Copyright © 2002 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.
by J. Neil Schulman
have in front of me a U.S. twenty-dollar bill.
On the back of the bill
is a picture of the White House, the phrase ďThe United States of
America,Ē and the motto ďIn God We Trust.Ē
On the front face of
the bill are serial numbers, the seal of the United States Federal Reserve
Bank, and the signatures of the Treasurer of the United States and the
Secretary of the Treasury.
At the center of the
front face of the bill is a portrait of Andrew Jackson, president of the
United States from 1829 to 1837.
I am not initiating a
discussion of monetary policy, though I canít resist noting the irony
that the face of a president who abolished an early United States central
bank now adorns a latter-day central bankís note.
No, I take cognizance
of Andrew Jacksonís face on the contemporary currency of the United
States of America because, in 1830, President Jackson signed the Indian
Removal Act, which in 1838 resulted in the forcible relocation of the
Cherokee nation from their lands in Georgia along a deadly thousand-mile
march to Oklahoma. Over 4,000 Cherokee died along the way and ever since
it has been called the Trail of Tears.
Iíve been known to
write a science fiction story or two, so let me ask you a ďwhat ifĒ
Letís say that a
couple of years from now, descendants of the dispossessed Cherokee Ė
members of a nationalist movement to return to their ancestral lands in
Georgia Ė managed to convince large numbers of people who have traces of
Cherokee blood to move back to Georgia and take up residence.
Through lobbying, the
new Cherokee get the president of the United States to issue a declaration
that Western Georgia is the ancestral homeland of the Cherokee; but the
president hedges his bets by also declaring it the homeland of the
Georgians who live there now.
Later, the Cherokee win
a U.S. Supreme Court victory restoring Georgian lands to them, including
the city of Atlanta, as a sovereign Indian nation. The United Nations gets
into the act and confirms the decision.
Fifty years later, a
full-scale civil war is going on in Georgia between the Cherokee and the
Obviously, I am trying
to make an analogy to the current situation in Israel between the Jews and
the Palestinian Arabs. If I were writing this as a science-fiction novel,
I would fill it with analogic events including population movements,
religious and cultural intolerance, terrorist bombings Ė the whole
Iím not going to
write that story. Iíd find it too depressing.
But I do think I have a
point to make here.
The Middle East is not
the only place on earth where, if one went to the trouble, one couldnít
make a good case for the restoration of ancestral homelands and fomenting
a long-term civil war over real-estate. Considering how poorly the
Cherokee people have fared in the last 16 decades, they might be able to
convince a sympathetic world that they have as good a case for a restored
homeland as the Jews of Europe had following Hitlerís holocaust.
As much as I think
Andrew Jacksonís nearest contemporary of ours might well be Slobodan
Milosevic, I think anyone who initiated a ďWhite RoseĒ movement to
restore a Cherokee homeland in Georgia would be a maniac. If the Cherokee
actually wanted a new homeland, Iíd suggest they start with someplace
nobody is currently living, and start developing. Iíve flown over the
United States. Thereís still plenty of unoccupied land.
But hereís my point.
Anyone who fought a war
over Holy Land in the state of Georgia would be a maniac.
Anyone who decided that
it was worth blowing up school buses, cafes, and supermarkets over
conflicting deeds of title to real estate in Georgia would be maniacs.
When I look at Israel,
I see a civil war between maniacs.
I believe in God.
I understand that the
Arabic word ďAllahĒ translates into the English language as God.
When the Jews now
living in Israel, the Hebrews who lived there millennia ago, the
Christians and Muslims who have lived there over millennia and who live
there now, talk about God, they all are talking about the same God.
And if they think that
God wants them to fight and kill each other over real estate, even real
estate of multiple historic religious significances, they are certifiable
nutballs. With apologies to my good friend Tom Szasz, I have no problem
with suicidal maniacs who want to blow up themselves and innocent
civilians being strapped down by strong men in white coats and injected
with Thorazine until they come to their senses.
It may well be that the
territorial disputes in the Middle East will not be solved without divine
intervention. Speaking for myself, Iím just a little miffed that God
hasnít shown up already to work a few miracles and tell the maniacs
killing each other in His name to knock it off. But I also have to give
God the benefit of the doubt for His tardiness; for all I know God is
preoccupied at the moment with a planet in the Andromeda Galaxy.
But if God doesnít
show up soon, I am going to be tempted to ask the worldís only remaining
superpower to play God.
The United States could
invade Israel and take the territory for our own. Some purists would call
this imperialistic; I merely think that whichever nation is demonstrably
morally superior to everyone else is Godís chosen people Ö and in my
opinion, the United States is so far beyond the rest of the planet in our
anal-retentive obsession with respect for individual rights that we win
the morality contest hands down. The past crimes of the United States,
including crimes against Native Americans, African Americans, and Asian
Americans, are growing pains compared with the unrelenting genocides that
dot the history of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Or we could simply buy
Israel for cash, the way we did the Louisiana Purchase from France or
bought Alaska from Russia. Aside from a few antique sites of interest to
Indiana Jones and American Express, Israel is about as uniquely valuable
as Jean, Nevada. But if the American taxpayer dropped a trillion bucks on
buying Israel and paying the armed partisans to move elsewhere and open
fast-food stands, it would be cheap at twice the price if, by doing so, we
avoided another day like 9/11.
I donít believe in
holy land. Land is never holy. The closest you get to anything holy on
this planet is the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar.
Piling up land with a
lot of dead bodies and bad memories does not make it holy. Killing Godís
son in a certain place doesnít give it what real-estate agents call curb
Jews donít need a
stinking wall to talk to God. God is used to Jews wailing His ears off
from wherever they are.
