James Margolis: An inside perspective of Israel and Gaza

It is convenient, expedient, and trendy to side with the Palestinian cause and castigate Israel. I get it. I was raised in a liberal family and we tended to side with the underdog on many issues when I was growing up. However, during this time Israel was the underdog, at least in our house, and we prided ourselves in how they were able to fend off the Arab armies that sought to obliterate them. However, over the years this narrative has changed, and though as a resident of both West Brattleboro and Israel (from where I am writing this), I fully understand the strong sentiment against us here, given the depiction of this conflict as I recently noted in the Reformer, which is off-base and one-sided.

My kid spent Monday doing reserve service three miles from Gaza. It was something that was scheduled months ago and had nothing to do with the opening of the Embassy. His job is to coordinate reaction teams of firefighters and engineers in the case of a building being hit by a missile or a mortar. Reading some of the commentaries by leaders in Gaza who clearly stated that they planned to storm through the border and "eat the hearts," of people like him and me, something that most mainstream media neglected to report, left me as a father both angry and frustrated.

I read too the endless condemnation in opinion pieces of the lack of clean water given to the Palestinians and as I watched the supply vehicles today again turned away, wondered whose fault this really is. Hamas is a terrorist group. Perhaps they are not to you in Vermont, but when they chant from "Sea to Sea" they become that to us. When I watched the pieces of body parts being scraped from the buildings on King George Street in Tel Aviv, they were to me. When I witnessed the plaintive wails of a man looking for the belongings of his girlfriend at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv, they were to him. When my New Jersey rabbi friend and I walked to the edge of the road to say a prayer for those who died when a bus was driven over a cliff by a terrorist, it was to us.

From my perspective, Hamas has held the Palestinians in Gaza captive for many years. Their conditions in their land, and Gaza is their land, would be improved dramatically if they desired to do this, yet they don't. Instead of building housing, they are building tunnels, and should they ever succeed in creating one they will lynch, as they did in Ramallah, any and all Jews.

Yet the opinion articles further go on to prove how horrible Israel has always been to the Palestinians. One writer brings up Deir Yassin, a horrible slaughter, but this writer fails to bring up the Hadassah Convoy Massacre. He brings up the prescient Stern Gang who for a brief moment thought that if they sided with Hitler (and thus against the British) they might be able to get the millions of Jews who were doomed to die out of there before this horrible carnage. Yes, looking back on history one can see how stupid that was. Yet, this writer fails to bring up how the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem courted Hitler in order to get rid of the English, Jews and Communists.

Regardless of what one of your writers suggests in that Jews were "colonizers" of Palestine, we have had a 3,000 year continuous existence in this land. Was the partition fair? I really don't know. Did Arabs lose their lands in many places? Yes, of course, they did. Yet Vermont is, if we are being honest, built on occupied Abenaki lands. It is a state larger than Israel, yet how much land has been given back to the Abenakis?

Over seven hundred thousand Jews were thrown out of Arab countries or had to flee due to inhumane conditions. How many Arab countries have asked them to come back? The Jews of Europe, including Germany where my wife's father was the only survivor from his side of the family, have never truly been welcomed back to their homes. Warsaw, Lodz, or the many other Polish communities are not, to my understanding, putting aside housing for the descendants of those who lost their lives, and might like to return despite the fact that their country is so large.

However, if we were not dealing with a terror group like Hamas who use their kids as human shields, who dig terror tunnels not freedom tunnels, who wreck environmental damage on their people, whose leader (Abbas) spews some of the most vile anti-Semitic (and fact-check his comments, they are far from the approved anti-Israel) comments I have ever heard, who deny their people true voting and basic democratic rights, then I do believe our people could, in fact, get along and prosper side-by-side. I see this in Beersheba and I see this in Haifa. I see this in high tech factories that I have visited in the north and I see this in universities throughout this country. We already work cooperatively and do in fact get along.

I know what I am saying is not popular. I am sure that there are some reading this who would like to show me facts, dates, and figures to refute everything I have said. That's okay. I live here for much of the year teaching kids from all walks of life. I teach Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahai kids. I teach them that we can't solve the world's problems, but that we can better our world by doing good deeds and being good people.

Yet, when I read my granddaughter a story last night before she went to sleep, I could not imagine putting her in harm's way for any politicians or terrorist cause. I am proud of my country Israel and proud of her response to those who want to storm over our border, and it is our border, with the intent of carrying out the battle cry of Hamas. Were you to hear the war-whoop of King Phillip (Metacom) in the 1600's at your back door, I am sure you would do whatever was necessary to protect yourself and your family regardless of the fact that you were much more of a colonizer than we have ever been, in a land that one might argue was never truly yours.

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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