Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word

Can we say the P-word?

Photo: Yaw Kuma Ansu-Kyeremeh (Ghana) via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Yaw Kuma Ansu-Kyeremeh (Ghana) via Wikimedia Commons

“Peace,” went the tagline of the now-extinct pirate radio station The Voice of Peace, “is the word.” Peace, in those days, was something to pray for, something to sing about, an ideal that did not exist on Earth. Our leaders would profess to want peace, even as they fought wars.

The P-word has long been buried under the silt of hatred and that other P-word – Politics – in our region. Our most recent agreements are about recognition, made with countries with whom we were not at war. And now we are in another bloody conflict, with an enemy on our border that is sworn to fight us to the death. Why would I bring up the P-word?

A few days ago, Tony Blinken came and left. Among other things, he strongly urged our government to think about the day after the war ends. “Why think about that now?” we asked. “It could be months away. We’re in the middle of an awful war for g-d’s sake!”

His point, though, is that if we can’t think about the day after, we can’t clearly define our goals now. And when we do finally manage to declare the war over, if we don’t have a good exit plan, we’ll be stuck in the Gaza morass we left so many years ago. Already, I’m hearing suggestions for various forms of “light” or not-so-light military rule over Gaza. In any case, if all goes according to plan, we’ll have no one left with whom to sign a ceasefire.

The word Peace has been banned from the political lexicon for so long, we are going to need to redefine it

Bibi and his gang of 64 don’t want to think about the day the war ends for obvious reasons. The present government configuration will last about as long as it takes the ink to dry on that ceasefire agreement. “Together we’ll achieve victory” will turn to “together we’ll have his head on a plate,” and the rightwing bleeps who have been using the cover of war to continue funneling funds to their pet causes and increasing their power in the West Bank will find themselves out on their greedy, war-mongering asses.

If anyone is thinking about the day after, it is politicians thinking about the next elections.

If there is a glimmer of hope, it is that some few have, indeed, begun to think about a better plan for the day after, and the plan includes a couple of P-words.

The word peace has been banned from the political lexicon for so long, we are going to need to redefine it. It won’t be a lacy white tent spread over our heads from above once we smite our enemies. It will be a hard-won pact based on concessions, allowances and promises and agreements among conflicting sides. Fortunately, we have examples, in our peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, of how a peace treaty with the Palestinians might look. More pragmatic than pretty.

It will have to involve another P-word – partner. Bibi replaced the old trope about wanting peace with: “We have no partner for peace.” And there we remained, until now. To a certain extent, he was right, but the truth was that waving his hand and saying there was no partner relieved Israel itself of the need to be a willing partner. At some point, peace became such an unpopular topic that even left-wing politicians steered away from the subject, focusing on gay rights or public transportation, instead. On the extreme left, people worked against the occupation, in the middle, voices were raised calling for a “solution.” (Not a final solution, just one to the recurring problem of “rocket drizzle” on the Gaza border.) We all came to accept the “fact” that the time was wrong, the partners were absent or asleep, the word “peace” was meaningless in our context.

To call the Hamas Nazis is to excuse our own failure to defend our border population

It turns out that Bibi was a partner, just not exactly for peace. Call it passive-aggression, keeping a low-grade conflict just at the simmering point.

I would like, however, to get rid of an “N” word – Nazi. It’s a word meant to shock, to attract the sympathy of foreign supporters. Admittedly, like the Nazis, the Hamas wants to murder Jews. But Putin has called the Ukrainians Nazis as well, in an attempt to justify his own war, and even we Israelis have had the word thrown in our faces. Calling the Hamas Nazi suggests the Israeli Jews on the border were defenseless minorities being fed into gas chambers. The Hamas who crossed into Israel were barbarians outfitted at an upscale sporting goods store, brandishing Dad’s automatic weapons. To call the Hamas Nazis is to excuse our own failure to defend our border population. Let the horror of the Oct. 7 massacre stand on its own, and the name Hamas be associated with this atrocity.

And, for the sake of reason, let’s get rid of another “N” word – nukes. In fact, let’s get rid of our heritage minister, Amichai Eliahu, who suggested nuking Gaza, and the rest of his buddies who are not just fine with the war, they are Anti-Peace. Even without nukes, they apparently intend to blow us all, Palestinians and Jews, sky-high by dragging the PA into active conflict. Gantz and Eisenkot have edged them out of decision-making, but they have not edged them out of trouble-making, and its time they use the pretext of Eliahu’s idiocy to do so.

At the end of this war, we will be facing some fairly stark choices. The border towns will not, as one wit asked Benny Gantz, have beach-front property, and a million or so Palestinians will be rebuilding on the other sides of that border. The possibilities for peace will likely be imperfect, the options might be bad and worse. But we need to ask ourselves, right now: What is the alternative to starting to think and speak aloud about the P-word? Can we bring it back, even as an unattainable ideal – something we might work toward? Otherwise, we’ll simply be looking for new ways to manage the situation, rather than finding real solutions.

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
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