Sunday, December 28, 2008

No Peace

There will be no peace between Israel and Palestine, at least not until one side annihilates the other. War is the answer because war is what people want. If the majority of Israelis and Palestinians wanted peace they would have it by now. They don’t have it because they don’t want it. What they want is to win, and to win they need war.

A few days ago I clicked on thedailybeast.com and watched a series of educational videos for Palestinian elementary schools produced by the Palestinian Authority. The purpose of these videos is clear: to train young Palestinian Muslims to hate and kill Jews.

In one Holocaust focused video Palestinian children are taught that the Nazis were really Jews, and their victims were really Palestinians. Such lies turn Palestinians into martyrs and murderers. The educational system run by the Palestinian Authority is designed to turn their children into killers and, along with many Muslim clerics around the globe, turn Islam into a cult of death.

Shahada, dying for Allah, seems to be the goal of Palestinian education. As one young Palestinian boy recites, “I have let my land drink my blood, and I have loved the way of Shahada.” The linking of land with Allah, and both with death is the Muslim equivalent of the Israeli Settler idolatry that replaces worship of God with worship of the land. But there is a difference, and the difference is crucial: the Israeli government is not producing the hate-filled speech of the Jewish terrorist, while Palestinian hate is produced and promoted by the Palestinian Authority.

Anyone who imagines soon-to-be President Obama is going to make peace between Israel and Palestine is fooling herself. The United States has spent untold millions on both sides of the conflict and nothing of substance has come of it. The illegal and immoral Israeli settlements remain and expand, and Palestinians bomb Israel from Gaza on a daily basis, raining death and destruction deeper and deeper into the country’s heartland. But there is a difference, and the difference is crucial: the Israeli government supports the settlements, while the Palestinian Authority does not officially sanction the bombing.

Funding the madness that is the Middle East doesn’t work. We have tried bringing the adults together, and that has failed. Maybe we should bring the children together instead. There are many such programs in Israel, all of them small and poorly funded. Maybe we should spend our money on these programs.

Maybe our best bet is to establish an American Academy for Truth and Reconciliation in Jerusalem— a free, educationally state-of-the-art middle and high school where, in addition to Arabic, Hebrew, English, science, math, and the humanities (including comparative religion and Jewish and Islamic Studies), Israeli and Palestinians can learn their history together, and where they can begin to forge the bonds of friendship and understanding that might let them create a new future that doesn’t replicate the fear, hate, and war that defines their parents. Pollyannaish, I know. Liberals like me always put our hope in education. That is why I admitted from the top: there will be no peace in the Middle East.

6 comments:

dtedac said...

Rabbi Rami,

I recently began reading this blog and other articles of yours on the Internet. I enjoy them very much and they have been of great help to me.

I agree with today's comments. Peace will come when people want peace and learn peace. Your proposal is actually the only way to make this happen: teach the young. If this never happens, there will be no peace. Shalom.

David

Claire said...

I have a solution to the problem between Israel and its neighbors.

Since I’m Jewish, I’m not going to tell other people what they should do. I’ll start with my tribe. And where it begins for us is not where you might think.

What needs to happen is for the Jewish people to forgive the world for the Holocaust.

“Forgive” doesn’t mean “forget”. It means to remember differently. So yes, remember, mourn, hold accountable, yes. And don’t put yourself in harm’s way, protect yourself, naturally. But forgive.

And if I remember right, there’s no requirement on the other side to make apologies. Of course, there have been some. You’d like to have the apologies and the forgiveness to be equally profound on both sides any time this sort of reconciliation happens. But it doesn’t have to be equal. It just has to start somewhere. So let it begin with us.

Since there’s no centralized authority for the Jewish people, we need spiritual leadership from all corners: Sephardi and Ashkenazi, Orthodox, Conservative, and the 3 Rs. Maybe it can be the next Elul where everyone steps forward and says, “we can take this step”. It might not be easy, but this time, let’s not take the cowards’ way - let’s be as strong as we say we are, and do it.

