Thursday, June 14, 2007

Aye-Yai-Yai-Less in Gaza

Of the 2,700 or so posts that I have written since Kiko’s House came kicking and screaming into the blogosphere, I count fewer than 10 on Israel, several of them on the sad decline and death of Ariel Sharon, a man whom I once loathed but came to admire, and only a couple on Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.

The chief reason for this is the utter intractability and predictability of the relationship between the two peoples, which has to be the ultimate current events film loop of my lifetime – which coincides almost exactly with the lifetime of the state of Israel.

The ability of the Israelis to do things nearly as self destructive and ultimately futile as the Palestinians is a never ending source of amazement to me, but the whole mess also quite frankly boring and I’ve felt like I have little or nothing to add to the cacophony . . . er, debate.
If that seems a little harsh, then screw you. But before you go away in a huff, let me tell you a story.

We’ll call it The Story of Three Davids.

In many respects, Shaun David Mullen is a mirror image of David No. 1 -- my grandfather, David Snellenberg.

Like me, he was as bald as a billiard ball, enjoyed an occasional cigar, questioned authority, enjoyed baseball, had a deep love of America and was a student of its history. He introduced David No. 2 as a young boy to journalism and as a result every one of the thousands of my bylines in newspapers from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Tokyo during a long career included my middle initial -- "D" as in David -- in his honor. (I've dropped that as a blogger because it seems, well, too officious for the medium.)
Granddaddy Snellenberg and I had something else in common: A deep ambivalence about David No. 3 -- that would be the Star of David, or the nation of Israel.

Granddaddy came by this view honestly. You'll have to judge for yourself whether I do.
He arrived in America a penniless German Jew at the turn of the 20th century. He mastered English and started a small clothing store, which grew into a largish department store. He lost everything in the Great Depression and then started another small clothing store.

But Granddaddy's life was all about giving back, not merely making a buck.

He had copies of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights printed at his own expense and would distribute them to civics classes at public high schools.

When the scale of the humanitarian crisis involving German Jews became known in the run-up to World War II, he led an effort to raise relief funds from the local Jewish, Protestant and Episcopalian communities and shook down some wealthy industrialist friends for donations, as well. (The Catholic Church wasn't feeling brotherly, but that's another story for another time.)

Granddaddy helped make arrangements to bring a Jewish teenager to the U.S. whose parents became victims of Hitler's Holocaust. The lad went on to graduate at the top of his class and became a renowned medical doctor.
But Granddaddy believed that Jews were citizens of the world who did not need their own state. I share that view.

He also anticipated that the creation of Israel would result in bloodshed and grief, although he went to his reward before the vicious cycle of wars began that continue to this day.
I am not suggesting that the war last summer between Israel and Hezbollah would not have occurred if Israel did not exist, nor the current troubles in Gaza. That's silly, and my ambivalence notwithstanding, I would give my life to defend Israel.

But I believe that the scale of Israel's response to its enemies is too often out of proportion, smacks of collective punishment and ultimately is counterproductive. Referring again to the Lebanon dust-up, just what was accomplished by blowing Beirut's airport to smithereens?

I am reminded of a sage observation made by Henry Seigman of the Council on Foreign Relations:
"Israel's political and military leaders remain addicted to the notion that whatever they have a right to do, they have a right to overdo."
I also believe that the Israel-Hezbollah conflict was widely mischaracterized as merely another round in the endless back-and-forth between Israel and its enemies. It wasn’t.

It was nothing less than a new chapter in the Global War on Terror. This can be seen in the muted response to Israel's actions by a surprising number of Arab governments that seem to understand that. What that they could be so understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I am sure that Granddaddy Snellenberg would agree.

Image by John Grantner

1 comment:

John Grantner said...

I don't mind that you used my painting, but I wish you would have asked first.

John Grantner