September 12, 2004


I really wanted to write a 9-11 post on 9-11, but events conspired in my off-line life to keep me from it. This is my first 9-11 as a blogger, so I thought it would be a good time to tell my story, but since it’s already three years old, I thought, it won’t be much staler next year, maybe I should wait till then? Then I read Sarah’s post:

I went to see what she had to say on that momentous date. Nothing. I tried all of her links, and no one had even mentioned September 11th. I tried all of their links, racing through the internet trying to find anyone in their circle of "liberal" friends who thought that this date still held significance. I found one person who said that he had written a post about September 11th but then deleted it because "it is important to remember the events of 9/11, but let's not dwell on them."

I don’t want to be one of them – someone who doesn’t admit to the importance of this day. But in a way I am: 9-11, horrific as it was, was not a world-changing event for me. You see, living in Israel means experiencing a slow-motion 9-11, all the time, and it’s been this way for the last hundred years. Along with the sheer horror, the James-Bond-turned-disaster-movie come to life, was the realization that, for the first time, we Israelis were not alone in our misery.

We often hear about America’s “vacation from history” – that ended on 9-11. In Israel we had a similar vacation, we called it: Oslo. To say that I was skeptical of Oslo from the first would be an understatement, but even so I was swept up in the euphoria that followed the Oslo accords. For a diversity-lover like me it was a dream too sweet to turn away from. When everyone else faulted my logic, even I preferred to doubt it.

I saw the vision clearly: Not merely two nations living side-by-side in peace, but two nations intertwined: A checkerboard country, each nation interacting in peace with the other, nevertheless maintaining its own social institutions, pursuing its own destiny. But all this overlooked one small thing: Our partner-in-peace was a totalitarian, terrorist-supporting dictatorship. Their vision was nothing like mine. Not only did the incidence of terrorism not decrease, it actually increased. And that was just the ghastly tip of the iceberg. All kinds of crime increased dramatically. Car thefts, for example went up 500%, and burglary, once rare, became common. The Palestinian areas became safe havens for crime – the cost of theft plummeted. Where once the theft itself was 10% of the battle, the other 90% being safely selling the stolen goods, now the theft was all the battle, and by the unavoidable laws of economics, when costs tumbled, demand skyrocketed.

None of this led to disillusionment among much of the public. The problem: we weren’t doing enough! So, like an alcoholic curing his hangover with another drink, we had round after round of agreements. Each time we gave the Palestinians something new, and asked for the same old thing in return: the end of terror. The Palestinians probably thought they were on to something good (for them). What they didn’t know: That we would hit bottom.

It came, when our Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, in one last act of desperation, breaking all the “red lines” that he himself declared, and that the Israeli public believed in, tried to give them everything they asked for, in return for ending terror. And they refused. Why did they refuse? Because of one small detail that Barak, to his credit, refused to relinquish: A clear declaration by the Palestinians of an end to hostilities. An agreement that there would be no more demands. Arafat told Clinton: "If I sign this, the next time you will see me it will be my funeral." Instead, Arafat stared the Oslo War, or as he dubbed it: the el-Aqsa Intifada. (The pretense was that the Israelis were about to destroy the el-Aqsa Mosque.)

In response, we fully expected the world to rush to our defense, if not in deeds, then at least in words. The facts were clear. The Palestinians walked out, they started a war, they didn’t want peace. Nothing of the sort occurred. The Europeans found excuses, even the Americans found excuses, and always there was the inexorable demand for evenhandedness. That was Israel’s 9-11. One year later was America’s 9-11.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 12, 2004 10:38 AM
Comments & Trackbacks

David, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that in 2000 I was a stupid kid who was only beginning to realize the impact the US has on the rest of the world. I'm sorry that even on 9/11/01, I didn't understand the magnitude of what had happened (it wasn't until last year that I really began to understand.) I'm sorry that no one rushed to your defense after Oslo. I'm sorry that, still today, few people rush to your defense. And I'm sorry that it's only been within the last year that I've come to appreciate Israel and her dilemma. But I'm here now, I guess is all I can say. I'm here now.

Posted by: Sarah at September 12, 2004 12:14 PM Permalink

Sarah, I'm touched. I wasn't asking for an apology. Nor do I think you need to now. I don't think you, personally, were guilty of anything in particular.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 12, 2004 12:41 PM Permalink

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