Recently I heard that there will be a local ‘workshop’ that will bring Jews (Israelis and Americans) together with Palestinians, to engage in ‘dialogue’ and listen to each others’ ‘stories’. The idea is that ordinary people all want peace, and if we could understand where the others are coming from then we could get past the posturing and politics and become a force to influence our leaders to move toward a peaceful two-state solution.
Naturally, I don’t support the endeavor and would never participate.
But don’t I want peace? Don’t I think understanding — on both sides — is the key to peace? What could possibly be wrong about a dialogue in which both sides can express themselves? How can I say — as I do — that the very holding of such a dialogue constitutes propaganda for anti-Israel forces? What kind of fascist am I, anyway?
There are a number of problems here, including the fact that the deck is most likely stacked with left-wing Jewish participants who are already anti-Zionist, that the format suggests a moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas, etc. But those are small issues compared with the main one, which is this:
The premise of the workshop is that the conflict is primarily between Israelis and Palestinians. And it follows from this that Israel, which is much more powerful than the Palestinian Authority or Hamas or any other collection of Palestinians, is in control of the conflict. And therefore, the solutions suggested will naturally take the form of Israel giving up land and power, granting the Palestinians their ‘rights’. And the Palestinians in turn will naturally stop terrorism, because after all it is counterproductive in the face of an enemy with F-16s and Merkava tanks. And everyone will live happily ever after.
What’s wrong with this picture? Simply that the Palestinians are not driving the conflict from their side, although they are essential to it. The conflict is actually between Israel on one side and the Arab states and Iran on the other.
The Palestinian side — on which we also find Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others — is lubricated by the enormous amount of money that the West has pumped into it by our purchase of Arab and Iranian oil. The huge missile buildups in Lebanon and Syria, the persistent rocket attacks from Hamas, the growing nuclear threat from Iran — all of these, and every kind of Palestinian terrorism, are encouraged, supported and financed by the major powers of the Mideast.
Suddenly, Israel — which is highly vulnerable because of its small size and concentrated population — doesn’t look so comparatively powerful. Yes, it has a nuclear deterrent, but the day it will be used will certainly be a day too late.
In my opinion, this is the most important single idea to get across to those — like the organizers of workshops like this — who tend to see the conflict as a question of rights, and as something which can be fixed by more understanding between Israel and the Palestinians.
So I will not help support the idea that the problem is in essence a conflict between these peoples by sharing falafel and hummus with my Palestinian cousins, some of whom I’m sure do want peace, at least on some terms.
Instead, I’ll be suggesting that the road to the solution of the conflict today runs through Tehran and Riyadh rather than Jerusalem.