The View from the Hudson
21 Settembre Set 2011 0207 21 settembre 2011

Letters on the Eve of Madness?

This weekend I had an unusual exchange that I will share here.

There is a woman on our little villages email list for Democrats who send out pro-Palestinian information from time to time. I asked her for some clarification about her motives and …

I really wasn’t thinking of posting this, but since she forwarded my private email to the group, I don’t feel that I’m going over any ethical boundaries.

The reason I asked the original question is because I have always been amazed at how much interest a tiny country thousands of miles from Europe and even further from America gets. As I say in my email, there are conflicts all over the world. Why are people not protesting in Union Square about Kudistan’s independence and the treatment of Kurds by … well, by anyone who is anywhere near them? What about Kasmir? Tibet? A thousand other places?

Of course, the answer in many, many cases is simply anti-Semitism.

As I’ve said, I certainly do not equate pro-Palestinianism and/or anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. For instance, I absolutely do not think someone like Vanessa Redgrave is an anti-Semite, even though I’m sure she probably would like Israel to disappear. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t hold Jews around the world in the highest regard. She is smart enough to hold both thoughts in her head. I may not be anywhere near as smart as Ms. Redgrave, but I can too.

The woman I was corresponding with below convinced me that she falls into the “Redgrave” category ... a good person who has happened to adopt this particular cause. Obviously, I disagree with her on several key points, especially the constructiveness of the the U.N. moves by the Palestinians, but I respect her, and I found the correspondence interesting.

In that spirit, I post the correspondence here in chronological order, with edits for brevity and pertinence, but with some personal information (beside mine) obscured.

I am so ashamed . . .
Saturday, September 17, 2011 10:13 AM
From:
"Xxx Xxxxx" <xxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com>
View contact details
To:
xxxxxxxx@cs.com
. . .of what my government is about to do at the U.N. next week. And the problem is made more hopeless by the fact that many Americans - except the American zionists and their organizations - are rather disinterested. If it were not for the French and the Brits, we probably would be ignoring North Africa as well, as our oil does not come from there.

The Obama administration has been a big disappointment, although he may be saved for another term by the stupidity of the Republicans and their sick socio-economic agenda.

Hoping that this finds you and yours well,
Xxx

[Here the correspondent, from The Netherlands responds, comparing the situation in the disputed territories "Nazi Germany anno 1939." RBM]

From: Xxx Xxxxx <xxxxxxx@yahoo.com>
To: [Huge list]
Subject: [CrotonDems] Fw: Re: I am so ashamed . . .

Dear friends,

Yesterday morning, because I have been feeling a sense of shame when my government takes international positions that are totally inconsistent with our professed American principles, I sent a rather sloppy e-mail to my Dutch friend, Xxxxx xxx xxx Xxxx, who is currently on assignment as an advisor in economic statistics to the Palestinian government in Ramallah (on the West Bank).

I should have been less sloppy, because I might have realized that he was going to send me a reply that I would want to share with you.

It begins with a brief glimpse of the quiet joy expressed by ordinary Palestinians on the ground in Ramallah, in anticipation of forthcoming events at the U.N. this coming week.

I have copied my original, sloppy, e-mail below his reply, for your information.

Best regards to all,
Xxx

*******************************************

--- On Sun, 9/18/11, Ron Marans <ron_marans@yahoo.com> wrote:
From: Ron Marans <ron_marans@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [CrotonDems] Fw: Re: I am so ashamed . . .
To: "xxxxxxx@yahoo.com" <xxxxxxx@yahoo.com>
Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 1:57 PM

Hi Xxx,
These emails and their perspectives are interesting, but I'm curious why you are so interested in this very small piece of disputed territory so far away from here? Are there not many spots in the world where territory is disputed?
Respectfully,
Ron

[Here my pen-pal cc's my direct email to her to the larger group. Not a criticizm, just pointing out where we are in the progression. RBM]

From: Xxx Xxxxxx <xxxxxxxx@yahoo.com

To: Ron Marans <ron_marans@yahoo.com>

Cc: CrotonDems@yahoogroups.com

Sent: Sunday, September 18, 2011 5:59 PM
Subject: Re: [CrotonDems] Fw: Re: I am so ashamed . . .

