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(photo credit: IDF)
Our older son recently got married, an occasion that puts me in mind of family matters.
Nick's American cousins were all at the wedding but none of the Israelis, not when the wedding was just a few days before Pessah. The Israeli cousins (there are about a dozen) are very religious and there is no way they would have travelled to the States right before the holiday.
The Israeli cousins and American cousins all know and like each other, more than is common among young people whose primary connection is that they share a set of great-grandparents. But all the kids have been to Israel and spent time with the family there. There is something about Holocaust survivor families that brings people closer together. After all, the existence of these kids is something of a miracle.
In September 1939 the Nazis marched into the family's ancestral hometown in eastern Poland. The family fled eastward and ended up as slave laborers in the Soviet Union. Not everyone survived - some family members ended up in German death camps - but, obviously, the progenitors of the American and Israeli cousins did. Of course, there are missing cousins (never born) just as there are other missing relatives by the score.
But these kids are here. That's the miracle. The ancestors they have in common would have a hard time recognizing their descendants. The Americans are veryâ€¦ American. Life is all about jobs, sports, hip-hop music, internships, iPods, etc.
THE ISRAELIS, from a 1939 Polish Jewish point of view, are just as improbable. They live in a country that last existed as a Jewish state 1,900 years previously. They speak Hebrew. And they are also very religious (none of the Americans are), their lives revolving around youth groups, studying in yeshivot, the army, etc.
When we are together there are always discussions about politics. The Israeli cousins demonstrated against the Gaza withdrawal and are on the Right. That certainly is not the case with the Americans.
But the political discussions do not descend into arguments. Even though we are family, and even though the Americans have strong feelings on Israeli politics, they are not going to tell the Israelis what they should think. The Israelis live there and the boys go into the army. There is a real hesitancy about telling them what they should or shouldn't do with their lives.
Everyone is aware of what is and isn't appropriate for American Jews to be telling their Israeli counterparts.
AND THAT brings me to an article published in The Jerusalem Post by Daniel Pipes which caused jaws to drop in Manhattan, and then in Israel when it was published there.
Daniel Pipes is a Philadelphia-based columnist, an academic and a very vocal hard-liner on Israeli-Palestinian issues. He is best-known for running an outfit called "Campus Watch" which enlists college students to monitor their professors in an effort to curb free discussion of Middle East issues.
He believes, and has repeatedly written, that Israel should abandon the idea of compromise of any sort with the Palestinians and should instead defeat them the way the Allies defeated the Nazis - i.e. make them surrender and have the victor dictate the terms of the peace.
He seems to believe Israel needs another war. Anything else is a waste of time. Only another war will do the job although seven previous wars - 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and the first and second intifadas -somehow did not. But Pipes believes that the next one will - if it is pursued to unambiguous victory.
He is not, however, optimistic about the chances that Israelis will follow his prescription. The reason: They have simply lost their nerve.
I have read many columns by Pipes and other well-known columnist/hawks and cannot recall any in which their ardor for Zion is expressed in a positive way. They don't extol the beauty of Jerusalem or the live-and-let-live Mediterranean style of Tel Aviv. Israel, as depicted by them, is neither beautiful, nor spiritual nor cultural. It is just some would-be Sparta, clad in uniform, always ready for the next fight. In fact, their negative feelings toward Palestinians far outweigh any positive sentiments toward Israel.
Pipes is, in the words of Bradley Burston, a Haaretz columnist, "A new kind of Israel-basher."
It's time we redefined the term "pro-Israel" to exclude those who are constantly pressing Israel to fight rather than yield territory, to go on the offensive rather than disengage from areas Israelis neither need nor want or, in Pipes's case, to battle until unconditional surrender.
Living 6,000 miles away, it is one thing to promote policies that will help Israel achieve peace and security. It is quite another to promote war.
Maybe Pipes would sing a different tune if he knew our young cousins, or other kids like them, in Israel. Perhaps he could just take a trip over there, skip the think tanks and the policy briefings, and instead visit a kindergarten in Netanya, walk along the Tel Aviv beach, or go up to the Carmel in Haifa, which is beautiful this time of year.
If that does not make him understand why Israelis want peace more than they want the West Bank, he can go up to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. It's a beautiful place, the spot where Theodor Herzl, Golda Meir, Yitzhak and Leah Rabin and dozens of other Israeli leaders are buried - along with 3,000 young soldiers.
The writer, based in Washington, is the director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum