April 1, 2010
“I Understand and Share the Sorrow of This Father”
Not long ago, I reviewed “A Wall in Palestine” by French journalist René Backmann (Picador: $16.00, 264 pps.), an account of the security barrier that is nearing completion between Israel and the West Bank, in the pages of The Jewish Journal. My original review is archived here.
One reader of the review, Richard Blutstein, posted a comment that gave quite a different perspective on the wall, and I am taking the liberty of re-posting his message below.
My son, Benjamin Blutstein, was having lunch while waiting to take an exam at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on July 31, 2002 when he was murdered. A Hamas cell with the assistance of the Palestinian Authority detonated a bomb next to him in the cafeteria. This bomb had been smuggled from Ramallah to Jerusalem twice, because the first attempt a few days earlier did not work. There were celebrations in Gaza. Arafat suppressed the celebrations on the West Bank because he was concerned about bad publicity.
If the wall had already been built then Ben might now still be alive.
The Palestinians are certainly suffering as a result of the wall, but they brought it on themselves. They voted for both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and have showed their support for mass murder by terrorists time and time again.
Peace will come to Israel and Palestine as soon the Arabs accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Until they do, Israel needs to defend itself.
Mr. Blutstein’s comment also prompted a communication from the author of “A Wall in Palestine,” who has given me permission to share his thoughts with the readers of The Jewish Journal.
René Backmann wrote:
Thank you for your very extensive and fair review of my book in The Jewish Journal. And thank you for thinking – and writing – that it is ‘A book that cannot be ignored.’ It was my aim, when I wrote this book, to bring to the readers the truth – whole truth – about the wall’s history. I read the comment that came after your post, written by a man who lost his son during a terrorist attack against the Hebrew University. I understand and share the sorrow of this father. I also understand what is in his mind when he writes that the wall, if built a few years sooner, could have saved the life of his son. As you probably know, after reading my book, I am not against the idea of building a wall (or a fence, or anything else) to protect the Israeli civilian population against terrorists coming from the West Bank. But such a wall should have been built inside Israeli territory, and along the Green Line, instead of meandering in large loops, inside the territory of the future Palestinian state, to annex the main blocks of settlements. I hope that this book — among a lot of others — will help Israelis and Palestinians to understand that there is only one solution to the problem: good faith negotiations and two states, living in peace and security side by side. But is seems that everybody — on both sides — is not ready to accept this solution and this future.
I, too, share the sorrow of a father who has lost a cherished son, and I know that no words can heal those wounds. On one thing, however, all of us seem to agree: There is a terrible human price to be paid when it comes to geopolitics, a price measured in blood and heartbreak. But there is another lesson here. Surely it will take vision, wisdom and courage on both sides of the wall to achieve some version of peace.
Jonathan Kirsch is the book editor of The Jewish Journal.