Friday, May 20, 2011

Peace, Antisemitism, and a Palestinian State

Today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be meeting with President Obama at the White House. The timing is awkward given that yesterday President Obama laid out his vision for the Middle East and North Africa, including returning boundaries in the contentious Israeli/Palestinian border back to there 1967 locations. Kind of like telling your mother in law you never intend to bear grandchildren for her and then having a cookout the next day.

To say that this is a hot potato diplomacy wise is an epic understatement. Realistically, making any suggestions as to where the lines are drawn in the Israeli/Palestinian land disputes is akin to political and social suicide. Someone at some point will brand Obama as an antisemite and then the fur will fly and once again any reasoned conversation will give way to extremist nonsense that benefits no one, most especially the people who populate the coveted real estate.

Much like the abortion debate in the U.S. it seems impossible to have a reasoned, thoughful conversation on the topic of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Dating back to before many in the dialogue today were even born the debate is rife with feelings of betrayal and anger-much of it directed at groups of individuals who had nothing to do with the centuries old conflict. The debate has become a pivotal issue for politicians seeking backing and more important, money from PACs and private donors with deep pockets and deep ties to Israel.

I don't pretend to be an expert on Arab-Israeli politics. But I do know that for my entire life there has never been a moment of true rest for that part of the world. There is no one my age living in that part of the world that knows what it would be like to live without the specter of violence overhanging every walk to school, to a mosque, to sit Shiva for a lost relative. Every day suicide bombers, gunfire, bloackades, threats, streetfights, discrimination, food shortages, mandatory evacuations or evictions.

A life where by age 5 you have seen a bloodied body in the street and been told over and over again that you are worth more or less than another child who is of the opposite persuasion-when really, all you are is a child stuck in the no man's land of conflict that adults have created and perpetuated.

Therein lies the problem for both Israelis and Pa;estinians-no one alive in either group has any idea what peace and quiet look like and no one is willing to believe that committing faith and energy to a true peaceful resolution of the confict is really worth it. for years I struggled with trying to build healthy relationships with people-I was stuck behaving the way I always behaved in my intimate relationships with family-crazy alcoholic family nuts. I sought out crzy, broken birds to be in relationship with, because even though it was misery-it was a misery I knew how to live with-not an unknown quantity to be reckoned with or learned.

In simple terms that is the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine-no one has any idea what it would be like to simply stop fighting over neighborhoods and boundary lines and simply let one another live. The very thought of putting down their arms and simply sharing power is too threatening to even consider and so anone who suggests Israel relent is antisemitic and any one who suggests Palestinians share leadership with Israelis is branded anti Islamic.


The children born this morning to Palestinian and Israeli mothers deserve the opportunity to play in the street without dodging bullets, have safe homes not dictated by arbitrary politics, worship with their grandparents without fear of retribution. And the only way that true lasting peace can come between Israel and Palestine is if the leaders of other nations can speak to the need for compromise without being branded Anti Semitic. Name calling gets no one anywhere, and thousands of years of violent history should be proof enough for anyone.

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