April contains a provocative and somewhat
depressing article by Richard John Neuhaus, “After
Israel”, in which he quotes a supporter of Israel:
There appear to be only two possible outcomes to this conflict. Israel may
eventually choose to . . . exterminate or expel Palestinians from Israel and
the West Bank. Or the endless bloodshed will produce an accelerating exodus
of Israeli Jews to America and other more peaceful and affluent places,
eventually leading to a collapse of the Jewish state.
About eight years ago we got new
neighbours, a young couple I’ll call Dave and Jane. We invited them around
for coffee, and in the course of conversation we learned that the house they
had moved from was nearby and was very similar to their new one. So why on
earth had they moved?
It transpired that a local crime boss
(apparently we have such people in Melbourne) had moved to the house next to
theirs. He built a high fence around the property, in defiance of local
building regulations. He carried out other illegal construction. It seemed
he had a team of lawyers to keep the Council at bay.
He hosted noisy parties, with large cars
parked illegally around the street. Occasionally party revellers would fire
guns into the air. (And all this was in a fairly upmarket neighbourhood.)
Once when Dave went to remonstrate over a particular problem the man pushed
him against a fence and then punched him in the face.
Dave called the police, who urged him to
press charges—they wanted to get this man—while warning Dave that the man
was dangerous. Friends said Dave should hire layers to force the man to pull
down his illegal fence. Dave and Jane were planning a family. They decided
to drop the matter and to move, even if it meant selling their house at a
loss. They didn’t want to raise kids next door to a crazed neighbour.
Is it not possible that increasing
numbers of Israelis are also going to decide to move? The First Things
article suggests they might.
PS (#1): An amusing postscript. By
coincidence, a good friend of my wife’s, a Korean lady who spoke little
English, also lived in Dave’s street, in a rental house on the other side of
the crime boss (she, in contrast, to Dave, had no idea of his identity;
neither did we at that time). One day she accidentally locked herself out of
the house, and with her husband not due home for many hours, she desperately
phoned my wife.
My wife urged her to try to use her
limited English to explain to a neighbour her predicament, and to ask for
help. She did, innocently knocking on the crime boss’s door. Later she
phoned my wife: “You can’t believe how helpful my neighbour was. It was like
magic. He knew right away how to get one of my windows open and get inside.”
She baked him a cake to say thank you, and reported that he accepted it with
a very bemused look on his face.
PS (#2): Richard John Neuhaus wrote his
article on Israel before the latest hostilities. But his final paragraph
As too many people are eager to remind us, Israel is doing bad things to the
Palestinians. And, as too many fail to say, Palestinians are doing bad
things to Israelis, and it is not always easy to sort out which is action
and which reaction, which is aggression and which defence. There should be
no difficulty, however, in sorting out the difference between the one party
that has the declared purpose of destroying or expelling the other party,
and the other party that wants only to live in security and peace. This, I
think, we know for sure: there could be a real peace process and a real
peace if the Arabs believably accepted a sovereign Jewish state in their
midst. This, sadly, does not seem to be in the offing.