needn’t pay the price for their ceaseless wars against Israel. The price of losing is that you lose real estate. Alsace-Lorraine is now French since WWI; Prussia is now Poland, since WWII. History abounds with other examples.

    No sensible, responsible state gives up the territory bought in its citizens’ blood for vague promises of peace. We hold the high ground, and we will continue to hold the high ground–and we MAY give back the non-strategic land in the future when there is an iron-clad guarantee that such land will not be the launch point of more Kassams or Katyushas. So far, none of us believe the Palestinians.

    We’ll sort it out with G-d’s help, in time. Come visit us here–see the ground for yourself. If you want to correspond with me, I’m at msjwilliams@gmail.com, and thus I won’t need to take up bandwidth on WBM’b blog here if you want to chat with me. Until then, be well, and Beannacht Dé leat!

  13. ted
    Feb 01, 2008 @ 15:10:43

    aliyah 06

    Thank you very much indeed for the geographical clarification.
    I will keep this short out of respect for WBM’s blog. I will be in contact with you personally via e-mail shortly in order to continue this excellent discussion in more detail.

    It is my intention to pay my second visit to israel this summer (my first being in March 05 to see Ireland V Israel in a soccer world cup qualification match). I would very much like to visit a west bank settlement. My previous trip was too short, three days in Tel Aviv where I partied until the point of exhaustion followed by three days in Jerusalem where the sheer abundance of history and politics (my personal passion)almost overloaded me. I know there is so much more to see and do so I really can’t wait to return.

    Regarding the above discussion I will confine my response for now to the comparisons (or lack of) that we have made between Ireland and Israel/Palestine. I believe there are lessons to be learned from Northern Ireland. There was a time when the conflict in the north of my country was percieved as being equally as intractable as that in the Holy land, as were the wars in the Balkans and South Africa. I agree that the differences are wider and the obstacles to overcome may be greater but the level of hate and hopelessness was similar. And also, in the north of Ireland, the ultimate objective of the peace process was to make it possible for protestants and catholics to live together peacefully within the one community. This has proved to be a long and tortuos process that will not have to be undertaken in Israel/Palestine (so long as the palestinians realise, as most have, that the right of return is unrealistic). In the Middle East the obstacles are between two peoples living seperately so many of the religious and cultural differences that you described will not I believe prove to be long term barriers to peace. Post aparteid South Africa has had to struggle to administer vastly different peoples under the one juristicion. Post agreement Israel Palestine will be spared this pain staking effort.

    My ultimate point in conclusion is this, for you and for everybody reading this blog, Never lose hope. NEVER EVER EVER resign yourself to thinking that the conflict is permanent. It is NOT inevitable that your children and grand children will be fighting Arabs. There are many examples all over the world of people that have overcome seemingly insurmountable problems and achievd a lasting and just settlement. Israel/Palestine should be no different.

    Shalom agus Beannacht

    Ted

  14. westbankmama
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 17:38:41

    WestBank *Papa* here –

    Ted, I regularly host groups visiting Israel – and would love to show you our village, and the glorious view we have of downtown Tel-Aviv. Along the 1949 line (the “green line” everyone talks about) Israel is just 10-12 miles wide in its breadbasket – the most densely populated corridor between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Five minutes with Google maps will confirm this.

    Regarding the comparisons between Israel and Northern Ireland – I recall that at some point, Catholic civilians were so fed up with the Mafia-style corruption and infighting of the IRA, that they publicly denounced the violence (if I remember correctly, the “not in our names” movement was spearheaded by some brave, bereaved mothers).

    Nothing of this sort has happened on the Arab side – young suicide jihadis are lauded and praised in Palestinian society. In contrast – as Aliyah06 has pointed out – Israel society has undergone great changes, and taken great risks to pursue peace.

    We’ve been answered with a bloodbath.

  15. aliyah06
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 18:54:37

    Thanks for the offer of hope, Ted–I was resigning myself to no-peace-in-my-lifetime. I won’t give up, but I have to be realistic, too, and recognize that its going to be a very long process–and that in fact, it may not come in my lifetime.

    But if you’re going to be in Jerusalem this summer, write me and give me your details–I’ll be here. No travel plans so far. I’d be happy to show you around Jerusalem, and WBP can show you his village (hey, can I come? I’ve never been there, either!). Seeing the geography makes a huge difference.

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