Report from Israel: How This Came to Be (by My Brother)

 

This was written by my brother, who asked me to post. He is spending a lot of time with his family in their bomb shelter, rockets overhead.

I am deeply saddened by what is happening in my country. The war with Gaza is one thing. Sadly it occurs and reoccurs. It is simply a continuation of what has been before. The ethnic rioting is another thing altogether.

Israeli society is loosely held together. There are undercurrents of resentment and anger between lots of ethnicities. Knitting together a multi-ethnic society is hard. The Jews in Israel often have a hard time of it – with tensions across lines of religious and national origin.

One can watch and simply hope that they generally improve. I was delighted to see that an Arab party might be included in a right-wing or centrist government. I was delighted to see the Abraham Accords. These things heralded a new era – in which “the Arabs” and “the Jews” were not necessarily enemies.

Now, it is all falling apart. Yesterday, in cities with Arab and Jewish populations – cities that represented coexistence – there were anti-Jewish pogroms.

Today, there are anti-Arab pogroms as well.

Only a few weeks ago, the ethnic lines were cracking. A new light was just beginning to shine.

And I think that’s exactly why we have the situation we have now.

The current tensions, by my reading, were sparked not by Sheikh Jarrah or police on the Temple Mount. The tensions were sparked by the Palestinian elections. The PA is supposed to have elections every four years. The last parliamentary elections were in 2006. Fatah (the PLO party) and Hamas agreed to elections in May of this year.

Why does this matter? Because when March 31 arrived and official lists were needed, Marwan Barghouti’s wife and a few other breakaway members of Fatah formed a party separate from Fatah. The opinion polls showed Hamas would have 30% of the vote while Fatah would have 22%. The new party would have 28%. Fatah – Mahmoud Abbas’ party – realized they’d lose.

Fatah needed reasons to cancel the elections. They started with Jerusalem voting. On April 29 (less than two weeks ago), they used that lever to cancel the elections. But as Reuters put it “many Palestinians regarded the Jerusalem issue as an excuse to avoid elections that Fatah might well lose to its Islamist rivals Hamas, as it did in the last parliamentary ballot in 2006.”

The Jerusalem story didn’t fly. So it was time for another excuse. It was time for a little violence. After all, in a pinch, you can always blame Israel for your canceled election.

So tensions ramped up. We had people chanting “Bomb Bomb Tel Aviv!” on the Temple Mount. We had a drive-by shooting officially supported by Fatah (for the first time in years). We had a Border Police station attacked by three men.

Well, Hamas couldn’t be outdone in the violence game. That is, after all, the basis of their legitimacy. So on Jerusalem Day (often a needlessly provocative day of Jewish triumphalism) they saw Fatah’s few riots on the Temple Mount and raised them with rocket attacks on Jerusalem itself.

Israel, of course, had to retaliate.

All of this was entirely normal. It was just two Palestinian factions trying to kill Jews for internal political purposes.

But something wasn’t normal: The Abraham Accords. Egyptian planes coming to Tel Aviv with their actual flags flying. The religious Arab Ra’am Party perhaps joining a right-wing or centrist Israeli government.

What wasn’t normal was that, for the first time in Israel’s history, Arabs could see there was no need for ethnic conflict with Israel. There was another path opening. They could not only be a part of the government but use their political leverage to secure real benefits from their position. This would be akin to large numbers of African Americans being willing to vote Republican. The sudden need to court these once guaranteed Democratic voters would increase the power of African American voters to influence both parties.

This sort of ethnic shift – in which the sectarian lines between Arabs and Jews were fracturing – would be a death blow to both Fatah and Hamas.

Remember, one thing both sides agree on is that Jews can not be allowed to live on their territory. The ethnic conflict is critical to them.

So Fatah and Hamas fomented riots in mixed Arab-Jewish cities.

And this was not normal.

Synagogues and schools were burned and homes were attacked. Jews shot people coming to attack their neighborhoods – perhaps in self-defense. The Arab Ra’am party called on the rioters to stop. They said they had been misled by Islamic preachers. The Arab-Jewish Hadash party called for the rioters to stop. But the other purely ethnic Arab parties didn’t.

