Is goodwill enough?

In Israel-Palestine people are ignoring government and reaching out to each other.

By Howard Kaplan

In the desert of hope where Palestinians continue to be brutally oppressed by the Israeli government and have their land and property taken away from them, in the spirit of rapprochement, the well know writer and progressive Zionist Howard Kaplan looks for signs of mutual tolerance and acceptance in Israel-Palestine – and he sees hope. Many people of good will, on both sides, are reaching out to each other in a spirit of common humanity, sometimes with regret for past actions and emotions. As Howard Kaplan suggests, ‘Black Lives Matter may be a template for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ordinary people wrested the political conflict from the politicians and pushed and pulled it into a mass movement.’

Since the last Gaza War of May 2021, I see a sea change in how Palestinians are viewed, if not yet by politicians or Israel’s staunchest defenders, clearly by people at large, Jews and non-Jews alike. They are suddenly being viewed as people not pawns who have agency in the conflict. With great hope, this is particularly true of Jewish Israelis. This morning as I sat at the computer, I saw a Facebook post by an Israeli woman living in Amsterdam. Seven years ago she met a Palestinian Israeli in England. She wrote in this post that previously she had felt these “other” Israelis should feel grateful for living in such a progressive country. These two women have become fast friends and the Jewish one described her evolution in understanding that grew from their talk. She now feels how this woman’s family was displaced from Jerusalem in 1948 and landed in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Social media is filled with invitations for Zoom and physical meetings between Israelis and Palestinians for peace.

          Social media is filled with invitations for Zoom and physical meetings between Israelis and Palestinians for peace. One meeting on July 15, was hosted by Gen. Mohammad Shmaisani of Jordan and Abraham Shai of Israel. Another, The Parents’ Family Forum, brings together families of bereaved on both sides. Every summer 40 Israeli and Palestinian teens, ages 14-18, join in Israel for five days of trips and workshops of cultural growth and mutual understanding.

        The Jerusalem Post, recently published a piece about Shrinking the Conflict, an Israeli NGO that aims to break the large conflict into smaller pieces that are more easily solvable one at a time. STC has recently held over 100 parlor meetings between both sides across the length of Israel. Problems tackled include congestion at the Allenby Bridge Crossing and the broken Palestinian workers permit system. Women often are at the forefront of conflict resolution and zoom groups of Palestinian women and Israeli women finally talking have mushroomed since this last conflict which seemed more than others to finally have truly frightened both sides about the future. It may be a beginning of what the murder of George Floyd sparked. 

Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA – Black Lives Matter protest against St. Paul police brutality

          Black Lives Matter may be a template for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ordinary people wrested the political conflict from the politicans and pushed and pulled it into a mass movement. As an example of the lasting change, a friend of mine is an urban planner. His company just got a contract for a small city of 25,000 people adjacent to a metropolis. One of the issues in planning the new downtown and city overall is a new relationship between policing and the African American minority in this upscale city.  Change can happen and like in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the most hopeful and likely course is a ground swell from ordinary people.

       Black Lives Matter may be a template for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

For over forty years until his death, I was very close with Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. Arthur was the author of The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader. Penned in 1959, it remains the central text on understanding Zionism. He was also one of the founders of Peace Now, the longtime peace and reconciliation organization. Arthur told me that in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War (known among the Palestinians as the June War and as Jews we should understand the other side’s terminology and lack of desire to celebrate a loss managed in six days), he was taken to the Golan Heights to survey the conquest. In his euphoria, he took some battlefield souveniers left by the retreating Syrian Army. He told me he later regretted it, that he had been caught up in the moment and was celebrating conquest and not looking towards peace.

          Maybe a lot of Jews and Israelis have been caught up in a long now more than 50-year moment. Arthur Hertzberg was able to examine himself. It is something a lot of us might do.  I’ve always felt the ability to change is a sign of greatness.

Howard Kaplan, author, spy, progressive Zionist, educator

HOWARD KAPLAN, a native of Los Angeles, has lived in Israel and traveled extensively through Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. He the author of three novels of Israel-Palestinian reconciliation: Bullets of Palestine, To Destroy Jerusalem and The Spy’s Gamble.

At the age of 21, Howard was sent on a mission into the Soviet Union to smuggle a dissident’s manuscript on microfilm to London. His first trip was a success. On his second trip, he transferred a manuscript to the Dutch Ambassador inside his Moscow embassy. A week later, he was arrested in Khartiv in the Ukraine and interrogated for two days there and then two days in Moscow, before being expelled from the USSR. The KGB had picked him up for meeting dissidents and did not know about the manuscript transfers. He holds a BA in Middle East History from UC Berkeley and an MA in Philosophy of Education from UCLA. He is the author of five novels.

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