Good question, Ron Marans, and I will try to give you a short explanation.

Like most Americans, I thought that Palestinians were folks who just lived in refugee camps and waited for their food in their tin cups, etc.

Then the U.N. sent me to Xxxxxx, Xxxxx [A European captial -- RBM] in 19XX and, over a period of 4 1/4 years of employment there, I discovered that Palestinians are people with national aspirations, hopes for a normal existence as farmers, educators, professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, etc. I recall many of the incidents of my discovery, and would gladly tell you, but I don't think you want that much information.

When I returned to the U.S. (and U.N. Headquarters) in 19XX, and renewed my subscription to the New York Times, I was surprised by the way the Palestinians and Israeli/Palestinian issues were presented in my favorite newspaper. And - where Middle Eastern news was concerned - I got to a point where I could no longer figure out whether the NYT was reliabily reporting on events or was presenting a version of events that they wanted me to accept as the news. Then I discovered the Financial Times, which I found to be much more reliable for international news, and I switched. Also, in Xxxxx I relied heavily on the BBC for news, and this also affected my outlook on world events.

So, it was a slow learning process. And I am well aware that, as you say, there are lots of places in the world where territory is disputed. But that does not justify walking away. And I am sure you would agree that the so-called "Palestinian problem" is unique because of the many and powerful vested interests involved.

Since you have taken the trouble to share your views, I will add that in recent days, when the U.S. agreed to recognize Libya's Transitional National Committee (hope I have the name right) for the Libyan seat in the U.N.'s General Assembly, I was very surprised, because in this case there has not even been an election among the citizens of Libya. Different rules for different folks, I guess.

I think the bottom line for me is that we Americans have to stay awake. And that is why I reach out and share my views with friends once in a while.

Thanks for reading. I don't think that you and I have ever met, so I especially appreciate hearing from you.

Best regards,

Xxx Xxxx

*************************

Subject: Re: [CrotonDems] Fw: Re: I am so ashamed . . .

From: Ron Marans (ron_marans@yahoo.com)
To: xxxxxxx@yahoo.com;
Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011 9:04 PM

That makes a lot of sense. Your personal experience with the matter is compelling (not that it is my place to stand in judgment of anyone). I truly appreciate the informative and nuanced response.

You make a good point that, though there are many conflicts in the world, that is not a reason for you to avoid doing what you feel is the right path for peace. There is a famous quote from a Talmudic master that I will mangle in paraphrasing ... the gist is, "It is not incumbent upon us to fix the entire world, but it not allowable for us to turn a blind eye either."

I am certainly no expert on this matter, but I have been to Israel a few times (including visits brief visits to the disputed territories, though that long ago. I certainly agree that the vast majority of Americans do not have an accurate view of this conflict and the parties involved.

I think it would be hard to argue [with -- added for clarity RBM] the point that that the Palestinians are a distinct but people, and that is generally recognized by the international community that peoples deserve a homeland. Though there is room for people of good faith to disagree about the path toward that.

I also wish that their diversity could be understood more globally. Professor Edward Said is missed, for instance; he helped many in this country understand that Palestinians weren't just, as you say, those with "tin cups."

It's also seems to be generally recognized internationally that a two-state solution is the best one, but those on all sides are frustrated that the efforts to make that happen have been stalled for some many years.

I'm sure you can understand the reason for the sensitivity behind my original question. It's a big world out there and this conflict does get much more than its share of attention (though, I agree with you that all this attention has not necessarily added greatly to greater understanding of the issues and the peoples involved, especially in this country.)

Though I personally don't believe that the actions set to take place in the next week or so will move the situation toward peace, if they do take place, I hope that I'm wrong. My hope had long been for the countries from which Israel had won the disputed territories from, Jordan and Egypt, would be more constructively involved in the process. Now, with the current climate. I fear that may not happen.

I want to thank you for this exchange, and for taking my questions and thought in good faith, as they are intended.

Peace/Salaam/Shalom (in no particular order),

Ron

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