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Hope for peace, co-existence in Middle East

other voices
Rabbi Alan Greenbaum

Yesterday, I read the article entitled “Free Palestine from Israeli rule.” I suppose that the concept of “free speech” allows for it to be published. But it is the concept of “human decency” that requires a response. There are so many lies and bigoted innuendoes in that article that I hardly know where to begin in response.

Israel is a legitimate country, voted into existence in 1947 by the United Nations. So was the Palestinian state — then called Transjordan. The lines that were drawn to establish these two countries were based on the demographics of the day — where the population was predominately Jewish and where it was predominately Muslim. In the partition of this land by the United Nations, which had previously been part of the Ottoman Empire and then the British Mandate, the Jewish people were restored to their ancient homeland, and the Palestinians were assured their homes as well. What happened was that the Israelis accepted this vote, and the Palestinians did not. War broke out, declared against the new Jewish state, and as a result, boundaries shifted, and many Arabs fled from their homes.

From day one, it has been the vision of the Jewish state for there to be peace with the Palestinians. It is reflected in word and in deed. The words are found in the Israeli Declaration of Statehood: “We appeal … to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

One example of the deed was when Israel unilaterally left Gaza, thereby returning it to its rightful owners, the Palestinians. The response from the Hamas-led Palestinians in Gaza was to begin what has been ongoing rocket attacks into civilian-populated areas in Israel.

There are crimes committed against Palestinians by West Bank settlers, but I assure you that settlers have been the victims of crimes by Palestinians  as well.

The author of the previous editorial spoke of Palestinians who have suffered at the hands of Israelis yet said nothing of those innocents in Israel who have been victimized by random rocket attacks and, before that, by suicide bomb attacks.

The author desires for there to be a Palestine that is “supervised” by Jordan. I disagree. There should be a wholly independent Palestine. They are capable of running their own country without supervision. The West Bank areas that are fully controlled by Palestinians, including armed Palestinian police (who were trained by Americans, by the way), have achieved an increasing ascendency of success on many levels. What they have achieved in cities like Ramallah and Jericho, they are capable of achieving on a statewide basis.

The author says that there should not exist a single Jewish state in our world today yet has no problem, apparently, with the more than 20 Muslim states. What is wrong with this picture?!

The author wrote that people throughout the world should return to their original homes, yet I’m guessing that she is not willing to move back to wherever her family lived before they migrated to the United States. The double standard here is clear.

Israel is not the problem. And most Palestinians are not the problem. At the heart of the problem is that the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people have been hijacked by the extremists in their midst. In addition, Iran has provided armaments to both Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon, thereby encouraging them to attack Israel.

Israel is a country where Muslims vote, where they have their own political parties represented in the Knesset, where one of the Supreme Court justices is a Muslim, where Muslim villages have control over their schools in terms of curriculum, where Muslims brush shoulders with Jews and Christians in the work place, in the market place, in restaurants — in every sector of life.

Israel is not a perfect society, any more than the U.S. is a perfect society. There are extremists who are part of Israeli society, but there are far more moderates in Israel to temper the harsher attitudes. There are crimes committed against Palestinians by West Bank settlers, but I assure you that settlers have been the victims of crimes by Palestinians as well.

My belief is that most of the West Bank settlements should be removed (as Israel has done before) and that land be returned to Palestinians. My hope is that one day — hopefully very soon — the Palestinian people will have their own state that it co-exists peacefully with its neighbor, Israel.

Rabbi Alan Greenbaum lives Grass Valley.


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