Pride and Prejudice #4: Our Dialogue Concludes

Click below for David’s latest response. I’ll give him the last word.

Dear Brant,

I don’t think the “crux of our disagreement comes down to historical issues” as you stated. Indeed I’ve grown up with the “Zionist narrative”, but I’m not blind to the Palestinian narrative. I acknowledge and sympathize with the depth of the Palestinian Nakba and all the events that led up to the establishment of the state of Israel and its aftermath. Furthermore, I acknowledge that the Jews contributed to the Nakba tragedy.

But your entire perspective of the conflict today is through the prism of the Palestinian Nakba. While you acknowledge the “Jewish people have maintained a centuries-old attachment to this land”, you don’t express any identification with the tragic history of the Jewish people, culminating in the Holocaust, and in the desperate need to establish an independent Jewish state during that period. Prior to the war, no country would accept the Jews seeking to flee Europe before it was too late. Even after the war, the British severely limited the Jewish refugees seeking to start a new life. After the creation of the state, nearly 1 million Jews from Arab countries fled their native homes (many forcibly, others due to increased persecution), most of whom found refuge in Israel.

So for me, there is no question that the establishment of Israel was not only the realization of the historic aspiration for the Jewish people to return to their homeland, but an historic imperative given the dire circumstances of the Jewish people at this time. The fact that the creation of the Jewish state was in conflict with the aspirations of the Palestinians and against the desire of neighboring Arab states does not delegitimize it.

Since the creation of the state, Israel has had some success in coming to peaceful terms with its Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. But the situation today with the Palestinians is indeed a test for Israel’s morals and values. On one hand, most Israelis want Israel to remain a democratic Jewish state and avoid the nightmare of becoming an apartheid state. On the other hand, Israelis fear the nightmare of a hostile terrorist state in the West Bank and Gaza. Nonetheless, Israel is facing its fears and realizes a 2-state solution is the only option for a better future for both Jews and Palestinians.

The Palestinians have not been able to accept past Israeli proposals for a 2-state solution. Nonetheless, Israel must make every effort to strengthen moderate Palestinian leadership, stop Jewish settlement in the territories, and remove unnecessary security restrictions, etc. In this area, I indeed join in your criticism of current and past Israeli policy. Israel must be creative in its thinking, and open to difficult compromises, even in the area of Jerusalem. However the Palestinians must also make painful compromises, such as the Palestinian “right-of-return”, as no Israeli government would accept this as it would dissolve the Jewish character of the state.

Brant, in one of your responses that you wrote:

If this question can be sufficiently addressed through the peace process, culminating in a true and viable two-state solution then I would unabashedly support a two-state solution. If a two-state solution becomes impossible, forcing a choice between an apartheid state ruled by a Jewish minority over a Palestinian majority or one secular democratic state of all its citizens, I would unabashedly choose the latter.

The notion of “one secular democratic state for all its citizens” has been used for decades by Israel detractors and by Palestinian terror organizations. This is basically a call for the end of a Jewish state. I honestly hope this was not your intention.

The reason for not achieving a 2-state solution up until now can’t be blamed solely on Israel. Although the Palestinian Authority supports the notion of a 2-state solution, Hamas is ideologically committed to continuing the conflict with Israel and is not looking for compromise, coexistence, or peaceful borders with Israel. Read the deep hatred toward Israel in Ashley Bates’ interview with Jamila Al-Shanti, a member of the Palestinian parliament in the Hamas government:

Do you support a two-state solution?

No. I will never allow two states. No way. This is my land. They should go away. But we have another tactical approach that we would accept a state on 1967 borders with the capital of Jerusalem for a temporary period until the whole issue has been solved. The Israelis should know that I cannot recognize a state for them. The next generations will come to fight and kill them.

Brant, you stated that you don’t think anyone can legitimately deny the Jewish claim to Israel as its ancestral homeland. This is certainly the view of Hamas, and I believe this is the prevalent view among Palestinians, and this was my point in referring to Saul Singer article “Stop Palestinian denial of Jewish peoplehood” in my previous letter.

So to conclude my response and our open dialogue, I want to say that although I can agree with many of your criticisms of Israeli policy and human rights issues regarding the Palestinians, it rings unfair and unbalanced in light of your lack of criticism of the Palestinian side, and little sympathy of the Israeli Jewish position. It is not surprising some readers of your blog consider you an “Israel basher”.

Today the Jewish State of Israel is a fact and is our national homeland. Israel is central to the Jewish world, and nearly half of world Jewry lives in Israel. In our short history, we’ve built a modern country, and absorbed millions of Jews from around the world. The Nakba is also sadly a fact, and peace with the Palestinians still eludes us. We must continue to strive to keep our high moral values and help the Palestinians realize their dream, while continuing to realize our dream of a Jewish state.



8 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice #4: Our Dialogue Concludes

  1. Bo

    The problem with selectively quoting from Ashley Bates’ interview with Jamila Al-Shanti is that the context is lost. Without understanding the deep pain and loss of the Palestinians which Ms. Al-Shanti describes, one cannot understand the context of what David describes as her “deep hatred of Israel.” And without understanding the pain of the other, one can fail to recognize the humanity of the other, even when it is expressed in ways with which one doesn’t agree. For a better understanding of Ms. Al-Shanti’s words, I urge everyone to read Ashley Bates’s interview in full.

