Although fanatic extremists who embrace violence and terrorism have control of Israel’s government, many moderate Israelis who oppose the rising stridency of the Israeli conservatives continue to push for peace and justice. The same battle is being waged here in America among American Jews speaking out against extremism, not just in the Arab World but in their own community too. We need to support them.
By Ray Hanania
Emotion and anger has done a lot to undermine the just cause of the Palestinian people. It’s caused us to reject strategic agreement in favor of unfulfilled principles. We’ve rejected moderation and compromise in favor of the ultimate ideology of our rights.
The moderates in the Arab community continue to be shouted down by the smaller but more vocal extremists.
But it’s not much different, these days, in Israel where moderate Israeli Jews are an endangered species, still present but slowly disappearing, and in America where many moderate American Jewish organizations that speak out for justice and peace with the Palestinians are castigated as anti-Semites, too, the favored moniker of the the Israeli fanatic right.
While we have to fight for our real estate in the debate over Middle East peace, American policy and Palestinian and Israeli actions, we also have to stand with our true allies who in many cases are Israelis and American Jews who share the same goals of peace and justice.
There are many in Israel and in the American Jewish community whom we must support, recognizing that alliances are not based on “100 percent” agreement but on consensus on debatable issues and agreement on certain fundamentals that includes rejection of violence, peace based on compromise, and respect for human and civil rights.
The leader of this moderate Israeli faction is Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel. Although the Office of President in Israel is largely symbolic, and less political power, it is a powerful symbolism that can sway the Israeli and Jewish public. The political power is held by the Prime Minister, a post held by war criminal and extremist Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu.
But while Netanyahu has the political power of office, Rivlin has the moral power of righteousness and justice. Rivlin has spoken out in support of justice and peace, a moderate voice that needs our support.
Rivlin is a reminder to pro-Palestinian activists that the scorched-earth policy of rejecting all that is Israel and not limiting it to protesting against Israeli extremism such as boycotting the illegal terrorist Israeli settler movement is a major political mistake that is symptomatic of the historical political mistakes that have been the Palestinian independence movement.
Palestinians have been plagued by a growing extremist movement of fanaticism that rejects Jews, is anti-Semitic and also anti-secular. This extremism quarter of the Palestinian and Arab World rejects moderation in favor of violence, and extremist religious tenets that have isolated moderate secular Muslims and most Jews and Christian Palestinians and Arabs, too.
Rivlin is a voice of moderation. And we don’t have to agree with everything to build alliances with Israeli moderates and liberal voices that support peace based on justice. All we have to do is embrace the principle of justice and compromise that respects Israeli and Jewish rights as much as it respects Palestinian and Arab rights in Palestine and Israel. Justice is the essence of recognizing Israel and Palestine. Extremism is the rejection of either, and you can be Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian and Arab to be defined as an extremist.
Rivlin continues to speak out against extremism in Israel, such as the warmongering by Netanyahu against Iran and the nuclear arms treaty spearheaded by American President Barack Obama. Rivlin symbolizes an important reminder to the Arab World that not all Israelis are terrorists or fanatics who reject compromise with the Palestinians.
Rivlin’s concerns about the Iran deal are more reasoned and less driven by racism and political hatred that dominates the Netanyahu Government. But Arabs need to recognize that not all Israelis are extremists. Not all are warmongers. Not all are against peace or even justice for the Palestinians. Failing to distinguish between the two factions in Israel only plays to the historical failure of the Palestinian National movement and the Arab World to reinforce its cause of achieving Palestinian justice.
Pushing both the Israeli right and the moderate left together is a fatal flaw of the Palestinian liberation movement which decades ago agreed to compromise based on two-states. The irony is that the foe of two-states and compromise is now Israel and its’ rightwing government.
It was one of Netanyahu’s disciples who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and pushed the Palestinian-Israeli peace process into a near-fatal nose-dive.
Palestinians need to be sophisticated in their struggle. We can no longer afford to allow our emotions define our politics. The politics of emotion was beneficial when the world rejected the existence of the Palestinian People, but today’s world is far different from when Israeli terrorists who later became Israeli Prime Ministers and Netanyahu mentors attacked Deir Yassin in April 1948 and massacred 100 women and children.
