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Berkeley to Israel: what is really happening from local perspective

Berkeley Courthouse
Berkeley CourthousePeggy Reskin

Right next door and down the street in Berkeley, our friends, stalwart and master travelers who travel to Israel a few times a year, have returned abruptly from this summer's trip. What is happening from their perspective comes from the place of the New York Times Magazine article today. It is that from their place in Israel, they hear the thumps and explosions in Gaza, maybe as far away as from Berkeley to Palo Alto. These thumps and explosions can be heard everywhere they and their friends live and work.

We've all watched John Kerry return from the abrupt diss of the Israeli press; accusing the United States, specifically Kerry and possibly President Obama, of second guessing Prime Minister Netanyahu. We've seen John McCain and Lindsey Graham stand up and salute Israel, apologizing for any possible misunderstanding to the contrary by our administration. We've seen the wounded children of Gaza being carried away for help, their mothers and fathers crying. So what can my friends convey that is going to explain Israel's bombing of the UN hospital? How can anything pardon this act of war?

Given their allegiance and connections to Israel, you might assume my friends position. But they're from Berkeley, like myself, deeply committed to the egalitarian non partisan view described by the New York Times Magazine. We must look deeply into the root cause and the history, even while feeling the sting and the pain of these children, just as we do the plight of unaccompanied minors/ children at the border. These other immigrant children, being quarreled over and left in big tents, hopefully receiving the daily food they need.

It is a complicated world we live in, not for the faint of heart, or those who succumb to easy answers or lazy emotional responses. No, Israel and Gaza are involved in a long standing process. It doesn't look there is going to be a bigger man, a bigger person to say: "Let's find a way out of this; the cost is too great. Here, we'll give you what you need. Let's start now."

There isn't going to be that bigger person. And the world is standing by watching the chess game between The GOP Boehner and the GOP Cruise,oops I mean Cruz, as they deter policy relating to immigration, even with children's welfare in the mix. And Ukraine and Putin, er, I mean the Rebels, may tone it down for awhile but the end of it is not in sight. Sanctions however, are impacting the pace and speed of events in Ukraine, with unknown results.

And Israel, in its harsh superior stand over Gaza, is more than risking its citizens. According to the New York Times article, there is antisemitism in Europe brewing in places like France and Germany related to the actions of Israel. It is alarming to read in the SF Chronicle today of the French, with a large muslim population, demonstrating signs of deep hostility toward Jews. And my friends, with family in Israel, with children in the army, fighting in the tunnels, cut their trip short and did not go to Paris as planned. Paris, where she was born, where they met when he was a visiting graduate student from New York. They cut short their yearly Israeli trip and avoided France altogether, because of the anti-semitism that permeates France at this time.

We are in a situation that daily requires our intelligence in making any contribution to supporting any sign of light toward addressing these world wide concerns. I recently celebrated Barbara Lee's birthday in Alameda with people who support her and the strong stands she takes in the US Congress and in the world. Barbara Lee is not looking for a following. She has often been the solitary voice for peace and restraint in times of great stress on our country. Hers was the only vote in Congress against the war in 2003. She steps up on each significant world or national event and looks down the road for the potential and the consequences it presents. Perhaps that is the best we can do, little though it seems to be.

Meanwhile all that is happening in the world seems closer to our lives than ever before. Our returned friends and their family provide uncomfortable associations and proximity that has us know our own vulnerability. Our responsibility, as President Obama defined last week, is that while we are the most powerful nation on earth, we are not the rulers of the world. We don't get to tell other countries how to do their business/politics/economics or policies. But we can do the work to have it be uncomfortable and costly when countries impose conditions that we won't tolerate. We can and must have our voices heard. How we see the current dilemmas and travesties in the world impacts us. Either we find means to respond or we deny the problem and risk feeling helpless and ineffective. There might be a third choice. If so, it would be worth hearing about… Happy Sunday!