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Gaza: A Candid Conversation - Part III
by Simon Jacobson
 
We now bring you part III of this dialogue.
 
Evelyn: Well, the good news is that the battle is over in Gaza and no more innocent people are dying.
 
Jeff: I am surprised that you say that. Yes, for now Israel has pulled out their army. But Hamas still remains in power, they still are launching rockets, their charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. They surely will regroup, restock and relaunch their attack on Israeli citizens. You really feel that the problem is solved and the battle is over? When one people declare war on another the battle is not over until they are totally defeated or until they change their attitude.
 
Evelyn: The Palestinians feel that it is Israel that has declared war on them by denying them their right to their land. And yes, as long as they feel oppressed we will be having a problem.
 
Jeff: We’re going in circles here. They claim the entire land. Not a piece and not a section of the land, but the entire Israel – which even you agree is absolutely unacceptable. They do not want to compromise and do not accept the two-state proposal that you and so many others good intentioned people may have, which is to split land into two, one Arab and one Israel. They didn’t accept it in 1948 and they don’t accept it today. So what exactly are you suggesting?
 
Evelyn: They will have to compromise if they want peace. Both sides will have to compromise.
 
Jeff: And if you discover that they would rather be at war for the entire land then be at peace in only a section of the land? What would you say then?
 
Evelyn: I would be very sad.
 
Jeff. Well, I don’t want to depress you but you should read Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi’s article in yesterday’s New York Times. He adamantly argues that the Arab world will never accept a two-state solution; they see the entire land as theirs. “The Palestinians believe that what is now called Israel forms part of their nation, even were they to secure the West Bank and Gaza.” Qaddafi suggests that the only solution is one state where Arabs and Jews live side by side in peace.
 
I am not addressing his “solution” and many of his other points, which one can take strong issue with. But you see from his arguments that the Palestinians claim all of Israel.
 
Evelyn: Qaddafi I do not trust. Several decades ago he called for all Israeli Jews to be driven into the sea. Now he’s suddenly calling for peace, with Arabs and Jews living side by side. So I don’t think that he is good source to quote.
 
Jeff: This is not about Qaddafi. His words just reflect the feelings of much of the Arab world. Hamas makes the same claim: They will not be satisfied until they put an end to the “occupation” of the entire Israel.
 
Evelyn: That is why we need to empower the moderate Palestinians, who understand and are willing to live peacefully with Israel. And that is precisely my point in this entire conversation: We know that there are radicals who call for Israel’s destruction. They will never be satisfied and we should not appease them. What we need to do is embolden and engage the moderates. I am not blaming Israel for these radicals per se. But if Israel responds to their provocations with too much aggression, Israel is feeding into their agenda while weakening the sober voices calling for peace, and pushing the moderate Arabs and average person on the street toward radicalism.
 
Jeff: So we’re back to square one. Remember, the people of Gaza freely elected Hamas. What you are doing is blaming Israel for creating the terrorists.
 
Evelyn: I will not say that all terrorists are a result of Israel’s behavior. But, yes, Israel’s dominance over the Palestinians has contributed to their bitterness and desperation, and in effect, cultivating a climate where terrorism is tolerated.
 
Jeff: And thus the terrorists and those that elected them and protect them cannot be held accountable! This is ludicrous and criminal: It’s like saying that a murderer is not responsible because he had a dysfunctional childhood. Why are you bending backwards to justify the cold-blooded murder of innocent people at the hands of these terrorists? And the next thing you’ll tell me is that the United States is responsible for the attack on 9/11 because Western culture offends the Muslims and America supports Israel.
 
Evelyn: Don’t distort my words. I am not saying that the terrorists are innocent and should be excused. I am saying that we must be wiser than them and respond with a sober strategy that will marginalize them, and will engage the moderates to make peace and not tolerate their criminal behavior.
 
Jeff: That sound very nice in theory. But in reality, besides for the fact that Gazans elected the terrorists, Arab aggression against Jews goes back long before 1967 and 1948, and is not isolated to a “small” band of terrorists. Which is why I have been insisting that we must go back to the root of the issue, as we began discussing earlier.
 
Evelyn: What are you referring to?
 
