Thank you for the Nov|Dec issue of the Gazette. I stopped to read the three articles referenced on the cover [“The Good Neighbor,” “With the Donbas Battalion,” “(Cr)ISIS and Opportunity”] as soon as the issue arrived. The articles were interesting and informative and addressed current issues.
E. Joyce Gould GNu’79 Catonsville, MD
As a resident of Israel I admire Hillel Bardin for his perseverance in promoting co-existence between Arabs and Jews [“The Good Neighbor,” Nov|Dec]. Moreover, I’m sure there are many Palestinians who would like very much to live side by side with Israel in a good neighborly fashion.
I’m also sure that in the 1930s and ’40s there were many Japanese who did not think that Tokyo should be the ruling power in the Pacific. But the Japanese National Spirit was “Banzai.” I know that not all Germans thought that there should be a Thousand Year Reich from the Atlantic to the Volga. But the German National Spirit was “Sieg Heil.”
The Palestinian National Spirit has been emphatic and unwavering ever since its (relatively recent) inception as a nation, and Palestinian leaders make no secret of it when speaking in their own language (www.palwatch.org). This National Spirit is reflected in their theatre and music, in their television and news media, in their political and religious speeches, in their school textbooks, and in their joyous and public celebrations that follow the terrorist murders of Israelis.
The Palestinian National Spirit is “Itbach el Yahud”—“Kill the Jews.” And it has been our brutal experience that even after decades of Israeli territorial concessions and overtures, their National Spirit is as steadfast as ever.
Jonathan Lipsky EE’84 Bet-Shemesh, Israel
As soon as I saw the cover of the Nov|Dec 2014 issue, I knew there was a seriously disturbing article inside. Sure enough, “The Good Neighbor,” by Trey Popp, didn’t disappoint. It featured the usual tales of Israeli cruelty and Palestinian peacefulness, with the obvious intent of building sympathy for the Palestinians and anger against the Israelis. An inquiring reporter would have questioned these incidents and also balanced them with a few examples of Israeli good intentions and Palestinian lies, but the days of honest reporting, and honest-to-goodness reporting, are long over.
Now I could write pages challenging these tales but since the thrust behind them is emotional and not rational, I really want to understand why Western “progressives” such as Mr. Popp need to ally themselves with religiously conservative anti-intellectual Islamists? Why do they long for another failed Arab state to join Lebanon, Syria, and the destabilized state that Jordan would become once its majority Palestinian citizenry are joined by another Palestinian state right next door? Do they really want to see a prosperous, thriving, and tolerant multiethnic and multi-religious democracy replaced by a succession of warring regimes that trample on women’s rights, gay rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and also kill lots of civilians? Would they really stand and applaud as millions of Jews who currently live there are deported or murdered?
Sheldon Waxman W’72 Livingston, NJ
Were I living in Israel, I don’t know that I would remotely share Hillel Bardin’s perspective, but he has spent his life there, and certainly has the right to express and act on his beliefs about his own nation and his neighbors. We found his story compelling, and Trey reported it sympathetically, but also thoroughly and responsibly. Had you read the article with fewer assumptions you might have seen that—or at least have hesitated at the rhetorical leap from claiming that a story lacks balance to suggesting its writer would cheer mass murder.—Ed.
Another Beit Sahour Story
“The Good Neighbor” and the accompanying excerpt from Hillel Bardin’s memoir, A Zionist Among Palestinians [“The Bicycle and the Olive Tree”], tells of the Palestinian/Israeli dialogue group in Jericho and then in Beit Sahour at the time of the First Intifada in 1987, when there was also a tax revolt in Beit Sahour. The Palestinians considered the payment of taxes to an occupying power to be a symbol of slavery and oppression: “No taxation without representation.”
The Israeli defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin, called for his soldiers to “break the bones” of the Palestinians. Israel imposed a curfew on Beit Sahour and the people could not be in their yards or on their porches. The Israeli army confiscated furniture from Palestinian homes. Nearly every adult male of Beit Sahour was detained in an Israeli prison at some point.
Theodore Nace C’46 Colorado Springs, CO
The “Violent Settler”: Hard to Find or Non-existent
“The Good Neighbor” and “The Bicycle and the Olive Tree” appear to present a balanced narrative of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: a tale of two nations, seemingly intent on pursuing a conflict fueled by extremists, while a small group of people discover the humanity of the other and create a grass-roots peaceful initiative which is destined to fail but offers some hope.
Unfortunately, reality is far from balanced and the casualties of this fallacious portrayal are twofold. First, this creates a callous indifference to the loss of human life. On one side of the equation we have the Israeli government, which is deemed guilty because it wanted to outlaw the peaceful activity of Hillel Bardin, and on the other side we have the Palestinian leadership who, as mentioned in the article, executed 800 peace-seeking Palestinians during the First Intifada.
This equation derails any moral outrage we should naturally feel at the execution of hundreds of Palestinians by their own people. An Israeli policeman, who was attacked by an Arab wielding a knife and killed his assailant, is standing trial for defending himself. But who is demanding justice on behalf of the many, many innocent Palestinians who were executed by other Palestinians?
This is endemic of what has become our attitude towards the Palestinian people. Their blood is cheap so long as it is not shed by Israelis. Who is demanding justice for 160 children who died digging tunnels so terrorists could slaughter Israeli families in their sleep? Nobody is. Hamas represents the Palestinians in Gaza and effectively answers to nobody, let alone any expectation to live up to Western standards of morality and human dignity.