If we can open our hearts, and really work at this, then others will forgive our people, for the terrible things we have done too. If you’re one of those types that think that Jews or Israel are incapable of doing terrible things, or if you are full of excuses of why these things were done, then I can only ask you to open your heart a little more. You’re not a “self-hating Jew” (god, I hate it when people say this!) for being able to realize that we’re all human, and all humans fall into terrible, brutal, blind, inhuman behavior. And if you can admit this, you can be a big enough mentsch to say, “I am so sorry”. Yes, you may feel that you did nothing personally, but that doesn’t absolve you from the responsibility. A mentsch doesn’t apologize from a place of weakness, a mentsch apologizes because he or she is strong enough, confident enough, self-aware enough to be a responsible, and understand what needs to be done to make things right.

As long as we do not forgive, each Yom Kippur we are written in the Book of Death. While we usually understand the Book of Death as a spiritual death, a metaphorical death, it is too clear that we are also in the Book of Death on a physical plane, too, these days.

Forgiveness of the Holocaust is such a huge task that maybe I can’t ask our people to take on asking for forgiveness this Elul, too. But I think that if we get started on the first task, and take it on with sincerity and with integrity; I think the second will follow naturally.

The wisdom of this natural order is shown in the Kriyat Shema Al Ha’mitah. We begin with forgiveness of others, before asking for forgiveness for ourselves.

I think once the floodgates of reconciliation are opened, then others will ask for our forgiveness too. At Ramadan and Lent, calls will come to remember the acts committed against our people, and to say, “we’re sorry”. All the pain that is being held against us, that fuels anger and violence, will soften and dissolve. And then both the household of Israel and the household of Ishmael may be inscribed in the Book of Life, this year, and every year after that.

OK, maybe like you, Rabbi, I'll end this with saying, based on what I've just written, it's hopeless.

But I don't know where else to start.

Patti said...

Claire,
You are a brave young lego person. I admire the courage it takes to think such things and to take the time to write. I do feel hope, even if you can not at this point.

Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

You wrote,"The illegal and immoral Israeli settlements remain and expand, and Palestinians bomb Israel from Gaza on a daily basis, raining death and destruction deeper and deeper into the country’s heartland. But there is a difference, and the difference is crucial: the Israeli government supports the settlements, while the Palestinian Authority does "not officially sanction" the bombing"

Sure they (the Palestinian Authority) do!!! Their
schools are "sanctioned" to teach hatred and Jew killing. It's only by semantic wordplay that one can that one can state that bombings from Gaza of civilian targets in Israel aren't officially sanctioned by the PA. Your attempt to demonstrate moral equivalence here is quite disheartening.

To paraphrase Dennis Prager, there will be no peace in that region until there is a Palestinian civil war
where moderates prevail.

Happy New year to all of us.
Biv'racha,

Jordan

Rabbi Rami said...

Interesting comments. Just a quick response. First, I didn't mean to imply any moral equivalence. Though I think we underestimate the horror of living under occupation, and the injustice done to Palestinians, Israel doesn't train people to become terrorists. The equivalence may be in the religious extremists of both camps, though.

As for forgiving the world for the Holocaust... If it would allow us to move on, to cease making the murder of six million Jews the second pillar (Israel being the other) of modern Jewish identity, so that we might focus on reinventing Judaism for the 21 century I am interested.

A couple of years ago I explored with a small group of Jews the possibility of using the Hagar and Ishmael story read on the first day of Rosh haShanah as an opportunity for asking forgiveness from the Arab peoples. Forgiving and asking for forgiveness might be a catalyst for similar acts by others, and the established of a worldwide day of global forgiveness and reconciliation. I would extend that beyond humans to the planet as a whole. We could ask Gaia for forgiveness as well. My only concern is that Hallmark would make a card for this day and ruin the whole thing.

Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

You wrote:

"Israel doesn't train people to become terrorists. The equivalence may be in the religious extremists of both camps, though."

Exactly!! The extremists in the Arab/Muslim world train terrorists/killers of innocents and to link/equate this with "Israeli terrorism" in your blogpost i.e., with "the horror of living under occupation, and the injustice done to Palestinians,"
is as I said before, disheartening and I'll add
unfortunate.

Biv'racha,
Jordan