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Harris Sherline: Insight and Observations About Israel

By Harris Sherline, Noozhawk Columnist |

Start with the fact that I am Jewish. However, before you discount my comments as just another biased expression of unqualified support for Israel, you might find that my experience as a largely secular American Jew may provide some insight into the issues involved in the continuing struggle between Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah.

First, some background. Personal, that is: I was born in 1928, of an American Jewish couple, whose own parents came to this country in the 1800s from Russia. My parents did not practice Judaism, they both had only a sixth-grade education, and moved to California from New York in the 1920s. I was born and raised here. I have (had) two siblings: a brother (deceased), who was 4½ years my senior, and a sister (also deceased), who was seven years older than me.

We grew up in somewhat limited circumstances during the Great Depression, and in typical middle-class conditions after World War II, and we are (were) all college grads, with professional educations in teaching, engineering and accounting, respectively.

Religion was not a part of our upbringing. Both my parents spoke Yiddish, and my mother spoke a little Russian, but there was no formal religious training. Our family settled in Los Angeles, which had a large Jewish population. I can’t say that I experienced a great deal of overtly hostile prejudice as I was growing up, although I certainly did encounter my share in my business life.

I graduated from high school in 1946. At the time the world was in the midst of trying to resolve the situation with the Jews in the Middle East, who were attempting to create a homeland for their people. I can remember many heated discussions among the Jewish students at the time about partitioning what was then part of the British Protectorate in the Middle East, to carve out the nation of Israel in the desert. But my involvement was largely peripheral. I didn’t pay a lot of attention and wasn’t particularly interested, and I hardly noticed when the nation of Israel was finally created by the United Nations in 1948.

Fast forward 64 years: Today, I am a staunch supporter of Israel.

So what happened?

On the way to arriving at my current perspective about the Jews and Israel, as I gained experience and learned more, I was influenced by some of the basic realities about the world we live in:

The fact that a Jew is largely secular and does not practice Judaism does not change the reality that the world in general considers almost everyone with Jewish ancestry to be a Jew, no matter how “Jewish” or secular they may be. Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust demonstrated that quite vividly. People may be only “half” or “one-quarter” or “one-eighth” Jewish, but when push comes to shove, they are invariably “Jewish.”

The Jews are convenient scapegoats for the transgressions or ambitions of others. How many times have you heard the claim that Jewish bankers control the world, that all Jews are rich, that they always take advantage of others, in business or otherwise (“I Jewed him down” is a common expression), that they are “Christ Killers,” that they kill Muslim children and use their blood to bake bread, that they secretly plot to control various countries, etc., etc., ad nauseum? Whatever it takes for various leaders to demagogue the Jews and divert the attention of others from their own despicable behavior.

All that’s necessary is a mix of an uninformed population, poverty and religious fanaticism to create a foundation for the endless stream of lies and distortions that are employed to make the Jews the scapegoats for everything that’s wrong with the world and the oppression of others, especially the Palestinians.

Many, probably most, Jews are not religious in the formal sense, particularly in America. However, although they may not practice Judaism and may have intermarried, many, perhaps most, still consider themselves Jewish. I am in that category. Dennis Prager has written an excellent series of articles, “Explaining Jews” (Townhall.com), which I highly recommend for those who would like to learn more about the subject.

When I was in high school in the 1940s, and even years later — at the time I was practicing public accounting in the late 1960s — Jews still were not allowed to stay in many American hotels or resorts, they were not accepted for membership in most country clubs, many companies would not hire them, including major accounting and law firms, they were not accepted by many of the most prestigious universities, and they could not buy homes in many “restricted” neighborhoods, along with suffering a host of other indignities in American society at large. In many respects, it was not much different from the prejudice against African-Americans that has plagued our society for generations, and continues to this day.

The response of American Jews was to form their own businesses, law and accounting firms, open their own country clubs, establish their own university (Brandeis), etc., thereby in some ways further defining their separation from American society in many respects.

As the years passed, I learned something about the history of the Jews and the repression and persecution they have suffered since biblical times, how they always managed to adapt and survive, how their many accomplishments have improved the world.

I learned that they face seemingly insurmountable odds, that there are only about 5 million Jews in Israel, along with about 1 million Arabs, and that there are a total of only about 13 million Jews in the world today (including Israel) vs. 250 million Arabs in 22 states who want to exterminate them.

