The Starting Point of a Circle

This past week, as Israel has been at war, I keep coming back to the same mental picture of how I would describe what’s going on. A scenario, if you will:

A younger, smaller child and sitting next a bigger, older child, who is reading. The young child creeps up behind his older brother, and flicks his ear. The older brother looks up from his book, spins around and glares at the younger brother, who snickers and runs away. Moments later, the younger brother repeats his game. This time the older brother swats at his hand, spins and glares again. This time, he says, “cut it out, I am not in the mood to be flicked.” The little brother again snickers and runs. A moment later, the little brother returns. This time, the older brother is ready, and as his little brother raises his hand to flick, the older brother spins, grabs his arm in mid-air and stops him. And he squeezes the arm, maybe even twists it a little. And the younger brother screams for his mother and starts to cry. And when the mother intervenes, and the older brother lets go, there’s a small mark on the younger brother’s arm, but it’ll go away. And really, nobody can blame the older brother, and he won’t be punished by his mother because he was antagonized. Finally, when the mother isn’t looking, the younger brother comes back. He flicks his older brother’s ear one more time. The old brother stands up, turns around, grabs his arm and throws him voilently away. The younger brother staggers, falls against the wall and breaks his arm.

Could you blame the older brother? If you look at the incident minutely, breaking your brother’s arm for a flick on the ear sure seems “disproportionate.” But given the whole story, the “cycle of violence” could you blame the older brother for losing it? There’s only so much provocation he can take, and everyone has a limit.

And maybe it’s not a perfect metaphor, but I just keep coming back to it all week.

And another point on the so-called “cycle of violence.” My brother yesterday told me about an article he read (I don’t have a link. Feel free to post it in the comments or email it to me, and I will post it). Essentially, the writer argued about the “cycle of voilence” in the Middle East. If you take that concept for granted, that each bit of voilence has ties to and roots in the previous violence, and that escalations lead to more escalations, and the only way to stop it is for one group to cease violence against the other, then you’ve got to start looking backward. Because the solution doesn’t lie with Israel, and it never will. If you accept the cycle of violence, then you must look back to what was called the “original sin.” Cycle back through the violence, and you see that the first event to trigger the cycle of violence was an egregious and offensive affront to the entire Arab world that simply demanded a violent response: the creation of the State of Israel.

And that’s why the solution doesn’t lie with Israel. Until the Arab world, and all the terrorist groups she sponsors accepts and acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, and destroys this cycle of violence at its root, then the cycle will continue.

What does this mean for the rest of the world? It means that every European leader that denies Israel’s right to live peacefully and defend itself, denies Israel’s very right to exist. Because each time Hamas or Hezbollah launches a rocket at Israel, it is essentially saying “you have no right to exist.” And when the world denies Israel the opportunity to respond, the world is agreeing.


18 responses to “The Starting Point of a Circle

  1. Well said Noyam.
    Here is the link to the article I read.,10987,1209965,00.html


    The link seems to be cutoff. You can also go to and search the name Krauthammer. His article is named Remember what happened here.

  3. The mashal of the two brothers is different from the real world in that Israel isn’t getting its ear flicked, and the Arabs are definitely not beloved like brothers.

    But actually I wanted to comment on your second point. You’re right about the “original sin” idea. To take it a step further, what that means is that it’s a myth that the “cycle of violence” can be broken by Israel. Because it’s not a cycle at all. If Israel were to stop retaliating, the violence against Israel would increase not decrease!!! The reason is that the Arabs are not fighting Israel because they are oppressed, they are fighting Israel because they hate Israel just for existing.

  4. I think the Arabs are more like schoolyard bullies. They’ll keep picking on Israel until Israel bloodies their nose.

  5. The mashal of the two brothers is different from the real world in that Israel isn’t getting its ear flicked, and the Arabs are definitely not beloved like brothers.

    You realize that you’re nitpicking a metaphor for not being the real world description, right?

    Yes, I know Israel isn’t getting it
    s ear flicked. But Lebanon isn’t getting an arm broken either.

    I think the Arabs are more like schoolyard bullies.

    Israel’s military against the ragtag militant terrorists puts Israel in the stronger position, not the weaker one finally sticking up for itself.

