July 27, 2007
A Prominent Jewish Liberal Finally Admits (Almost) That Palestinians Are Bad for His Health
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Like many Baby Boomers, I was an anti-war “radical” in my college years and remained left-leaning for decades beyond. For many years I even sympathized with the “poor Palestinians” who had been left stateless and were in my mind being dealt with harshly by Israel. My, my, was I naïve!
My mind started to change in the mid Nineties, after the Oslo Peace Accords, when Israel began to arm the Palestinian Authority in the belief that Yasser Arafat meant what he told us: That the Palestinians were ready for a) peace, b) the rule of law and c) a two-state solution. Shortly thereafter I remember vividly seeing a news photo of Palestinian teenagers throwing stones at Israeli soldiers on patrol in the West Bank, with Palestinian Authority police officers in the background watching approvingly on, hands behind their backs. Yes, call me naïve: I had actually thought the Palestinians wanted to make peace and build a nation. Then came Intifada II, a cynical, fabricated and literally suicidal Palestinian action.
As you know, things have gone downhill since then, and every act of deceit and murderous cruelty of the Palestinians has driven me further to the right. The Palestinians have awakened me not only to the single-minded, maniacal anti-Semitism of their culture, but also to the existential threat that Islamism and pan-Arabism pose to the United States and the rest of the world. (The 9-11 bombings obviously didn’t help.)
The sum of observing the Palestinians and other Islamists in action over these many years, frankly, has been to convince me---completely contrary to my original trusting, liberal world view---that we are engaged in a fight of good versus evil. These people do not want a free, democratic, pluralistic society---indeed, they violently oppose it.
Rabbi David Forman is the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights, a resident of Israel and a regular columnist for the Jerusalem Post. As you’ll soon realize, we at FLAME do not agree with his general outlook. But I thought you’d enjoy reading his painful self-analysis as he tries to come to terms with the unrelenting betrayals the Palestinians have dealt him and other “progressives” in Israel. Most pointedly, Dr. Forman admits that not only do the Palestinians threaten the existence of the state of Israel, they also cause him to fear intimately for his own life. All we can say is, it’s taken a long time, Rabbi. But welcome to the club.
No matter where on the political spectrum you stand, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the soul-searching . . . and the conclusions that David Forman reaches in his article below.
Counterpoint: A Liberalís Lament
Having grown up in a home of diehard New Deal Democrats, with a wider
family circle that included hard-core socialists and communists, and
having come of age in the United States during the turbulent 1960s, every
fiber in my body is filled with political and social liberalism.
Since the onset of the second intifada, the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas's takeover of Gaza, the encroachment of Hizbullah, I am fighting forces within me that are edging to the political right—all the while desperately holding on to a progressive philosophical mindset. In the deepest recesses of my being, I am finding it difficult to maintain my usual equilibrium.
I am constantly doing battle with two competing inclinations—one to preserve my body (my physical well-being) and one to preserve my soul (my moral integrity). And, right now, the urges of my body seem to be getting the upper hand. I feel my corporeal self under siege from all sides. I ache with the historical burden of persecution knocking at my door every minute of the day, fired by forces like those that engulfed us during the Crusades—read Hamas—and expelled us during the Inquisition—read Hizbullah—and led by the warriors of anti-Semitism like Chmelnitski—read Hassan Nasrallah—and those who slaughtered us mercilessly like Hitler—read Ahmadinejad.
How do I maintain a sense of justice for Palestinians whose freedoms have been compromised under Israel's 40-year occupation and continue to advocate for their human rights, when I know they are being swept up by a pan-Islamism characterized by Islamist extremism? No wonder the Israeli Left has gone underground. Many of our cherished values have gone up in smoke.
We hate the security barrier because it steals Palestinian lands, divides villages and separates families, but we sleep better knowing our children no longer play Russian roulette with their lives when they venture out in public. We deplore targeted assassinations, but when the IDF kills terrorists on their way to fire rockets into Sderot, we breathe a sigh of relief—even if innocent Palestinians are caught in the cross fire.
Has the Right read the political map better than we have? Everything that those who opposed the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza predicted would happen has happened. Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south are squeezing us and, at a moment's notice, could wreak havoc upon the country. The internecine fighting in Gaza, where Palestinians killed each other with impunity, proved a harsh reality: These Muslim fanatics are out for anyone's blood that gets in the way of their ultimate goal—spilling the last drop of Jewish blood.
So what’s an Israeli liberal Jew to do—turn to our leftist sympathizers abroad to gain some perspective and objectivity? Who are they—the American Center for Constitutional Rights that has issued warrants for the arrest of Moshe Ya'alon and Avi Dichter for war crimes; the International Solidarity Movement or the Christian Peacemaker Teams whose Web sites are veritable wellsprings of anti-Semitic drivel?
You see why I feel besieged—even my natural allies put me on the defensive.
We activists for decency and fair play for the other can no longer bury our heads in the sand. We must find a way to reconcile our ideological liberalism with the harsh political realities of a bellicose neighborhood and an indifferent at best, hostile at worst, world community that allows the UN Human Rights Commission to single out Israel for permanent scrutiny. (Silent complicity strikes the Jews again.) Only America has consistently stood by us.
So as not to further darken the gathering storm hovering above, we liberals will have to temper our views and moderate our behavior. Does this mean that we limit self-criticism and curtail what we say and what we do because our words and actions can supply ammunition to our detractors and to those who decry our legitimacy as a state? Does it mean that we sacrifice our moral conscience on an altar of fear? No! But, it does mean that we must carefully weigh the possible consequences of our rhetoric and activities.
It also means that we who are sympathetic to Palestinian suffering cannot become mirror images of our right-wing adversaries—abandoning any sense of balance, thus discounting Israeli pain. More so, even as we concede Israeli offenses, we must acknowledge Palestinian violence and, more importantly, its global implications. With the radicalization of Gaza, surely to be exported to the West Bank, Palestinians are part of a growing Islamist threat to Western stability, and we stand at the forefront of its eventual onslaught.
For those of us born with a liberal spoon in our mouths, the challenge is formidable—almost frantic. Painful memories of our history, presently reflected in the mirror of a dangerous new reality, compel us to examine and reexamine, evaluate and reevaluate our deeply held principles—even as we resolutely cling to our ideals, steadfastly advancing a social agenda that impels Israel to be a "light unto the nations."