The characteristic of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. Thus if you had been trying to damn your man by the Romantic method…you would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes’ genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole stratagem.C.S. Lewis Screwtape 13
General Calvet: I have soup with every meal because I remember when I had no soupSharpe’s Siege 1996
There was a fascinating piece in the NYT about a movie called Born in Jerusalem and Still alive and how the perspective given in that film reflects the politics of Israel today.
The opening scene of “Born in Jerusalem and Still Alive,” which just won the prize for best first feature at the Jerusalem Film Festival, catches the main character grimacing as he overhears a glib tour guide. When she describes downtown Jerusalem to her group as “beautiful,” the “center of night life and food for the young generation,” Ronen, an earnest man in his late 30s, interrupts.
“Don’t believe her,” he tells the tourists in Hebrew-accented English. “You see this market? Fifteen years ago it was a war zone. Next to my high school there was a terror attack. Next to the university there was a terror attack. First time I made sex — terror attack.” One of the tourists sidles over, interested. “Yes,” Ronen tells her, “we had to stop.”
No single episode has shaped Israel’s population and politics like the wave of suicide bombings perpetrated by Palestinians in the first years of the 21st century. Much of what you see here in 2019 is the aftermath of that time, and every election since has been held in its shadow. The attacks, which killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, ended hopes for a negotiated peace and destroyed the left, which was in power when the wave began. Any sympathy that the Israeli majority had toward Palestinians evaporated.
While the piece itself was interesting and hit a nerve with me what really caught my eye were some of the comments. Usually you can count on the NYT comments section to be fairly insane arguments, albeit with excellent grammar and this one was no exception, but it produced a few gems and one of these stood out to me. I quote it in full. (all emphasis mine)
I am 73, and remember this period very well. A few points.
1) The Intifadas don’t come up in conversation in Israel more – or less – than the other wars. They are part of common knowledge. For 3 years I drove my teenage daughter everywhere, even the mall, so she wouldn’t use a bus. I never knew if she was coming back in a new blouse or in a body bag.
2) The numbers (according to B’ Tzelem): 84 Israelis killed in the First Intifada, 1011 in the second. A minority were military and security personnel.
3) What turned off the Left – me included – from any fantasies of a negotiated peace was not the outrages themselves, but the popular celebrations that followed them. “Successful” outrages, such as bus bombings with 20+ dead, were celebrated in Palestine streets with music, dancing, burning cardboard Israeli buses and giving away sweets, like in a wedding. We got it: Oslo was a scam.
4) The two countries we have peace treaties with – Jordan and Egypt – were and are military dictatorships, whose rulers understood that “if you can’t lick’em, sign a peace treaty till you can”. Peace there is top-down. Israeli tourists, businesses, performers, clients, etc. – are not welcome in those countries to this day, decades after the signings.
5) So our only hope for a marginally normal life is to withdraw unilaterally to UN-sanctioned borders (as in Lebanon or Gaza), and always make sure we have enough firepower to prevent anyone from thinking it was an act of weakness.
This is the story in a nutshell. For all their cries of “apartheid walls” and oppression the reality is that if you are a Palestinian who has no interest in killing Jews and just want to live your life neither the Jewish state in general nor individual Jews in general or Israeli’s in particular are a danger to you.
The reverse has not been true and frankly has never been true.
As I’ve written before if Israel wanted the Palestinian’s dead any time in the last twenty years they could have exterminated them with ease (particularly after the fall of their patron the Soviet Union). The difference between Israel and their Arab neighbors is if said neighbors had the power to exterminate the jews they would without hesitation, while the Jews have had this power for decades and choose not to do so, and in fact even provide medical services to them, even when they cheer.
I had to say it. You’re incredible. You take everyone, you treat everyone, no one goes first, no one goes last, you just go in order of who needs help. That’s, like, Mother Teresa stuff. “We’re not saints, we’re just doing our jobs. It’s not easy, I admit. And it gets hard when they cheer when the bodies are brought in.” I looked at her. What did you say? She sighed. “Yes, it gets hard when they cheer.” This was one of the times during my trip when I held up my hands and said, “Stop. Wait.” I turned and walked away to breathe deeply for a minute.
There is an old saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. That is a perfect description of the Israeli left. The random slaughter of the intifadas are still in living memory and as long as that memory exists the left’s ability to twist reality isn’t effective.
This is why this film is important and why Bibi keeps winning re-election. The Israeli’s have learned the lesson that the American people in general and American Jews in particular have not and have decided they are not going to commit suicide so people in other countries at cocktail parties can feel good about themselves. They will have to wait until a generation is born that forgets.