This response was sent to me privately, which I very much appreciate. It contains a lot of food for thought, for me, and might be of use to others as well. I do not know if he has read the book or not, but I do know he has been able to travel to the region, has relatives there, and is a fair-minded and kind person. So I take everything that he says very seriously.
---- private message follows, name withheld ----
found your blog review of the book about the West Bank and Gaza to be
well intended, but full of bias - it's not clear whether you intend the
bias or not.
encourage readers to gloss over the author's own background. You gloss
over the fact that his sister died in a suicide bombing. Your comment
about personal experience with Israelis was that your Israeli classmate
scared you because his personality was intense. Would you say "I had a
black classmate who scared me because he was intense?"
don't deny that intensity is a stereotypical Israeli character trait,
but I also think it's simplistic to characterize Israelis as intense. I
suppose the intensity comes from being surrounded by hostile and
desperate people in proportions of more than 100 to 1, who can't solve
their own problems and so they choose to direct their wrath and
frustrations at you. I think don't think I'd characterize Israelis as
scary in general.
you think the American press has a strong pro-Israel bias, you don't
listen to or read the same press that I do. If you are anti-Israel and
pro-Palestine, then it is possible that even a press that isn't
sufficiently pro-Palestine would show too much pro-Israel bias.
quote the author as saying that Gaza has turned into an "enormous
concentration camp." I see the author said that, and you can say that
it's his words not yours, but it is a very biased statement. It's
possible that you mean that a bunch of people live in an urban area, and
they don't have the freedom to travel everywhere they want. That's a
possible definition of concentration camp.
when you say concentration camp, anyone except a holocaust denier will
conjure up thoughts of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, where
millions of Jews and others were murdered.
is not like that at all. It's a 20 mile strip of land on the
Mediterranean coast, about 5 miles deep. Between 1967 and 2005, Jews
lived in Gaza (and many Arabs too), both long term residents and ones
who moved there during that period. In 2005, Israel forced all the Jews
(about 10,000) out of Gaza (against their will). Do you think Israel
did this so that they could turn Gaza into a concentration camp? Do you
think Israel did it with bad intentions?
This may seem pedantic, but let me discuss for a moment the difference between a concentration camp and Gaza.
Concentration camps had millions of people shipped to them in freight trains, and those people were murdered in ovens.
is a region on the Mediterranean shore, with luxury resorts and
shopping malls and beaches, and a community with a very wealthy
leadership with several billionaires and many millionaires who steal
money from the public coffers, and the people vote for Hamas to govern
them, and Hamas steals from them and shoots many thousands of rockets at
Israel and does other hostile acts against Israel, and also much
aggression toward residents of Gaza.
is not surrounded by Israel. It is bordered on the east by Israel but
Gaza also has a border of 5 miles or so with Egypt in the south, over
which Israel has zero control. Implying that Gaza is a concentration
camp because Israel has full control over Gaza's borders is just not
true. There were times when there was reasonably free flow of people
and goods between Jewish and Arab areas in Israel. It was only
restricted, to everyone's inconvenience, after many many lethal attacks
by Muslims against Jews.
agree that Gaza has poverty, but like in some American cities, there
are poor and rich areas. Camden is a poor area, but I assume you don't
have the same disdain for the middle class folks who live near there
that you have for the folks who live near Gaza. And Camden doesn't
shoot rockets at its neighbors.
Gaza has big problems. Yes, Israel makes it unpleasant for Gazans.
That is true because Gaza is very hostile toward Israel. Consider that
Israel is surrounded by Arabs and Muslims, Palestinian and otherwise,
and also that many Muslims live in Israel as normal citizens. The
standard of living for Muslims and Arabs in Israel is higher than almost
anywhere in the Arab world, unless you're a sheik. Israeli Arabs have
longer healthier lives, have more freedom to practice religion and live
as they please, and so on.
lastly that Israelis have plenty of reasons to want peace, because they
have a prosperous society. If Gaza and the Palestinians on the west
bank made peace with the Israel, they would be stuck having to focus on
their own enormous problems. They would be in a situation akin to the
other horrible ones in that area from now and from recent history.
Because of the corruption and the division, it would be like the
Lebanese civil war of the 80s, or the current brutal situations in
Syria, Iraq, or Egypt. Anyone who is familiar with that region on any
side knows this.
yes, it makes sense that you would read a book written by a liberal
Israeli and it would make you feel hopeful. That's because most
Israelis are liberal, and they aspire to peace (that is, to a resolution
of their conflicts with all their Arab/Muslim neighbors), probably
somewhat like you do. The problem is that most Palestinians don't
aspire to peace with Israel, not because they don't love peace, but for
the very good reason that peace with Israel it doesn't solve a real
problem for them. I get that Palestinians want Israel out of their
lives. But even if Israel didn't exist at all and Palestinians
controlled the whole land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, what do
you think would be happening now in that place?
you're optimistic, you could say, maybe it would be somewhat peaceful,
like Jordan. Not likely though. Jordan's population is majority
Palestinian, but its peace is maintained by their (imported benevolent)
Hashemite monarchy, which is more or less Saudi. When the Palestinian
people become free, they will be out of the frying pan and into the
fire. You might think I'm a bigot to say this, but it's pretty clearly
true, and I think most people, Jews, Muslims, and otherwise, accept
this. (And this is related to what Israeli leaders mean when they say
"we have no negotiating partner.)
understand from your notes that you don't intend to be biased, and that
you have good intentions. I would suggest that you travel to Israel
and to Palestine, and elsewhere around the Arab world, and see for
yourself. If you do that, I have a feeling your perspective would
change a fair amount.
(a friend whose name I am protecting)