In the past week the world went to hell in a hand-basket. Hundreds of innocents were senselessly killed when a plane was shot down over Ukraine. Bombs and rockets flew across the skies of Gaza and Israel. Images of bloodied children and horrified parents spread like wildfire across the news and social media and tore at anyone with a conscience.
War in the air and on the ground unleashed violence online, where people spat epitaphs of hatred hiding behind Twitter and Facebook feeds and hashtags. Hamas and Israel’s publicity engines and their supporters pumped carefully crafted, videos, slogans, hashtags and photo-shopped propaganda that fueled a spiral of dehumanizing, hateful language from people on both sides, making it harder for those seeking objectivity to find it. On Al Jazeera and western-news Facebook pages for example, I saw people on both sides call for the burning of the other’s babies and children, and much, much worse.
After days of reading irrational animal-like rhetoric, seeing voices of moderates crushed by waves of extremes, and shocked at carnage from the violence, I lost my faith, temporarily, in human nature. I cried for those I knew on both sides of the conflict who are scared and suffering. I worried about the circle of violence that is generating more hatred. “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”, Gandhi supposedly said.
Who are you ‘for’? people asked, as if picking a side to support in a soccer match.
I looked for and found people in Israel and Palestine who are reaching out to each other in solidarity. I am for raising the bullhorn to them, and to the majority of citizens on both sides who want peace and a Palestinian + Israeli state, according to a Gallup Poll conducted late 2012:
- Non-Jewish (mostly Arabic speaking) Israelis expressed the highest level of support for the peace process, at 89%, followed by 72% support among Palestinians living in the West Bank, 70% among Jewish Israelis, and 62% among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
- Seven in 10 Palestinians living in the West Bank broadly supported the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside an independent state of Israel – the ‘right to exist’ in a two-state solution. An even larger percentage of non-Jews living in Israel (85%) were in favor of this solution. In Gaza, support was at 48%.
- Both sides favored nonviolent solutions and negotiation, highest at 82% among non-Jewish Israelis. Palestinians in Gaza favoring non-violent solutions were in the majority, at 58%
|Photo courtesy Turning a New Page for Peace|
Let the people then, demand their leaders recognize what both sides have in common and want – the right to raise, feed and educate their children in peace, to buy vegetables from their neighbor without being blown up, or being shot at by a sniper. The right to exist.
Although I hesitate to write this lest people think I am making a direct comparison, today is the 72nd anniversary of the beginning of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, when around three hundred thousand men, women and children were killed and herded onto trains; my mother’s grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, friends, carted off to Treblinka and gassed, like cockroaches. Their right to exist was taken away from them. In addition to those gassed, more than eighty thousand starved to death inside the ghetto walls, and lost their minds.
The situation in the middle east is not black or white and it’s hard to put ourselves in the shoes of both sides and see the world from their perspective. But, given what happened to my family and thousands of others inside Ghetto walls, I support their ‘right to exist’, but cannot look at the barbed-wire walls of concrete that weave between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank without cringing and hoping for a better way. The attacks on Israel have declined since it’s erection, but I would argue, diplomacy has failed and hatred and extremism fueled. Call me naive, call me stupid, but call me hopeful too; the way forward is for citizens on both sides to demand of their leaders a ceasefire, call for moderate leadership at a peace table (no extremists on either side), and then the hard part - concrete compromises that will allow both states to exist, and the right of both peoples to a safe, peaceful life.