Thursday, September 8, 2011

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman

From Beirut to JerusalemThomas Friedman was a reporter for the New York Times, reporting on the middle east in the 80s and early 90s. As such, he bears witness to many crazy things that went on there during that time, such as the civil war in Lebanon and the bombing of the Marine barracks there, and the start of the intifada against Israel by the Palestinians. Friedman provides a great deal of background about the tribes and history of the region for those wishing to obtain a greater understanding of some of the issues.

He provides an occasionally amusing anecdote about the lives of folks over there, and quite a few good insights, that perhaps our leaders here (and those over there) have yet to learn. There's far to much material here to do a full walkthrough, but some of the things I found interesting follow:

"If there is one thing I have learned in the Middle East, it is that the so-called extremists or religious zealots, whether in Jewish or Muslim society, are not as extreme as we might think. The reason they are both tolerated and successful is that they are almost always acting on the basis of widely shared feelings or yearnings..these so-called extremists are usually just the tip of an iceber that is connected in a deep and fundamental way to the bases of their respective societies."

A little worrisome.

Regarding the Rimon School in Israel, where people come to study and play rock and roll music:

"The Rimon campus looks like an army base gone to seed - low-slung barracks with peeling white paint and a lawn that has needed cutting for months; it was once a school for the mentally handicapped. Some ultra-Orthodox Israelis think it stilll is."

About the intertwined nature of Palestinians and Israelis prior to the intifada:

"In the Old City of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem and in Jericho, Palestinian merchants would sell yarmulkes, monorahs, "I Love Israel" t-shirts and other Jewish items - most of them made by Palestinian labor - right alongside kaffiyehs and Korans and other traditional ARabic souvenirs."

About Israeli legal maneuvers in holding and charging Palestinian terror suspects:

"...I never found the Israeli legal abuses particularly surprising. The Israelis were fighting a war with another community living right next door - a community that itself was not playing by any rules...The truth was, each side understood that they were in a war for communal survival. One side had knives and pistols; the other had secret agents and courts."

This is a good, though sometimes repetitive, read about some of the roots of the conflict still active in the Holy Land today.

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