Riots spread to Lod, Acre, Jaffa, and Haifa. These weren’t protests, they were pogroms.

And all of a sudden, all those Jews who had wondered whether their Arab neighbors were secretly hoping to attack them had their worst fears confirmed.

A day later and there are anti-Arab riots. Jewish leaders across the spectrum – including those leaders of hard-right parties – have called for Jewish rioters to stop. But they haven’t. And so all those Arabs who had wondered whether their Jewish neighbors were secretly hoping to expel them have had their worst fears confirmed.

And now we have an ethnic conflict, fully rekindled, courtesy of the fears of Hamas and Fatah.

What can we do? How do you unmake an ethnic conflict? How do you take away from the kindling that sets it aflame? How do you dispel the distrust?

These mixed cities, places like Ramle and Lod, were troubled places. But they represented the possibility of a better future.

Now?

Now, they represent a nightmare.

Here’s what I hope will happen.

I hope Lapid, Bennet, and Ra’am’s Abbas form a government now. I think Ra’am needs a prominent position in that government and all parties need to strongly speak out in support of that government.

If the lowest levels are falling apart, then it is urgent for the highest levels to hold together.

This government should seek to cool tensions on both sides. How? Water down the nation-state law as an unnecessary distraction and provocation. Create an Arab-focused police force (populated with a higher-than-normal percentage of Arab officers). Expand housing permits for Druze and Arab towns.

We could even go so far as to create a special residency permit so vetted families from Gaza can temporarily live in the homes of Arab citizens of Israel.

What about Jewish fears? First and foremost, it must be the declared and primary mission of that Arab-focused police force to suppress violence within the sector. But more can be done. Jews in Israel have a very positive view of the UAE. Invite the UAE to send religious leaders to Israel to host high-profile meetings between Jewish and Arab civic leaders. But don’t stop there, use peace-minded leaders from both Arab and Jewish society (including the UAE) to meet with the hoodlums responsible for the violence. Televise those meetings.

Bring the bad actors to task while increasing understanding between the sectors of society.

Show a way past what has occurred.

And then? With the immediate tensions cooled it will be the work of a generation to pull the pieces back together.

In 2016, I wrote The City on the Heights, a book about unwinding the ethnic war in Syria and Iraq.

I wrote in the epilogue of that book:

The major fault lines of the society had cracked into thousands of smaller and overlapping lines. People had not assimilated with one another, but the definition of their groups had weakened. My father’s dream became reality. In time, the clear edges of conflict became fuzzy and the City grew further and further from the edges of war.

Please G-d, may we see such a reality both in Israel and throughout this region.

P.S. The book, which I feel is especially relevant right now, can be found here.

[This was written by my brother, who asked me to post while he sits in his bomb shelter with rockets overhead.]

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  1. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Please thank your brother for us.  This is very informative, and in a way encouraging, for some Americans–those whose sympathies are with the ordinary people, Jews and Arabs and others, who live in Israel, and ordinary Arabs in Gaza.

    I will pray for his safety.

    • #1
  2. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Just one little criticism:  I think  you should have put that this was written by your brother, at the START of the post, rather than the end.

    • #2
  3. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Just one little criticism: I think you should have put that this was written by your brother, at the START of the post, rather than the end.

    Fixed. Thanks!

    • #3
  4. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    iWe (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Just one little criticism: I think you should have put that this was written by your brother, at the START of the post, rather than the end.

    Fixed. Thanks!

    That works.  But actually I think the note about your brother writing this while rockets fly overhead, put at the start of the post, would be more effective and provide a stronger mood for all of it.

    • #4
  5. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    It’s interesting that civilization is cracking along so many faults, all at once. Something bigger than us is going on.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    God be with all people of good will.

    • #6
  7. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Prayers for your brother.

    He describes it well, from inside. Does he suspect this is being done to them?

    • #7
  8. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    kedavis (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Just one little criticism: I think you should have put that this was written by your brother, at the START of the post, rather than the end.

    Fixed. Thanks!