Muslims donít need a
mosque to talk to God. All they need is a rug and a compass Ė and the
rug is just to make your knees comfortable; God will listen to your
entreaties regardless of your posture.
Land is nothing more
than a place to lie down your head at night and make love. I'm all in
favor of defending your home when it comes under attack but no spot on
earth is uniquely worth killing other peopleís babies over. If the real
estate you're on doesn't have a clean deed of title, in the name of God,
find an nice unoccupied spot with decent weather somewhere else and plant
a fig tree. With a little luck, you might even strike oil.
In the less than 12 hours since I emailed out the above, Iíve received
two emails informing me that because the Jews who settled in modern
Palestine paid hard cash to Arabs for the land, the Jews are morally the
right side to back and the Palestinians are nothing but a bunch of sore
You people are even
crazier than I thought.
You want to talk about
Israel as a land deal? Jesus H. Ö.
If this is about a
real-estate purchase, did those fast-talking Arab traders swindle those
gullible Jews! These old Arab landlords sold the Jews worthless desert
land by telling them what a paradise they could make out of it, not
bothering to mention that their current tenants had lived there a long
time and might get pissed off about having to move.
You want to talk about
buying and selling land? You tell me that land which I bought years ago is
so valuable to the kids of the old tenants that theyíre willing to send
their children out to blow themselves up to get it back, Iíll tell you
what we have here are what the real-estate trade calls motivated buyers.
What, have the Israelis
forgotten how to be Jews? Sell them the god-forsaken land back at a hefty
profit, jacking up the price because of all the improvements. If they
donít have cash, make them sign sixty-year mortgages, and appoint the
Swiss Guards as the collection agents for the loans. Take the profits and
retire to Palm Springs.
But, of course itís
not about a land deal. Land deals get made every day and people donít
blow up school buses over variable interest rates.
Itís about religious
by the way, has nothing to do with God. God is not crazy and doesnít
want people acting crazy.
The Middle East is a
cluster of psychiatric disorders. It is a mental hospital where the
shrinks have gone on strike.
People who canít get
through their day without their religious rituals are self-made autistics,
and they need to be told to get a life.
People who get so
attached to historical sites that theyíre willing to kill over it have
obsessive attachment disorders. They need to be whacked up the side of the
head with a two-by-four.
People who canít see
how destructive their attachment to land is are narcissists. They
need to be told to get over themselves.
Iím not saying that
God told me to tell them all this.
But I wouldnít be
surprised if He did.
J. Neil Schulman
April 2, 2002
by J. Neil Schulman
The State of Israel was a utopian experiment. That experiment failed
within 24 hours of the declaration of the State of Israel, when all of
Israel's immediate neighbors declared war on it and launched a multi-front
invasion. That war continued for 15 months. The ability of the Jews to repel
the invading neighbors then, and in subsequent wars against the unrelenting
hostility of all its neighbors, is a testament to Jewish courage, military
savvy, stubbornness ... and stupidity. When one has a choice, one does not
choose as a preferred homeland a spot surrounded by hostile enemies ... at
least unless one has a reliable strategy for turning those hostile enemies
into supportive friends. I have observed no such strategy. In fact, Israel's
two-eyes-for-an-eye strategy of dealing with terrorist attacks, while
morally defensible, has been disastrous for any hope of making friends with
I am well aware that Israel has been capable of maintaining its borders
without the military forces of the United States. But the Israeli economy is
incapable of paying for its own defense without constant injections of
foreign aid. Consequently, the survival of the State of Israel has been,
since its founding, largely dependent on the goodwill of the American
taxpayer. What has that goodwill bought us recently besides slowing down our
war against the terrorists who hit us on September 11th, having the current
prime minister of Israel compare our president to Neville Chamberlain, and
compromising the resolve of our people to fight our enemies?
I was serious when I suggested that Israel should become United States
territory. As far as I'm concerned, we've already loaned the Israelis enough
billions to foreclose.
I wouldn't mind having one six-sided star on the American flag along with
all the five-sided stars. The only statehood I unreservedly favor for Israel
is for Israel to be one of the United States. I'd like to see the Stars and
Stripes flying over Jerusalem. It is historically, morally, and
theologically satisfying for me to contemplate.
Extending the Israeli Jews American citizenship would be a pearl beyond
price for them, even if they don't have the good sense to recognize it.
Putting aside that proposal, Jews have lots of alternatives to Israel as
homelands, most of them in the English-speaking world. If one is considering
merely safety, the United States is far and away the best of these, with
Canada coming in a close second. If one adds in the value of political
liberty, particularly guarantees of religious freedom of worship, the United
States wins all contests.
We are, and were considered to be by our Founding Fathers, the new Holy
Land. We were founded on the best principles in human history -- life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- and we have the best track record
in human history of living up to those principles.
Sure, the record is not perfect, but what is? Anti-Semitism in the United
States is about as bad as athletes' foot compared to the plagues, cancers,
and heart attacks anti-Semitism represents elsewhere. When one compares how
Jews in America have fared compared to antebellum blacks, nineteenth-century
Chinese laborers, many Native American tribes, and even the early Mormons,
the Jews in America have damned little to complain about and a tremendous
amount for which to be thankful. I certainly know I thank God that my
great-grandparents and grandparents had the good sense to emigrate to the
United States before the turn of the last century.
My own home state of Nevada is 92% owned by the United States government.
I suggest that if the Jews of Israel were invited to settle there, they'd
have the Nevada desert blooming in no time.
I assure you poetic justice would be served when, within a generation,
the former State of Israel, left to the Arabs, reverted to worthless desert
aside from a few interesting spots for archeologists, tourists, and
J. Neil Schulman June 4, 2002
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