  2. Shirley Gould

    Reading this concluding missive makes my day. I greatly appreciate your letting us in on this interchange, for your correspondent says so well some of the thoughts that I have.

  3. Mark Braverman

    And reading Bo’s comment speaks my mind. David’s quote from Ashley’s interview in a very profound way is “out of context” (and I know Ashley and her work, and one should go to her website and see the whole piece). By that I mean that the “context” is not the entire interview — The context, as Bo points out, is the experience of the occupation itself, and even more broadly the history of the dispossession and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people. It is sad, so sad, that we have to sound like this — a broken record of witness to this crime — in our work to bring peace to both Jews and Palestinians. But that is the way it is. I wonder if David has been there, seen what there is to be seen, up close. If I am right and he has not, then what I have to say to him is: Before I saw it, I felt and sounded a lot like you do.

    So I understand what you feel, David, and I know it’s not comfortable. It’s not comfortable to feel what I feel, either. But this is better than the uneasy feeling of holding on to a dream that is not sustainable, that is built — to say the least — on a tragically incomplete narrative. Our story — the Jewish story — includes the Palestinian Nakba. It must. And that, only that, will take us to what is next.


  4. Cotton Fite

    In a speech Condoleeza Rice made three years ago in Jerusalem she expressed an important insight, “The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people”. Both Jews and Palestinians have been the victims of deprivation, humiliation and terrible violence. Many have been radicalized and bear a deep hatred for the other. There are Israeli Jews as well as Palestinians who justify terrible violence against the other. I understand their hatred and their will to violence, but I do not condone it.

    I believe David is mistaken in his belief that Hamas’ denial of the Jewish claim to Israel as its ancestral homeland is also the prevalent view of Palestinians. If the Jewish claim is an exclusive claim, denying it is also the ancestral homeland of Palestinians, then he is probably right. Denying the history of either people in this land is a form of verbal violence.

    David’s focus on Palestinians who have been radicalized by their experience and by those who have manipulated their resentment misses the point. There are so many more Palestinians whose remarkable patience in the face of this terrible occupation, whose non-violent resistance to their oppression and readiness to live peacefully with Israeli Jews never claim the headlines.

  5. Israel Gershon

    Bravo David!
    And thank you Rabbi for allowing this exchange.
    I am one who finds your demonizing of Israel to be of disservice to Israel, the Jewish People and the cause of peace. Your blog creates a distortion by focusing on the perhaps real and/or perceived faults of Israel, while ignoring Palestinian actions and those of the Arab world. Peace will never be established if the demonizing continues. Balance and wisdom is something I seek from a Rabbi, not rhetoric. Understanding the emotions, drives, desires, and needs of the Palestinians, does not require ignoring the same of your own People. Millions of Jews live today in Israel. They face existential threats and it would be morally wrong to turn away from them. A two state solution will only be realized when both peoples recognize each other’s right to self determination. That can only come through a balanced approach that recognizes the past, but insists on moving forward.

    It is my opinion that the Jewish People always remember the past, but always keep moving forward with optimism and hope. On the other hand, the Palestinians seem to only remember the past at the expense of the future. I hope and pray that this may one day change.

  6. Steve

    Israel won the 67 war.  Israel was provoked into the war by the neighboring countries.  The reality is that as the victor they have the right to command the geo political final resolution.  I believe they have made many generous offers.  All have been rejected except for Egypt and Jordan.  The 2 state solution will occur when an acceptable offer is made to Israel.  There is no great urgency for Israel to waste its time in pursuit of peace with those who reject it time after time.  The fruits of the Israeli victory will be no right of return and a unified Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.

  7. Miriam

    I am surprised by how many people continue to label Brant and others as ‘Israel-bashing’ when such ‘bashers’ are simply disagreeing with decisions Israel has made. When will it ever be acceptable for an American Jew to speak out about injustices that come from Israel and are directed towards the Palestinians (and paid for by us U.S. citizens!)? When will it be acceptable for one to criticize Israel but to love being Jewish? As Mark Braverman said, it is extremely uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for both David (and I admire David’s courage and willingness to speak in such an open forum like this for the past few weeks) and people like me to speak out. It has been extremely painful for me to realize that Israel is not the utopian idealistic place I was raised to believe it was. I lived in Israel for many years and like many of us, I believed that Israel was intrinsically, politically, and philosophically connected to my being a Jew. But like a child realizing that the adult was not honest with her, I have had to come to terms with this and I struggle with the pain every day. So let us all develop some compassion for all complete narratives – Israeli, Palestinian, tax paying U.S. citizens, and yes the supposed ‘Israel-bashers’ on our road to peace and justice.

  8. Richard Kahn

    “I believe David is mistaken in his belief that Hamas’ denial of the Jewish claim to Israel as its ancestral homeland is also the prevalent view of Palestinians.”

    You are mistaken. I have gone on a few trips with liberal, peace activists, and all of the Palestinians I have encountered have been against a two-state solution. Only the most radical believe that we should go back to 1967 borders, whereas this is fairly prevalent among Israelis and, yes, even among American Jews. Of course we need to hear their narrative, but when you consider that 40% of Arab citizens (!) of Israel deny the Holocaust, it becomes obvious that there is work to be done on both sides.


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