Chapter 13. Where The Light Gets In
Chapter 13 in the novel, “Ten Days That Changed The World,” a sequel to an earlier novel called “Stillpoint, a novel of war, peace, politics and Palestine.” “Ten Days,” is in the process of being written. When a chapter is completed it is posted. I hope you find it of interest. Please feel free to share it with friends.
The following information is helpful for those who haven’t read “Stillpoint.” In it we come to know David Tremaine a former philosophy professor now president of the US. We learn also of Travis, a versatile general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and respected friend. Samara is a young Palestinian woman, friend of the sage Nasir. She helped in a daring rescue and is brought to the US for her safety. She now works as a translator for Tremaine.
Chapter 13 Where The Light Gets In
Five minutes after McManus had signed the document of surrender it was received at the White House and ten minutes later it was being printed in Seidel’s office.
Travis and Tremaine made their way down the lane to the beach. As they approached they could see that four of the large catamarans had just arrived and were being nosed onto the shore south of them. As they watched they saw a steady flow of traffic from the Ross and Eisenhower. A little beyond the Ross they could see two frigates, one flying the Union Jack the other the Tricolor of France.
To their right the Army Corps of Engineers were at work attaching the modules of what would soon be a floating pier, making it easier to bring supplies ashore. The beach had been transformed from an area where children played into a staging ground for cargo to be transported to the square, from which Ashraf had delivered his speech days earlier. Amongst the activity they noticed two human chains passing food and other items across the beach and over the sea wall. Equipment and storage containers coming ashore were moved into the square with the help of heavy equipment provided by the Palestinians.
Dr. Karim Saab, the well known Palestinian hydrologist, living in England, had arrived aboard the British Frigate. It was his research that had prompted the United Nations to issue its warning that the Gaza aquifer would be destroyed by 2020 if nothing was done to save it. Two containers of his equipment had just arrived on the beach.
The plans Ashraf and Dr. Mandur had made were underway with the help of teams of men and boys from Gaza.
Coming down the steps to the beach Travis and Tremaine turned south toward the catamarans. Travis was to address the troops before they left to protect the borders of Gaza and to march to the West Bank.
Travis stood at the prow of one of the catamarans where a microphone carried his voice throughout the four ships. Tremaine sat to one side watching and listening.
“To the French and British soldiers who’ve just joined us, welcome. We’re glad to have you on board. We’ve volunteered for a very unusual assignment. As far as I know nothing like this has ever been done before. When troops are sent into action it is with an awareness of the proximity of death. As soldiers we understand this. We hope it won’t be us but we accept the fact it might. For this undertaking, as you know, we’ll be unarmed and our purpose will be not to kill but to prevent killing. We can expect to meet hostility, violence and even death.
“The Israeli Defense Forces, the IDF, will most likely not agree with what is happening but they’ll be under the command of their superiors and hopefully their judgment will not be clouded. The real danger will come from the armed settlers who’ll have little or no restraints imposed on them. We have to rely on the IDF to control them. The press is an integral part of this mission. Any attacks will be seen by news outlets all over the world.
“Our job is to inject the possibility of peace into an otherwise hostile environment. We’re to protect the borders of Gaza and to free the Palestinians of the West Bank enclaves from the IDF. We will ensure Palestinians obtain the food they need — they’ll have had very little for the past week.
“Not all Palestinians will be peaceful, although they understand what we’re doing. They’ve suffered a great deal of cruelty by people who feel entitled to treat them this way. Those events, those experiences leave scars and those scars can easily flame into violence against those they see as their oppressor and source of their suffering. Our task is to do all in our power to prevent this. The best way I know is to use fairness, consistency and kindness. Put ourselves in the shoes of others.
“When we asked for volunteers we were looking for those who had considerable training in the martial arts, particularly the defensive capabilities. I want to tell you a story about a man I know who comes from a long line of martial artists. His specialty is Tai Chi. He told me a story once that points to the kind of thing we’re looking for. One day he was on a bus when some young men started harassing a woman. He was a teenager at the time but highly skilled. He tried to defuse the situation by talking to them but it didn’t work. In moments the situation escalated and the woman was attacked. Hahn Shan used his expertise and in a matter of seconds neutralized the young men.
