I was 5 years old in 1947 when an old friend of my family from Germany came, as she often did from New Rochelle, N.Y., to spend a few days with us in Brunswick.

She suggested that my parents take off for the weekend. To our surprise, however, they returned a few hours later because, as Jews, they were denied access to an inn in Wiscasset.

This was especially disappointing since my parents were survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. My father had been interned at Dachau.

Yet, in post-war Maine, anti-Semitism was prevalent, mainly at coastal resorts.

Rockland’s famous artist, Louise Nevelson, as a child, experienced anti-Semitism there. Years later, she wrote, “We were an immigrant family, foreigners in a Daughters of the Revolution town. … They needed foreigners like I need ten holes in my head.”

The following spring, 1948, my father, who two years before had become a Bowdoin College professor, gave a daily chapel talk, as was customary at the time.

He predicted that should the United Nations partition Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states out of the British mandate, the new Zionist (nationalist) state either would be destroyed instantly by its Middle Eastern neighbors, or, if supported by Western nations, would face unceasing problems.

He was right. Immediately after the U.N.’s General Assembly agreed to Resolution 181, all Arab U.N. members stormed out. Iraq, for instance, immediately shut off the oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Haifa and barred Jews from leaving Iraq.

For self-protection, Israel conquered much new land. Although it has returned much of that land, unfortunately, it continues to build settlements in the existing occupied territories. When Israel gave up the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in 2005, its fears of a Hamas government became a reality with the 2007 election.

To try to keep any weapons from coming into Gaza, Israel has blockaded it. The result is destitution for the citizens of Gaza.

It is ironic that although anti-Semitism is now barred by law here, the U.S. government does not condemn Israel when its actions violate human rights, including continuing building settlements in the Palestinian territories during the 2009 Gaza war, and last year’s commando raid on an unarmed flotilla taking medicine and other goods to the people of Gaza. Nine people were killed, including a 19-year-old American.

Today, the U.S. government refuses to support a similar flotilla of ships carrying unarmed peace and human rights activists to bring essential goods to the besieged West Bank. On one ship, Audacity of Hope, are 50 Americans, many of whom are Jews.

On June 24, Hillary Clinton criticized the flotilla as it would “provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”

The Greeks are refusing to allow the Audacity of Hope to leave port and have arrested its captain. Greece, which relies heavily on its trade with Israel, does not want to disrupt plans to develop an oil pipeline between itself and Israel.

If Israel once again uses force to prevent the flotilla from arriving in Palestine, growing anger toward Israel is, alas, justifiable. Although its fear is understandable, resorting to rigidity and violence intensifies Israel’s neighbors’ hatred toward it.

Striving to establish a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine will foster improved relations among Israel, the Middle East and the world.

Let us learn from Henry David Thor-eau, from Gandhi and from Martin Luther King Jr. that the disciplined action of non-violent civil disobedience is far more successful than violence can ever be. After all, we are all brothers and sisters on this small planet.

David Solmitz, a veteran teacher, is author of “Piecing Scattered Souls: Maine, Germany, Mexico, China, and Beyond,” a family memoir, which has just been published. He is also author of “Schooling for Humanity: When Big Brother Isn’t Watching” (2001) dealing with his controversial teaching career at Madison’s high school. He can be reached at [email protected]


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