I may be the last person still trying to square the Israeli-Palestinian circle of violence. Not only do I want each side to empathize with the other, I support a one-state solution with constitutional protections for religious minorities. I also believe both the Israelis and Palestinians are being ill-served by their chosen leaders. That said, I hold Israel responsible for the lion’s share of the ongoing hostilities.
Recent bombings of civilians in Gaza, periodic occupations of Palestine by the IDF, “home-razings” of houses where Palestinian terrorists live, and more Jewish settlements on the West Bank are wholly disproportionate acts of aggression. Ultimately, Israelis and their military have freedom of movement and action that Palestinians don’t.
I understand why Palestinians and others of good will around are so harshly critical of Israel. Nevertheless, it would behoove Palestinians and their supporters to try to understand where Israel is coming from.
Generally, I find cults of victimization odious. Christians seems especially susceptible to this pathology. In America, subscribers to the dominant religion annually claim to be victims of a wholly non-existent war on Christmas. In Europe for centuries if not millennia, Catholics and Protestants would immolate Jews and Muslims while falsely claiming that their quarry was poisoning wells or kidnapping and killing Christian children. Today, prosperous white Americans invoke the specter of hordes of brown immigrants swarming across the border to justify ripping families apart and deporting people to lands they never knew.
Unlike Christian “victims”, Jews have a legitimate claim to being targeted for discrimination up until the present day. This history, in part, drives Israel’s insistence on maintaining the Promised Land as Jewish. It also provides more than a patina of rationality to the fear of Israelis that Palestinians would drive them into the sea at the first opportunity.
This history does not excuse the persecution of Palestinians but it should act as a spur to their leaders to assure Israel that they are seeking justice for their people but not another holocaust. That Palestinians want equitable land-sharing for all not all for themselves. Israelis and Palestinians should join voices in decrying the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic fascists in Europe.
Some may say that the oppressed should not be burdened with their oppressors’ legacy. Certainly, African-Americans owed no duty to empathize with the whites who kidnapped and enslaved them even if some of the latter may themselves have been from exploited classes.
I say to Palestinians and their supporters, keep your eyes on the prize. Acknowledge up front that the Jewish people, along among monotheists, have faced nearly ceaseless persecution for thousands of years. If statements of solidarity with Jewish victims of discrimination can build bridges with Israeli moderates, make them. Why not set forth a vision a peaceful holy land with Jews, Muslims, and Christians living in a secular state?
Don’t stop pushing. Don’t be silent in the face of oppression or make excuses for your oppressors but recognize that the tribe oppressing yours was until very recently the most victimized of all. Perhaps, just perhaps, peace and justice are possible.