Occupation: Always Room for Improvement

This is a letter in response to an opinion piece in the Capital Times.

Thanks for providing the fresh voice of Israeli consulate spokesman Josh Weinberg. If anything, Josh’s testament to Israel’s strong moral fiber and desperate yearning for peace is understated.

Israel realizes there is always room for improvement. For example, whereas in the first intifada its soldiers simply broke bones, now they’re letting their victims choose which bones they want broken.

This "lottery" innovation is being tested out in Hebron. It is meant to help a sensitive settler vanguard win the hearts and minds of the locals, ensuring that a Jewish presence there will be eternally welcome.

But it is in the area of affirmative action that Israel really stands out.

It insists that no Palestinian group be allowed to fall through the cracks.

The elderly? Demolish a house on a 70-year-old man, crushing him to death, and shoot to death a 95-year-old woman riding in a taxi.

Children? In the first three months of the current intifada, the death toll included 80 Palestinians and zero Israelis. A petty country would have said that’s not fair and stopped playing, but not Israel.

The paraplegic? Just the other day, a teen in a wheelchair got hit by a missile. We Americans can be proud that it was one of our apache helicopters that struck a blow for equal opportunity.

As Josh says, "checkpoints are no doubt unpleasant and even burdensome for innocent Palestinians." He could have added, however, that they all get the chance to learn life’s little lessons, even the very young – over the last two years, 39 women have given birth at checkpoints. As 17 newborn have died, I guess it can be argued that the Headstart program is overly ambitious, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Israel even accommodates the specialty niche. A report describes the checkpoint experience of two kidney disease sufferers, one blind, the other a double amputee, as they try to return home after dialysis treatment.

Hopefully, nobody will have noticed that on the same day as Josh was spreading the good word here, noted author and ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem Myron Benvenisti was asserting in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz that "Israel remains the only country in the Western world – maybe now the whole world" – that strives "to make one ethnic group, the Jews, gain full control over the geophysical, political and cultural resources of the minority Arab national group.

"It even sees escalation of violence – in the guise of a ‘war on terror’ – as a way to achieve the ‘absolute victory’ of its ethnic objectives."

Israel is "a symbol of an extremist, uncompromising state," an inspiration to "the most extremist groups fighting against compromise in Northern Ireland and Cyprus," "an Israeli flag flies proudly along the Protestant zone in Northern Belfast as a sign of defiant challenge."

Well, what can one say except that it’s obvious that Benvenisti just doesn’t understand the complex reality, as Josh would put it. Of course, the U.S. understands and keeps the military, economic and political support coming, which is all that really matters.

Read more by Jim Rissman