Palestinians need to be smart and dedicate themselves to defeating emotion as much as they must defeat Israeli fanaticism.
The Palestinian extremists have played a suicide game of encouraging losses because those losses helped undermine their real threat, the internal threat and competition from Palestinian secular moderates, like the late President Yasir Arafat, who advocated peace based on compromise with Israel. Rabin’s murder and Ehud Barak’s incompetency resulted in that peace effort dying, but it was just the effort that died not the principle that compromise is the only solution to the Question of Palestine.
The Palestinian extremists in the Middle East and in America are driven by the same hatred they have against moderate Arab voices as is their anti-Semitic hatred against Jews. They would rather see the entire Middle East collapse and they are willing to trade the lives of Palestinians to take the lives of Jews.
The failure of the moderate Palestinian movement hasn’t been an abandonment of its principles of justice, but rather the failure to confront and defeat the extremists in our midst. Palestinian moderates can defeat the extremist Palestinian fanatics, but they have to withstand the bullying, the rage against peace, and the fomenting of hatred that poisons not only our people but our cause.
Palestinians need to stand with Rivlin. We don’t need to agree with him on everything. Seeking 100 percent agreement is the construct of the extremists who demand total loyalty to their destructive failed ways. We only need consensus with the recognition that relations based on consensus can improve dramatically and quickly over time.
There are others Palestinians need to support in Israel, including the Palestinian Israeli citizens who have lived in Israel’s racist and discriminatory history. These heroes of the Palestinian cause like Nadia Hilou, the later Palestinian woman activist who fought for the rights of Palestinians, women, Jews, Christians and Muslims as a member of the Israeli Knesset and Labor Party, was vilified by extremists because she embraced this important principle. Hilou is a hero of the Palestinian revolution, a martyr who should be idolized by future generations not just of Palestinians but Israelis, too.
Now, Aida Touma-Suliman, a Palestinian Israeli member of the Knesset, is also another hero, someone who fights for the rights of all women in Israel and in the occupied territories.
Touma-Suliman represents the Palestinian of the future where people are judge by their actions, not their race, religion or their personal beliefs.
One day we will reach that idealistic goal. But we haven’t. And Palestinians are no worse than Israelis.
Palestinians can fight the terrorist Israeli settler movement and the extremist warmongers in the Israeli government without fighting against the concept of two-states, Israel and Palestine. We can champion compromise with our heads raised, not as a surrender.
In America, there are many Jewish organizations that moderate Palestinians need to support, such as J Street, the New Israel Fund, and so many other Jewish synagogues and Rabbis who have stood up and embraced compromise, peace and justice, but who fear the rising religious extremists in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Are they any different than the Palestinians and Arabs who fear the rising religious extremism in Israel, today?
We need to recognize that the real fight is not between Palestinian and Israeli, Jew and Arab. The real war is between moderates versus extremists.
Palestinians need to padlock their emotions and not judge Israelis and Jews by finding the one issue we disagree on out of the 100 we do agree on. We have to find common ground and accept compromise and put our trust in the faith of doing the right thing.
The Holy City of Jerusalem, where my father was born, can’t be divided by a political line. We have to accept that in a final peace, Jerusalem will one day become an open city where Jews, Christians and Muslims will live together in peace.
More than 130 years of Jewish-Arab conflict can’t be erased with the swipe of a pen on a peace accord. But a peace accord built on mutual respect can wipe away those divisions and borders between people will disappear like borders between political agendas.
Palestinians need to standup for those in Israel who support peace, and work towards building one voice of moderation that speaks louder than the stridency of the haters and the fanatics.
The enemy is not Israel. The enemy is extremism. The enemy is the stridency of hatred. The enemy is rejectionism for the sole purpose of selfish pride. The politics of suicide bombing only results in the death of people who should be taught the value of life.
But if moderate Palestinians cannot stand up with moderate Israelis, and recognize that even in an alliance, we will have differences, maybe even some that are difficult to address and resolve immediately. In true peace, all difficulties can and will be resolved, even if we don’t see the answer today.
We need a faith in peace that is even greater than a faith built on our religions, which originate from the same origins.