Freier. In Yiddish slang terms, a freier is better known as a sucker or a fool, and this principle guides most every aspect in Israeli society even in international relations.
Back in 2007, there was an unforgettable article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “Thou Shall Not Be a Freier.” Apparently, it’s the unwritten Eleventh Commandment in Israel. Dr. Linda-Renee Bloch of Bar-Ilan University explained that “it’s shocking to hear boastful and haughty words like: ‘Laws are meant to be circumvented.’ How many times have we heard people who’ve returned from trips abroad, who make fun of the citizens of the countries they visited, because they act like nerds: They stand in line, they make sure to pay. They look at these citizens as freiers.”
It was a fascinating article into the psyche of an Israeli society that has found excuse after excuse not to implement international laws, forcing Israel to right the wrongs committed during its 1948 creation. Even fulfilling the obligation of halting settlement building as promised in the much-hyped Annapolis conference hasn’t been enough to trump the irrational Israeli concept of being a freier.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told students at a Ma’aleh Adumim school in 1998: "We are not freiers. We don’t give without receiving."
Short of Palestinians laying down to die and submitting happily to a brutal Israeli occupation, it’s difficult to comprehend what Israel is expecting to receive in return for implementing international laws.
But this psyche and cowardice of inaccurately being called a freier explains why the Palestine-Israel conflict is viewed as complicated when the situation is pretty straightforward. It’s not exactly rocket science to know that when you kill people and destroy their villages, you’re not exactly going to be well-loved in the neighborhood.
And in terms of the US media forever painting a portrait of symmetry? Consider just a few headlines last week.
Israeli military operation in Nablus enters third day, Two Palestinians shot on Saturday as Israeli army invades Azzun town near Qalqilia, Palestinian Red Crescent: 520 Israeli assaults on medics and ambulances in 2007, Human rights group: IDF uses dogs to harass Palestinians, Cancer patient dies Saturday morning due to Israeli army siege of Gaza, Israeli warplane destroys family home of assassinated fighter in Gaza, Tens of thousands turn out for funeral of Brigades members killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, UK criticizes Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians, Report: Israel seeks to regain control of Rafah crossing. . .
Where is the symmetry?
The Palestinian leadership needs to keep all this in mind as it sits across the table from Ehud Olmert & Company for more photo ops. And it needs to remember one thing: Palestinians are not as weak as Israel likes to remind them.
Strength is mental as much as it is physical.
Palestine Liberation Organization Ambassador to the US, Afif Safieh, once explained the futility of the military option. “You don’t challenge Mike Tyson to a boxing match; you challenge him to a chess match.”
And even with all of Israel’s might, they don’t always impress everyone in Israel. Back in 2002, one of the world’s premier military experts, Israeli Professor Martin van Creveld, offered the following in an interview with Yerushalayim’ s Giora Ayalon about the second Palestinian Uprising, “A strong fighting against the weak eventually weakens. Whoever acts like a coward, and to fight against the weak is by definition to act like a coward, in the end will become a coward . . .”
Van Creveld also said in the same interview, “In this war you can’t be both smart and right; you can’t be both strong and smart. It doesn’t go together. Choose. Van Creveld continued: The problem began in Lebanon, when we began fighting those weaker than us. Since then we are going from failure to failure.” Four years later, Israel’s return to Lebanon would validate his analysis.
But setting all that aside, the Palestinians have proven to be formidable adversaries. Without the Apache helicopters, F16s, naval gun ships, bulldozers, or an intrusive Berlin-type wall, the Palestinians still hold 50% of the peace card. Think about that . . . 50% of the peace card without all of Israel’s arsenal or daily oppression which has caused so many Israelis to lose their souls.
Not only is holding 50% of the peace card worthy of reminding, but the Palestinian cultural identity continues to thrive among the Diaspora. Those are strengths!
And true, I write all this from the comfort of my chair here in the US of A but I have always found that the lens is less clouded when one is not directly in an abyss.
Call me a freier, but I happen to think that those in Israeli society who are looking continuously for ways to shake off accountability and ultimately subjecting future generations to more bloodshed are the real freiers.