I often see on social media posts about the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum: “I want to get out the facts.” Which means I’m right, your side is wrong and here I’ve proved it.” Both sides’ facts are generally true, just depends on which ones you cherry-pick.
I saw a post about Hamas extravagance in an Abu Dhabi Hotel (may have been false but let’s say it’s not.) Palestinians posted a video that went viral about the Israeli police officers who shot a seven-year-old girl in the back in Sheik Jarrah after the ceasefire as she was entering her house as they had asked. She’s hospitalized; the police officers have been suspended.
Another post widely making the rounds shows an IDF soldier giving water to a Palestinian child and asserting her brethren forced her to the barbed wire barrier for a photo op. In a liberal Jewish Facebook group, a woman posted a photo of Israelis and Palestinians dancing in a circle on a Tel-Aviv beach but felt it necessary to add the fact that this could not happen in an Arab country. Let’s always try and get in that point for our side.
There’s another viral video of Israeli soldiers surrounding a 5-year-old boy for having a Palestinian flag in the spokes of his bike, which is no longer illegal post-1993 Oslo. Displaying the Palestinian flag was illegal in the West Bank from 1967-1993. When I was there in that period kids used to tie these flags, weight them with stones and throw them up in the electrical wires. Sometimes soldiers made them climb up and retrieve them. I have a photo from Dehaisha Refugee Camp near Bethlehem were the illegal flag colors are woven into a wall hanging. Explosive words like apartheid and colonizers, are less than productive as is thinking there is such a creation as a benign occupation.
Less seen in the diaspora is the photo of Netanyahu’s Heirut supporters in Israel who, in a ploy that the ADL would deem anti-Semitic if it was disseminated in the US, dressed the incoming Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, in a keffiyeh and claimed he wanted to destroy the state.
Who was on the land first, continuously or not, for how long, is another greatly irrelevant fact to today’s turmoil. In my novel The Spy’s Gamble I had a settler kid ask his dad if space aliens returned, showed evidence in a cave that they had been here first, would it be their land?
There are two peoples between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean now and unless we’re planning for the next Gaza War on the regular timetable, so 2028, this suddenly feels like a time where we must finally have real change. Hamas even is talking about a prisoner exchange.
AIPAC informs and I’m quoting from their mailings: “This isn’t about evictions, annexation or two states. It’s not about Palestinians or a better future. It’s about Hamas wanting to terrorize Israel, destroy Israel and gain power for itself and its Iranian backers.”
Someone else might say it’s actually about all those things. Roger Cohen, the longtime New York Times columnist, recently wrote a moving piece about a Jewish man killed in a poor Israeli suburb in his apartment by a Hamas rocket. Others scream that the New York Times and Ha’aretz, both printing the faces of the children killed in Gaza is a “blood libel.” People rush to shout the fact that some were killed by Hamas rockets that fell back in a failure to launch. A staff member of the advocacy group Stand With Us, researched the photos and found that one was five years old and screeched: this must be investigated. Though he did add, in what really was a parenthesis, it could be an old photo and the child might have actually died. The readers of his post avoided that conclusion. I presume kids in Gaza are not yearly having photos taken so that a recent one is available in the event they expire.
Facts are not at all the heart of the matter. There are two peoples on the land who must learn to live together. Arthur Hertzberg the preeminent scholar of Zionism and author of The Zionist Idea wrote as early as 1988 in an article entitled THE TWICE PROMISED LAND: “The difficulty with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that both of the protagonists in this conflict, in terms of the logic of their own underlying premises are absolutely right.”
There is unquestionably a big spike in Anti-Semitism. But we might remember too that Jews are generally welcomed everywhere. Arthur Hertzberg, born in 1921, told me he became a rabbi along with his Phd because his generation of Jewish scholars could not be hired in American universities in Semitics departments. What is needed is empathy and understanding. The facts are generally a bludgeon to blame and disparage.
Blame distances. It’s a time for reconciliation, for working together. I’m seeing a lot of green shoots. There is a new FB group to this effect called STANDING TOGETHER. Someone wrote from Canada and asked if I could help an Israeli woman friend there join a Zoom meeting between Israeli and Palestinian women. Aish Ha Torah, the religious outreach group wrote a conciliatory letter wonderful in tone to a May 21, 2021 Rolling Stone piece: Young American Jews Have Reached a Tipping Point with Israel. Aish offered dialog with these young Jews. If you read it closely, the author on behalf of the organization wants to present his facts in dialog. Still the outstretched hand is a big step forward to young American Jews increasingly alienated by the long term control of the Palestinian population. Maybe Aish will listen too.
These young millennials follow the Jewish dictum: “Tsedek tsedek tirdof.” Righteousness you shall seek. We’re all family. We should embrace them. Let’s leave the facts at the door and go forward from what is now.