The Epiphany: I sent a letter to a professor who is very pro Palestinian. I reflected on my views about Israel perhaps because I was asked by a friend to attend a Feb. 29 meeting about church/state separation at a mosque. I agreed and I thought about why I am so stuck in my views about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I thought about my feelings and why my blood runs cold when I think about that issue. I turn my back on most criticism of the Jewish state. I really had to do some soul searching because I am often at odds with the left part of the political spectrum a place where I reside but a place which is particularly harsh on the Jewish state. Again, I ask why. I came up with the following explanation why I have felt the way I have and wondering if I can make a change. I said the following:
I had an epiphany today. I am as I always say a left of center progressive. I am also Jewish. My entire political life and the forming of my belief system as left of center revolved around two major issues: (1) the Holocaust and the rise of Nazism (2) the antiwar years of the late 1960's. My beliefs have wavered a bit over the years but not that much. I want to consider myself a humanitarian and I want to support those things which ensure most especially Constitutional civil liberties. Sitting on the left side of the spectrum those things are, of course, compatible.
My first encounter with Nazism was as a child maybe age 10 or 11 when I saw a newsreel in the movies which were popular at the time shown before the main film. I saw footage for the first time of Jewish people from all walks of life, men, women and children being rounded up, shot or herded into the cattle cars and shipped off to the camps. The newsreel showed me a picture of the camps which was needless to say ghoulish and excruciatingly painful to watch. Then it showed the gas chambers with the Zyklon B and then it, of course, showed the mounds of bodies the Allies encountered when they liberated the camps. I became nauseated and threw up.
My uncle was in the US Army in Europe when he liberated a camp and had the photos to prove it. There is NO event in human history let alone in Jewish history which is parallel to the Holocaust in terms of its inhumanity and brutality. The six million is an unfathomable number. Recently I saw a film "Sarah's Key" based on a book the discussion of which I led at a temple group where even in France -- modern France at that time rounded up Jews in the Vel d' Hiv a little known part of French history because they do not WANT to remember it.
The Holocaust and its aftermath was the single most centrifugal event that solidified my later political beliefs. It has continued to be a surprise to me that the left leaning groups I agree with for the most part are extraordinarily anti-Israel with a huge bit of anti-Semitism mixed in for good measure. It is why I turn a cold shoulder to most all anti-Israel sentiment and why I never did wax supportive of the Palestinian cause. I simply could NOT betray the State of Israel formed by so many after the event that rocked the foundation of the Jewish world.
Why can I not come to the support of those Palestinians who feel so aggrieved and who as they say have been allegedly brutalized by Israelis? That answer is I cannot ADMIT that Israelis would perpetrate inhumane acts purposefully on innocent people. I did not WANT to believe it because for Jews to do that means that the lessons of the Holocaust are not learned and we MUST learn them so it never happens again. I have always held Israel to a higher standard because of this singular event which NO ONE in history has experienced on such a massive and historically continuing and stunning scale.
I have dear Jewish friends, the nicest people, whose daughter (Jewish) married a Palestinian man. He is a darling man but I would simply avoid discussion of the Palestinian situation which usually does not come up anyway. On Feb. 29 (yes it's a leap year) they asked me to attend a local mosque which I have been up until now adverse to do.
For the first time I have decided it is time to visit the mosque no matter what my strong feelings of support are about Israel. It is TIME for NO MORE violence. It is TIME for us to act in a humane fashion. If not now when? We must as Jews be the best human beings we can be even when it is most difficult to be so. The essence, as I see it, is even within Christian teaching -- Matthew 5 says ... "whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. And give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." One does not have to be Christian to believe in these thoughts. One needs to be empathetically human to understand them.
I still am a Jew and I still support the State of Israel BUT that does not mean I am impervious to suffering. No, to the contrary, BECAUSE of the Holocaust one must ameliorate suffering wherever it exists.
If I could write a book perhaps the title would be: "Enemies No More -- a Way for Jews and Palestinians to Unite!" How much would I love a cessation of hostilities between our two peoples to happen in the New Year? Answer: -- I would give anything. Acting in a more humane and understanding manner on both sides would save Jewish lives, it would save Palestinian lives and perhaps it would even save the world entire as it lurches closer and closer to an apocalypse.