Jonathan Jaffe

Eschewing Pro/Anti-Israel for Pro/Anti-Sharing

Among the many problematic tropes surrounding the Israel/Hamas conflict, perhaps none is more infuriating and misleading than the division between being “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestine.” This false binary is predicated upon the idea that being sympathetic towards one people and their cause excludes one from remaining sympathetic towards the other. Such a framework only bolsters the most extreme elements within each side while forcing to the sidelines the overwhelming majority who wish for a peaceful and tranquil existence for both peoples.

Additionally, the impulsive need to plant your flag on “team Israel” or “team Palestine” leaves little room for the nuance and mutual empathy required for thoughtful conversation.  Especially given the toxic and dangerous state of discussions around Israel and Palestine, it might be worthwhile to consider possible frameworks towards creating opportunities for consensus, or at least respectful discourse.

What if we chose to eschew the Pro/Anti-Israel debate in favor of a very straightforward, yet certainly more meaningful dividing line: Pro-Sharing vs Anti-Sharing? It’s actually very simple: Pro-Sharing means supporting all policies and ideas towards allowing both peoples to live peacefully within their own nation states as often referred to as the Two-State Solution.  Anti-Sharing means supporting all policies and ideas towards eliminating or removing millions of people so that one group may have complete control over the land. With roughly 14 million Jews and Arabs currently living within Israel and Palestine, Anti-Sharers believe that one must emerge the victor and the other the loser in a zero-sum game. Pro-Sharers feel there is a better and more just way for each people to live under their own sovereignty.

Dividing causes and policies along the Pro/Anti-Sharing axis offers clarity for the silent majority who care about the wellbeing of both peoples. On one side, you have the Anti-Sharers: Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and ISIS, as clearly stated in each of their charters.  The Anti-Sharing party includes all who call for “Palestine to be free from the river to sea”, meaning the erasure of Jewish existence from any remnant of the land. If any group defines “justice” for Palestinians as the ethnic cleansing of all Jews from Israel, they are Anti-Sharers. Anti-Sharers include all who support the so-called “right of return” to Israel, which would create two Palestinian states rather than a single Palestinian nation in tandem with the current Jewish one.

Anti-Sharers also include those Israeli leaders and policies that support the building of settlements in order to destroy the continuity of a possible Palestinian state. Likewise, Anti-Sharers include those settlers who take advantage of this moment to abuse, torture and murder their Palestinian neighbors. Israeli Anti-Sharers incite violence and seek to intimidate Palestinians from remaining in the land and rely upon prejudiced policies towards stunting the growth of Palestinian communities in favor of Jewish ones.

Pro-Sharers cite as their heroes David Ben Gurion, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Ariel Sharon, King Hussein and Mansour Abbas (certainly the most heroic of all current leaders); and celebrate the courage demonstrated by each, even after their own experiences in the heat of battle.

Anti-Sharers cite as their heroes the leadership of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and ISIS alongside the Israeli religious nationalists such as Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. Anti-Sharers demonstrate a deep fondness for Yasser Arafat and honor any and all who use violence, policy or intimidation to suppress the seeds of peace from taking root in their respective lands.

While Israeli Prime Minister has paid considerable lip service towards sharing, the policies and actions of his current coalition define him as an Anti-Sharer.

The Pro/Anti-Sharing construct clarifies the situation by locating the core issue as its defining metric. After all, the moral framework of oppressor versus oppressed can be easily distorted towards favoring the vulnerable, even when they act immorally, and disfavor the powerful, even when they act within the bounds of statehood. If the Palestinian people are suffering, how can one possibly call themselves pro-Israel and therefore anti-Palestinian?  How can one be immune to such pain?

While the moral argument for Zionism is often hard to understand for those without previous knowledge of Jewish history and the Middle East more generally, the case for sharing is straightforward and allows one to remain sympathetic towards both peoples and supportive of all efforts towards mitigating their suffering. Even if a two-state solution remains a remote dream in this time of war, Pro-Sharers answer the prophetic call towards moving closer, piece by piece, inch by inch. And if a permanent peace is not available at this time, Pro-Sharers favor policies which lessen the burden and make life less cumbersome for both peoples.

I am a Jew, Zionist and Pro-Sharer. I will proudly march alongside any and all; Jew, Palestinian or otherwise, who agrees upon the common value of sharing the land. I believe that we Pro-Sharers greatly outweigh the Anti-Sharers, even if we do not make the headlines, and that we have more in common than our current discourse lends us to believe. So let us clear away such confusion and clarify on which side we stand:

To share or not to share. That is the question.

About the Author
Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe serves as Senior Rabbi for Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester. He also serves as co-chair of the Chappaqua Interfaith Committee and sits on Hebrew Union College’s President’s Rabbinic Council, AIPAC’s National Rabbinic Council and is a Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Rabbinic Leadership Initiative. He was ordained by Hebrew Union College and received his BA in philosophy and history from Duke University.