To Understand, Work Backwards


Leonard Zwelling

         The latest 12-hour ceasefire has been broken as rockets flew
into Israel from Gaza yet again on July 26. This morning, Sunday, July 27,
Israel is considering reinstating a 24-hour halt to the fighting that Hamas has
just accepted.

         Many neighborhoods in Gaza are decimated. Many women and
children as well as militants have been killed by Israeli fire power from air,
sea, and land. The hospitals of Gaza are overwhelmed with the dead, dying and

         Many Israeli soldiers have died, too. A proportional loss of
life by the American military would number in the hundreds.

         The people of Gaza are under siege although not to the same
degree as those in the Warsaw Ghetto or the Alamo were. But a blockade that aims
to keep out weapons also keeps out food and medicine. Hamas’ backs are to the
wall as was intended by the Israelis.

         The power, water and other utilities needed to sustain Gaza
are generated by the Israelis and sent into the Gaza Strip.

         In return, the Gazans build systems of tunnels under their
civilian cities and use the tunnels to attack Israelis. That would be
life-sustaining power in; death out. Weapons caches intermingle with schools
and mosques. Terrorists and children occupy adjacent space in Gaza.

         For over 50 years prior to 1948, Zionist settlers and
indigenous Palestinians lived in peace in the land bordered by the
Mediterranean on the west and the Jordan River on the east. Then, it became
clear to those sabras and the newly arrived from Europe, particularly after the
Holocaust, that a democratic, Jewish state was going to have to be free of all
but Jews. (see Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land). Just as clearly, the Arabs
claimed the same land as their own for it had been in their families for
decades. For the rest, add 1956, 1967, 1973, etc, etc, etc. and color in the
details, usually in red.

         The story today began in the late 1890’s and perhaps long
before that as the crossroads of the world was the stage for multiple trade
routes, the Crusades, Lawrence of Arabia and the discovery of oil. And a whole
lot of spilled blood.

         It should come as no surprise that someone with constant
opinions such as myself has many on this subject. But what I don’t have is a
solution. I have been to Israel and am supposed to go again in a month although
that appears to be less and less likely.

         All I know is that I have nothing much of use to add to the
already exhaustive literature of the Middle East, its history and its ethnic
strife. When the people of the neighborhood decide they want peace, then they
will have peace. But surely, not before.

         It’s easy for an American Jew to choose sides at a rally
across Westheimer. It is just as easy to see the suffering on both sides and
want it to stop. What is hard is to know is how to stop it.

         Very hard.

Leonard Zwelling