I learned how the Jews have taken the desolate, barren desert land they were given and turned it into a modern, productive, democratic state, with the highest standard of living in the Middle East.

I also learned that prejudice and bigotry take many forms, often hiding behind a façade of seemingly being unbiased, but that the potential is always present with some people, sometimes without their even realizing it themselves. I can remember sitting in business meetings and having certain clients openly brag to their associates how shrewd they were to have hired a “smart Jew,” without ever considering how insulting that might sound. Obviously, they thought it was a compliment. They were proud of their own good sense and judgment to have me on retainer, and I always let it pass.

In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter who’s right in the Israel-Palestine-Hamas-Hezbollah situation, because neither side will ever convince the other. The parties to the conflict make similar claims about themselves and one another:

They were on the land first, therefore it belongs to them.

The other side are “occupiers” or “squatters.”

The other side is guilty of extreme tactics, killing women and children indiscriminately, and much worse.

The other side is responsible for the repression and extreme poverty of the Palestinian and other Arab societies. The Arabs blame the Jews and the Jews blame Arab leaders for keeping their own people poverty-stricken so they could continue to divert attention from themselves by fanning the flames of hatred against the Jews.

Unfortunately, in my mind, one fact overrides all others: The Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran all unambiguously avow that Israel must be wiped off the map and the Jews driven into the sea. And they are aided and abetted by most other Arab-Muslim states to a greater or lesser degree: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, etc., often speaking one way to the world in English while saying the opposite in Arabic to their own people. No matter how much they try to cover up or talk around their openly declared goal of destroying Israel and the Jews, their real intent never changes.

It has been going on this way for 64 years, and I expect it will continue thus until long after I am gone.

Finally, it is an article of Muslim faith that the Jews and all people of other religious beliefs must be converted to Islam or exterminated, a reality that neither the Jews nor the Christians throughout the world dare ignore.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.




comments powered by Disqus

» on 12.02.12 @ 05:02 PM

Dear Mr. Sherline,

Please reconsider your choice to be a Zionist.
Not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.
And it has been my observation that the most enthusiastic anti-Zionists are anti-Zionist Jews.

Zionists need to worry less about Hamas or Hezbollah or Islam and worry more about the growing preponderance of evidence that 9/11 was a Zionist job. With unanimous support for Israel being expressed by the U.S. Congress, you can be forgiven for been lulled into the feeling that Israel is safe from American Citizen outrage. But it is inevitable that the long-overdue independent, fully funded and fully empowered 9/11 investigation will be established and the revelations from it will probably compel a righteous disabused United States to exterminate Israel into a scorched radioactive no-mans land.

A critical mass of Americans liberated from the Zionist imposed holocaust hoax lies and a 19 Arabs with boxcutters conspiracy theory is growing. It bodes ill for Israel and Zionist everywhere if the TRUTH is revealed and it WILL be revealed. Israel’s near future nonexistence is already a certainty. It would be best that they confess, atone and deconstruct themselves.

Survive. Dissociate from and renounce criminal Zionism.

» on 12.02.12 @ 05:54 PM

Harris, I read all the way and was open to your ideas and opinions - until I got to the last few paragraphs. Your statement that “The Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran all unambiguously avow that Israel must be wiped off the map and the Jews driven into the sea. And they are aided and abetted by most other Arab-Muslim states to a greater or lesser degree: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, etc.” is simply factually wrong, and egregiously so. The Arab League has for decades offered to recognize Israel in the pre-1967 borders, and Israel has declined.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have for years now accepted Israel’s right to exist and have tried to negotiate reasonable borders and national rights, such as control of airspace and goods, etc. But Israel has instead chosen to “manage the conflict” rather than to resolve it. Most Israelis now accept that the conflict can’t be solved and instead prefer to use their overwhelming military and economic advantage to keep the Palestinians in what amounts to apartheid conditions (see Carter’s book on this).

