My Word: ‘Time’ and time again

Of course we care about peace. But until it happens, we’ll carry on enjoying life as best we can – no matter what Hamas and Hizbullah throw at us.

Beach 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Beach 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
‘Buy or frame this Time cover today.” That’s what jumped out at me as I searched Time magazine’s website for its September 13 story “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace,” by Karl Vick. But I don’t “buy” the article, let alone the provocative cover. I feel framed.
The premise behind Vick’s piece is that Israelis are too busy making money and enjoying themselves – at the Palestinians’ expense, of course – to pursue peace. It’s the rich Jews versus the poor Palestinians, again. And frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe it’s because I don’t have enough money to be driven by it: I doubt any Jerusalem Post journalist could be accused of chasing fortune rather than fame. Nor am I against peace: What mother in a country with compulsory military service is eagerly awaiting the chance to send her son off to war? The cover illustration, a Star of David covered in flowers – pushing up the daisies, as it were – is striking. It certainly hit me hard enough to hurt. OK, it did make me want to read the piece, too, so I assume the folks at Time are happy. The print version, it turns out, is more balanced than the abridged one on the web.
“What were they thinking?” asked a friend. One conspiracy theory has it that since the July cover showing the Afghani teenager whose nose was cut off by the Taliban, Time had to find a way to placate Muslim readers. I don’t buy this either. It would be too easy for the magazine to then say if the Muslims object and the Jews object we must be doing something right. And I don’t want to believe that any decent person – Muslim, Jewish or otherwise – was anything other than disgusted by the Islamist justice meted out to the young runaway wife.
One reason countries like Egypt and Jordan are supporting the latest diplomatic initiative is because of the obvious threat to their countries from Taliban-style terror organizations.
I DOUBT it was Vick who wrote the “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” cover text but certainly it reflected the tone of the article by the newly appointed Jerusalem bureau chief.
It’s peppered with barbs like: “In the week that three presidents, a king and their own prime minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter.
They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.”
Vick makes the point that Israelis are just getting on and enjoying their lives, and on that we can agree. It’s the subtext that is worrying. “Even when the Kassams fell, we continued to sell,” Ashdod real-estate agent Heli Itach tells him. There’s a photo of nargila-smoking young men relaxing on a Tel Aviv beach. And Vick quotes debatable statistics showing that Israelis don’t consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority.
Of course it could be argued that the “blood feud” does not date back to 1967 or 1948. Having just read on Rosh Hashana about Abraham’s decidedly problematic relationship with both Isaac and Ishmael, I suspect the seeds were sown millennia ago.
The Arab families I know – those who still live on this land as well as those I’ve met far further afield – are largely concerned with the same issues as the Jewish ones. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that if you were to ask the average US citizen – even in areas where Native Americans once dwelt, for argument’s sake – they would draw up a similar list of concerns as Jewish Israelis: the economy, education, health and personal safety. Ditto residents of European Union countries.
THERE ARE a few obvious differences, however. When Israelis talk about personal safety, they often mean the hazards that stem from living in a country where suicide bombers are willing to blow themselves up at the drop of a keffiyeh.
Especially during peace talks. The Tel Aviv beach featured in the Time article, incidentally, was probably searched for bombs in the morning. Security is a way of life here. It has to be.
It’s not that we have “disengaged from the peace process,” as the article suggests.
It’s just that if we were to wait for peace before carrying on with our lives, we’d still be in refugee camps, dependent on UN handouts, rather than enjoying a high standard of living in a strong economy in a country with a thriving cultural life that Vick describes.
If the Palestinians were to invest a similar effort into creating a livable normalcy, we’d all be better off. That’s why news of a cinema reopening in Jenin, luxury apartments going up in Ramallah and a decidedly middle-class suburban community, Rawabi, being built nearby encourages me more than another round of “peace talks.”
“But wait. Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity?” asks Vick.
Nope. There are no guarantees. Negotiating with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is certainly better than fighting with his Fatah forces, but I can’t help but feel that the two-state solution doesn’t stand a chance: not when Hamas controls Gaza, with more than a little help from its friend Iran.
There are already, in effect, three states (or would-be states) involved. Abbas might be able to come to Jerusalem and shake hands with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu but neither of them can travel to Gaza City.
And the US, EU and any of the many countries fighting for a role in the diplomatic process should also realize that world peace does not depend on an agreement between Abbas and Netanyahu.
It shouldn’t be the photo of Israelis relaxing on the beach that scares them but the image of poor, mutilated Aisha, the victim of an Islamist regime.
Israelis have been more than a little skeptical of the chances for peace, as Vick points out, since the wave of suicide bombings that followed the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. And the second intifada whose outbreak is linked with the Camp David talks in 2000. And the increased number of missiles that fell following Israel’s unilateral pullout from Gaza five years ago – wait, make that present tense, the missiles are still falling as I write. And nobody was surprised when Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet last week that the threat of terrorism will increase in step with the diplomatic process.
So as the country marked Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, now ineradicably linked in our minds with yet another bloody war launched against Israel, it’s ludicrous to say Israelis don’t want peace.
As the Succot holiday week approaches, many families are planning activities and outings. None of us wants to have to plan around where Kassams are landing.
Of course we care about peace. But until it happens, we’ll carry on enjoying life as best we can – no matter what Hamas and Hizbullah throw at us. What Iran would like to throw at us is obviously a different story. No doubt there’s a reporter willing to blame us for that too.
The writer is the editor of The International Jerusalem Post.