Israel must focus its attention on the symbolic as well. It has never been ‘only’ a physical conflict. Moral recognition of 1,400 years of Islamic conquest and Arab persecution must be recognized as a counter weight to the tragedy of Palestinian dispossession. Some form of restitution to the refugees of Palestine must have equal weight with recognition that Arab regimes ethnically cleansed their Jewish population throughout the Arab world, and that for universal justice to be seen to be done equal rights of reparation must apply. As there is little chance that more than a handful of Jews would risk returning to live in the racist and undemocratic Arab world, this clearly precludes a refugee right of return.
On a similar note, it must be argued that equal application of refugee definitions are a pre-requisite for the promotion of historical reconciliation between the two peoples.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad’s plan to declare Palestinian statehood in 2011 should be encouraged, along with his recognition of the historic injustices that his people have carried out against the Jewish people. Similarly Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, can express some form of contrition for Israel’s suffering under Arab racist propaganda. A difference in our world view is that we Israelis can agree our differences (mostly) and still expect a minimum standard of behavior from our citizens towards our enemy, even an existential one. Propagandists for Palestine proclaim that they will respect us when we give them what they want. 1,400 years of interaction with the Arab world has taught us differently.
In 1986 I heard Dr Hanan Ashrawi declare that Palestinian racism and bigotry would disappear when Palestine came into being. The problem I have with this is that it is Arab culture that speaks this nonsense, not Jewish civilization. The government of Mahmoud Abbas named a Palestinian Square after Dalal Al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian ‘martyr’ who murdered 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children, in a 1978 terror incident. It isn’t just conflict that encourages dehumanization. The glorification of mass murderers and the idealization of child killers is an act of barbarism that denies Civilization because it repudiates survival of the species. It is a microcosm of the act of genocide. There is a reason that normative Judaism sees only shame and despair in the killing of children, even in time of war, such as during the First Gaza War.
I don’t expect Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims or Christians living under Muslim threat to empathize with my Jewish historical narrative. 1,400 years of beating up your neighbors does not make you tolerant of their wish for self-determination. But I am no longer asking the world for the right to self-determination. Nor is my self-determination open to negotiation. The State of Israel was a historically inevitable event that would have occurred even without the horrors of the Shoah. The State of Israel represents the Jewish Intifada against Arab aggression and the Jewish intifada against Islamic persecution.
It is why the narrative must be rewritten to reflect our reality and our demand for a priori recognition of the essential Jewishness of the State.
There is no rational response to self-denial. In order to create change we must have consensus. By denying Jewish history and dismissing Arab historical prejudice we cannot have the mutual recognition of our parallel traumas. We are two peoples refusing to recognize each others' suffering at the hands of the other, but therefore we are also two people shouting at each other while looking away in order to not recognize our mutual humanity.
Poverty, ignorance and war do not breed hero worship for child killers. A theological justification for genocide does. Islam is replete with atrocities committed in the name of its prophet and in the name of its god. Popular support is underpinned theologically, politically and ideologically. When death is raised on a pedestal to be glorified as a cultural ideal, when superiority is understood to be a birthright, and slavery an obligation to be imposed on ones enemy, then and only then do we worship child killers.
One man’s terrorist cannot be another man’s freedom fighter. Intolerance, racist propaganda, a Nazi-style press, ethnic cleansing, and an Islamic racial agenda: these must all be brought up as final agenda items for inclusion in all future discussion at any national and international fora.
And UDI? Yes, let us welcome Palestine and Gaza as the world’s newest independent nations. You persuade the other side to discuss what they have always rejected by placing on the table that which is most uncomfortable for them and then repeating the truths they have rejected in every possible forum. Let us negotiate on all of the issues and not just the ones our enemies want us to discuss.