Moving Past the Blame Game

There’s nothing like a war and riots to polarize people and make them feel you have to choose sides. You either stand with Israel, or you support the Palestinians. If you’re on one side, you’re not supposed to see the perspective of the other side, or have sympathy for the other side.

None of that is going to get us out the mess we’re in. If I had more time I would structure the following comments a little better, but here are some reflections and what’s happening, and on what I believe is the appropriate way to look at things.

  1. Assigning blame – “well, the Palestinians did this to themselves,” or “it’s all the Jews’ fault” isn’t going to bring peace.
  2. The Palestinians have been screwed over by everyone: first and foremost, their own leadership, which missed the chance for peace in ’48, and again in 2000. They’ve also been screwed over by Israel, which treats them with gratuitous harshness, and they’ve been screwed over by the rest of the Arab world, especially Lebanon and Jordan which have refused to properly absorb the Palestinian refugees who ended up in their territory.
  3. You can be an Israeli who is very stressed by the rockets and riots, and still be sympathetic to the plight of the average Palestinian.
  4. You can be a Palestinian and be opposed to shooting rockets at Israel. Many are.
  5. Peace will not come from violence. Hamas will not terrorize Israel into meeting all their demands, and Israel will not be able to bomb Hamas into submission. Occupying Gaza might bring peace, but no one in Israel wants to pay the price.
  6. Peace comes from negotiations. Abbas insisting he won’t negotiate until there’s a settlement freeze is stupid. You don’t condition starting negotiations on having your demands met. You negotiate so that you can get what you need. Israel tried a settlement freeze when Obama was president, it led nowhere.
  7. You don’t refuse to negotiate with terrorists. If you want to end terrorism, the terrorists are who you have to negotiate with. Instead of negotiating with Hamas through intermediaries, we should simply negotiate directly and openly with Hamas. 
  8. Israel has a right to defend itself. For Hamas to launch over 1,000 rockets at Israel and then try and paint Israel as an aggressor and itself as a victim is clearly disingenuous, and it’s very frustrating that much of the world seems to buy that lie. If Hamas stops the rockets, Israel would stop pounding Hamas.
  9. Hamas needs to stop with the rockets.
  10. Israel needs to stop with stirring up the hornet’s nest. 
  11. The new riots, with Israeli Arabs attacking Jews, and right wing extremist Jews attaching Arabs, really needs to stop. It’s scarier in many ways than the rockets.
  12. Bringing peace is more important than being right or being justified.
  13. What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah is legal but unfair. It has great symbolic value to the Palestinians, and it’s in Israel’s best interests to make the problem go away, which it could do fairly easily in a number of different ways. The equity issue is there’s one law which allows at least some Jews to reclaim property in East Jerusalem (and also denies some Jews that right), but there is no law that allows any Palestinians to reclaim property in West Jerusalem. There’s a fundamental inequity.

It’s maddening how much this place just keeps going around in circles. I totally understand why Biden is reluctant to get involved in trying to be a peacemaker. Many before him have tried and failed, including Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. Peace will not come until BOTH the Palestinians and the Israelis have leadership that really wants it and is committed to it. Neither sides’ leadership seems very interested in peace right now, to the detriment of both peoples.

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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