Can we talk?

Every weekend I get a few weekly readings in my email including a couple that are left of center by Uri Avnery and even left of left by Ali Abunimah of The Electric Intifada. After reading Caroline Glick and other right of center writers I look for other points of view. I read every day and more on the weekends and write when I can or feel I must. This weekend offers a viewing of Harvey Stein’s new documentary: “A Third Way; Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors.” An article that caught my attention on Abunimah’s list was by Glenn Greewald: ‘Fighting Israeli Occupying Forces is “Terrorism.” Boycotting Is “Anti-Semitism.” What’s Allowed?’

I read it and it painted the months of Knife Intifada as a contest essentially between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers. That of course would be a surprise to the families of dozens of civilians that were killed or were attacked and only wounded. But truth is an early casualty and can be a victim from the lips of Israelis as well as Palestinians. There has been incitement by leaders in words and actions. It is a moment in which the frequency of the attacks has abated. May it continue!

How do we stop the violence on stones and knives and cars and house demolitions and checkpoints and a second class of Palestinians? Joan Rivers used to call out in mock tones to her audience; “Can we talk?”

It seems that the prohibition against talking and even covering the meaning of words themselves can get you and I bollixed up in traps set and sprung by every side in this house of mirrors. There are laws that prohibit movement, prohibit the meeting of numbers of people and rules such as anti-normalization which reinforce the distance between you and “others.” It is dangerous to flaunt these laws that are by their very nature self-perpetuating.

And I, living here in the States remain relatively safe from threats and the requirements of living in Israel or as a settler in the West Bank. But what of settlers who are looking out beyond their settlements and Palestinians who have positively ventured beyond their villages? Rabbi Froman, ZT”l, was a man who led them together. Not the only man. Hadassah, his wife is far from the only women. In a time when facts on the ground are often conspiring to spell out words that force two peoples even further apart like annexation and revolution it seems that efforts to bring people together to learn about and from each other must be coveted by people who have every right to be weary from war.

I had the pleasure and the privilege some years ago to meet Dr. Yehuda Stolov and listen to two of his group leaders, (Palestinian and Israeli women), describe the value of his Interfaith Encounter Association. It has grown to involve more than 70 groups meeting monthly throughout Israel and the West Bank. there are others that are working as individuals, NGO’s and academic institutions that defy prohibitions and bring people together.

In 1967, which was an important year for many reasons, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote one of his most memorable answers to violence:

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.


Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

From Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? p. 67

About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.