THE FOLLY OF FRATRICIDE
There’s an old saying: “Two Jews, three opinions.” Yes, it’s a stereotype, but Jews laugh at this one. We know it’s true. A multiplicity of opinions leads to lively discussions, new ideas and even consensus. Respect is the key. Without it, opposite views can lead to crippling disunity. That’s the case with some commentary on the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
A few weeks ago I wrote in “John Kerry’s Framework” that the Secretary of State would offer proposals requiring major concessions by both sides. The “framework” will call for East Jerusalem to be capital of Palestine and no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. What’s new won’t be the proposals but an American secretary of state publicly espousing them.
How do Israelis feel? Six million Israeli Jews, nine million opinions. According to former Mossad head and former member of the Knesset Danny Yatom, polls show that most Israelis favor a two-state solution. At the same time, most don’t trust the Palestinians.
So Israelis are torn by a desire for peace and a fear that they have no partner. Those who favor a Palestinian state must contend with their own doubts and the Israeli right, which opposes Palestinian statehood. The Israeli right and its American supporters view those who favor the framework as naïve—at best.
Passionate differences of opinion have long been with us. Over 2,000 years ago, Jews for and against Greek culture in Judea engaged in bloody warfare. Jewish zealots seeking a purer Judaism attacked Hellenized Jews mercilessly and drove out the Syrian Greeks. Hence the holiday of Chanukah. The same antagonism continued under Roman rule. It produced two rebellions, the destruction of the Second Temple, crushing defeats, the exile or death of much of Judea’s Jewish population and even a name change to Syria Palestina.
This brings me to last Wednesday night. J Street, a Washington, DC-based Jewish organization favoring a two-state solution, held a town hall meeting at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. Danny Yatom was the featured speaker. The American-Jewish right castigates J Street as betrayers of Israel. Yatom, once commanding general in the West Bank, is hardly an Israeli traitor. He favors Secretary Kerry’s framework. There are risks, says Yatom. And if attacked from Palestine, Israel will defend itself. But Israel must seek the two-state solution, according to Yatom, because the status quo or a single Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan will destroy Israel as a Jewish democracy.
I’m not a member of J Street. And I was a bit skeptical when I arrived. But nothing regarding J Street’s “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” theme rang false. No speaker suggested anything other than that Israel be Jewish and secure.
However, another theme presented itself: affording Palestinians dignity. It’s not easy to recognize as fully human others who’ve sought your destruction. And dignity must be reciprocal. Arabs will have to look at Jews in new ways
Still, peace and security need not be at odds. Israeli Jews and American Jews can come together, too. Not by diminishing our opinions but by speaking rather than shouting to offer each other the dignity and respect we all deserve.
J Street’s website presents an FAQ debunking myths about its positions. It’s worth a look.
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Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village. And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.