A lesson from asking Israelis and Palestinians

I will be honest. For a long time, I have seriously doubted that progressive jews can offer a serious contribute to Israel. Their pernicious idea that Jewish people deserve credit only when abiding to impossible moral standards is poisoning the Zionist left and doesn’t depose well for its suvival in the future political landscape of Israel.It’s for these reasons that Corey Gil Shuster’s project “Ask an Israeli/Ask a Palestinian” pleasently surprised me. This Israeli Canadian man doesn’t match with the stereotype of the citizen that too many people are willing to associate with regard of the Jewish State. He isn’t a Netanyahu’s voter and is opposed to the settlment enterprise, preferring a two States solution. His political and human background is definitely rooted in the leftist camp, that kind of movement ubiquitous among  the Israeli streets during Oslo age. His wonderful project, that for the first time brings the voices of common Israelis and Palestinians on a youtube channel, is in my opinion of the most interesting initiatives for understanding a so apparently puzzling conflict. And when one considers the demonizing approach toward Israel adopted by so called “progressive” entities (A Jewish Voice for Peace or MondoWeiss constitute egregious examples in this regard), the value for Israel’s image of this kind of enterprise emerges in all its importance.

So, did everyone live happily ever after? Yes and not. That is because, even though Gil Shuster’s work is egregious in se, its reception depressingly proves how much warped this conflict became in the global opinion. One thing has to be premised: “Ask an Israeli/Ask a Palestinian” is not, neither it wants to be, a tool for peace. As declared by Corey himself, it was borne out of his right convinction that those directly involved needed to express their opinions, going beyond the stereotypes that media keep weaving around them. Yet, given the fact that peace is primarily a shared convinction among the average people, one needs to ask which kinds of messages can be extracted from his videos. In my opinion, the answer is simple but unpleasant: even though the situation is more complex than one might believe, no peaceful settlment is on the horizon at the moment, given that Palestinians are the ones that refuse to give up anything.

Of course, this kind of view is anathema among the progressive people. After all, the last fourty years, thanks to Edward Said’s distortions, have seen the emersion of a new cult among the leftist elites: according to it, Palestinians are the epitome of the underdog, unlike Israeli jews, whose same existence is always more conceived as an abomination to delete. No wonder that everyone that dare to even suggest that maybe Palestinians deserve too to be pressured in conceding something, risks the taint of racism, a not so exactly excting perspective in this age so obsessed with the myth of being fair at any cost.

Yet, Corey’s videos are ready to dismiss this nonsensical fantasy. Of course, watching at them, we can hear extreme views on both sides. But the tantamous difference is that, whereas among Israelis these are in the minority, the opposide happens on the Palestinian side. Thus, whereas Israelis generally express a desire of divorcing from Palestinians, their neighbours sing a different chant, whereby jews aren’t a real people but a bunch of foreign invaders, tend to exagerate Shoah, aren’t linked to the land and should be so kind to sort out “the historic Palestine”.

Being these the premises, it’s self evident that peace is a mirage. But this is not what really concerns me. After all, Israel thrived despite an ongoing warfare, and even Palestinians benefitted from Israeli presence , in terms of infrastructure and educative development. Despite the crying chants of pessimists, a doomsday situation is thus far from arriving. No, what actually matters is something else: the malicious refusal, so widespread among progressive circles, to listen to what Israelis really have to say.

A look at the comments from the users, posted overtime to Corey’s videos on Youtube, is emblematic in this regard. At the beginning, they were extremely positive, prizing his new contribution to a better understanding of the situation. Of course they were: nothing could have delighted them more than seeing Israeli jews to reply that they would prefer to marry other jews, or that they don’t support a one state solution (ah, the old, ever eternal greedy, unassimilating jews). But when he started to publish videos concerning what Palestinians really believe about hot topic, like racism, gay rights or religious tolerance, the music drastically changed. He was charged of being an “hasbarist”, a “filthy zionist”, an “apologist on behalf of Israhell”. One could dismiss these rants as illogical (and they surely are, considering the fact that he has never edited his videos, even when it implied to show ugly sides of Israeli society). The problem, though, is that these kinds of statements wouldn’t even have popped up, if many viewers had really embraced a position of peace and reconciliation.

And that is the real root of the problem. In simple terms, Palestinians and their supporters keep on framing jews in an outdated perspective. In this vision, jews are an invented people, whose alien State is destined to meet the same fate of the Crusade entities of Middle age memory. No wonder they are unwilling to listen to what Israelis really want. Making so would imply an acknowledgment of the Jewish enterprise, and this is taboo in the Palestinian camp. The issue is that this zero sum approach is completely detached from reality. Israeli jews can be divided on a lots of matters, but they are exceptionally cohesive on the will of maintaining their national homeland. Two thousands years of persecutions and an industrial genocide have been enough for convincing them that only a State of their own would grant security and respect in family of nations. Not by chance, the underlyining reason for the widespread support to a divorce from Palestinians is the need of maintaining a stable jewish majority State. This is why those, who intend this desire of separation as the trojan horse for extorting them widespread concessions and a final national suicide, are completely deluded. When Israeli jews say Never again, they aren’t uttering empty words. They long for peace, but they don’t have any intention to destroy their nation on the altar of the antizionist progressism.

The same reality confirms this assessment: ongoing waves of antisemitism and antizionism haven’t weakened Israel, but rather the Israeli left and Israeli arabs, two darlings among the progressives. Both are paying the price for having dismissed jewish wishes. The leftist camp, paramount during the Oslo age has been going through a catastrophic decline in the recent years. That is precisely because too many Israeli jews consider its myopic approach toward peace the cause of the recent bloodsheds, Gaza wars included. The arab community, on the other hand, pays the consequences of its leadership’s extremism. The images of arab Mks who celebrates Hamas, and the defiant tones of arab Ngos, with their nonsensical theories of two Palestinian States, is reinforcing the fears of a “fifth column” among jews, destroying any perspective of cohexistence.

For these reasons, the lesson that one can learn from Corey’s project is bittersweat. Far from being at hand, peace keeps on being a distant mirage. And it won’t be achieved until Palestinian aspirations will be redrawn so to include the acknowledgment of the Jewish State’s legitimacy. Yet, at the same time, the window opened to Palestinian and Israeli mindsets provides envaluable chances of seeing jews for what they really are: a people with its pros and cons, but among all a real nation whose rights and aspirations deserve the same credits of the Palestianian ones. And, even though at this stage it seems highly doubtful, maybe one day Corey’s program would be remembered as a first step toward an historical reconciliation.

About the Author
An Italian jurist and a firm Israel supporter.