Recently, with my Sociology 202 class, Terorism and National Security, I attended a showing of Mai Masri’s film “Frontiers of Dreams and Fears” followed by a lecture and discussion given by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of New York University. Having been raised as a conservative, relatively sheltered Jew in New York City, I went into the talk with many prejudices. I had been taught by the American media and the Jewish community of which I was a part that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews, and that it is their right to defend it against the bloodthirsty Palestinians who wish to claim it as their own and expel the Jews back into the Diaspora. After the showing, I learned something new. Having already heard the Jewish cry for a homeland, for the land, Israel, I now heard the Palestinian cry for a homeland, for their land, Palestine. Knowing only the Jewish sadness over the Diaspora, I learned the Palestinian sadness over their own displacement.
Having cleared my vision of the lens of racial and ethnic prejudice, I now see things in an entirely different light. Whereas before I only asked how the Jews could keep their homeland, I now find myself wondering how we can share the land of Israel/Palestine peacefully. There is still something within me that wants to have a Jewish homeland as a refuge, just in case.
As I come to see the need for a Jewish state as anachronistic, I also came across an article, entitled “Anti-Semitic Crime Surges, Worrying French Jews” by Suzanne Daley in The New York Times. Without explicating the article, I think I make my point. I find the same problem in reading accounts of Palestinian civilian life in the West Bank, which invoke my sympathies, and then reading the manifestos of the founders of Fatah, Hamas, and Hizballah, which invoke my hatred. I feel guilty condoning compromise between Israel and the Palestinians when I feel like it will jeopardize the safety of my brethren.
Being an optimist, I have recently come to the conclusion that Israel does not need to relinquish its claims to Palestine, but that it does need to open its doors. After being displaced, Israel has displaced. The arrogance that was once “Manifest Destiny,” but now shames every American in the face of the decimation of America’s native population, is the same arrogance fueling Israel.
The time has come for Israel to apologize. There are some Palestinians who want land concessions, and others who want concessions of blood; the only real concession, the only concession that will make a difference, will be an Israeli admittance of its mistake in displacing an innocent people. Only the recognition of that fact can lead to reconciliation.