Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Common decency

If you mistreat people for decades don't be surprised if they start to hate you. The Jews of Europe didn't mistreat anyone. All they wanted was to be left alone and not to believe in Jesus. For the Catholics, this was too much to ask and much misery followed.

Its different in Israel. More complicated. In Israel the Jews have treated the Palestinians badly. This is unarguably true. So don't act shocked when the chickens come home to roost.

Now the preceding sentences aren't meant to excuse violence and murder. I don't excuse violence and murder. I roundly oppose violence and murder. I fully support all legitimate efforts to stop violence and murder, including the current offensive against Gaza.

But, I have a big brain and its able to contain lots of ideas simultaneously. For instance, I'm able to remain fully cognizant of the crimes Palestinians have committed and continue to commit while, simultaneously, speaking about what Israelis have done wrong. I'm also able to fully and completely support Israel's efforts to defend itself while, simultaneously, refusing to absolve Israel for the things it has done wrong, often in my name.

I don't mean to patronize those of you who are unable to work your brains this way. Maybe its like tongue rolling, something I find easy that most others just can't seem to manage.

Though I roundly condemn Palestinian acts of violence and murder I won't let them absolve Israel for treating Palestinians badly. Nor will I use the acts of violence and murder committed by some as an excuse to de-legitimize the complaints of others who have not committed acts of murder and violence. See, you don't get to bulldoze the rose garden and put your boots on the dining-room table and then act surprised when the home owner is upset. If he responds by attempting to murder your whole family that's inexcusably wrong, of course, but not every Arab has resorted to violence. Its not weakness, or self-hatred to grant those Arabs their pain. Let them mourn for what they lost. Don't faint with surprise at the news that they're upset. Don't de-legitimize their grievances by saying only a Jew hater would be mad at what Israel has done.

Am I creating a moral equivalence? Be careful. By accusing me of "moral equivalence" you are saying that I believe that what the Arabs do (violence murder etc) and what the Israelis do (land grabs, de facto discrimination, two sets of laws, check points, administrative detention, etc.) are equally reprehensible.

But pay attention: I do not say this. I reject this. They are not equally reprehensible. I have have endeavored to make it clear that I do not believe this. I only ask that you recognize and not dispute the Arab's sorrow at the historical injustice he has suffered.

Note: The phrase "bulldoze the rose garden and put your boots on the dining-room table" has been lodged in my head since 2001. It comes from something the Russian writer Israel Shamir published about the legitimacy of Arab nostalgia.

Search for more information about common decency at4torah.com


liz said...

I like the note. The fact that you added it. Also agree with your main point.

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