Summer Fool, Winter Fool
Feburary 5, 2001
While walking by the Tel Aviv seashore promenade, I was
approached by a slick blond guy who invited me to visit lady
luck. A mixed crowd of tourists and folks from Afula and Dimona
had gathered to watch this street artist with fast hands, three
glasses and a ball. 'Try and guess, where the ball is, and you
win hundred bucks', he said. I laughed. Did he take me for a
country hick? No big city man would try this game, as one can't
beat the dealer. The right choice in this game it to refuse to
So don't come looking for me on 6th of February, when the drums
call the citizens of Israel to vote. I will not be making a
beeline for the election booth. I'd rather help the villagers
besieged by Barak's troops, and there, without trepidation, I
shall wait for the news of Sharon's victory.
At the first sight, this election is a sham. It is similar to
the Soviet style one-party elections. Of course, the Russians
never came up with the brilliant idea to offer citizens the
choice of Brezhnev vs Chernenko. The citizens of Israel should
envy the Buridan's ass. This silly animal of the medieval
allegory could not choose between two identical bales of hay. We
have to choose between two equally unappetizing generals, old
Arab-fighters, unconvincingly mouthing the word 'peace'. The
choice is further made irrelevant by their declared intent to
form a coalition government immediately after the election.
The polls predict victory for general Sharon, the world-famous
symbol of 'cruel Zionism'. His name is connected with mass
murders of civilians in Qibya, Sabra and Shatila, and the siege
of Beirut. His "sightseeing" of Haram a-Sharif jumpstarted the
most recent eruption of civil war in Palestine. He is a
certified war criminal. Still, I will not rush to save Barak's
skin. I look forward with hope. I have a few reasons for my
optimism, and callous indifference is not one of them.
It is true, the election could be seen as just another of the
endless con games that plague Israeli politics. It is a good cop
/ bad cop routine on the Palestinians. Once again the fate of
the Palestinians is being toyed with by men who are out to score
public relations points. Labour and Likud are reenacting the
memorable dialogue from this great American novel, Moby Dick.
When Ishmael, the hero of Melville's book, seeks a place on a
whaler, the mean skipper Bildad offers him a pittance, while his
co-owner, captain Peleg explodes in visible anger: "Why, blast
your eyes, Bildad, thou dost not want to swindle this young man!
he must have more than that" and offers him anyway much less
then what Ishmael could rightly expect. Well, as in our life,
Ishmael is not asked, he just has to submit.
Having said that, I will be the first to admit that the two
candidates still differ. The Jewish joke tells of two kinds of
fools, a summer fool and a winter fool. Whenever a summer fool
comes in, you immediately recognize him for a fool. Whenever a
winter fool comes in, it takes time until he removes his
greatcoat, shakes snow off his fur hat, and only then you
understand that he is a fool. Barak is a winter fool. Until he
started to shoot, it was possible to retain a few delusions
about the man. Sharon is a summer fool. You immediately see him
for what he is. There is an advantage in dealing with such a
man. His peace cooing will convince no one. He will have to
produce tangible results in order to survive.
Barak reminds me of my late spinster aunt Ethel. She refused
every suitor, after letting him believe that this time it will
be different. For years, we hoped she will do the right thing,
and get married. If not married, find herself a lover to make up
for decades of loneliness. But she could not. We felt pity for
whoever happened to be her current suitor, as we watched him
painfully crawling home. He should know better, aunt Ethel would
not surrender even if she wanted, as she was afraid of men.
Ehud Barak was notorious for promising and reneging on his
promise. Actually, he did not fulfill a single promise. For
instance, his government decided to free the villages of Anata
and Abu Dis. A few days later, he found a reason to keep them
captive. In the interview given to the Vesti newspaper last
week, he was offered to name his main achievement. Barak
replied: 'I revealed to the world the true face of Arafat'.
Barak changes opinions twice a day, he sends and recalls
delegations, he is unreliable. Speaking in American terms, you
would not buy a new car from him, let alone a used one.
What is worse, Barak does not like Palestinians. This arrogant
and unpleasant man refused to invite the Palestinian citizens of
Israel, who elected him, into his government. On a personal
level, I can easier visualize Sharon in a company of Palestinian
friends over a hummus, than Barak ever hiring a Palestinian
gardener. He would probably prefer a Thai. The war crime record
of Sharon is not unique. Barak's long list of assassinations
would not look good in the Hague, either. We are doomed to live
with war criminals. A just court would try not only Sharon and
Barak, but the perpetrators of sanctions against the people of
Iraq and Serbia bombing. The murderers of 3 million Vietnamese
still walk free, and probably sit in the Capitol Hill. Many
Israelis of Sharon's generation were Arab fighters, and quite
ruthless ones, too. But they did not look on a Palestinian as a
low-life that ought to be contained or exterminated.
Like many of my Israeli contemporaries, I did my time in the
army. I remember the smell of cordite, jeep's flight in the
desert, the green sky of night vision, shrieks of shrapnel, Suez
crossing, twin tents, fellowship of arms. As a young soldier in
a crack unit, I was proud of my red boots and paratroops wings,
I listened with a wistful heart to the stories of the brave
deeds of Arik Sharon and Meir Har Zion. (Yes, it was before
Sabra and Shatila). I am not ashamed to admit I cherish them
together with the courage of Karame fighters and that daredevil
Leila Khaled. Soldiers can understand other soldiers. Together
we form Palestine.
Whenever the beautiful green Palestine would be united, all her
communities will bring their best achievements into the common
cause of making this special land the best place on earth, as it
should be. The Palestinians will contribute their art of growing
olives and tending the springs, their peasant love of the land
and unbroken spirit of Intifada. Our Israeli contribution won't
include Einstein's theory or Wall street wizardry, as we do not
understand it, but the military exploits worthy of Crusaders'
glory. In Palestine, we don't need peace. We do not need
separation, even on the best of terms. We need love and
compassion, and life together. On the position of the prime
minister, we do not need a de Gaulle. We need a de Klerk.
Sharon and his people are held together by a perverse form of
love to the land. It is perverse because they imagine it is
possible to love Palestine without Palestinians. But Palestine
is not a dead object, it is a live country and Palestinians are
her soul. Still, it is easier to deal with these perverts than
with those who would prefer to turn Palestine into a part of
Eastern Europe, or of the East Coast.
The Civil war in Palestine (1947-2001) was possible only due to
the external support of Zionists' ill-advised allies. Sharon's
grizzly past makes the unlimited support of the organised
American Jewry less likely and more precarious. The watchful
presence of international observers, the possibility of the UN
intervention, unencumbered by a US veto, the looming presence of
a resurrected Iraq will be necessary to concentrate Sharon's
mind. He is not the peaceful messiah on the white colt, but he
is no more a scarecrow than Barak.
A military man, he should be offered the simple and the best
solution to our problems: unification of the country on the
basis of "one man, one vote". The temptation to bury the
tomahawks, to end the civil war and to become the first ever
legitimate ruler of the united Palestine could be too much to
withstand for this old soldier.
Then, who knows, we could beat the dealer even in this loaded