My Turn: What is it about Israel?


Published: 6/2/2021 2:34:32 PM

During the past few weeks, the world witnessed the latest fratricidal lunacy between Israel and Palestine which followed the same doleful but familiar themes. One group does something mean and stupid, in this case, Israeli settlers attempting to steal more Palestinian land. Hamas responds by shooting rockets into Israel which brutishly overreacts. Both sides play the victim card to the hilt and work hard to dehumanize the other while wrapped in the cloak of moral self-righteousness.

Thomas L. Friedman, whose classic “From Beirut to Jerusalem” is required reading for anyone who wants a clear understanding of this issue beyond the noise and nonsense, observed that “When it comes to discussing the Middle East, people go temporarily insane.” True enough. The barbaric medieval kingdom of Saudi Arabia also receives billions in American military aid which they have used to kill over 100,000 Yemenis. What have American “activists” said about this atrocity? Nothing.

They are also strangely quiet about the 4,000 rockets Hamas launched into Israel with the intent to kill Jews. Amnesty International has documented that they are launched from residential areas, a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. Hamas knows that firing rockets into Israel will result in a forceful retaliation that will kill hundreds of Gaza civilians but they obviously don’t care. Neither do the Israelis which is why both sides forfeited my sympathy years ago.

But while I am disgusted by Israel’s actions, as a Jew who knows its history, I am obliged to understand them. Israel might be the only nation that lives with the existential terror of being wiped off the face of the earth. It’s not abstract but a hidden fear that lies deep in the gut. Obviously, such a reaction is the result of extreme Holocaust PTSD, an affliction that affects societies as well as individuals. The Palestinians, with some justification, wonder why they have to pay for the crimes of the Nazis but ignore that at times, they and their Arab “brothers” have used the language and adopted the attitudes of the Third Reich. If you tell a people who were recently exterminated that you intend to drive them into the sea, don’t be surprised if they try to stomp you into the ground in order to prevent such an outcome. I have witnessed comments about Jews on social media from Palestinian sympathizers that could have been written by Joseph Goebbels. Currently, anti-Semitic attacks on American Jews and synagogues have skyrocketed. Again, activists say nothing.

The double-standard surrounding Israel has always had the whiff of hypocrisy. The most egregious is that Israel has no right to exist because it was founded by military conquest. That accusation applies to nearly every country around the globe including the United States. It is also inaccurate. Israel was founded by UN Resolution 181 in 1947 that divided what is now Israel and the occupied territories into a Jewish and a Palestinian state. Israel was then attacked by five Arab armies and outnumbered in the field 15-1. Contrary to common misinformation, the United States declared an arms embargo and gave no military aid to Israel. During the same time, Jordan’s King Abdullah decided to steal the West Bank for himself. The irony here is that there is no way Jordan (which fought a decisive war with the PLO in 1970) would have even considered an independent Palestinian state adjoining it.

Did the Israelis commit ethnic cleansing during the 1948 war? Yes, they did, but the 1,890,000 Arab Israeli citizens presently living in the country are proof that such actions were sporadic. Both sides committed atrocities. In the years following Israel’s founding, however, untold thousands of Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab countries where they had lived for centuries, if not millennia. The Israelis and the Palestinians are stuck with each other, two dysfunctional Middle Eastern tribes. The tragedy is that both are unwilling to understand the mindset of the other. To the Palestinians, the Israelis are foreign colonizers. To the Israelis, they are coming back to their ancestral homeland after 2,000 years of brutal exile. Both hold claim to this microscopic section of the globe.

In the end, Israel is a warning to all of us of how easy it is for the oppressed to become the oppressor, no matter how noble their intentions or how justified their grievances. And I believe that if the situation was reversed and it was the Jews being oppressed and brutalized by the Palestinians, how many of you would care?

Daniel A. Brown lived in Franklin County for forty-four years and is a frequent contributor to the Recorder. He lives in Taos, New Mexico with his wife, Lisa and dog, Cody. He invites constructive comments only at


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