Grapevine May 26, 2021: Politicization of the court?

Publication Date25 May 2021
■ THE MANY friends he made in Israel will be sad to learn of the death of former Lithuanian ambassador Edminas Bagdonas, who served here from 2014 to 2019. A career diplomat, the very personable and popular Bagdonas served as consul and ambassador in several countries, as well as doing a stint at home as director of protocol in Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While in Israel he was diagnosed with cancer, and preferred to be treated by Israeli cancer specialists rather than cut short his posting and return home.

In an interview that he gave to The Jerusalem Post, he said that he felt very much at home in Israel, where there are at least 200,000 people of Lithuanian heritage. He noted that when he presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in September 2014, the president told him of his own Lithuanian roots, and shortly afterward when he accompanied then-Lithuanian prime minister Algirdas Butkevicius to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter also mentioned his Lithuanian ancestry.

Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania's first-ever female president and the first president of Lithuania to serve two successive terms, also came to Israel during his tenure.

Bagdonas and several of his predecessors tried to label president Shimon Peres a Litvak, although Peres is generally listed as having been born in Poland.

Peres was born in Vishnyeva, which is today in Belarus, but was part of Poland at the time of his birth. Poland is bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. Belarus is bordered by five countries, one of which is Lithuania. As borders kept changing over the years, it's easy to see why Lithuanian ambassadors tried to claim Peres as one of their own. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein sometimes quips that his grandfather lived in four different countries without ever leaving home.

As ill as he was, Bagdonas continued with his diplomatic activities, and people who in February 2018 attended the reception at the Tel Aviv Museum marking the centennial of the restoration of the State of Lithuania could not tell that he was seriously ill. Wearing traditional Lithuanian costume, including a large hat, Bagdonas was able to camouflage his appearance and to exude a hail-fellow-well-met persona.

■ THE VICTIMS on the different sides of any war see the loss of human life, the traumatic impact and the damage wrought to infrastructure, housing and industry solely from their own perspective, often ignoring the pain caused to people on the other side. Retaliation and revenge are natural emotions.

Israel and its supporters, while acknowledging that much of Gaza's civilian population is being held hostage by Hamas, did not spare much thought for the suffering of Gaza's civilians. Likewise, people in Gaza, other than the few who had personal contacts of friendship in Israel, did not give much thought to the suffering of Israel's civilians – including Arabs, who account for more than 20% of the population – who were subjected to barrages of rocket fire from Gaza. Yet anyone who read Palestine news bulletins, purely from a humanitarian standpoint, could understand how terrifying Israeli retaliation was to innocent civilians living in Gaza. The human-interest stories emanating from Gaza were similar to those published in Israel. The two entities could easily have been transposed to tell the same story.

In the final analysis, neither side won. Lives were lost on both sides, homes were destroyed and, economically, the cost factor went into the multimillions, which could have been used to better the quality of life on both sides.

Even before the announcement of the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, organizations and institutions working for peace and coexistence among Jews and Arabs came out of the woodwork, and it was heartening to see that they are far from few in number. There have also been numerous coexistence rallies such as the one last Saturday night...

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