Abraham’s Precedent

I don’t usually jump at the opportunity to discuss the Holocaust. But when I find an article on a survey of Palestinian opinion on this tragic part of Jewish and human history, I make an exception. Written by Lazar Berman, this article, “‘Anything That Happens to the Jews They Will Exaggerate,’” was published on August 31.

A Canadian-Israeli interviewed Palestinians in the West Bank in the midst of Operation Protective Edge. Participants categorically denied fundamental facts of history, making anti-Semitic statements that “the Jews…exaggerate” and that the Holocaust is “what the Jews are doing now.”

I’d be even more enraged and horrified if I were surprised. This painful 12 minute video is a clear testament to the effectiveness of widespread hate education in Palestinian schools.

Fortunately, I came across a much more encouraging video, of the reactions of Palestinian youth to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. These young people spoke beautifully of acknowledging the past and of moving forward together.

I cannot help but think of the biblical story of Soddom and Gomorrah. God tells Abraham that He will destroy these cities for being sinful. Abraham asks, “What if there are fifty good men in these cities? Will you destroy it then?” Eventually, Abraham begs God to spare the cities if there are just 10 good men to be found.

Few biblical stories are more relevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Today, the Palestinian public overwhelmingly supports Hamas. The odds of a diplomatic breakthrough are slim. The prospects are bleak. But even as it looks impossible, we must honor Abraham’s legacy.

It is reasonable for Israelis to want to turn inward in the face of these insurmountable odds. But as Abraham looked for the good in an environment studded with evil, so too must we seek out the little successes. We must support Yad Vashem trips for Palestinians, coexistence camps and sports programs, and dialogue for bereaved Israeli and Palestinian parents.

I am still struck by the observation of one Palestinian student who said he was tired of being embroiled in history. He hoped Israelis and Palestinians could begin to look ahead.

I’m not sure whether we will succeed. I’m not confident that there will be peace fifty years from now. But when our grandchildren ask whether we tried to find those few good men, we must be able to say that we doggedly followed Abraham’s example.

About the Author
Zach Shapiro studies International Relations and Arabic at Tufts University. He is Chair of the Tufts Chapter of the American Enterprise Institute Campus Executive Council. He speaks Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish. The views expressed here are solely those of the author.
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