Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Treating Palestinians with Dignity

Israeli residents of Chevron
One thing I have noticed about human nature is that truth cannot alter the minds of people with agendas. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to persuade certain right wing Religious Zionists I know - that there is another side to the Palestinian issue. These people are often very intelligent on other matters. They can see two sides of an issue. But when it comes to this one, please do not confuse them with the facts.

I mention this in light of an article posted on a Bnei Akiva website by Liora Goldberg, a young women who is obviously very committed to Religious Zionism. Therein she describes her experience upon taking a tour of Chevron. A Palestinian tour led by a Palestinian tour guide. It opened her eyes to a reality that few people think of when they think of Palestinians. As was the case with her. She now has a totally different perspective. Which combined with her previous view makes her current view far more balanced. Perhaps we should all consider doing this next time we are in Israel

There were a couple of things she noted that – in my view - ought to make the Israeli government reconsider any Jewish residential presence in Chevron at all:
The last time I had been (to Maras HaMachpela) was with Midreshet Harova on my gap year, nearly 2 years ago… (A)n outrageously right wing man who lived in Hebron... encouraged us to dance and sing at the top of the mountain, in front of the glaring Palestinians below. A group of us stood at the side; confused, angry and horrified at what we’d been encouraged to do. To torment them. To mock the fact that there was nothing they could do about the 550 Jewish people who have settled in Hebron…
And later – this:
(A) group of French Jews came up to the Palestinian shop and began shouting at the Palestinians, provoking them. What happened next changed everything for me and will stay with me for the rest of my life. One of the French Jews picked something up from the shop and threw it at our Palestinian hosts and tour guides. Within seconds, the table had been thrown, glass strewn everywhere and they were physically fighting a metre away from me. I ran to find my dad, completely shaken and humiliated that I had seen the Jewish people start it. I had seen it with my own eyes. I could never deny it… (I)n this scenario, to the people on our tour group, they were representing the Jewish people... The pain that I felt when I saw my own people antagonise the innocent Palestinian hosts, who 5 minutes before had been discussing the necessity for us to all treat each other as human beings, was indescribable.
Unfortunately I am not surprised by any of this. Nor at their defenders. It is a very sad commentary about the inability of otherwise very idealistic people to be open minded on issues they are passionate about. I know how important settling all the land of Israel is to them. I understand the Halachic narrative they use to it. But I don’t understand the way they do it. Which comes at a very high price: the humiliation of other human beings. Human beings that are created in the image of God. And worse attacking them violently only because they are Arabs. These people live under the misguided notion that all Arabs are our enemy (unless proven otherwise) and therefore deserve to be treated that way.

I’m not saying that I would change anything with respect to how the Israeli government handles its security needs. Unfortunately there are indeed Arabs that would kill us all in a New York minute if given the chance – even if they had to die in the process. There have been too many instances of that in the past to ignore the possibility of it happening again. And they hide in plain sight –acting normal and even friendly until they put on that ‘vest’.

At the same time, we have the responsibility as fellow human beings to recognize that these security measures place a great and unfair burden on the vast majority of these people. Who would never put on a vest filled with explosives in a suicide mission.

I personally have great sympathy for what Palestinians are going through. It is certainly understandable that they complain about it so bitterly – even as we know that it is people in their own midst that are responsible for it.

Instead of taunting them, we should understand what they are going through and leave them alone. Or better yet let them know we understand. Unfortunately as I said, some people just don’t want to be confused with the facts.

(Hat tip: Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechoffer)