Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On the 29th November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted a plan to divide British mandate Palestine between its two main groups of inhabitants at the time – Arabs and Jews. Although both groups felt that the details of the plan were unjust, each group reacted very differently. The Jews reacted by celebrating, believing that less than what they thought they deserved was better than nothing at all; the Arabs reacted by attacking the Jews, refusing to even consider compromise.

A terrible, bloody war ensued. Its result was that the Jews got their state. They also got part of the land that the UN had destined for the Arab inhabitants, many of whom had fled, if not involved in the fighting. The rest of the part of the country destined for the Arabs was conquered by their brethren, neighboring Arab states that had marched in ostensibly to get rid of the Jews for them, and had stayed on - Jordan in the east; Egypt in the south west. The Arab inhabitants of British mandate Palestine were left with nothing at all.

We tend to get angry at the repetitive Palestinian victim narrative, but we shouldn’t really. It’s just sad. They’re stuck in this self-destructive blame game. It leads them nowhere. No, it does lead them somewhere. It leads them spiraling further and further downwards.

The reason Zionism survived 1921 and 1929 and 1936 and 1939 and 1948 and 1967 and 1973 and 1987 and 2000 etc etc etc, was that Zionism was about the future, about building, about creativity, about putting the past behind us, about doing something new and better while making the best of some very bad situations, about forgiving, about moving on, about not looking back in anger.

Because anger paralyzes you. Then it kills you.

With all the cynicism of this day and age, I believe Zionism is still going strong, un-cool as this may sound, and what’s more, it’s still about all those things. It’s not about the Babylonians, and it’s not about the Greeks, and it’s not about the Romans, and it’s not about the Spanish Inquisition, or Martin Luther or the Cossacks or the Nazis or the fedayeen or terrorism (this list goes on and on). It’s about us and doing our best for today and for tomorrow.

Yes, you’re right. We do tend to wallow in the Holocaust, among other things. But we mustn’t forget that back in the nineteen fifties, just a few years after the fact, our leaders bravely decided that now there was a new Germany, and they publicly created a new dialogue and a new relationship with this Germany and quite a warm one at that. There was a great deal of angry public debate on the Israeli street about this issue at the time, but they did not back down, those tough leaders who made this country a reality, and now we take it for granted.
I’m so grateful we didn’t get stuck in the Holocaust. I’m so grateful we took the horror and devastation and built ourselves a brave new world out of the ruins. And there were quite a few other things we didn’t get stuck in, as well.

The minute the Palestinians, as a people, can put their anger and their indignation and their victimization behind them, and start building, the sky’s the limit. They’re every bit as capable as we were, are. And they’re lucky enough to have the whole world rooting for them. That’s a damn sight more than we ever had.

And do you know what? I bet you any money, the minute it happens, when it really happens, even with all our past disappointment in them, even with all our pain and all our dead, seventy percent of Israelis, if not more, if not far more, will be there at the sidelines, cheering them on, ready to lend a helping hand if asked, and if I know my fellow countrymen and women, if not asked, as well. (Maybe that’s part of the problem. We tend to rub their noses in it, even when we really don’t mean to.)

We’re not perfect, far from it, but at least we’re trying.