How about some compassion from Jews for Palestinians?
by Ray Hanania
When I was young, I read all the horror stories of how the Jews were persecuted over the centuries – mainly by non-Arabs. I read about the tragedy of World War II and the Nazis, and what we now know as the Holocaust. My dad, who was born in Jerusalem, knew even better. As Palestinians, he and his brother fought during World War II to liberate Europe and end the Nazi persecution of Jews, and many others.
So I am not trying to make Israel stop being a Jewish state. In fact, I am trying to make it be a real Jewish state – a Jewish state with a conscience embracing the Jews’ history of suffering.
Why is it that suffering often does not bring compassion, but rather meanness? Yes, meanness. That’s the only way I can describe the way many Israelis and American Jews are acting.
How else do you describe what is taking place in the Gaza Strip, pushing people beyond frustration and despondency? And when they explode in violence, Israel strikes so powerfully, as if it believes that beating someone teaches them to obey. It doesn’t. It feeds more rebellion. But I fear many in the Israeli government know that; the violent reaction of Palestinians in Gaza is exactly what they want.
The best defense Israelis offer is that they do their “best” to minimize civilian casualties. Oh well, if many civilians die, it happens. That does not portray Israel’s “best” at all.
Collective punishment. Targeted killings. Land confiscations. Are these the principles of the Jewish people? I don’t think so.
THEN THERE is the peace process that the Israeli government insists Palestinians are stalling. Really? Since 1988, the Palestinians have formally accepted Israel’s “right to exist.”
But have Israelis recognized that Palestinians exist? Most do not, insisting there never was a Palestine or a Palestinian people.
With each step of the failed peace process, the Palestinians compromised and are now willing to accept what’s left: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and most of – not all of – east Jerusalem.
What’s Israel’s response? After the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, his successors fought hard to stop the compromises and reverse the peace process. They openly vowed they would not dismantle settlements. They would not share Jerusalem. They would not compensate Palestinian refugees.
If I were Jewish, I would be ashamed of myself. I would be ashamed of the conduct of my country established to give Jews a place where they could stand up as a people based on the rule of law, morality and principles of justice and compassion.
Israel keeps saying it acts to protect its citizens from “Arab terrorism,” but everything it does goes one step further. Israel builds settlements in the West Bank after it is captured in 1967, claiming they are merely security enclaves to prevent Palestinians from trying to attack the new state. And then these security sites become fast-growing settlements on land owned by Palestinians. And they expand, grabbing all the nearby resources. Wide areas are cleared so these settlers can not only have new homes but also enjoy a buffer zone and special roads… all on land that is not theirs.
Then it decides to build a wall with lookout towers and checkpoints. It is a concrete wall when it is near Palestinian populations, and a fence when it is near less-populated Palestinian farmlands.
Worse, instead of being built on the Green Line, it is built deep in the West Bank, and it snakes around the most precious commodity besides land – the water wells. Every one of them is now on the Israeli side.
AND WHILE Palestinians are struggling to keep the frustrations of a brutal occupation from making matters worse, Israel shrugs its shoulders. Sure we want peace, says Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But why should we stop expanding existing settlements?
Why? Maybe it might help make peace a reality? If that is really what Netanyahu wants. He long declared that he would not support two states. Now he does. Kind of.
In east Jerusalem, instead of trying to find ways to help both sides, Israel’s government is confiscating land and property and turning them over to Jews. When someone complains that this is “Judaization” of Jerusalem – something some Israelis openly claim – he or she is denounced as an anti-Semite.
Do I want to destroy Israel? No. I want Israel to start acting like the Jewish state it claims to be. Because right now, Israelis are not doing a good job of being Jews, Jews with compassion, Jews who believe in real peace. Jews who suffered so tragically that they know what it is like to have their land, homes and possessions taken.
I remember Jews leading the civil rights movement in America to fight for the rights of blacks, and who stand by silent as Arab citizens of Israel claim they are being discriminated against. No civil rights movement for them. I remember Jews leading the world with great discoveries. And I ask myself, where has it all gone?
Yes, I recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The real question, though, is when will Israelis start to recognize Israel as a Jewish state too?
Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian-American columnist and peace activist. Hanania writes a weekly column in the Jerusalem Post, every Wednesday. He can be reached at http://www.YallaPeace.com