Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Hard to Be Pro Israel and Pro Palestine -- But We Must Try


So, mark down November 29, 2012 on your calendar.  Today is the day that Palestine officially became a state.   By an overwhelming majority, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority from "non-member observer entity" to "non-member observer state.”   It now has the same legal status as the Vatican.

I, for one, rejoice in the UN vote.  I still haven’t seen the final version of the resolution itself, but the precise wording wouldn’t affect my celebration of the vote.  I am willing to assume for the sake of argument that the resolution could have some offensive verbiage.   That’s of little concern to me when compared to the symbolic significance of knowing that the Palestinian people are no longer stateless.  No group of people should have to live like that.  As a Jew, I appreciate all too well what it means to be stateless.  Spinoza’s Jewish community in Amsterdam was considered part of the “Portuguese Nation,” indicating not only where they emigrated from, but also the fact that they were NOT truly part of Holland.   West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians are clearly not part of Israel.  How, then, can we Jews keep from allowing them to have their own state?   And why not recognize the existence of that state today?   

To me, my fellow Zionists have a fundamental decision to make: do we or don’t we want to recognize that the Palestinians also possess a legitimate claim to the disputed land.  If our answer is yes, we should support the existence of a Palestinian state side by side a Jewish one.  If our answer is no, we are truly in denial.  The Palestinians should not singlehandedly be asked to pay the price for the way Jews have been mistreated over time.  Even if we recognize that the United Nations was within its rights to give the Jews their ancestral homeland out of, in essence, eminent domain principles, we would have to note that the UN intended to create two states for two peoples.    

To me, being pro-Israel and pro-Zionism compels us to support the aspirations of Palestinian statehood.  We cannot rejoice in our own liberty until our neighbors and cousins are able to rejoice in theirs.  I don’t feel threatened by the symbolic statement that the Palestinian people have their own state.   Why feel threatened?  There is still a wall separating the two states.   Frankly, I think it is sad that countries like the U.S. and Germany – which, happily, tend to sympathize with Israeli interests – felt the need to oppose the resolution and thereby take a stand that isn’t so much pro-Israel as anti-Palestine.

Viva the Palestinian State!  May it live long and prosper.

But just as many people find it difficult to be pro-Israel without being anti-Palestine, the reverse is also true.  And today, while I would like to relax and celebrate this wonderful, historic development, I can’t help but reflect on the way that many Palestinian “peace activists” are taking the news.   You got it – they’re not just celebrating the creation of the Palestinian state, but taking the opportunity to lambast the state of Israel.   

If many in the Middle East Peace movement are to be believed, the sole reason why we don’t have peace in the Holy Land is because of Israel.  The Palestinians bear little if any responsibility for the continuation of the conflict.  According to this allegedly “pro-peace” meme, Israel is an imperialist and ruthless power that thinks nothing of oppressing their innocent neighbors, and is completely hypocritical when it comes to its alleged support of the two-state solution.  As for the Palestinians, they are to be analogized to the Native Americans prior to the Trail of Tears, or to the Southern blacks in anti-bellum America.   These peace activists paint a picture of good versus evil that is as black-and-white as a children’s book.  

My friends, I am not going to apologize for everything Israel does.  I certainly won’t apologize for those damned West Bank settlements, or even for Israel’s behavior in strongly opposing today’s resolution.  But let me remind you that Israel was not the one that recently initiated violence against the Palestinians, Israel is not the one who is refusing to get back to the bargaining table, and Israel has made it clear that it would be a tremendous pro-peace statement if the Palestinians were simply to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.   Yet the Palestinians refuse.

I am not going to apologize for that either.

Nor will I join in the chorus from the left of advocating boycotts against Israel, applying double standards invidiously against Israel, and assuming that Israel is responsible for making major concessions for peace but not the Palestinians.  That’s not being pro-Palestinian; that’s being anti-Israel.   

At a dinner party that I attended last weekend, a bunch of Jews were trying to figure out just the right phrase to describe a Jew who is always blaming Israel and never the Palestinians.  It was decided that “traitor” was too strong, and “self-hating Jew” was also inapposite (after all, the blame-Israel-first Jews aren’t necessarily anti-Jewish either culturally or religiously).   Then, someone thought to refer to these blame-Israel-firsters as “Useful Idiots.”   It’s a term that was used by the Russian Marxists to mock the communist sympathizers in the western world – in other words, to mock their own clueless supporters.  And nobody could argue with that term in this context.  When the shoe fits ….

Folks, if you want to see peace in the region, don’t think perfect justice.  Think perfect balance.   Think about bringing both sides to the table, giving each one what they reasonably need, and denying each one what their own extremists want.  Ensure that nothing happens that threatens security interests.  But encourage both sides to make concessions now, even unilateral concessions, in the hope that they will serve as a springboard for concessions from the other side. And above all else, rejoice in ANYTHING that benefits one of these peoples without threatening the other.

Palestinian Statehood doesn’t threaten Israel.  Let’s support it.  And the Jewish State.

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