Jeff: Long before the Arab world had any grievances about the so-called “occupation” of their land they attacked and murdered Jews living in the Holy Land. Are you aware, Evelyn, of the venom being spewed against Jews week after week in mosques across the Arab world? Do you know that in their weekly sermons Imam’s incessantly dehumanize and incite their followers against the Jews, calling them (citing the Koran) “descendants of apes and pigs?”
 
While it’s true that Arabs and Jews lived at times side-by-side, and in many instances Muslim rule was far less brutal for the Jews than Christian persecution, we also have a consistent history of Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism (anti-Jewish may be more precise, being that Arabs may also be Semites) – both in and outside of Israel. Take the 1929 pogrom in Chevron, or the hangings, beheadings and humiliation of Jews in Iraq, Iran and other countries going back decades and centuries, beginning with Muhammad turning on the Jews after they rejected his prophetic claims.
 
Evelyn: These are all terrible things. But why are you bringing them up now? How is this relevant to our conversation? Why are the Palestinians responsible for this history?
 
Jeff: Are you kidding me?! The climate and attitudes of the Arab/Muslim is absolutely critical to our discussion. The Palestinians may not be responsible for their ancestors, but to understand their mentality we must know their history. And frankly, the virulent anti-Jewish attitudes are not just history; it dominates the current, prevalent sentiment in Arab-Muslim communities – being taught in their schools, preached in their mosques, advocated in their media. And for this they are responsible. Without addressing this Jew-baiting I cannot see how we can ever get to the root of the conflict. But please allow me please to finish my point.
 
Evelyn: Go ahead.
 
Jeff: Why, may I ask, were close to 1 million Jews persecuted and banished from Arab/Muslim countries as a result of the establishment of Israel in 1948? Countries, like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, imposed serious reprisals against their Jewish citizens, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands and who lived their for hundreds if not thousands of years! If their problem was simply the “occupation” within the borders of Israel, why did all these countries destroy their beautiful Jewish communities? This only demonstrates yet again that Arab/Muslim interests were driven by anti-Semitism. And incidentally, by persecuting the Jews living in Arab lands, they effectively forced them to emigrate to Israel, which added close to 1 million more Jews to the Israeli population.
 
So, while it’s all very convenient to blame Israel for Arab resentment and rage, the fact is that this anger and prejudice goes back centuries, and continues to strongly inform and influence the attitudes in the region.
 
Evelyn: Yes, I agree that it’s important to address in the full picture. But I was discussing the immediate problem, which is the Palestinian conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, their growing anger and resentment, and how to alleviate their suffering and provide them with a state, so as not to further feed the extremists.
 
Jeff: The immediate problem is part and parcel of the bigger picture. Evelyn, you keep harping back to the Palestinian suffering, when much of is a result of their elected radicals and their overall hatred of Israel. You cannot keep blaming Israel for protecting its innocent citizens from attack from people who are driven by hatred. Even if they have some legitimate grievances, there are ways to peacefully address them. The reason they don’t address them peacefully is because these grievances are only understood in context of the overall loathing of Jews. Perhaps if the Palestinians would just accept Israel and stop calling for its destruction and attacking it, their living conditions you describe would get better. But that will not happen until their entire attitudes change.
 
Evelyn: Your words are very depressing. You’re basically saying that no solution can come until there is no fundamental change in the hostile attitudes, which, I should add, come from both sides.
 
Jeff: Perhaps we can find some short-term band-aids to treat some of the symptoms. But until we don’t address the heart of the matter, we will sadly be trapped into fighting fires and never getting to its source.
 
Imagine: On a daily basis Arab/Muslim/Palestinian children are fed a steady diet of anti-Jewish rhetoric. What impact does leave on them as they grow older? How much hope do you find it that? What should depress you is the way their children are being educated.
 
Evelyn: I don’t know if we can do much about that. We have to make sure not to further fan the flames. I feel resigned.
 
Jeff: Hold on there. I am not finished. We still have to address the “Palestinian” identity issue.
 
Evelyn: Let’s take a break.
 
Jeff: Ok, that I can agree with.
 
Part IV – continued next week.
 

 


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