    That works. But actually I think the note about your brother writing this while rockets fly overhead, put at the start of the post, would be more effective and provide a stronger mood for all of it.

    Still shows up at end of post.  I really like what your brother wrote but it is confusing because I thought you wrote it and my reaction was puzzlement because I thought you were an American.

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    iWe (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Just one little criticism: I think you should have put that this was written by your brother, at the START of the post, rather than the end.

    Fixed. Thanks!

    That works. But actually I think the note about your brother writing this while rockets fly overhead, put at the start of the post, would be more effective and provide a stronger mood for all of it.

    Still shows up at end of post. I really like what your brother wrote but it is confusing because I thought you wrote it and my reaction was puzzlement because I thought you were an American.

    Yes, that’s another reason why I think putting the notation at the start, rather than the end – and/or in the post title – works best.

    • #9
  10. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    This is far more troubling than what is being reported. It’s like Yugoslavia. 

    • #10
  11. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Hang On (View Comment):

    This is far more troubling than what is being reported. It’s like Yugoslavia.

    I suspect the Yugoslav internecine war was engineered, and I’m even more inclined to think the Israeli situation is being manipulated. I wonder what sea change has occurred in the world, to make that possible. Think of sleepy Joe Biden and slimy Ron Klain. 

    • #11
  12. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    This is far more troubling than what is being reported. It’s like Yugoslavia.

    I suspect the Yugoslav internecine war was engineered, and I’m even more inclined to think the Israeli situation is being manipulated. I wonder what sea change has occurred in the world, to make that possible. Think of sleepy Joe Biden and slimy Ron Klain.

    I think the point of the post is that it is being manipulated but by Fatah and Hamas due to their political needs, not external forces.

    • #12
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    This is far more troubling than what is being reported. It’s like Yugoslavia.

    I suspect the Yugoslav internecine war was engineered, and I’m even more inclined to think the Israeli situation is being manipulated. I wonder what sea change has occurred in the world, to make that possible. Think of sleepy Joe Biden and slimy Ron Klain.

    I think the point of the post is that it is being manipulated but by Fatah and Hamas due to their political needs, not external forces.

    AND.

    The new Red-Green alliance controlling the Democrat Party, the party of the KKK, has its fingerprints all over this situation. The violence is backed by the current Resident of the White House, the effective Democrat leaders of Congress, and the Khomenist regime in Iran. The Obamas are smiling.

    The made-up state of Yugoslavia fell to blows internally because Tito had governed by playing all against all and making himself the guarantor of security for all against all. Divide and rule. Saddam Hussein had the same survival strategy, which would have been a more honest and realistic basis for arguing for his overthrow.

     

     

    • #13
  14. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    An excellent, informative, and dreadfully timely post. Thanks to iWe for bringing it to us. 

    • #14
  15. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    This is far more troubling than what is being reported. It’s like Yugoslavia.

    I suspect the Yugoslav internecine war was engineered, and I’m even more inclined to think the Israeli situation is being manipulated. I wonder what sea change has occurred in the world, to make that possible. Think of sleepy Joe Biden and slimy Ron Klain.

    I think the point of the post is that it is being manipulated but by Fatah and Hamas due to their political needs, not external forces.

    AND.

    The new Red-Green alliance controlling the Democrat Party, the party of the KKK, has its fingerprints all over this situation. The violence is backed by the current Resident of the White House, the effective Democrat leaders of Congress, and the Khomenist regime in Iran. The Obamas are smiling.

    The made-up state of Yugoslavia fell to blows internally because Tito had governed by playing all against all and making himself the guarantor of security for all against all. Divide and rule. Saddam Hussein had the same survival strategy, which would have been a more honest and realistic basis for arguing for his overthrow.

    Your point?

    Biden spoke with Netanyahu today:

    President Biden spoke today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.

    Pelosi has also condemned the attacks and supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

    ADDED: Biden also said today “Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.”  AOC has condemned him for his statements in support of Israel.

    • #15
  16. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    This is far more troubling than what is being reported. It’s like Yugoslavia.