The recent 138-9 vote at the UN’s General Assembly to finally recognize Palestine as an independent state is strong affirmation (based on the large majority of world opinion) of the view that Israel has not been fair in its dealings with respect to Palestine. The US and Israeli stonewalling of diplomatic efforts to gain recognition for a Palestinian send exactly the wrong message to Palestinians: that peaceful efforts will not be rewarded and that violence is the only way to extract concessions from Israel. This is a terrible way for the US and Israel to approach this interminable conflict. Hamas will never win against Israel with violence. But it has extracted concessions through violence. The US and Israel should instead be working actively with the PA and Abbas to counter the Hamas violence-mongers, and send the right message that peaceful means can solve very deep conflicts.

My view is that this never-ending conflict will only be resolved when the US and Israel become fair brokers and agree to return to negotiated borders that roughly resemble the pre-1967 lines.

» on 12.02.12 @ 06:42 PM

Mr. Sherline -

Your columns are often provocative, although I do not often agree with you.  This is yet another example of where I do nt agree.

Re:  Muslims believe that all others “must be converted to Islam or exterminated”.  Please see http://www.suhaibwebb.com/relationships/non-muslims/does-islam-force-itself-on-others/

Re: “The Palestinians,...unambiguously avow that israeel must be wiped off the map…”  Please see http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace Process/Guide to the Peace Process/Israel-PLO Recognition - Exchange of Letters betwe

Your comments about the futile arguments advanced in favor of each side’s justifications are spot on.

However, I suspect that you have never been to the West Bank (Juedea/Sumaria, if you will) to see the atrocities that have been forced upon the Palestinians. 

I hold no brief for Hamas, which was fostered by Sharon’s pullout of Gaza, and appears to have no interest in the West Bank.

» on 12.02.12 @ 10:53 PM

As I get older, I find that I increasingly support Israel, inasmuch as they are surrounded by many who would like nothing better than to wipe them off the face of the earth. Contrary to what the previous posters have postulated, the Palestinians have never given up on the the “Right of Return” which would have the practical effect of ending Israel as a Jewish state. Although they have at times endorsed the two state solution, they indoctrinate their youth with the most vile stereotypes of Jews and unceasing hatred of Israel.

As a secular Jew, I am puzzled by the uniformity of the political beliefs of American Jews. We know that most Jews are overwhelming liberal and vote for Democratic candidates. Although the Jewish vote dropped slightly for Obama in 2012, it was still over 70%, second only to African Americans. A poll in Israel, prior to the election, ascertained that most Israelis believe (unlike American Jews) that Obama is hostile to Israel.

It is interesting that many devout Christians are some of the strongest supporters of Israel. However, despite the strong support of this community, many American Jews are very condescending to and/or dismissive of the Evangelical Christians. I find this behavior very puzzling and actually quite incomprehensible. Israel is fortunate to have the support of many Christians, and American Jews should not take it for granted.

The Republican Party and Conservatives in general have been very supportive of Israel, despite the lack of support by the Jewish community. American Jews should not take this support lightly because it may not always be given without any reciprocity. Furthermore, there is a growing faction in the Democratic Party that has become somewhat hostile to Israel, as exemplified by some of these posters as well as a majority of the people attending the Democratic Convention who supported omitting any reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the platform.

Jews would do well to know who their friends are because their so-called friends may not be there when they need them.

» on 12.02.12 @ 11:09 PM

“However, I suspect that you have never been to the West Bank (Juedea/Sumaria, if you will) to see the atrocities that have been forced upon the Palestinians.”

Are you going to blame Israel for the horrid living conditions and extreme poverty in almost every Arab country in the region, as well as the atrocities visited on the Syrian people by their own govt. and the Palestinian communities in many of the Arab countries. If the poster is a woman, I wonder if she would like to live in any of these Arab countries.

If anyone is curious which Arab population is the most prosperous in the Middle East and enjoy more civil liberties and democratic freedoms, the answer is Arab Israelis.

» on 12.03.12 @ 12:01 AM

One more thing: I knew a column in support of Israel would bring forth people like the one who wrote the first post. BTW,  this individual shares some of the same views (9/11 is a Zionist plot) of many of the people who surround Israel. Negotiating with people like this is essentially a futile exercise.

» on 12.03.12 @ 12:19 AM

“My view is that this never-ending conflict will only be resolved when the US and Israel become fair brokers and agree to return to negotiated borders that roughly resemble the pre-1967 lines.”