“At home he didn’t mention what had happened. The next day an article appeared in the local paper describing in heroic terms the actions the young man had taken. When he got home that evening his father called him into his study and showed him the article. He pointed out that Hahn Shan had failed. It came as a shock to him but he learned an important lesson. “Tai Chi,” his father told him, “is an internal martial art, and a metaphor for how to live life. A martial artist should never allow things to get so out of hand that he must resort to his skill — the external skill used to disarm and neutralize an opponent. The external aspects of the form are easy to learn. It is the internal discipline that must be developed and that takes much longer. During the coming days I’ve no doubt we’ll have ample opportunity to hone the inner aspect of the disciplines with which we’re familiar.
“The siege of Gaza is lifted. Now we will lift the siege of Palestinians in the West Bank. We’ll be carrying food and supplies and will have the help of Palestinians, their donkeys, horses and wagons.
“Many of us will leave Gaza for the West Bank locations where Palestinians are confined in their homes by Israeli troops. We’ll place ourselves between them and the Israelis. It is our job to protect the Palestinian people and make sure they have their freedom.”
A huge roar went up. Half an hour later the troops and Palestinians filled the beach and prepared to leave.
Tremaine and Travis walked to the launch. McManus was ready. Once on board the launch turned toward the open water and made its way through the traffic from the American warships. Travis noted that the Israelis gunboats had withdrawn from the main channel and were simply observing. Once the two men arrived at the Eisenhower they were to go by helicopter for a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister.
Tremaine and Travis were ushered into the large office Seidel was still using. Kapinski was there to greet them when the helicopter landed.
Seidel was angry, very angry. Diplomatic niceties meant nothing to him at the moment. As soon as the men were ushered into his office and they had all taken their seats, he confronted the Americans. “What gives you the right to come here where you don’t belong? You have no idea what it’s like to be Jewish and live surrounded by enemies whose sole purpose is to drive you into the sea, to eliminate you, to complete what Hitler began.”
“I see it differently,” Tremaine responded, his voice even, “you live in a world of your own making. You can’t see beyond it. Your beliefs have hemmed you in and what you see in the world around you is a reflection of those beliefs.”
Seidel was about to stand up.
Tremaine raised his hand. “I did not come here to argue with you. I came as a courtesy to tell you what we’re doing, so there’ll be no misunderstanding between us.”
“This is no courtesy call, this is outright meddling in our internal affairs. You are not welcome here.”
Tremaine ignored the comment. “At this very moment I have ordered eight thousand troops to protect Gaza and proceed to the West Bank Palestinian enclaves you’ve surrounded and kept locked down. These troops are all unarmed. They come as keepers of the peace. In addition I want you to understand that we have brought no arms ashore. The helicopter we arrived on, as I told you by phone is also unarmed. We have no interest in fighting with anyone, but since the Palestinians have surrendered to us as your ally, we will do all in our power to see that they are cared for according to the Geneva Agreements regarding surrender.”
Seidel looked like he was going to burst, his anger barely contained.
“And how do you propose to get to the West Bank?”
Kapinski watching the initial exchange wondered if there was anything he could do to ease the explosive nature of the meeting.
“You don’t have permission to cross into Israel and go to the West Bank. We do not grant it.” Seidel interjected forcing himself under control.
“We’re not asking for your permission. This is not a discussion, it is a meeting to inform you of what we’re doing. The troops are already on their way and as I said they are unarmed.”
“Are you not listening?” Seidel fumed, “You don’t have permission to cross Israeli soil.”
“We will not be crossing Israeli soil. The United States does not recognize your claim to the land. The building of settlements is illegal and part of an ongoing policy by your government of ethnic cleansing, ‘de-Arabization,’ as it was first known. In international law this amounts to theft of Palestinian land and the removal of its people. It is a crime against humanity.
For now we will adhere only to the demarcation of the two states as mandated in the UN declaration of partition November 29th 1947. In doing this, we are not saying we agree with it or support it as it was never ratified by the Palestinians themselves. Nevertheless, this is where we will start. Our transit will take place on what we recognize as Palestinian land.”
“You can’t do this, you god damned anti semite.” Seidel glared at Tremaine. His voice was low, his hatred for all past perceived slights, for the weight of a re-written history he’d helped create and come to believe, was now focused on the slight figure of the man who sat before him. Seidel heaved himself out of his seat. “This conversation is over, you can leave right now.”
Tremaine remained seated as did Travis and Kapinski. “I have more information for you. It would be wise to hear it because this is not going to go away. The time has come for you and your countrymen to understand the nature of the situation and figure out what to do about it.”
