Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Requires Common Ground
Earlier this month, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted a thank you to British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn after the two spoke on the phone. Elad Nehorai, an Orthodox Jewish writer, responded, “I’m a huge fan of yours. I hope you’ll take a look at the amount of Jews trying to call attention to Corbyn’s long, documented history of anti-Semitism. The left’s blind spot in this regard can still be fixed. But we need leaders like yourself to listen.” Ocasio-Cortez replied, “Hi @PopChassid - thank you for bringing this to me. We cannot + will not move forward without deep fellowship and leadership with the Jewish community.” This kind of dialogue, in which two leaders with differing opinions recognized their differences in a respectful manner and listened in a productive way, is sadly uncommon in today’s political climate. Moreover, it is especially uncommon when discussing a topic as complex, layered, and contentious as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rife with assumptions and name-calling when it comes to discussion between both sides. Pro-Israel supporters tend to reject criticism of Israel’s actions and quickly resort to labeling critics as anti-Semites before seeking to understand their often legitimate criticisms. Those in the anti-Israel camp often characterize Israel as an apartheid state actively seeking to harm Palestinians without recognizing the historic discrimination and threats of terrorism Jews and Israelis have faced.
A peaceful solution between Israel and Palestine is dependent on concessions, compromise, and discourse on both sides. Critics of Israel need to recognize that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, acknowledge that the Jewish people have faced a long history of discrimination and targeting (particularly in the Middle East), and understand that Israel provides an essential safe haven for Jews to live and practice in safety and security. These facts cannot be separated from any solution. Further, it is important to understand that Israel is the most stable democracy in the Middle East — and a hub for the LGBTQ+ community — and many Israelis don’t agree with the treatment of Palestinians, including leading presidential candidates. And, critics of Israel must always be extremely cautious to never let their legitimate criticism slip into tropes of antisemitism.
On the reverse side, supporters of Israel must grapple with the fact that Israel does militarily occupy the West Bank and that the treatment of Palestinians by the Israel Army has often included questionable moral practices that could constitute human rights violations. Pro-Israel advocates must also recognize that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are blatant power grabs that make peace more difficult to achieve. Israel supporters should understand that supporting Israel doesn’t mean that you agree with every policy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: it is possible to support Israel while criticizing Netanyahu, elevating his political opponents and the progressives in Israel who call for reform, and admonishing the actions of the state.
Finally, both sides must understand that Israelis and Palestinians face extreme hardship every day, even though it might be in different forms: the Israeli fear of your home being destroyed by rockets from Gaza is just as real and just as important as the Palestinian fear of being shot by an Israeli soldier at a demonstration. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict creates a widespread climate of danger and fear, and all involved would be better off if a peaceful solution was reached. But that will never happen unless we can find common ground, recognize each other’s valid points, and work towards creating a better dialogue.