Everybody says the press never reports any good news. But maybe the press does report good news, but when it does, the public simply ignores it.
For instance. This week, the New York Times reported some very good news: that the war Israel and Iran — and, maybe, the U.S. and the rest of the world — seemed hurtling inexorably toward for the past year may not be so inevitable after all.
“A series of factors,” the paper says, “for now, argue against a conflict.” Whew.
You already know the particulars — Iran is building a nuclear weapons program while pretending it’s a nuclear energy program, yet still rattling its saber and ranting about the eradication of Israel. A nation which, given its history of other countries trying to destroy it with deeds not words, has a habit of not just sitting around waiting for doom to arrive — very un-Jewish of them in that regard — so has been making noise that it will strike Iran first, if need be.
Now, the Times says, tough economic sanctions have caught Iran’s attention so that they appear to be negotiating in quasi-good faith, as opposed to the playing-for-time-until-we-make-our-bomb talks of the past.
That’s good news. If true.
Meanwhile, former and current members of the Israeli military have gone public saying, in essence, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters are nuts pushing for an unnecessary war.
We should be overjoyed that a war is being averted (if it is being averted). It shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose, that people barely notice when a war is avoided since, heck, we barely notice the wars we’re still fighting (Sigh. Really? OK, Afghanistan, remember?)
A preemptive strike based on Iranian bluster and threats never struck me as a good idea. Then again, those missiles aren’t pointed at me. A reminder that there are two distinct camps among Jewish Americans when it comes to evaluating Israel. To the Trust Israel Always camp — older Jews, fervent Zionists, Standard Club members, those not prone to critical thinking — the idea is, these are the guys who raided Entebbe and whupped the behinds of their Arab foes for decades. They know what they’re doing.
And having been raised in the afterglow of 1967 triumph, that’s a comfortable spot, and I can understand wanting to nestle there.
I can even argue the case, a little. It goes like this: The world didn’t like Jews before — we were a menacing, unacceptable force of evil back when we were a bunch of bearded old guys studying Talmud and selling rags in rural shtetls across Poland. So naturally, now that the Jews have a nation with an army, stop the presses: They still don’t like us, even more, with new reasons added to the old.
And yet. Some of those reasons just don’t brush easily off the table, no matter how you try to wipe them away. There is the growing tendency of the leadership to stray further and further right, coddling ultra Orthodox zealots, divine right settlers and militants.
I have a habit I call “looking at the current facts.” Which, now that war with Iran doesn’t seem to be happening this week, click back to Israel’s perennial Problem No. 1: controlling the lives of four million stateless Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, the Palestinians’ leaders screwed them in the past. Yes, they seem to use any freedom given them to lob rockets blindly into Israel. But they’re still there, and the question remains: What’s to be done now?
The popular Palestinian solution — the Jews shrug and wander off stage and we get the country back — is not helpful, a pipe dream, the same the-Jews-disappear-and-then-life-is-swell solution that Jews have been offered for a thousand years. Hope you don’t mind if we don’t snap at that one.
But the current Israeli answer — the status quo goes on forever while Israel slowly absorbs more occupied land, condensing the Palestinians into a smaller and smaller ball until, poof, they magically disappear — seems equally unrealistic, because “forever” doesn’t seem an option, though at 45 years, we’re on our way. The Iranian crisis is cooling, maybe, for now, but there will certainly be another.
Whenever this issue comes up, all sides grab at the past and start waving the parts that flatter them. That’s an endless sinkhole, one I try to avoid by asking, “What next?”
Israel is there. It isn’t going away, particularly if Iran’s fingers are truly pried off the bomb, for the moment. The Palestinians are also still there, 4 million and growing. What happens next? Nobody has a clue.
I keep returning to the long journey of the Jews. They didn’t sit down by the waters of Babylon and weep, remembering Zion, hoping that someday they’d get to enslave somebody too. That can’t be how the story ends.