Magazine article Tikkun

Ending the Occupation, Saving Israel/Palestine: Strategy and Morality

Magazine article Tikkun

Ending the Occupation, Saving Israel/Palestine: Strategy and Morality

Article excerpt

I am firmly convinced that ending the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, if done by Israel in a spirit of generosity and open-heartedness, would be the necessary prerequisite for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

A plan to achieve that-the Geneva Accord-has defined many of the contours of what that peace could look like. The Tikkun Community was the first national organization to embrace and promote that Accord, though always with the caveat that it is not enough to have a legal agreement unless each side embraces a spiritual consciousness that affirms the humanity of the other, recognizes its own sins in having treated the other side disrespectfully, and seeks genuine repentance and atonement.

There is no magic bullet that can achieve this outcome. All that we can do is to educate people in the United States and in the Jewish world to rethink their understanding of the history of the conflict, and to support Palestinians who are trying to do that on their side.

All the rest is political grandstanding and is unlikely to have much impact. The great danger of adopting a focus on divestment, or even the reinvestment that I endorse, is that it allows the conversation to switch from what a real solution is to what tactics we should use.

One reason why some wish to make that switch is that they are using the struggle against the Occupation as their wedge against the very existence of a state for the Jewish people. They hide behind the slogan, "End the Occupation," while what they really believe is that the Occupation began the moment Jews started to return to their ancient homeland in the 1880s and started building communities. Their goal is to end the state of Israel entirely.

I don't share that goal. I don't think Arabs had any right to restrict Jewish immigration when it was Jews who were the refugees and Palestinians the people who owned land and wielded power. I don't believe that Arabs were morally justified in using their power over oil to convince England to shut down immigration before and during World War II, when Jews were desperately seeking refuge from the slaughter of Europe.

So I see the establishment and preservation of the State of Israel as an act of international affirmative action and as reparations from a world that had allowed the Jewish people to face genocide after two thousand years of oppression in both Christian and Islamic lands. I won't accept strategies that are aimed at eliminating this special protection for Jews, not until anti-Semitism has been effectively wiped out from the historical experience of the Jewish people for at least fifty and maybe a hundred years.

But, unfortunately, the way that Israel was established led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and their land, and the resulting anger, combined with the original passion to keep Palestine a land free of a significant Jewish presence, has led to a struggle that Arabs keep losing but keep fighting. And because of that struggle, a large section of the Israeli public (people who twelve years ago voted in a peace government and hoped to see an end to the Occupation) has become convinced that Israel needs ongoing protection from terror, and that holding on to sections of the West Bank will give it that protection.

I believe that these Israelis are deeply mistaken, and that the path they have followed has empowered a minority of Jews whose goal is not protection, but the expansion of the Israeli state to incorporate major parts of the West Bank. If that process cannot be stopped and Israel does succeed, under the blanket of U.S. power, in imposing on Palestinians a deal that is far less generous in substance and in spirit than the Geneva Accord, I suspect that this straggle will continue for at least another generation or two, to the detriment of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people, and the peace of the world. …

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