PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
Three viewpoints on the
It’s easy enough to see why support for Israeli policy
hurts the Gazans.
As long as that one-sided view prevails at the highest
Yet a neutral, even-handed approach in the
Even for the minority of our people who want to be
politically aware and involved in the
Anyone who does not know, or ignores, those crucial facts can hardly hope to frame a just resolution to the conflict. Yet all of that background simply disappears from the supposedly even-handed approach in our news media.
That might seem to leave only one fruitful approach:
Stand up for the Palestinians, condemn
Political action that is merely “pro-Palestinian” allows the mass media to portray the engaged public divided into two neat camps—pro-Israel and anti-Israel—as if those were the only two options. Of course the mass media like simplistic pictures of two protest groups, diametrically opposed, on opposite sides of the street. It boosts their ratings. But it also lets supporters of Israeli policy feel even more justified, saying that “everyone who’s not for us is against us.”
It also encourages the average American to assume that there is no way out of this mess except to choose sides. In that case, since most know only what the political leaders and mass media tell them, they will choose the Israeli side.
Most importantly, action that is merely
“pro-Palestinian” makes it harder to achieve the only political goal that
really counts here in the
But that would be very risky for their
own careers. If they appear to represent a stridently anti-Israel view,
they won’t get anywhere -- except perhaps ushered out of the government
entirely. So they need political cover. They have to be able to urge a new
Fortunately for them, and for us, a genuinely pro-Israel policy -- one that cares about the peace and security of the Israeli people -- will and must oppose the militaristic policies of the current Israeli leadership. The only way for Israel to achieve peace is to recognize the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to their own fully independent and completely viable state in all of the West Bank and Gaza -- with no Israeli settlements or security roads or military personnel left in Palestine; with the Palestinians left alone to have whatever government they democratically choose, even a government devoted to Islamic principles; with no surreptitious Israeli policies undermining the political and economic success of the Palestinian state; with the Israeli people living in peace and safety, within the borders of June 4, 1967 (with minor border rectifications mutually agreed upon, if necessary); with the Palestinian people compensated, both monetarily and by formal Israeli apology, for the injustice and suffering they have endured for sixty years.
This is the truly pro-Israel policy. It’s the only one
that can break down the wall -- both literal and psychological -- that Israeli
Jews have created to separate themselves from their neighbors. It’s the only
one that can give
It’s also pro-Palestinian and pro-peace. It opens the way to productive cooperation between Jews and Palestinians, living side in two secure states, not merely in grudging toleration but in genuine friendship and mutuality.
If enough of the “movable” people in congress and the
Obama administration start making that argument, both in public and in private,
U.S. policy will begin to change -- very slowly, to be sure, but it will
change. And that will produce fundamental change in the
So even if your only goal is to relieve the suffering of the Palestinians, the best strategy right now is to avoid the appearance of being a one-sided “pro-Palestinian” advocate. The best strategy is to declare that you are pro-Palestine, pro-Israel, and pro-peace. Demand an end to the Israeli occupation and a guarantee of full independence for Palestine, but at the same time to insist over and over that you support this program because you want the best for everyone in the region, Israelis as well as Palestinians.
This is the program being advocated by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, J Street, and other Jewish peace JewishPalestinianPeace organizations in the U.S., as well as by Gush Shalom and other Jewish movements in Israel, which can still bring thousands into the streets to demonstrate for peace and justice. The best way to help the Palestinian people now is to forge a powerful alliance between these groups and the many groups advocating Palestinian rights, recognizing that ultimately we all want the same thing.
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