Thoughts In Times of War—by Paul Goldberg

Thoughts In Times of War
Paul Goldberg
Written in Rochester, NY
August 18, 2014

Forces driving me today, war in Israel and indeed in the entire area, but really my own focus is Israel and war in Ukraine, which seems more immediate since our time in Kiev and the Baltic capitals only last October.

I watch the news in so many ways, listening to NPR, reading the Kindle edition of the New York Times, reading emails and stories on Facebook and Google+ and oh yes sometimes on the television, although I must admit that the Daily Show and Colbert Report are more likely to capture my attention than CNN, NBC or Fox. It seems that no matter how I let the world into my awareness, no matter how I try to filter the media stream, word of war/terrorism/mindless killing will find its way into my awareness.

There are more regional wars at one time than I am aware of in a long time. So many seem to involve Muslims fighting their neighbors, each other and Israelis. The Shiite and the Sunni seem to dislike (too mild a word I fear) each other more than any outsider, except maybe the Jews in Israel. Like the Catholics and the Protestants they share a common God and Book yet that seems to magnify the differences when they try to rule a country. They are not presently able to work together and it seems that the ones in control of the government are always seen as oppressing those out of power. The seeming is in most cases real. Why? To the non-Muslim mind the differences between Sunni and Shiite are hard to sort out. Can they not pray together side by side in the same manner with a difference in understanding of the lineage of the faith? Much as I can pray with Jews who follow different paths to their worship. But no, we all look back to Moses as a teacher and they look back to two different teachers. Is that enough to be worth killing and dying for?

How much more unlikely is it that Hamas, caught in that Muslim space, can find a way to live in harmony with Jews in Israel? They are sworn to destroy Israel, they have no room in their worldview for a compromise that will permit them to live with Palestinians from Fatah, how much less can they live with Israelis. If our politicians in the United States are willing to risk political defeat rather than compromise on any issue, why can’t they understand that Hamas is unable to back away from its destructive ways. Or have I got that wrong? Is it that compromise is seen as failure and merely surviving is giving in to the forces of evil, whatever they may be?

The liberal left in the US and the anti-semitic Western European leadership argue that Israel must lift the blockade as Hamas is demanding. I understand the need to open Gaza to more trade, but how can Israel permit that, when so much of the cement that was imported over the past decade went into tunnels designed not as shelters or for smuggling trade, but specifically to launch a single devastating attack on the civilian residents of Israel in neighboring communities? How much of the limited wealth of Gazans went into that one idea? We have seen the pictures of the tunnels. How much good for the people of Gaza could have been accomplished had that materiel and energy gone into growing the economy? With that kind of effort, Hamas could have forced Israel into opening the trade barriers by economic means and established itself as a functional neighbor. Instead it has chosen to devote all of its energy to the destruction of Israel with no regard for the people of the area they control.

In Ukraine the impetus for war is very much external. Russia, under Putin’s leadership, wants to reclaim the world as it was in the days of the Soviet Union. It is using a minority of Ukrainians who are Russian speakers to foster a sense of need for reuniting with Russia. Again we are looking at two peoples whose religions are more similar than different and find in those differences a reason to be at war. The Churches are Eastern Orthodox, but the relations between Ukrainian Orthodox and Russian Orthodox are nonexistent. And the Autocephalous Orthodox Church agrees with none of the above. The Ukrainian people remember the destruction of their lives by the Soviets and want nothing to do with Russia and the Ethnic Russians feel cut off from their home. So the war will rage on unless Russia makes a concerted military effort to destroy the Ukrainian government.

Meanwhile the Baltic countries face a different nightmare as a third of their populations are in retirement and a third are children not yet ready for the workforce. Add to that the emigration of many of the best and brightest and these countries face an economic disaster that could end up leaving them too weak to resist a return to Russian hegemony.

I am staying away from the troubles in Southeast Asia for now. We witnessed enough there to understand that we are truly in a world war made up of a thousand fronts. It would be my fondest hope to live to see a time when there is no war in the world. Baruch HaShem!