Russell O. Siler, Retired
If peace and justice are ever to be a reality in Israel-Palestine, some people must be excluded from the debate and the decisions of resolution.
I’m not exactly certain where my thoughts and theories began to take the turn reflected in this message, but I know precisely when they crystalized into the premise above. When I first moved to Jerusalem, the English language version of the Israeli publication Haaretz became my local daily newspaper. I adopted the practice–which quickly became a near-addiction–of going to the on-line edition and reading the electronic posts in response to each of the front page articles. When we returned to this country to live, the habit continued. On occasion I would share this practice with others. Very often the response would be something like “Are you crazy?” Those among you who have read many of these reactions and responses know what I mean. One can find in these posts opinions, passion, ignorance, intolerance, religion, tradition, history, fantasy, fear, and enmity. One can rarely find an offering of compromise, listening, compassion or anything else on which a genuine conversation can be grounded. But the persistent reader will also find that so, so many of the same people write over and over and over…
So it is that I have finally realized that the road to justice and security for the two peoples of the land will not be found on the maps of those who want only to convince others of the rightness or even righteousness of their positions. Partisans whose credo is “My way is the only way!” must be firmly directed to the sidelines. Their places will be taken by those who may share their views, but who are committed to seeking resolution on paths that are lined with mutual respect and integrity.
Such a movement will, of necessity, exclude from the conversation those whose aim is the death or the elimination of either people from the land. They will be ushered to spectator seats along with those who claim that religious beliefs, military might, or tradition endows them with greater rights to the land than the opposite side can claim. They will be joined by those who claim their right of possession is older than all other claims…or goes deeper…or is backed more strongly by recent events. Individuals such as these will be accompanied by all those who teach hatred and practice disdain. And with them to provide their own peculiar brand of sectarian ideology will be those who want religious tenets to be the law of the entire land…but only their religious tenets.
Extremism will always result in the oppression of others, the sacrifice of the moral power of religious traditions, and, ultimately, suffering and death. It is my strong belief that inhabitants of Israel-Palestine are ready to turn a deaf ear to those who would justify the use of violence and brute force to resolve grievances and who would seek to build nations on the graves of those who are different.
It has become increasingly apparent to me that there will be no peace and, surely, neither justice nor security, if we continue to strain our arguments through the rationalizations either of who has committed the most grievous wrongs or who has suffered the most. If the conflict presses on toward the goal of a single victor, it is inevitable that when that victory is proclaimed, the world will find only that we have all lost. That is not to argue that wrongs and injustices need not be addressed at some point, but too much has transpired to begin there.
That small area, the size of the U.S. state of New Jersey, is the home of two peoples and three faiths. The questions are not who stays and who leaves, who dies and who lives. The only question of real validity is how they will learn to live together…how they will learn to share the land.
Russell O. Siler, Retired