  6. You realize that you’re nitpicking a metaphor for not being the real world description, right?


  7. Perhaps in the metaphor’s next scenario, the younger, wild child is antagonizing the older brother with spitballs. And when the older brother is fed up and decides to confiscate the spitball arsenal, the younger child runs and buries half the spitball stash beneath an enderly woman’s nursing home bed and the other half beneath a baby sleeping in a cradle.

    That certainly nuetralizes the older brother’s physical superiority, doesn’t it? Especially with Mother lurking around…

  8. And I wholeheartedly agree with Adam’s comments regarding the cycle of violence. A read of the Benny Morris article Benzi forwarded last week really underscores this point.

  9. Totally off the topic but you gotta love Bush’s take on the UN’s handling of the situation:

    Apparently not expecting an open mike to pick up his remarks, Bush told Blair: “See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.”

    Go W! Get those Syrian and Lebanese bastards to smoke em out!

  10. It’s good to see that he says the same things – and even stronger – in private conversations. Noyam, this is the answer to your question on why your hawks don’t get upset at a Condi Rice statement.

    Also, I think it was Mikey Levy who once made an excellent point to me when Colin Powell said something that wasn’t as strong as we wante to hear. Mikey pointed out that as Sec’y of State, he is the nation’s top diplomat, and it’s always his job to take the diplomatic and “restrained,” if you will, approach to any conflict. Same goes for Condi Rice. In this game, notice how Rice’s request for restraint actually makes the Administration’s most dovish position one that Israel can live with.

  11. I am now getting confused as to which comment belongs with which post (this one or the previous one), but we would be remiss in not pointing out what a deft job Bush did in crafting a favorable G8 statement (I mean, look at who he had to deal with?). Definitely a victory for Bush and Israel.

  12. … And yes, there was something in there that told Israel to take it easy. But of course that line has to be in there; there is no other way that the joint statement gets approved. Overall it was overwhelmingly good for Israel. And it was definitely not France pushing for that. And, frankly, a Democratic president (think of the options – Gore, Kerry, Edwards, B. Clinton, H. Clinton, Biden, Warner) wouldn’t have gotten, or even pushed for or believed in, that kind of language either. I don’t think the question of Bush’s support for Israel is open for debate. Is he the best US president Israel’s ever had? Hard to beat Truman, considering that Truman was swimming against the tide. But the two are 1 and 1A.

  13. The only other person who I’d rather see in the White House right now in terms of Israel is John McCain, I saw him being interviewed on MSNBC the other day and you would have thought he was speaking in an Orthodox shul.

  14. One of the politicians at yesterday’s rally (possibly Jerrold Nadler) made a good point: If a neighboring country (or a terror group that acts freely w/in the country) in an unprovoked attack hits you with rockets, kidnaps your soldiers from their own land and kills 8 other soldiers why on earth does the response have to be proportionate? It’s a ridiculous assumption.


  15. Adam can tell you what Fitzwallace thinks about the virtues of a proportional response.

    “It isn’t virtuous, it’s all there is.”

    Of course, this is the same man who threatened a King with breaking his “foot off in [his] royal ass.” So, ya know, grain of salt.

  16. I like Dan Gillerman’s oft-repeated line the past several days:

    To countries that have protested that Israel is using “disproportionate” force in bombarding Lebanon, his response was unapologetic: “You’re damn right we are.”

    “If your cities were shelled the way ours were,” he said, as if directly addressing those countries, “you would use much more force than we are or we ever will.”

  17. Adam can tell you what Fitzwallace thinks about the virtues of a proportional response.

    “It isn’t virtuous, it’s all there is.”

    Ah! The West Wing!! Now I can type about something that I actually know about!

    As you know, I find it very hard to find any flaws whatsoever with The West Wing. But, the same show (albeit a different writer – although they were both liberals) portrayed Israel very badly during a peace summit in which the Arafat character was very willing to make peace and the Sharon character was not. Sadly, those peace talks started when Fitz was killed in a terrorist attack in Gaza. Israel, after being pistolwhipped by the US, finally agreed to divide Jerusalem and allow American peacekeepers there.

    All this is my way of saying that disproportionate responses can be virtuous, too. A nation’s citizens deserve its full support.

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