Epilogue to Childhood Memory

The ideologically driven filmmakers of “Let My People Go” (see previous post) certainly made their point to an eight year-old viewer, at least until the moment he was forced to make a dash to vomit.  In the fifty years since that visceral moment, history, like freedom, has been on the march.  

There were several wars in those years between the Jewish State and its neighbors including a decisive one, in 1967, when the virtually indefensible 1948 borders of Israel were expanded to include the buffers of the Occupied Territories of Gaza, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Sinai.   Since that time, various Israeli governments have put permanent, strategically placed settlements in some of those territories.  There has been a shit-storm of controversy, with violent fanatics on both sides having way too much say over the outcome.  No doubt, given the choice, most people on each side would prefer peace to endless war.  The tragedy is that the voices of modest, decent people are rarely as loud and persuasive as the voices of violent haters ready to kill, everybody and anybody.  Take no chances, don’t trust their words, kill them!  Make them pay!

Intellectual understanding only goes so far.  I can understand why powerless people living in hopeless camps for generations, subjected to curfews, checkpoints, searches, rough treatment, detention, torture, would feel desperate enough to resort to and celebrate violence.  I can understand why peaceful citizens on the other side would demand curfews, checkpoints and heavy-handed tactics in order to avoid being killed by people desperate enough to blow themselves up.   Like I say, understanding with the mind only goes so far.   Certain things, in the word of one peace-loving Israeli I once knew, are un-understandable.  

In hindsight, as they say, many things snap into the old 20/20 focus.  If you think of a handful of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, determined to take some Nazis with them to hell as the Nazis were ‘liquidating’ the ghetto, you have a clue how this rear-view moral vision works.

There is no real choosing which was worse, the killing of millions during the Middle Passage over the course of three centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, or the killing of millions during a frenzied three or four year industrialized killing machine fueled by German ingenuity and efficiency.   I could not say, generations later, that either atrocity gives anyone a right to kill anyone else over it.

I’ve got no answer, propose no equivalencies, no justifications, nada.  It’s a horrible situation over there in Palestine/Israel, Israel/Palestine, as in many parts of the world, many of them in the immediate neighborhood.  Violence and brutality are always passionately justified by the practitioners.   History shows that the violent and brutal often carry the day while voices of reason usually get their brains blown out if they speak clearly enough and get enough attention.   I’d like to believe that in the long run human decency and our eternal longing for peace win out, but, looking around, I realize I may be with Anne Frank there, and Jesus, and right before he got shot, the Gandhi I was cursing just the other day.


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