David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Streams of Anxious Consciousness XIV

As the sun sets marking another week since the tragedy of October 7th, my anxiety and fatigue are wrestling with one another.

One thing I am becoming envious of, is the Arab world’s sympathy for Palestinians. It is confusing.

Sympathy toward Israel was short lived. We gained world support for less than a week but damn, the price tag was so high. To paraphrase Golda, I do not want to pay that price. World sympathy for our cause is not worth it, even though we are deserving.

I was in Egypt, Morocco, UAE, Bahrain – all recently – and have met with countless members of the community and senior officials. They all expressed excitement at the possibility of peace and bilateral relations with Israel. They were eager to move forward. Not a one of them lamented the challenges of the Palestinian people or the precondition of propping them up.

Now, Egypt, which has long prohibited public demonstrations have allowed protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Egyptian President Sissi hosted an Arab leadership summit today where they criticized Israel publicly for its treatment of the Palestinians. Interestingly, the summit could not come to agreement condemning the brutality of Hamas. That is telling.

Mind you, Egypt’s border is still closed to any Palestinian who seeks refuge or safety. As are the borders of Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Saudi and Oman. Also, I do not think monies are flowing in to support the Palestinian cause. There is a lot of bark. Not a lot of kibble.

Recently, when asked if they would support an action that would allow any Palestinian to leave the Gaza strip for a better life elsewhere, Fatah leadership said emphatically, ‘No.’ The Hamas brass chimed in and said the same from the comforts of Qatar. ‘We cannot leave the strip. We lose our ability to resist if we leave.”

I hope you all caught that.

There is not and never really has been a serious interest in living symbiotically. There is no desire of two states for two peoples. Whether it is done passively or violently, in onslaughts or drips and drabs overtime, there will consistently be resistance. There will be a continual denial of a Jewish State and its right to exist, a rejection of Jewish autonomy and a refusal to recognize Jewish sovereignty and the basic rights of its citizens.

If Palestinians could live in peace and security and create a country rich with trade, infrastructure and agriculture, along with a government for the people of Palestine, the leadership is announcing that they would still resist the Jewish right to live, breath, survive and be as their neighbors. Regardless of borders. Regardless of Jerusalem. Regardless of the particulars of right-of-return.

It reminds me of the famous Khartoum Summit of the Arab League after the 1967, Six Day War. Israel offered to return the land it captured to Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Every single inch. The only condition was for those countries to cease their aggression towards Israel. Make peace. Allow us to live and be.

The answer was the famous 3 nos.
• No peace with Israel.
• No recognition of Israel.
• No negotiations with Israel.

In 2000 and since, those who have had to negotiate peace and dealt with mutually agreed upon land swaps, defined borders, resolution on return for Palestinian refugees, shared access on Jerusalem and other peace jargon, have been stymied by one condition that our Palestinian neighbors refuse to accept.

To me and you, it is both innocuous and crucial. I imagine that the details of borders and conditions of return would have been flexible if there would have been consensus on the following:

Cessation to ALL future claims.

Any deal that is reached, would be final. There would be no more claims either a week or a decade later demanding more space, new borders or demanding more Israeli concessions.

That has long been the deal breaker for Palestinians.

For the Israelis, their attitude was, why make these sacrifices, and create new vulnerabilities, fracture parts of the country only to have the other party be unsatisfied in short time and be forced to go back to the drawing board. That is a fool’s errand. Israel is eager to make a peace – but a real and lasting peace.

For the Palestinians, cessation to all future claims really means they must redefine their existence. They can no longer be victims. They must be a victor. I do not think they are capable of such a narrative.

A few days ago, a Palestinian sympathetic news anchor, Ayman Mohyeldin, put on his Instagram feed two pictures, both of tents. One picture was from 1948 and the other, from 2023.

His caption under the picture read, “To most people these are simply pictures of two refugee camps taken 75 years apart. But, for Palestinians, there is a direct through line from their ancestors who sought refuge in one camp to their descendants plight in another.”

I saw something different and tragic.

When Jews settled Israel 75 years ago, they too lived in tents. In fact, when I saw those 75-year-old tents pitched in sand, my first reaction was that might have been my ancestors’ homes.

Fast forward 75 years and Israel is a blossoming garden in the Middle East. Israel leads in health, education, technology and security. Israel has a growing economy and are players on the world stage. Israel has such a functional sense of democracy that they have exercised their right in governmental disfunction. A rite of passage earned over time.

Ayman, based on your picture and caption, I ask you earnestly, how do you think we went from tents to homes? How did that fabric turn into concrete? It was not gifted to us, I assure you.

For our entire existence, starting on the actual day we declared statehood, May 14, 1948, to as recently as yesterday, people on all our borders have tried to kill Israelis for just being. Our singular crime has been our religious ancestry. We too have been oppressed. We too have struggled. We too have suffered incalculable loss and grief.