Seidel walked to a small table and with his back to the Americans poured himself a glass of water. When he finished he filled his glass again before turning and facing them. He did not sit down. A big man, his presence was menacing, provocative, an invitation, a dare almost, to stand toe to toe. It was one last pathetic attempt to control his environment with physical intimidation, a behavior he was quite familiar with.
Tremaine remained seated understanding the ploy but with no intention of responding, he continued. “We have now brought to shore hundreds of journalists from all over the world. They will be witness to what happens here.”
“So what?” Seidel spat out. “You think that makes any difference to us, we’ll defend our right to exist. Neither you nor any of your anti semitic partners will push us off the land. This is our land.”
“We are not here to push you off the land. We are here, however, to enable you to come to an understanding with the Palestinians as to how you will share this land. We and the United Nations will ensure your safety and the safety of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have surrendered, and as you have seen, despite your provocations have not retaliated. With the signing of the articles of surrender they have agreed to place all their weapons in the hands of international experts responsible to the United Nations. This group will oversee the gathering and disposal of those weapons. Since this leaves the Palestinians defenseless the United States, France and Great Britain will guarantee their safety.”
Seidel who’d been listening intently made as if to speak but Tremaine raised his hand again. “There is more I want to say. You have enemies you believe want to push you into the sea. We’re here to tell you that this will not happen, we will not allow it. You have for the first time, perhaps since the founding of Israel, the very real possibility of peace, real peace, lasting peace. Until now peace has not served you. No longer will you be able to annex Palestinian land with impunity so it’s time to focus on peace. Besides, are you prepared to throw this opportunity away without first informing your people of what is before them?”
Seidel resumed his seat, he seemed deflated. “I make no promises,” he said, his voice now calm.
“As I said, this is a courtesy call, to inform you of what we’re doing, to avoid any misunderstanding and thereby prevent any further loss of life. The troops on their way to the West Bank have no more wish to die than you and I. They volunteered their services when we explained the nature of what we wanted and what we were about.”
“Anything else?” Seidel couldn’t keep the sarcasm from his voice.
“Yes, I’ve something else I need from you. A complete list of Palestinians under any form of detainment and what they’re charged with.”
“Why should I give you that?” Seidel demanded on the defensive again.
“Having accepted the Palestinian surrender and as the guarantor of their people’s well being, and your ally, I must have an accurate accounting of those Palestinians held in your jails. The United States will not be in violation of international law and is a nation that subscribes to the notion of habeas corpus. We cannot be a party to anything less, and request your cooperation.”
“Our government does not subscribe to your idea of habeas corpus. It holds no weight with us, so what if we don’t comply, what then?”
“I’m sure your refusal will not look good on the international stage. The United States will seek other methods to get information. We will have a detailed list of missing Palestinians and we’re prepared to bring this before the international court in the Hague. I hope, however, that you’ll not make this necessary. We will send an emissary to receive the information in three days.
“I want to remind you that none of the soldiers we’ve brought ashore, and those now on their way to the West Bank are armed. As with the former Prime Minister I don’t expect you to kill me or any of our men. I trust you, our safety is in your hands.” Tremaine’s eyes were fixed on Seidel’s and caught the slight flicker that signified he’d heard and understood. “I have nothing more to say, Mr. Prime Minister. Do you have any questions? If not we’ll be on our way.”
The room was silent. Travis who’d been watching the exchange realized the meeting was almost over. He watched Seidel, who seemed to have sunk into his mind and was no longer present.
Tremaine stood up, and Travis with him.
Seidel snapped back and stood up. Kapinski did the same. Seidel looked at Tremaine and Travis for a long time. “You have no idea the turmoil you will now unleash within Israel.”
Tremaine glimpsed in the man’s words the immensity of what lay before the Israeli government. They had succeeded in creating a rogue state by sowing a toxic brew of racism toward Arabs and black Africans — bigotry, hatred and wide scale corruption at all levels of society. And this is not just a recent occurrence, it is a deeply imbedded way of life. The State of Israel is in an internally precarious position. Civil unrest, he knew, was on the horizon. “It is of your own making, not ours,” he responded,“and you know that far better than I. Our task is to see that justice is done, that peace has a real possibility and to do so by non violent means. How you handle your internal politics is up to you and your people.”
Tremaine stepped toward Seidel and extended his hand. Seidel as if in a daze shook the hand automatically. Kapinski watched Travis do the same.
“I’ll take you back to the helicopter,” he said.