    I suspect the Yugoslav internecine war was engineered, and I’m even more inclined to think the Israeli situation is being manipulated. I wonder what sea change has occurred in the world, to make that possible. Think of sleepy Joe Biden and slimy Ron Klain.

    I think the point of the post is that it is being manipulated but by Fatah and Hamas due to their political needs, not external forces.

    AND.

    The new Red-Green alliance controlling the Democrat Party, the party of the KKK, has its fingerprints all over this situation. The violence is backed by the current Resident of the White House, the effective Democrat leaders of Congress, and the Khomenist regime in Iran. The Obamas are smiling.

    The made-up state of Yugoslavia fell to blows internally because Tito had governed by playing all against all and making himself the guarantor of security for all against all. Divide and rule. Saddam Hussein had the same survival strategy, which would have been a more honest and realistic basis for arguing for his overthrow.

    Your point?

    Biden spoke with Netanyahu today:

    President Biden spoke today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.

    Pelosi has also condemned the attacks and supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

    Just more things that they condemned Trump for, and now do themselves.

     

    • #16
  17. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    iWe: How do you unmake an ethnic conflict? How do you take away from the kindling that sets it aflame? How do you dispel the distrust?

    I fear this is heading our way too. 

    We have got to figure this out. 

    • #17
  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    iWe: Arabs could see there was no need for ethnic conflict with Israel. There was another path opening. They could not only be a part of the government but use their political leverage to secure real benefits from their position. This would be akin to large numbers of African Americans being willing to vote Republican.

    No, it wouldn’t. I generally agree and appreciate this post. But Israel was established as a haven for Jews after centuries of persecution. Neither America nor the Republican party was  established to defend whites or anyone from blacks. These are two very different scenarios.

    Ideally, yes, various peoples should be able to share life anywhere. But Israel is not just anywhere. It’s not just another country. It was foolish to pursue a multicultural political order which contradicts the country’s purpose to preserve Jewish lives and heritage… more foolish than it was for Sweden to suddenly import so many people who don’t respect Swedish culture, or like so many other Western countries today.

    Israel tried to “immanentize the eschaton”, as William F Buckley put it; to build a heaven on earth without respect for the immutably fallen nature of humanity. Politics and economics cannot realize such a peace. Real societies depend on common values.

    Anyway, that ship has sailed. Israel is no longer a Jewish fortress. It’s the Temple Mount writ large. Lord, have mercy.

    • #18
  19. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Fascinating, and utterly unlikely to inform coverage here in the States. The coverage here usually goes like this:

    “Clashes on Holy site” Everyone shrugs, par for the course. Either subsides or does not. If it continues:

    “Six Palestinians killed in clashes with IDF.” If you read the story, it’s often a thwarted terrorist attack, but the fact that Palestinians were killed and no Jews died adds to the general sense of imbalance and non-reciprocal responses, especially when you factor in . . . 

    “Resettlement in Israel-occupied territory stokes fears of more unrest.” No context; reinforces idea that Jews – I’m sorry, Zionists – I’m sorry, Israelites are continuing to whittle away the Arab-settled land of Palestine, which was, like the country that was there before 1947? 

    Then there’s a hundred missiles. Eh. Happens. Iron Dome, no biggie. Then there’s the response:

    “IDF forces pound Gaza as Hamas vows revenge; apartment building destroyed.”

    What most people see, because it’s the biggest headline, is “IDF moves to occupy Gaza.” Huffing condemnation follows: more Jewish – I’m sorry, Zionist – I’m sorry, Israelite aggression. 

    It’s the insistence on “proportional” retaliation that seems odd. Proportional retaliation would be sending 250 cheap unguided missiles into populated areas. Apparently that is the moral thing to do.

    • #19
  20. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Grace under pressure – your brother shows this quality. 

    • #20
  21. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I read the following stories this morning, May 13th, on Fox which included that Israel is preparing for a ground war, and the leader of Turkey tells the leader of Russia that Israel needs to be taught a lesson:

    https://www.foxnews.com/world/israel-placing-troops-along-border-with-gaza

    https://www.foxnews.com/world/erdogan-tells-putin-israel-should-be-taught-a-deterrent-lesson-over-its-conduct-toward-palestinians

    As a Christian, and looking at it from the outside in with spiritual eyes, this is beyond disturbing. Along with those within our own government including those morons called ‘the squad’, and the impotent Biden administration giving alms to Iran who is fueling this, I fear this is the beginning of what the Bible describes as “when you see armies surrounding Israel on all sides”, the final battle will commence – and to look up for our Lord’s return is near.

