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The Split: Differences over Israel tear apart a Jewish marriage

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From the Book

RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War

Stan and Hannah Cooper are friends of mine from college days. Both are Jewish, but they have diametrically opposed views about Israel, and their differences have become so bitter that they've decided to divorce. As the three of us talked about this, it became clear that their dispute is a microcosm of the conflict that is tearing the Jewish community apart and also destroying lives in an increasingly large part of the world.

William: Your differences must have become quite serious if you've decided to end your marriage after all these years.

Stan: Well, these are very serious issues. If you take the Holocaust seriously, you have to support Israel. And Hannah doesn't. If she has her way, if the people she supports come to power in Israel and the USA, they'll stop resisting the terrorists and become holier than thou pacifists while the Arabs push the Jews into the sea and blow up half the USA. Then the pacifists will cry about what a tragedy it all is.

Well, I'm not going through another tragedy. I'm not going to see America and Israel destroyed because we didn't have the courage to stand up to fanatics. I'm not going to have our generation go through something like our grandparent's went through. Once is enough, once was way too many, and now we finally have to defend ourselves.

Hannah: No way am I in favor of pushing the Jews into the sea. Whenever we talk about this, you exaggerate my position. You get very thin skinned and go into your attack mode.

Stan: Yeah, I admit, I and lots of other Jews are thin skinned about this issue. But when you think about how many Jewish skins got stretched over lampshades not so long ago, it's understandable that we might feel a tad oversensitive. My grandmother's brother, my great uncle, got gassed in Auschwitz. And her cousin got shot in the neck in Sachsenhausen.

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Hannah: You know I lost family too. They didn't even make it to the concentration camps. They were murdered in the Kiev ghetto by the German SS. I'm not playing this down. I've got relatives in Israel just like you do, and I don't want them killed. But the Zionists have tunnel vision about this issue. They focus just on one part of it -- preventing another Holocaust, no matter what. But I'm convinced that what the Zionists are doing now is making another Shoah more likely. Their moral compass has got thrown off by the trauma they went through. It's making them do things that violate the basic principles of Jewish ethics. The moral sensitivity, the qualities that make me most proud to be a Jew are getting destroyed by these Israeli militarists.

Stan: Self defense isn't unethical. The Torah never said lie down and let people kill you. We have to survive. If we're attacked, we have to fight back. Hannah pooh-poohs anti-Semitism, says it's not so bad anymore, don't be paranoid. But the fact is it's getting much stronger, and that's world-wide.

I'll give you an example of something that happened to me just last year. I walked into my high school classroom one morning, and someone had written "Jews are dog sh*t" on the board. Some students were already in the room, and they all said it was there when they got there. I erased it, but next day it was there again, "Jews are dog sh*t." Nobody saw who did it, or so they claimed. It kept happening, couple of times a week. The students still played dumb. I thought they really knew who was doing it, but I couldn't prove it. I'd get there early, trying to catch them at it, but never could. I asked the janitors to check the room, but I don't think they actually did. They didn't really care.

One night about ten o'clock the doorbell rang at home. I opened the door, and a fire was burning on the front porch, a brown paper bag going up in flames. The porch is wood. I was afraid the whole house would catch fire. When I stomped out the blaze, I found out the bag was filled with dog sh*t, got it all over my shoes.

Next morning I go into the classroom, and on the board is "Jews house burn like dog sh*t." Students just sitting there. And of course whoever did it didn't even make it grammatical, and it was an English class.

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I asked the police to watch the house, but they said they didn't have the manpower for that. All I could do was get new smoke alarms, install motion detectors, leave lights burning all night in the yard, and increase the fire insurance on the house. Do you know what it's like trying to fall asleep in a house that might burn down any night? I was afraid to take sleeping pills because I might not hear the smoke alarm. I was a wreck, and nobody gave a damn. Not even you, Hannah. You said it was just a prank.

Hannah: I said it was a vicious prank. But no, I didn't think they'd actually burn down the house. They'd already achieved what they were after -- they'd made your life miserable.

Stan: Well, Jews are tired of having their lives made miserable. Far worse anti-Semitic attacks than this are happening all over the world. The neo-Nazis are on the rise in Germany. Jews get beaten up in Russia. Synagogues in Paris and Rome have to be guarded by the police. All this proves that the Jews need a secure homeland, a place they can go where they'll be safe.

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William T. Hathaway is a Special Forces combat veteran now working to overthrow the empire he previously served. He is the author of Radical Peace: People Refusing War, which presents the true stories of activists who have moved beyond (more...)

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