Message to Israelis: Don’t Forget Why Israel Exists
It is a given that every Jew in and outside of Israel wants to see Israel as a vibrant country: an economic powerhouse with a thriving democracy, self-confident and secure, capable of defending itself and deterring any enemy far and near from challenging its right to exist, at peace with its neighbors, respected by the international community, excelling in its humanity and caring about others, and a beacon and a light unto other nations.
The imminent collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations raises the critical question: will the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever be resolved? More than six decades of debilitating violent discord did little to usher in an agreement. The shifting reality on the ground made the prospect of a solution increasingly dimmer, more distant, and laden with ominous danger.
No one knows the history of the Jews better than the Jews themselves. Persecution, segregation, expulsion, and death unmatched in human history were their lot nearly everywhere. But such unspeakable historic misfortune offers no license to inflict pain, suffering, and indignity onto others.
Knowing the true meaning of dehumanization, degradation, and derision must give rise to the Jews’ moral values and humanity by treating the Palestinians with compassion and sensitivity. With the inevitability of coexistence and fate intertwined, what hope will be in the offing for tomorrow if not harmony and peace?
Occupation must end not only because of its inherent injustice, as it demeans, debases, and degrades the Palestinians, but because of what the occupation does to the Israelis – it discredits and disgraces Jewish heritage and changes the once-oppressed Jews into merciless, heartless oppressors. No, this is not why Israel was created.
They want what you Israelis cherish. They want dignity, they want freedom, and they want the human rights that you so relish – but you wantonly deny them the very values you uphold so high.
The onus falls squarely on the Israeli government. Netanyahu, who genuinely seeks a strong, thriving and prosperous Israel, pursues contrarian policies that deprive Israel of its potentially brilliant future. He is living in denial, never accepting, acceding or assenting to a Palestinian state.
He is an ideological zealot, driven by biblical precepts that have long since lost any relevance to today’s reality. He believes that he was divinely chosen to lead, but fails to understand that divinity placed the Palestinians inescapably and permanently side-by-side with Israel.
It is understandable that Jews anywhere have a unique affinity to the state of Israel; for the world’s Jewry, Israel represents the last refuge, the sanctuary that offers a safe haven, independently determining its own fate. Hence, Israel must remain strong and powerful because they see their fate and fortune intertwined with Israel’s strength, perseverance and longevity.
But Diaspora Jewry must also understand that the occupation of Palestinian land destroys the very premise on which the state was created. Continued occupation in any form chips away the moral tenet of the country on which its very survival rests.
Yes, stand beside Israel they must, but supporting misguided policies like the blind leading the blind not only denies the Palestinians their human rights but imperils the very existence of the third commonwealth that the Jews yearned for millennia, which they must never forget.
Your complacency is your worst enemy; it is not that the Palestinians are innocent, it is that you have the power to force a change in direction, if you only will it. The alternative to the continuing debilitating conflict is not simply continuing much of the same. It will spell disaster for Israel as the world is tuned to the Palestinian plight and condemns Israel for its intransigence and gross human rights violations.
Israelis must remember that the entire global community vehemently opposes the occupation. Israel’s national security concerns, though legitimate, have been excessively used like a smoke screen to obscure its expansionist policy which any blind person can see through.
America remains the last beacon of hope to save Israel from traveling this suicidal path. As the U.S. deliberates its future plans about the peace process, this may well be Secretary Kerry’s last ditch effort.
Israeli leaders will be wise to remember that once the U.S. decides that the prospect for a peace agreement remains elusive at best, it may well leave the Israelis and Palestinians to their own devices.
History has shown that time and again.
Next, what initiative can the Israelis take to change direction in the pursuit of peace?
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. Contact: [email protected]