    God will not allow Israel to be destroyed – this is a fact, a promise, and a Covenant from God to the Jews. Politics, appeasement, or new ‘Accords’ won’t solve it.  The Europeans are watching the Americans – they have made known their positions thru the UN.  The Bible says Israel will be (seemingly) alone in this event.  But she is not alone says God.  Prayer and standing firm – do not fear.  That is where we are, not only Israel, but in the Christian world, which is also under vehement attack.  God bless Israel today and every day.

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    As events progress, it causes me to wonder how people will react in this country. In these times, and especially when (not if) Israel is victorious in spite of great losses, will the anti-Israel rhetoric include anti-Semitic judgments, especially by lawmakers? Will any of their colleagues care this time? We should watch closely to see how emotions ramp up and are displayed.

    • #22
  23. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    iWe:

    I hope Lapid, Bennet, and Ra’am’s Abbas form a government now. I think Ra’am needs a prominent position in that government and all parties need to strongly speak out in support of that government.

    Didn’t talks with Ra’am stop because of the violence? Ra’am may find it untenable to be in a Govt that is willing to bomb Gaza – this situation puts that into focus. This may help Netanyahu by blocking the others.

    This government should seek to cool tensions on both sides. How? Water down the nation-state law as an unnecessary distraction and provocation.

    Wasn’t it electorally popular? How would the base react to it being watered down?

    Create an Arab-focused police force (populated with a higher-than-normal percentage of Arab officers). Expand housing permits for Druze and Arab towns.

    But this ignores the purpose of those permits being so limited in the first place.

    Your heart is in the right place, iWe’s brother, but the polity is not congruent.

    • #23
  24. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark
    @CharlesMark

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Fascinating, and utterly unlikely to inform coverage here in the States. The coverage here usually goes like this:

    “Clashes on Holy site” Everyone shrugs, par for the course. Either subsides or does not. If it continues:

    “Six Palestinians killed in clashes with IDF.” If you read the story, it’s often a thwarted terrorist attack, but the fact that Palestinians were killed and no Jews died adds to the general sense of imbalance and non-reciprocal responses, especially when you factor in . . .

    “Resettlement in Israel-occupied territory stokes fears of more unrest.” No context; reinforces idea that Jews – I’m sorry, Zionists – I’m sorry, Israelites are continuing to whittle away the Arab-settled land of Palestine, which was, like the country that was there before 1947?

    Then there’s a hundred missiles. Eh. Happens. Iron Dome, no biggie. Then there’s the response:

    “IDF forces pound Gaza as Hamas vows revenge; apartment building destroyed.”

    What most people see, because it’s the biggest headline, is “IDF moves to occupy Gaza.” Huffing condemnation follows: more Jewish – I’m sorry, Zionist – I’m sorry, Israelite aggression.

    It’s the insistence on “proportional” retaliation that seems odd. Proportional retaliation would be sending 250 cheap unguided missiles into populated areas. Apparently that is the moral thing to do.

    That word “proportional” in relation to military action is only deployed when Israel is defending its territory and people. Meanwhile Russia, Iran, Turkey and others can bomb away to their hearts’ content without generating comparative  body-counts. 

    • #24
  25. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark
    @CharlesMark

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    As events progress, it causes me to wonder how people will react in this country. In these times, and especially when (not if) Israel is victorious in spite of great losses, will the anti-Israel rhetoric include anti-Semitic judgments, especially by lawmakers? Will any of their colleagues care this time? We should watch closely to see how emotions ramp up and are displayed.

    You should check out Irish reaction. Israel regards us as the most hostile State in Europe, topping even Norway! As against that, some heroic people are making the case for Israel, including that the Israeli ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting on Tuesday. 

    • #25