You have to have lived in Israel or know somebody who has to understand why this will never happen. Even the most dovish politicians in Israel will never agree to return to pre-1967 lines. If people understood how close the West bank is to Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean and the huge security problems such a naive proposal would incur for Israel, they would never seriously entertain such an idea. By encouraging the Palestinians to believe Israel would agree to this will only exacerbate and prolong the conflict.

The Palestinians received the best deal they ever got at the end of Clinton’s term and they rejected it primarily because it didn’t allow all the Palestinians to return to Israel.

» on 12.05.12 @ 01:14 PM

Lou, Israel expanded its borders through military force after the 1948 UN partition and then again in the 1967 war, and it is now trying to claim large swaths of the West Bank through expansion of settlements there, which now total over 350,000 people. At the same time, a growing right-wing in Israel wants to keep the West Bank - or Judea and Samaria as they refer to it - permanently.

Israel spends more on defense than all of its Arab neighbors combined. Israel has, as is common knowledge but officially secret, about 200 nuclear warheads. None of its neighbors have nuclear weapons.

Israel has recently completed the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, which combined with its wall on - and well into - the West Bank, has created a very robust defense system.

See Friedman’s recent piece on these issues:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/opinion/iron-empires-iron-fists-iron-domes.html

So we have: a huge military budget, a 200 weapon nuclear arsenal, a wall, and the Iron Dome system. Oh, and let’s not forget the constant and generally unquestioning military, financial and moral support of the sole remaining superpower: the US.

So is it really accurate to say that Israel couldn’t defend itself in the pre-1967 borders? Upon examination this claim loses much relationship to reality.

» on 12.05.12 @ 06:16 PM

Tam,

Israel withdrew from Gaza (pre 1967 borders) a number of years ago, as proposed by the hawkish Ariel Sharon, and all it has done is given us Hamas and the perpetual reigning down on Israel of thousands of missiles every year. Because Iran supplies the Hamas with increasingly more powerful missiles with greater range, the danger has grown exponentially.

The Iron Dome has proven to be effective, but it is not a panacea. It cannot shoot down every missile, so it doesn’t relieve Israel of the threat entirely. Don’t forget that the Hezbollah in Lebanon probably has hundreds of thousands of missiles of rockets supplied by Iran, which cannot all be shot down by anti-missile defense systems.

No other country anywhere in the world would tolerate having their cities attacked by incoming rockets and missiles. Israel will never dismantle the settlements in the West Bank unless they can be sure that the Palestinians are prepared to live peacefully with Israel. They will not repeat the experience of Hamas in the West Bank.

You did not address the “right of return”, which is a demand the Palestinians have never indicated their willingness to concede. Until they do, their support for the two state solution is disingenuous at best. The Israelis do not trust the Palestinians; there have been too much terror and senseless killing of innocent civilians for Israel to concede territory on the basis of verbal good intentions by the Palestinians. They will have to demonstrate their intentions by deeds and actions to prove they are prepared to accept Israel as a contiguous state.

Lastly, this demand for Israel to withdraw to pre 1967 borders will never happen. It is unrealistic to uproot over a half of a million people and hundreds of settlements. For you and others to insist on this will only prolong the conflict, if it emboldens the Palestinians. In any negotiation, Israel understands there will have to be give and take with the need to remove some of the settlements, particularly those deeply embedded in the West Bank, but total withdrawal is simply unrealistic.

Again, I would urge you got to Israel and see for yourself why it will never happen. Drive from the West Bank to Tel Aviv to see how close they are to each other. We are talking about 30 miles, equivalent to driving to Ventura from Santa Barbara. If your position is that Israel needs to redraw the boundaries with the Palestinians and withdraw from some of the settlements in exchange of some real (security) concessions from the Palestinians, then I would not have a problem with your position. But to simplistically state a total withdrawal from the West Bank betrays a naive understanding of the conflict which will not bring us closer to your vision of peace in the region.

» on 12.06.12 @ 12:27 PM

Tam, read the history of these conflicts. It was the British who threw the Palestinians under the bus in 1948. The Suez conflict was stoked by France and Israel’s neighbors the aggressors in the rest. Israel has never been more clear of its intentions, to secure as much land as possible for itself and its national defense.

