Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate

Photo by mconnors, courtesy of morguefile.com

I think people conflate pro-Palestinian with anti-Israeli. But it is not a zero-sum game. You don’t have to have a loser in order to have a winner. We can want a better life for Palestinian people while also wanting a safe place for Jews to call home.

I think people prefer to simplify and grab onto slogans instead of digging in deep to understand complex situations. This is a complex situation and it requires knowledge of history both old and more recent.

I think this desire to keep things black and white does a real injustice to all. Palestinians are not served well by their own leaders, who not only oppress them too but refuse to allow opposition to arise or elections to be held. Israelis are not served well by leaders who prefer to keep the status quo rather than demonstrate they are interested in moving to a new one. To make things worse, defenders of each turn a blind eye to their own side’s faults which pose real obstacles to progress.

I think that demonizing and delegitimatizing Israel denies the country’s reason for existence – to provide Jews with a homeland – and that discrimination against the Jewish people is anti-Semitism. There is absolutely nothing wrong with criticizing Israel’s government for its actions and inactions, but that needs to be limited to the government. Not the country. Ancient Israel is where the Jews were sent out from into the diaspora. For centuries Jews have been ending their Passover seders and Yom Kippur Ne’ila prayers with “Next year in Jerusalem.” And in the face of today’s antisemitism, as in every generation before, Israel is the only place in the world where Jews are both welcome and safe.

I think that today’s Palestinians, with their varied but lengthy roots, deserve a home of their own, deserve to be masters of their own destiny. This purgatory of neither being citizens of Israel nor of having their own state has gone on for far too long.

I think the only way that this is going to happen is for both sides to make good faith efforts to prove to the other that they want to live side by side. P.A. television programming indoctrinates children with the concept that there is no such thing as Israel, they promote and applaud terrorism by naming streets and buildings after those who have killed Israelis and by paying terrorists’ families, they erase Israel from their  textbooks (see US and to come UK reviews); these do not demonstrate in good faith that they can be partners for peace. Nor does Israel demonstrate good faith efforts that they want coexistence; the government continues to build settlements in territories which have not had their fate decided, Bibi has threatened to annex parts of the West Bank, marchers on Jerusalem Day unnecessarily go through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

I think uninformed supporters are not only unhelpful, but harm their own cause. Israel Apartheid Week, BDS, shouting slogans and intimidating will never get the two sides back to the table or even open dialog, but will only inflame hatred. In laying all the blame on Israel’s doorstep, these supporters are less pro-Palestinian and more anti-Israel than anything else. In turning a blind eye to the deficits on the Palestinian side that hold them back from making progress towards peace, they feed this simplistic zero sum picture and escalate hatred.

I think to truly want to help Palestinians, one has to envision what their future should look like and think about what it will take not only to get there but to sustain it. Non-corrupt leaders. An infrastructure. A thought to how to approach absorbing Palestinians in other Middle Eastern countries who have been put into camps and are waiting to come home; it is time to start contemplating how reparations are the solution – not reclaiming homes in Jaffa. As I’ve written before, it is not enough to call to end the occupation; what happens next?

I think that it is important to understand that delegitimizing Israel is tantamount to antisemitism. As I wrote regarding Linda Sarsour and why Farrakhan isn’t the issue, “If Zionism (per Merriam Webster) means a movement supporting the reestablishment of a homeland in Palestine and support of the modern state of Israel (to be clear, it does NOT say “without Arabs”), then how does she define anti-Zionism? For the life of me, I cannot see any way which does not delegitimize Israel. And if she does that to a sovereign and established state [i.e., the Jewish homeland] and demonizes anyone who supports it (as opposed to only criticizing its government’s actions and inactions), then she is still travelling in anti-Semitic territory.” (Do see the links in that blog.)

I think the Democratic Party’s blind spot when it comes to members of their own party conflating pro-Palestinians positions with anti-Zionist ones is a major problem which must be addressed. In only saying something when their members use explicit anti-Semitic tropes (and then defending them when the Republicans over attack on that point), they are missing the opportunity to forge a road forward. As I wrote in my blog on Congresswoman Tlaib, “…one can want justice for Palestinians and be critical of their leadership. One can want justice for Palestinians and not hold only Israel responsible for the future. But too many of those who purport to be pro-Palestinian are using this stance to only mask an anti-Israel hate. Tlaib is contributing to this. And the silence of the Democrats is only encouraging this ugliness even more. There is nothing stopping anyone from saying, ‘Yes, we need to work towards a future for Palestinians, but we cannot do it by promoting misinformation, simplistic non-solutions, and hate towards Israel.’” The need to make the distinction becomes louder and clearer, the more we see the left attacking Israel. Just last week, among the 500 or so counter protesters who came out against the small number of white supremacists in Dayton, OH, were some who destroyed an Israeli flag while calling to Free Palestine (see the photos and coverage from both Algemeiner and the Dayton Jewish Observer.)

I think there are pockets of people who get it – among others, I follow Zioness board member and Tablet writer Carly Pildis and The Australian “Imam of Peace” Mohamad Tawhidi on Twitter along with Times of Israel social media director and author Sarah Tuttle-Singer and fellow Times of Israel blogger and Gatestone Institute’s Fred Maroun on Facebook. I also belong to a number of liberal/progressive Zionist groups on Facebook and follow pages for a few organizations that understand that the way forward is to acknowledge the pain on both sides and look to how to create a future for both sides.

I think one can – and should – be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian; again, it is not a zero sum game. There is room to make a place for each side’s pain and for each side’s narrative. The danger is when those with pro-Palestinian views think their only way is to be anti-Israel and when those holding pro-Israel views think it necessitates an anti-Palestinian position.

I think neither is true. I think the voices of reason risk getting lost in the hate. We need to find a way to come together to amplify the only voice which envisions what the future could look like. For a future blog, I plan to grow and share a comprehensive list, with links. But in the meantime, I’d be grateful if you could please share those you are aware of in the comments.

I’ve told you what I think. What do you think?

About the Author
Wendy Kalman, MPA, MA, serves as Director of Education and Advocacy Resources for Hadassah The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Previous roles include senior academic researcher for an Israel education nonprofit, knowledge manager at a large multinational as well as roles in marketing and publishing in the US and in Israel. She has presented papers at political science and communications conferences and has participated as a scholar-in-residence at an academic workshop on antisemitism. Wendy lived in Israel for over a decade and is a dual citizen, fluent in Hebrew.
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