4.1049 Israeli Diaries: Werman (1/182)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 17 Feb 91 21:25:51 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1049. Sunday, 17 Feb 1991.
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 91 15:39 +0200
Subject: A Peace Proposal
Friday, 15 February
A Peace Proposal
We did not celebrate our anniversary in any special
way. We enjoyed the quiet of another alarm-free night; we
spoke with our son, back from the Far East, who is to go to
his reserve unit today. We read with pleasure the many warm
letters of congratulation that we received from electronic
mail correspondents, some unknown to us, some from old
friends, some from new friends made during the past month,
some from people who have disappeared from our lives. A
former student of Golda's writes to say that he has been
following my reports and wondered if I were related to a woman
named Werman in Jerusalem that he knew. The warmth is
pleasant; we become quite indulgent and allow ourselves to
bask in it.
The start of the ground war in the Persian Gulf is in
the air; we expect it and expect that as soon as it does begin
Saddam Hussein will attempt to strike heavily at Israel. If
he can deliver a poison gas warhead or bomb at this distance,
he will attempt it now - this is our strong feeling. Here, in
Jerusalem, we do not believe that he has spared us because of
our Arab population. We think that he is not concerned with
Arab lives any more than Jewish ones; we see how he surrounds
and fills military targets with innocent civilians in order to
inhibit coalition bombing, while making use of every casualty
for propaganda purposes. As well as a number of actors; for
example the woman who appeared at the bombed shelter yesterday,
screaming at the West, calling them "Bastards;" we know her as
an official of the Iraqi Foreign Office who has already
participated in a number of such performances.
We in Jerusalem expect to be attacked.
We know that the attack will come here; don't ask me how
we know, I can not answer. It is in the air, it is knowledge
purchased by living here, it is part of the strangeness of this
place. When life was simpler, years ago, I walked in the hills
east of Jerusalem. It was quite safe then; now, no one in
their right mind would try, certainly not alone, certainly not
without being heavily armed - it is no longer safe and is
certainly not recommended. These are brown hills with sparse
vegetation; in the spring, after the winter rains there is a
fine grass cover, something like a fine beard, two days'growth,
which looks better from a distance than when you walk on it. I
walked alone at that time on these brown flat hills and heard
nothing, until, later, I felt more than heard the thin, high
pitched voice of a shepherd's pipe. I knew then that I was not
completely alone, that there was someone out of sight leading
the customary flock of goats. I watched the rocks change
colors as the angle of the sun's rays striking them became
more shallow, colors that turned from red to rust to brown and
finally to grey. I remember feeling an epiphany envelop me
then; I understood how three major religions could be born or
nourished while still quite young and fragile here. Here, in
the hills around Jerusalem.
We do not believe that Saddam Hussein will hesitate to
attack Jerusalem; indeed, we expect him to do just that when
the ground campaign begins. We do not know what his remaining
capability is. Does he still have functional Scud missiles
and launchers? Does he have a chemical - euphemism used here
for poison gas - warhead for these missiles? Can he get an
airplane through our defenses? We do not know. We have our
gas masks and our sealed rooms. The Arabs who make up 20% of
the population of Jerusalem share our fate; they too have gas
Our chance to retaliate for the attacks on us is
slipping away - if it is not already gone. We have been
relegated to the sidelines but we are not in the stalls or to
the balcony; we are still actors in this war - by virtue of
the 32 Scuds fired at us - two more than fired at Saudi
Arabia, the location of the real threat to Iraq. Every day
we become more accustomed to attack; every day we are told
that the Iraqi capacity to attack us diminishes. Yet we
still are anxious.
We have have good reasons to retaliate. Ever since
the Holocaust - yes, Professor Chomsky, there was a
Holocaust - we Jews [Certainly the subspecies, Israeli Jew;
perhaps the others as well] no longer feel that it is proper
or even possible to leave our fate in the hands of others.
We are also know that in the language of Middle East
politics not retaliating will be interpreted as weakness
on our part - there is no turning the other cheek here, in
this part of the world - and will be an invitation for more
aggression against us.
But we show restraint, partly out of the growing
conviction that retaliation might bring down on our heads
political damage in its wake far greater than any benefits
we might accrue.
The other reason we do not retaliate is the fear that
we do not have an adequate solution to the problem Saddam
Hussein has set us. We have been impelled by a view of
response to threat that has three components: a fast
response; a strong response; an elegant response. There is
not longer any possibility of a speedy response; too much
time has gone by. We could possibly respond strongly,
even with non-conventional weapons, some claim. But such a
response is clearly not elegant and even out of proportion
in any scale of values: it is true that our security has
been threatened by Iraq, but not our existence.
Undoubtedly we could respond elegantly, but because of the
long distances involved it is unlikely to be a strong
response - unless we were to kill Saddam Hussein, which
itself raises a whole new set of problems.
Our willingness to show restraint, to renounce
retaliation, means that we have seceded our right to protect
ourselves. It means that we are willing to let others do
the defending of Israel. Others, it should be understood
means the US. The US is our friend. The US even likes us.
The US is our friend and likes us - today.
While writing this report Radio Baghdad announced
what at first seemed to be a surrender. I was filled with
conflicting thoughts. My first feeling was relief and then
a flood of joy overtook me. No more killing, no more
wounded, no more homeless. But what is happening? Saddam
Hussein not only intact and alive, but he may remain in
power. Two thirds to three quarters of his tanks and
motorized divisions remain intact - almost all of his
airforce, too. His hatred for us is unabated; his vision
of himself as the leader of a Pan-Arab force expelling us
from here is - if anything - fortified. I was saddened by
this; and angry as well.
Was I disappointed? Strangely enough, no. I am
surprised at my reaction, my lack of reaction. But there
is more than anger and the desire for revenge in me. The
end of war, for me, is most important. I try to
reconcile the apparent contradictions I find in my
response. I hope, I say, I would like to believe the
things I tell myself - such as: Time does not always
work for the tyrant. Perhaps we could find some other
way out of this trapped state.
My feeling of joy was still in me.
Later it becomes clear that the surrender was
accompanied by at least four conditions that made it
completely unacceptable. Saddam Hussein insisted that the
ruling family of Kuwait not be returned to power; he
insisted that the allies pay for all damage done to Iraq;
he insisted that Israel withdraw from the administered
territories; he insisted on coalition withdrawal from the
The UN declaration calls for unconditional retreat
from Kuwait. Not this porridge. It is not all over.
Still later, Radio Baghdad further reduces the sense
of it all being over; they announced that this was only a
working statement towards a settlement.
Israel is still in the picture; we will be dragged
in, over and over again. We must expect that and be
prepared, know what has to be done - and do it.
It is Friday afternoon; the Sabbath approaches. A
day of rest, from sundown to sundown on Saturday. There
have been four Friday nights since the beginning of the
War; on three of them we have been attacked. We prepare
for the Sabbath; is there nothing more that we can do to
prepare for attacks?
copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.