What allowed us to build from those tents and what has kept your people inside them is a mindset. You see, we cherish life. We aim for victory. We dream about tomorrow.

You do not.

You speak of yesterday. You talk of injustice that fell on your people with no mention of responsibility for the poor choices made. You speak of the support of America to Israel but have done nothing worthy of your Arab brethren’s real assistance. The Palestinian’s devoted marriage to victimhood has yielded your reality, Ayman.

Palestinian refusal to agree to ‘no future claims,’ along with persistence on resistance and tears of victimhood all might garner short-lived sympathy. Of that, I have short-lived envy. But it offers the Palestinian people nothing for their future. Claiming Israel created this painful reality is not only false. It does nothing to get Palestinians out of the tent.

In case the world forgot, in 1948, when Jewish people were in those tents, we had good reason to wag fingers in the face of other countries. We could have cried and whined. The previous decade was not kind to Jews. But we dreamt of what could be, not what was taken away. Our entry to this neighborhood did not come with welcome cakes and invitations to Tupperware parties. We were attacked on all sides. Suffocated by hatred. It never quit. Still, we anticipated the sunrise and did not mourn the sunset.

Of course, the Jewish people were pained, traumatized and angry. We channeled those emotions towards sifting the sand into a thriving homeland. We planted fruit trees and enjoyed its nectar. We invented baby tomatoes. We were forced to be security specialists. We plugged into technology. We stretched out a hand in partnership and peace to all willing to grab a hold. Those that did, benefitted quickly.

Most importantly, no one gave what we have to us. No one. Israel and its people earned everything they enjoy today with elbow grease, grit, education, hard work, and dreams of what could be.

When you look over the border and weep for the tents Palestinians are still living in, cannot Hamas, Fatah and those marching in the streets of Cairo, Marrakesh and London ask themselves: What has your victimhood done for your people?

Blaming Israel is such a cheap subterfuge from accepting responsibility for the Palestinian fate.

The best revenge to the long list of those who have sought our pain and demise is to show them how we suck from the marrow of life. To boast of our buildings, to brag of our technological prowess and marvel at our infrastructure. We dance at weddings and sing loudly at celebrations. When we do that, we signal to each enemy of yesterday and today, we are still standing. We are here. We are living and loving and being and dreaming.

The Jews have a thick dossier of crimes against our people. Dating back thousands of years, from expulsions, to being burned at the stake, to violent pogroms, to Holocausts to wars and terrorism, and now, even butchery inside of our homes, beheading babies and torturing the elderly. Our list in long. We too could easily fall on the sword of victimhood. We do not. We will not. Mainly because victimhood achieves little for our future. It does not fuel our growth. We use our tears to irrigate our homeland.

In the past 36 months, the tide had begun to turn in unimaginable ways. Palestinian’s most vocal allies began to suppress their plight and dream of a future. The Abraham Accords was indeed the greatest threat to the 75-year narrative of the Palestinians. It finally debunked the paper thin argument that Palestinian peace in the Middle East was the obstacle to other relationships.

October 7th was as much an attack on the Abraham Accords, the supportive countries and the Palestinian need to gain control of the narrative, as it was a smaller scale Holocaust for Israel.

The two greatest motives for the timing and scope of the Hamas attack were the visible fault lines of the Israeli government and the blossoming relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia. If peace were to be made with the leading Arab country in the Middle East, that would mean curtains for the plight of the Palestinian narrative and its people.

I think the two greatest acts to avenge October 7th is first, for Saudi Arabia to continue in its pursuit of peace with Israel. Let the Hamas militants see that peace and its possibilities are more potent than hatred and victimhood. Let the Hamas leaders in Qatar witness a treaty. Let the masterminds of this terror see mature countries that dream, make peace with Israel and grow. Let every blind-following terrorist who were accomplice to this unprecedented terror, see that their brutality did not stop our pursuit of tomorrow and what can be. Let them all hear the rumbles of tractors cultivating the soil of peace.

Then, we should capture and kill them all. Each Hamas operative. From the generals to the sergeants to the secretaries in offices. We will find them in Gaza, Qatar and any hole they hide in. Because, let’s face it, we can dream of peace. But we cannot live with those Hamas terrorists next door. Our survival necessitates their permanent removal from this world.

But they should die knowing of their failures. Each of them should die knowing that they botched widening the fissures in the Israeli government and dividing its people. Just the opposite. They should have run through their minds before they meet their maker, that peace is more potent than terror. The last question I want each of these terrorists to consider before they leave this world is, how has victimhood helped their future.

Please be safe. The hardest part of this episode is still ahead of us. Their protests will be strong. Our unity can be stronger. They will be loud. We can be louder. They will point at civilian casualties. We have pictures too.

Do not cower. This is our moment to do our part in this war against Israel and Jews, worldwide.

Shavua Tov.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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