I woke up on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 to 4 separate alerts on my phone. As of 7:30 that evening, there had been five attacks all across Israel. Three people died from attacks in Jerusalem. These days have been scary — anyone who says otherwise is oblivious.
I am an American on a gap year program in Israel (Young Judaea Year Course), but we also have Israelis with us. They are just as scared as all of the Americans. The Israelis have never had to be scared of this unknown threat in their lives. The 2nd Intifada ended in the early 2000s, when we were all toddlers. They are as new to this as I am. We are all scared.
What frightens me even more than the very real possibility of being attacked is the overall mood towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It used to be saturated with hope, promise, peace, and a brighter future. The mood is now engulfed by hate, fear, war, bullets, atrocities, and containment. A belief in peace is dwindling, subtle anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian sentiment is growing at an astronomical rate.
Violence that is perpetrated against innocent human beings in the name of a quest for justice is an act of terror. But when we respond to that violence with hatred and generalizations we, further entrench our susceptibility of eventually understanding the Palestinians. That is not striving for peace — something which almost all Jews from across the political spectrum say they want, albeit in different forms. When we lazily label these few terrorists as all Palestinians, how is that okay? How does that differ us from them? When some Palestinians talk of Israelis or Jews or Zionists, they label us all as the same: greedy, bloodthirsty, vile, untrustworthy, and racist.
So when some of us label all Palestinians as anti-Semitic, as animals, as terrorists, as corrupt, and as stupid, please correct them. The only Palestinians that are anti-Semitic are the ones who think of Jews as conniving, and believe that we must be wiped off the earth. The only Palestinians that are animals are the ones who think it is justified to murder parents in front of their four children. The only Palestinians that are terrorists are the ones who use calculated violence, or the threat of violence, to intimidate, frighten or coerce. The only Palestinians that are corrupt are the few in the Palestinian Authority who take advantage of their power and those PA officials who think it is a good idea to block websites that report on PA corruption. The only Palestinians who are stupid are the ones who accidentally were set on fire by their own Molotov cocktails.
We need to understand that not all of these acts of terror come from a place of pure evil and hate. We need to look beyond that. The Palestinians, it seems, feel hopelessness and fear on a much larger scale than a Jew in Israel ever will. As a clarification I do not support or justify any use of violence — I just think it is necessary to try and understand the Palestinian psyche in order to fully comprehend the Israeli-Palestinian conflict . They do not have a country. Some would say that they do not have an army to protect them if they were to get kidnapped. We need to recall that by the end of 1946, Jewish guerilla violence had claimed the lives of 373 souls, many of whom were civilians and many of whom were British. The Irgun, largely celebrated in modern day Israel for having played a significant role in the establishment and defense of the Jewish state, was responsible for the July 22nd, 1946 bombing of the Jerusalem King David Hotel (the British administrative headquarters for Palestine Mandate), which claimed the lives of nearly 91 British, Jewish, and Arab people. The fact that now we, the Jews, are victims of attacks, protests, and outrages by Arabs is unfortunately and eerily ironic.
In times like these, we talk of banding together. Bibi says it, Yair Lapid says it, and we all agree that it’s the right thing to do. But we also need to remember our goal: peace. I think peace is not out of the realm of possibility. It will just take painstakingly long and will only be accomplished through excruciatingly hard work. Maybe as someone who wants to pursue a career in politics, you might say that it is unwise to set such lofty goals, especially when talking about a complex geopolitical situation. But I think the only way things ever get done is by determined people with permeating hopefulness. That’s why I think we must still believe in real everlasting peace, and not be complacent in containing the status quo.
We need to remember how to band together after we inevitably subdue this violence. We need to remember that peace will not be attained through hate, violence, or fear, but through compassion, understanding, and civility. Fear shall not overcome hope.