Written before the ceasefire but every word remains true (for me).
I understand that the pain Jews like myself feel over Israel’s war on Gaza is nothing compared to what Palestinians and other Muslims are going through. But, nonetheless, it is real.
In losing the Israel I grew up on, I feel like a friend has died. Yes, I know many will tell me that Israel was misconceived from the beginning. I know all about the Nakba and will not deny it or argue about it. Facts are facts.
At the same time, until recently I had hope. I have loved Israel since my first (of around 35) trips there. I never much liked the politics or the militarism. And I hated the occupation. But I loved the place. (I stayed with my aunt in Tel Aviv, an Auschwitz survivor whose three kids were murdered by the Nazis). How could I not love a place that gave her shelter, and more than shelter? A home.
I’ll admit: I did not think much about the Palestinians until Yasir Arafat made the whole world acknowledge them. (For all his faults, before Arafat few outside of the Middle East even knew Palestinians were not just “the Arabs.”)
That is when I began to realize the awful injustice inherent in creating Israel. But the whole world was one injustice after another. It could be rectified.
Then came the Oslo accords and they offered hope. Yitzhak Rabin was far from perfect (neither was Yasir Arafat) but they were, as Rabin said, “partners.” They tried. But then Rabin, the last Israeli prime minister to treat a Palestinian leader with respect, was murdered by an Israeli determined to derail peace.
He succeeded with the help of first Prime Minister Netanyahu and, even worse, Ehud Barak who set out to demonize all Palestinians in the eyes of Israelis. He, more than anyone else, killed the peace process.
And here we are today. I look back at the wonderful times I have had in Israel and I’m sad. I adore Tel Aviv: the beach, Neve Tzedek, the port. I love the remaining kibbutzim. But, most of all, I love the Israeli left. I don’t think I have ever met more wonderful people than those left-wing Israelis who fight the occupation. Think about it: it’s a lot more courageous being an Israeli fighting the power from within it than to be me, here, or a Palestinian in Los Angeles.
Give them credit. No Palestinian or anyone else knows what they would do if the shoe was on the other foot. The Israeli human rights activists fight for the Palestinians. Would the Palestinians fight for them? I hope so, I think so. But I don’t know. And I don’t know what I would do if I was in Israel. It doesn’t take much courage to fight the occupation from here.
I realize as I write this how sad I am. Maybe this war, and the fact that Israel must see that it can never win this way, will lead to a different Israel. I don’t know if the answer is one state, two states, a federation, or whatever. But the 7 million Israelis aren’t going away. The Palestinians, who never left, are certainly not going away either.
They have to find a way to live together. Israel needs to acknowledge and deal with Hamas and all Palestinians. The Palestinians must abandon the idea that those Hebrew speaking Israelis, with their unique and genuine national culture, are just Poles or Russians and realize they must live with them. And Israelis must stop insisting that Palestinians are just Arabs and have 20 other states when, in fact, they have not even one. Settlers can either stay under Palestinian authority or leave. Jerusalem must be shared. And the walls must come down.
Don’t ask me about the modalities. They did it during the last years of Oslo with the help of the Americans. They can do it again. The difference: this time full equality between Israelis and Palestinians. No gifts to Palestine but rather granting them what is theirs.
Neither people will get everything it wants. But each can get what it needs.
I realize I still have hope, somehow, despite the grief at watching what Israel is doing to Gaza. But what alternative is there? To become reconciled to this? To look forward to the day all the Palestinians or Israelis are dead are transferred somewhere else.
No, I’ll stick with my dream. What else do I have? What else does anybody have?