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May 20 2009

As a writer I have been asked to write articles on quite a variety of topics. Just two weeks ago, before the big meeting between President Obama, and the head of Pakistan and Afghanistan, I was asked to write an article about President Obama’s policy for Pakistan. Admittedly, I started researching this article without really knowing what I was going to say. I had no idea what I was getting myself into – either from a research standpoint or political standpoint. I did endless research. I wanted to ‘understand’ what I would be writing about.
Now, those of you who have read my articles know that I can be both cynical and naive in my writing and my views. This assignment proved to be a learning experience on many levels –For one thing, the ‘person’ who asked for the article decided to ignore that I actually wrote the article and did not pay me or answer my emails…modern communication and copy write laws… – Live and learn…This however was not the lesson that most affected me…
Amazingly enough, my research lead me to one basic conclusion –not only did I not have a solid grasp on the ‘situation’ and said policies- many, a great many of the reporters and commentators actually following the events in this part of the world and who have been for quite some time also have a tepid grasp at best…This is not meant as a criticism, but as a personal observation.
Many reporters and commentators are in fact foreign to the country and people they are reporting about. The reporters themselves are foreigners to Pakistan and Afghanistan and the region and therefore, their reports are from a foreign perspective. Of course there are opinions to be had – everyone has the right to his opinion (unless of course you are actually a citizen of some areas of Pakistan or of the ‘she’ affiliation), and there are some facts and vague statements that have been made a quoted. These ‘facts’ and ‘statements’ are made even more vague and less comprehensible, less accurate because they are being interpreted by the foreigner –who just doesn’t ‘get it.’ Not actually being a part of Pakistan – it’s culture, unable to understand what is said between one Pakistani and another, to not be able to see the actual faces of the people and look in their eyes as they speak…then, the reporting is based more on the assumptions and interpretations of the few who try in vane to do their jobs…
I believe that President Obama and his advisors are well informed and intelligent…and I know that they each look at the world from the perspective of an American, who at best is an sincere observer. They cannot possibly grasp the situation in the same light or perspective as the Pakistani trying to live out his/her life. For policy makers, who live far away –this is the reality and this is the job. Our own culture, religion, lifestyle and personal experience directly affects our view of the world. That is a fact. To expect the policies of one government towards another government and her people to be anything more than an educated and biased assumption, filled with preconceptions, is just not a reality. Before starting this research, my own experience with foreign reporting in Israel had me suspect this to be the case. – Now, I am sure.
As I see it a parallel can be drawn, lessons can be learned. In February a truce was reached with the in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. This truce, which was supposed to calm the Taliban fighters in Swat Valley, included the setting up of a parallel system of Islamic courts to enforce Islamic law (Sharia) in fact had the opposite effect, bringing the Taliban dangerously close to Islamabad and Pakistan’s nuclear held power. President Zardari made this truce believing that if he gave the rebels a portion of land, they would be satisfied and further aggression would be averted. Daily events in Pakistan prove this to be quite the opposite as more troops are being called in and the fighting continues.
I chose to draw attention to the parallel between the Hamas and the Taliban. Both the Taliban and the Hamas have been widely recognized as terrorist organizations. We all know this. We all have seen this. Some of us have experienced this as well.
Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Some politicians believe that Israel should negotiate with the Hamas and hand over Gaza to the Hamas. I ask these people, these politicians who live elsewhere…what makes this situation with the Hamas any different then the situation with the Taliban in Pakistan? The Hamas refuses under any and all circumstances to recognize/acknowledge/accept Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s right to be. I do not claim to be a political expert or a logics expert, but, even I can see, as most of us who are here in Israel can see – Hamas will not be anymore satisfied with Gaza as the Taliban was satisfied with the SWAT Valley. Hamas does not believe that Israel has the right to exist. Hamas does not accept Israel’s presence. Hamas does not accept Israel’s legitimacy as an independent Jewish State. (I remind all who read this that Israel’s existence is no longer up for debate –Israel declared independence following the United Nations resolution allowing it to do so.) Hamas, as the Taliban and as all terrorist organizations before it, will use its position as a strong hold against its enemy. Gaza, given over as a state to Hamas will continue as it has in the past to use its presence in the area to launch attacks against Israel – the goal of Hamas being clearly stated – to conquer and eliminate the Jewish State in its entirety. (Just as the Taliban is continuing its fight to take over Pakistan – and Afghanistan, in its entirety)
Again, excuse my old repeat, repeat, repeat…but here we are, again. It is coming close to a full THREE YEARS that Gilad Shalit is being held in the tunnels of the Hamas’ Gaza. They’ve said. We’ve said. They’ve hinted, we’ve hinted. …Our former leaders lead us to believe in the hope of Gilad’s return…Every month this hope was built and rebuilt…Every month until Passover, when we all saw Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, get into his car and leave the offices of the then Prime Minister Olmert …His sorrow and the look of utter defeat could be seen and felt on every television screen and in every newspaper. I live here. Noam and Aviva Shalit live here. Gilad Shalit used to live here.
Policies are made and remade every day. Promises are made and reworded and changed at every meeting, every summit, every conference…
I have spent only one year at my post, one hour every Friday morning, intent on reminding Israeli’s who can never really forget anyway, that we mustn’t forget, we mustn’t leave Gilad behind. I believe we all remember. I also believe that we here in Israel all share an element of fear –‘if it happened to his son…’
The reporters from other countries don’t know. Even our own politicians and policy makers are clueless.
So, I wrote my article on President Obama’s policy for Pakistan. It was accurate for just that minute in time that it was written…Just like all the promises and policies made by heads of state all over the world, including Israel –These statements have relevance for the moment they are made – and then they expire.
To write and debate policies and promises – not even worth the paper. So what is the point of this rant? If you really want to understand – go and look into the eyes of the people –the fathers, the mothers…look into their eyes. The policies and the promises made by the leaders –words, just words…Ask Gilad…ask his father, Noam. Look into their eyes.

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Comments from Our Readers

  "it is time policy makers understand that yheir point of view is not necessarily the only one" - dov avidov, May 21 2009 - reply
  "This article needs to be tightened up in order for clarity shine through, says the English major..." - Judith Hanania, May 24 2009 - reply
  "Good job~" - Laura, August 28 2009 - reply

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