Letters to the Editor, Aug. 14

When history is written by the west

To the Editor:

I am reacting to David Chowes’ letter, “Hamas is the reason for Gaza bloodshed,” in T&V, July 31.
Reading it brought me back to the Sioux Wars in the middle of the nineteenth century when the Dakotas attacked and killed some 800 men, women and children. Their eventual defeat, one might argue, was something they brought about themselves, but that “It’s their own fault,” conclusion would require that one’s story opens with the massacre of 29 soldiers near Fort Laramie: “The savages killed 29 of our boys!’ But the expression of “savagery” points back to a history and to an attitude toward natives and settlers.

In other words, what we have here is not a description of a nasty series of events. There is no acknowledgement that a chief had just been killed by a trooper, nor an acknowledgement of uninvited settlements in (acknowledged) Indian territory, nor an acknowledgement that natives had been forced by treaty, when not forced by military power, to accommodate the flood of foreigners from Europe and the eastern states — an accommodation which, they well-knew was, after tens of thousands of years In-This-Place, their demise.

For some it was then, and now, unfathomable that the natives of This Place did not feel it their duty to go out of existence so that the settlers might “live in peace.” For some it was then, as it is now, unfathomable that those in This Place just might have a moral duty to rebel according to their own terms — a moral duty ever-so precisely described in our Declaration of Independence.

I am not a historian, nor am I suggesting that we go back to the origin of the universe, but it seems to me that Mr. Chowes’ pitch had no more accuracy then we find in “Rockets raining down on Israel!”

We can of course avoid the moral obligation that we have toward the mess created in Palestine by western imperialism, and we do, but we do it at our own peril.  Yet, if we do not know that history, and more important, if we make no attempt to know it, then Mr. Chowes’ words and the pathetic dribble coming out of The White House are secure.

The choices we have supported for the natives of Palestine are 1) disappear, 2) live on your knees, 3) die fighting. Too many of us have the gaul to object when they choose number 3.

John M. Giannone, ST

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An eye-opening vacation

T&V associate editor takes trip to Israel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Israeli soldiers smile for the camera. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Israeli soldiers smile for the camera. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Through funding from the Israeli government and private donors, the Taglit-Birthright organization allows almost any American with Jewish ancestry the chance to experience Israel through a 10-day trip throughout the country. The possibility of such a trip has been on my radar since I found out about it in college but even though I love traveling, and took the opportunity to study abroad twice in school, I procrastinated until the last few months that I would be eligible. The cut-off age is 27 and my 27th birthday is in the fall, so this summer was the last chance I would have to take advantage of this opportunity. So during the first two weeks of this July, I did.

There were a number of reasons that I initially put off going to Israel through Birthright: I felt like I had plenty of time, I didn’t want to go by myself, I didn’t think I was religious enough. The main reason, though, is the one I imagine most people give for opting not to go on Birthright, even if they are eligible: what if a full-on war breaks out in the middle of my trip?

The safety measures that Taglit implements are no joke. The organization boasts that they have not had any incidents with participants, even though trips continued throughout the 2006 Lebanon War. Despite these statistics, I’m not sure how much it quelled my mother’s anxiety to know that I would be arriving in the country on the day that Israel would be mourning three yeshiva students who had been killed by Hamas and found only a few days before. Only a few hours after I arrived, a Palestinian teenager was lit on fire and left to die in a revenge killing. Three Israeli Jews are now suspects.

On Tuesday, July 8, we spent the night in the middle of the Negev desert in one of the few places for the whole ten days where we were without wi-fi when a man came into our tent to tell us that Israel had started sending missiles into Gaza. He said that the prime minister had told the IDF to “take their gloves off” against Hamas and use any means necessary to restore peace in Israel. He added that although violence should usually be a last resort, it was necessary to bring peace to the country.

The previous Saturday, on July 5, we were supposed to have a political seminar about the current situation in the country but in a weird twist, we were told that the speaker who was supposed to meet us couldn’t leave his city because of rocket fire. We were also told that this was normal and that he was going to be fine, so this just meant that our talk was postponed a day.

While it was true that he was safe, it was clear that my idea of “normal” and the idea of “normal” for everyday life in Israel was vastly different. And while one of our group leaders, Dayna Simon, told us that the low-flying military planes we could hear throughout the night while we were in the desert were there to protect us, the closeness of the planes’ roars was still unsettling.

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