Rabbi David Zaslow
The day the Palestinian leadership declares an end to terrorism…the day the Palestinian people demand an end to their corrupt government…the day the Palestinian people declares themselves to be pluralistic, egalitarian, and democratic – on that day the Palestinian people will have their dreams fulfilled for a homeland and prosperous lives for its people. Does it seem naive that the solution should be so simple? Does it seem unfair that the responsibility for the misery of the Palestinian people is almost entirely in their own hands?
I have studied this conflict for decades. I have meditated, debated, spent Shabbat in Palestinian homes, prayed with Muslim friends, studied even more, and searched for a fair and objective understanding of the root of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Israel has made some foolish decisions along the way since its rebirth in 1948, and for decades I have condemned some of the unfair housing policies and cultural double standards that Israeli citizens (both Jewish and Muslim) of Arab descent have had to endure by the early Euro-centric Israeli leaders. I have publicly decried the counter-productive nature of most home demolitions, and other forms of collective punishment, in response to terrorist attacks.
But any objective analysis yields only one result – the misery of the Palestinian people has almost entirely been caused by 1) a corrupt Palestinian leadership which results in a lack of social service institutions; 2) a lack of democratic institutions (free speech, freedom to assemble, union movement, and free elections) in order for the people’s voices to be heard; and 3) the lack of religious tolerance, pluralism, and egalitarianism in otherwise medieval cultural structures (very few rights for religious minorities, women, and children).
There is no cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. There is a cause and an effect. The Israeli’s have not brought violence upon themselves, and they have not incited terrorism. The few foolish policies of the Israeli government have no moral equivalency whatsoever to acts of terror perpetrated against civilians. The day the terrorism ends is the day the future of the Palestinian people begins. Let us be pragmatic in our political affiliations and opinions, but let us be visionary in our hopes for the future. The prophets spoke unambiguously of the destiny for both Palestinians and Israelis. Grounded by my faith I am certain of the eventual outcome – Israel will be secure. Palestinians will have a homeland. Freedom, democracy, and a women’s movement will sweep the Middle East soon. Actually, it is happening before our eyes right now. We just need to reach the tipping point for freedom, egalitarianism, and pluralism to take hold.
We live in a culture that is often so self-critical that we look for moral equivalencies where there are none. We ask, isn’t Hamas angry because they really have been harmed by Israel? Didn’t colonialism disempower the Arab world? Aren’t Western values corrupting Arab cultures? The answers are simple: no, no, and no. Hamas has no duplicity in their agenda. They represent Islamic fundamentalism that is at the level of consciousness where Christians were at the start of the Crusades. They will accept nothing less than a one-state solution – a Muslim state in place of Israel.
Western colonialism certainly cast a shadow upon the third world. But as colonialism ended between 1918 and 1950 newly freed nations like India opted for democracy and have prospered. Nations like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Libya opted for tyranny and have suffered. Finally, the only Western values that are “corrupting” Arab culture are ones that we hold dear: freedom, choice, and equal rights. These are threatening to the old patriarchal, hierarchical models of clan culture in most Arab nations. The violence and propaganda war against Israel is pure scapegoating. Jews are blamed for what most Arab citizens want for themselves. Keep hope alive for real shalom!