I have no doubt they would have already succeeded in that goal had it not been for the meddling of one country, the USA.  The US has done more to stifle Israel than any other and yet they view us as their greatest ally. The reason is simple, we understand manifest destiny better than most, so they tolerate our belligerence. At some point the situation will come once again to a boil and all out war will erupt. Millions will die, much destruction wrought and there will be a clear winner and a clear loser. Unfortunately this is the pattern humanity follows. Farcical attempts at peace while the underlying problem festers until all out war, death and destruction.

It is noble to want a peaceful solution, but undeniably naïve. You now have 4 generations of Arabs born and bread to hate Jews passionately. You tell me Tam how you resolve that peacefully? Add to that a country led by a mad man with nuclear aspirations and oil kingdoms funding these hate mills around the world.

The British and French got this started with their botched attempts at dissolving their colonial empires and protecting their empire’s trade routes. We have equally botched the situation the same way we did with the Soviet Union, by containing rather than resolving. We got lucky with the Russian bear. But given our pathetic dive into European style apathy, appeasement and capitulation, I don’t believe lady luck is on our side anymore.

God help Israel and may He have mercy on the innocent in the middle east.

» on 12.07.12 @ 05:25 PM

AN50, two questions: why “God help Israel” and not also the Palestinians?

And how do you square your might makes right view of history with the role of international law and (sort of) more peaceful world more generally? Europe is probably the best example of how adults can sit down and work out differences amicably - after a few centuries of crazy bloodshed.

» on 12.10.12 @ 01:31 AM

Lou, I wrote a response on Friday that seems to have gotten lost - as often happens with Noozhawk unfortunately.

To pithily re-state my previous response: if it’s “unrealistic” to expect Israel to return to pre-1967 borders why isn’t equally unrealistic to expect the Palestinians to renounce the right of return?

Regardless, Abbas has in fact recently indicated a willingness to renounce the right of return in return for a viable Palestinian state, though there is much debate about what he really meant by his statements or how many Palestinians would agree with his statements.

» on 12.10.12 @ 05:47 AM

Tam, I can assure you Israel would like nothing more than to have a truly lasting peace with the Palestinians, but unlike many around the world who do not live in the region, the Israelis understand the reality of the present situation in the Arab world.

Currently, you have a fundamentalist movement sweeping across the Arab world. There are no Arab countries, except to some extent Iraq, that are democratic or where the people enjoy the personal freedoms we take for granted. Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet dissident and Israeli citizen, once said it is only possible for Israel to forge peace with truly democratic and free countries. Peace agreements with dictators, authoritarian rulers and religious fanatics cannot endure.

Until the Palestinians genuinely forgo violence and are truly prepared to live in peace with Israel, a peace agreement will continually elude us. After 50 plus years of senseless violence and terror, Israel is not going to concede territory or compromise their security unless the Palestinians can demonstrate their good intentions with deeds and actions, not just words by a few people. What you fail to realize is this is an existential issue for the Israeli people. You are not going to take risks for peace if one of the outcomes is similar to the one experienced in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Israel is not situated in Europe or North America, where governments are democratically elected and are generally rational. In the Middle East or at least the countries surrounding Israel, you have one govt that has slaughtered their own people (has even gassed their people in the past) and another which is effectively controlled by a fundamentalist jihadist organization supported by Iran and another which is being threatened by a fundamentalist autocratic takeover. All of these countries, including the Palestinians, routinely mistreat their people and allow a level of corruption which forces their people to live in poverty and miserable conditions. This situation is not a recipe for a lasting and enduring peace.

I did read about Abbas hinting that the Palestinians were willing to make concessions regarding the right of return; however, there was such an uproar, he had to renounce these statements almost immediately.

The contrast between Israel and its Arab neighbors couldn’t be more stark. Israel is a truly democratic country with one of the most vibrant economies in the world. Israeli inventions and contributions to the world are too great to list here. However, I will list a few: the heart pump, the cell phone, Pentium chip technology, voice mail, USB flash drive, first solar powered electrical plant, drip irrigation, the drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, Parkison’s, acne, certain tumors, strokes and hepatitis C. The list goes on but it would take a book to list all the achievements by Israel that have benefited the world.

» on 12.12.12 @ 07:08 AM

If anyone thinks a negotiated settlement is possible with the Palestinians, please watch this video of the Hamas leader in Gaza.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0DiQRO_49M&feature=youtu.be

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