While there is opportunity as well as danger in a crisis, the Gaza War is setting back possibilities for the development of mutual respect and peace between the Israelis and Palestinians for many years. The pain of mass murder, for that is what war is, has and will devastate both peoples for years to come. Midst the massacres, the blockade, and what looks to become a two-front war, Peter Beinart, a professor at the City University of New York and an editor for Jewish Currents has made two important contributions to framing our thinking about the war and what we can do now and over the long term to build the mutual respect and collaborations needed to ensure that both peoples can live with freedom, peace and dignity.
First was his heartfelt 10-minute podcast in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ brutal and unacceptable massacre of Israelis, including Israeli Arabs and Israeli advocates of Palestinian rights. He explains that the way to show love for Jews is not by the blockade of Gaza and the killing of Palestinians in revenge. As he has in the past, he condemns Israeli apartheid and puts forward the reality that freedom and security for Israelis, other Jews, and Palestinians are of necessity interdependent.
On Sunday, the New York Times devoted three full pages to his essay “The Work of Moral Rebuilding Must Begin Now.” Drawing on his family’s deep engagement with the African National Congress’ inspiring nonviolent struggle to overcome brutal South African apartheid, Beinart points to mutually self-defeating Israeli and Palestinian resort to violence and highlights the history of Palestinian campaigns of ethical resistance and the moral vision of Edward Said. In the tradition of removing the mote from one’s eye, Beinart describes Israeli and US repression of Palestinian nonviolent moral resistance. In addition, the outlawing of support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement was modeled after that of the ANC’s successful campaign supported by many across the country, including then-Senator Joe Biden.
Let me add a personal memory that has almost been entirely eliminated from history and barely made it to the web. In 1980, Fahd Kawasme and Mohammed Milhelm, the mayors of Hebron and Halhoul in the occupied West Bank, launched a nonviolent campaign modeled after Gandhian and Kingian nonviolence. Their goal was to transform the hearts and minds of their Israeli oppressors. Prime Minister Begin understood the depth of this threat to Israeli’s illegal occupation and ultimate annexation of the West Bank. In the dead of night, he dispatched helicopters to kidnap them and fly them to Lebanon where they were abandoned to find their way.
More recently, as Phyllis Bennis pointed out in our October 10 panel, the Palestina National Initiative provides one possible path to Palestinian and Israeli freedom, security, and democracy.
Midst the suffering, pain, and death of this war, I commend Peter Beinart’s moral vision and prescription for our responses to you. End the blockade. Provide humanitarian support for Palestinians. Ceasefire. And Diplomacy, Diplomacy, Diplomacy for a just and lasting peace. There will be a time after this war. And we must do all that we can to ensure that it is used.