Dear Dr. Wilf,
Today, I watched the video of your talk from the first of November, 2023. It was brilliant, as were your answers to questions following the talk. I was inspired and moved by it. I honestly hadn’t believed there was anyone in the public eye who was willing to speak the truth that you spoke, clearly and convincingly. That the single, essential element of Palestinian-ness is, and has always been, the belief that Israel can, and must, be eliminated. That anything less than this is a betrayal of everything it means to be a Palestinian, and is a crime against justice, against the world, and against Allah.
They say so, loudly, and repeatedly, as you point out. And you are entirely correct that we have to stop “westsplaining” their clear statements and give them the elementary respect of believing that they mean what they say.
The fundamental belief of Palestinians is that Israel can, and must, be eliminated.
But then you start talking about how there’s hope of them changing. That perhaps if others in the Arab world stop encouraging them, and others in the western world stop enabling them, they will understand at long last that the war of 1948 is over. That they are no longer refugees. That Israel isn’t going anywhere. That they can improve their own lives immensely by devoting their vast energies and potential, which are currently devoted to the annihilation of the State of Israel, to building better lives for themselves.
And that’s what confuses me. Because you are making precisely the same mistake that you brilliantly demonstrated to be both wrong and counterproductive.
Hope is a marvelous thing. It can create worlds. But hope that ignores reality is nothing but a snare and a delusion. It can destroy worlds.
Bruno Bettelheim wrote:
Denial is the earliest, most primitive, most inappropriate and ineffective of all psychological defenses used by man. When the event is potentially destructive, it is the most pernicious psychological defense, because it doesn’t permit taking appropriate action which might safeguard against the real dangers…. It is easier to deny reality, when facing it would require taking unpleasant, difficult or expensive actions.”
From what you said during your talk, it seems that you would agree with him. But you are engaging in denial as well, by denying the reality that none of those changes on the part of the Arab world or the western world will change what has become an article of identity for Palestinians. The article of identity.
There are, of course, Palestinians who reject this article of identity. Just as there are Jews who have thrown off their Jewish identity. They continue to self-identify as Jews, but they have lost all connection with the soul of Judaism. Likewise, Palestinians raised in other countries, in some cases, have acculturated. Assimilated. They have grown up without the constant barrage of “We are victims, and the only thing we can do is destroy Israel.” But the locals? They will never change, because they can never change. The system has too much redundancy built in. If a rare Palestinian parent tries not to raise their children that way, the rest of the family and the rest of the town they live in will ensure that it happens anyway.
Hope that ignores reality is nothing but a snare and a delusion. It can destroy worlds.
The blurb on your book, “The War of Return”, says that you still support a two state solution. And I have to assume that you aren’t considering Jordan to be the second state in that position. But why not? Fully 70% of their population is Palestinian. Their queen and crown prince are Palestinian. They have 79% of the original Mandate for Palestine.
You seemed so logical in your Capitol Hill Briefing talk. Why can’t you see that the only way to end this conflict is for everyone who identifies as Palestinian to be repatriated to Jordan? Yes, I’m aware that the world will see it as ethnic cleansing. But it’s not ethnic cleansing to deport a violent population of Palestinians to a state made up mostly of Palestinians, which will be ruled eventually by a Palestinian king.
In Jordan, they will live among Palestinians who see the land they live in as part of Palestine. That is vital to them becoming productive members of society. Right now, they truly believe that Palestine is the area between the river and the sea, and nowhere else. Learning that they can live in Palestine without destroying Israel is the only way they will ever change.
What do you think the alternative is? Living in Gaza and Judea and Samaria and various neighborhoods of Jerusalem does nothing but encourage them to hold on to their dreams of ending Israel. It tells them, “We’re still here, and if the Jews could, they wouldn’t allow that (because we certainly wouldn’t), so clearly, they must not be able to. That’s a weakness, and we can exploit it.”
Learning that they can live in Palestine (Jordan) without destroying Israel is the only way they will ever change.
If we don’t remove every person who identifies as Palestinian from the land between the river and the sea, they will never stop trying to take it all, which means they will never end their genocidal war of annihilation against Israel. They can have productive lives in Jordan. They can have a better future. And we can have a better future. But it can’t happen while they’re living here. They literally can’t change so long as they’re living here.
You’re so very close to the actual solution to this conflict. You could do a tremendous amount of good if you would take that one more step and recognize what needs to happen.
Thank you for your attention,