Second, this “balanced” presentation vilifies the “settlers,” who are portrayed as the Israeli extremist equivalent to Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. While this portrayal is convenient for the balanced narrative and for world opinion in justifying a balanced approach, the inconvenient truth is that these “settlers” are as peaceful as any other Israelis.
Furthermore, owing to the reality that “settlers” live in “settlements” that are on the same side of the Green Line as the Palestinians, the amount of interaction and co-existence they engage in with Palestinians is much greater than that which an Israeli in Tel Aviv experiences.
I personally grew up in a settlement called Efrat, where a Palestinian handyman named Ali has been travelling to my parents’ house from Hebron for the past 25 years. We are good friends, rejoicing in each other’s family milestones and sharing in each other’s sorrows. Many Palestinians have worked in Efrat regularly and they walk there without fear. Never has a single one been threatened or harmed by the “settlers.”
One mile away from my hometown is the junction where this past summer three teenage boys hitchhiking home were kidnapped and murdered mercilessly by Arabs. At that junction there is a supermarket that employs and serves both Jews and Arabs. One might expect there to have been some violent reaction by the “settlers” to the murder of Jewish children, but there has not been any because the “settlers” give their Palestinian neighbors the benefit of the doubt and don’t hold one person accountable for the actions of another.
More recently, not far from that spot, a young occupational therapist named Dalia, of South African origin, was hitchhiking back from helping children in one of the low-income districts in the Negev and was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. In reaction, the “settlers” formed a human chain from the spot she was murdered to the junction where the teenagers were kidnapped, to honor her memory. The violent “settler” is somewhere between hard-to-find and non-existent.
As to the story in the article about the settler threatening the five-year-old child, I actually recall the story from my childhood from the other perspective. A family was traveling home from Jerusalem when the window of their car was shattered by a rock thrown by a child. The father, reacting to the near-death of his own child, emerged from the car to try to impress upon the Palestinian child never to throw a stone at a car again. Clearly that was not a winning strategy, but why was that Palestinian five-year-old engaging in such a destructive and dangerous activity?
The imbalance in the standards for Israelis and Palestinians follows through to their governments. The Palestinian leadership refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The Hamas charter includes the objective to kill Jews. Israel has over a million Arab citizens who enjoy the rule of law like every other Israeli citizen. Arabs study in every Israeli university, are doctors in every Israeli hospital, and serve as judges in the court system.
I, too, believe that we need to connect on a human level and strive to coexist but maintaining a “balanced” narrative in the face of an extremely unbalanced reality is a crime that perpetuates a grim and bloody reality.
Dov Daniel WG’06 Merion Station, PA
Corrigan’s Book “a Must Buy”
John Prendergast’s article on Maureen Corrigan’s book about F. Scott Fitzgerald, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures [“The Greatest,” Nov|Dec], is exactly the kind of robust, enriching work that I most enjoy in the Gazette. I have no interest in the campus view of politics, or who’s a good neighbor—I can read those tendentious topics in The New York Times. Thank you one and all, especially Maureen Corrigan, whose book—however thoughtfully and succinctly summarized—is now a must buy.
As an English major now retired from four decades on Wall Street, I have never lost my fascination for literature. That deep appreciation for the art form resonates with my deep appreciation for all I learned at Penn.
I especially enjoyed the discussion of the motion-picture versions of The Great Gatsby. I believe that the book and its cinematic renditions belong to each generation, differently, and with that in mind I viewed the latest version several times before concluding that DiCaprio’s Gatsby outshone Redford’s rather wooden earlier character. It was that smile of DiCaprio’s, “one of those rare smiles [that] understood you just as much as you want to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself,” that convinced me that the latest film version was worth seeing. As I watched the wordless seven-second shot, I could hear the narrator’s voice in my mind.
Thanks for the comfort of knowing that Gatsby is a book which must be read and re-read constantly to increase the reader’s appreciation of the writer’s art. I had suspected that all along. The book is one of several that I keep in a separate stack for bi-annual re-reading in my spare time on trains and planes.
Tom Gallagher C’73 WG’75, parent West Palm Beach, FL
What About World Rankings?
It’s all very good to know that Penn ranks No. 1 among schools in the US in partying and BA billionaires [“Gazetteer,” Nov|Dec]. (Is there a connection between the great parties and the billionaires?) But how about the fact that in world academic surveys it ranks 19th in the US News one, 16th in that of the London Times, and 15th in Shanghai’s Jiao Tung University study?
Wallace Spaulding Gr’69 Arlington, VA
Consider the Ornithologist
In “Consider the Turkey” [“Expert Opinion,” Nov|Dec], William Young points to the ignorance of Europeans in their erroneous naming of the turkey based on their misconception that the birds originated in India. He repeats the same error in describing the original inhabitants of the Americas as Indians. Although our migration from Africa to the Americas led through the subcontinent 70,000 years ago, we are not properly considered migrants from India.
We need to shed the harmful European misconceptions about the world, including any expectation of superiority based on anything but the force of arms, which continues with European Americans today.
Should the tasty fowl defended by Mr. Young get more respect than the natives of these continents who suffered genocide at the hands of the Europeans?
Matthew M. Nielsen, parent Dillsburg, PA