October 14, 2023
GSTAAD—My last days in good old Helvetia before heading for sunny London and grubby old New York. And they are beautiful days and crispy nights here while the bells are ringing. The cows and the goats are down from the heights, and they make for an improved atmosphere as the new rich have departed for places like Dubai or Monte Carlo.
I’ve been reading up on Elon Musk and how bitchy some reviewers of his biography have been. They are furious because unlike that funny-looking Bezos chappie, Musk doesn’t play up to the left-wing media and say what they demand to hear. And speaking of sci-fi missions to Mars, nothing like that will take place, at least not in the lifetime of anyone reading this, nor their children’s and grandchildren’s. Being agnostic about the future means being honest. We couldn’t handle Covid, but we’re going to go ahead with planetary travel, and soon. What I propose is to fill up a modern Noah’s Ark with those people whose faces are surgically attached to iPhones and put that rocket in orbit for good.
And now let’s get down to serious business: Ten days and fifty years ago a young Taki was on an El Al airline sent to pick up Israeli army reservists from all points in Europe. I was dispatched to the war zone by Acropolis, the biggest morning Greek daily, most likely because I was bilingual, Greek being Greek to Israeli censors. The plane went dark as we approached Tel Aviv, and once we landed I witnessed thousands of screaming Jewish Americans eager to get out of Israel. The locals were doing their best, but the mob was in a hurry. Israel’s goose looked cooked on the first day as Syrian armor and Egyptian tanks had breached the borders and were reported by the Israelis to be fighting well for a change.
You know the rest. After the first week Israel recovered the momentum and with the help of American jets flown by Israelis—although I was certain it was Yankee pilots playing Jewish ones—turned the tide thanks to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. I was up in Kuneitra, on the Golan Heights, with Joe Fried of the New York Daily News, Jean Claude Sauer of Paris Match (and a very close friend), and an Englishman by the name of Peter Townsend who had never seen a dead body before, despite the fact he was a heavily decorated World War II hero. The reason? He was a pilot in the Battle of Britain and later on the lover of Princess Margaret, but I’m getting away from the story.
During my monthlong stay in Israel—I had visited many times before—I got to meet and discuss and mostly argue with a hell of a lot of Israelis. “Whose were the Golan and the Sinai?” Joe Fried, who is Jewish, would ask during the discussions, if I can call them that—they were more like who could shout the loudest? I mostly talked about the refugee camps in Jordan that had been there since 1948 and still are. I had visited them a lot in 1969 and had seen the terrible conditions that prevailed and still do to this day. Israel annexed the Golan but gave back the Sinai after a peace treaty was signed in 1978.
Which brings me to the present tragedy. The only thing I can say with conviction is that a Palestinian mother cries as bitterly over the death of her child as an Israeli mother does. People seem to forget that, depending on whose side they’re on. Who is worse, an Israeli religious zealot who shoots a stone-throwing Palestinian youth in the West Bank, or a Hamas gunman who executes an Israeli teenager whose only crime is to attend a rave?
Of course Israel has a right to exist and prosper, but so do Palestinians. Whose land is it, Israel’s or Palestine’s? Here is where all the world’s statesmen, wise men and women, experts, and know-it-alls tend to stumble. Who is to blame for the tragedy of today? The Brits? The Arabs? The Americans? I’d say all three, starting with the Balfour Declaration.
Living in the biggest outdoor prison that is Gaza does not tend to encourage rational behavior. Seventy-five years of Israeli occupation does tend to encourage violence. However restrained Israeli retributions to violence have been in the past, I’m afraid this time Netanyahu will go overboard. The great general Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli bigot, would I am certain seize this moment and take the high road. But what do I know? I am only an observer who knows the area as well as anyone but has no power to do anything about it.