An Israeli’s thoughts on Palestinian unity.

And thus my regular column at The Daily Beast/Zion Square begins! I’ll be running a post every other Friday, starting today (in addition to the occasional one-off piece, such as the one that ran on launch day).

You’ll find the top of today’s entry below — I suspect it will win me few friends, but there it is. One doesn’t get into the poorly-paying having-opinions-about-Israel/Palestine biz in order to win friends.

To read the whole thing, I encourage you to click here — and just like I did last week, I really mean it: Please click! (And of course: FB, Tweet, Stumble, Pin, Digg, etc, and so on. Tell your friends! Is what I’m saying). I would surely take it as a kindness.

You Don’t Make Peace With Your Friends

I was at the grocery store on Arlozorov Street one bright spring morning in 1997. Tel Aviv was gearing up for Purim, so I likely had hamentaschen in the cart, certainly challah and probably milk. I was, no doubt, staring into the middle distance when I began to notice a certain agitation animating the store’s elderly security guard. He crossed the store and began to speak in urgent tones with his manager, radio in hand.

In Israel, these are signs that “mashehu kara,” something’s happened – and by “something” folks mean: an attack, rockets, Israeli death at Arab hands.

The security guard, it transpired, had heard news of another suicide bombing – but this one was literally around the corner from my apartment. On that spring day, three young mothers, out for coffee, were killed at the now-infamous Apropos Restaurant.

I was then a correspondents’ assistant with the Los Angeles Times, so I rushed home, got my reporter’s notebook, and ran the space of three apartment buildings to the scene. Later that night, having walked past the blood and talked to witnesses and called family to say that yes, it was very near our house but no, we were fine, I sank to the floor in my hallway, suddenly weeping.

Of all the acts of terrorism that ripped through Israel in the 14 years I lived there, this one retains a particular power over me, its proximity to my home a reminder that Hamas was gunning for me and mine, as well. If the three mothers had been three mothers + a young married couple? So much the better. Three people, or twenty; young, or old – as long as they were dead.

I take Hamas very seriously, and I take their hatred of me very personally. I do not like them, I do not support them, I do not apologize for them.

But with whom else am I to make peace?

And of course, while you’re at Zion Square, take a look around! There’s a lot of good stuff being produced, and it’s just about the only place you’ll find that range and depth of opinion. That Peter Beinart, man. He’s a saint to have taken this on, and to be standing tall under all the garbage being dumped on him (seriously, read Andrew Sullivan’s “The Assault on Peter Beinart.” It’ll make your hair stand on end). Show the blog some love. He/it deserves it.



  1. samioj

     /  March 23, 2012

    I think this is very revealing. It’s titled “An Israeli’s Thoughts on Palestinian Unity,” but the entire article is about the interests of Israel. As usual with articles from a liberal Zionist perspective, Palestinian lives, needs, desires, concerns come second, if they come at all.

    I’m truly sorry that you suffered the trauma you described in your article, but not once in the article do you mention the effects, the traumas that Palestinians have experienced as a result of the disunity that Israel and America have supported and cultivated among Palestinians in these past few years. Not once do you mention the de-development of Gaza, the destruction of links between Palestinians, the deaths and injuries. Not once.

    It’s all about what’s good for Israel, what’s good for its children, its economy, its world standing. These are the same arguments that have been made by liberal Zionists for decades. Think of Israel’s future, think of its children, think of its reputation, they say. Palestinians are an afterthought.

    And I submit that as long as Palestinians, the victims who suffer the most in this conflict, remain an afterthought in your arguments, you arguments will continue to be nothing but sermons to the choir.

    Hopefully, when you come to this realization, you will use the platform that you’ve been blessed with to draw attention to the systematic (and not isolated or individual) crimes that Palestinians are subjected to by your government. Hopefully, you’ll stop pushing the meme that the settlements and those who live in them are *the* problem, as if the settlements exist without the explicit approval and material funding of Israeli institutions of government, regardless of party. And hopefully, the day when that happens comes sooner rather than later.

    • I encourage you to read through my other posts on the topic of Israel/Palestine

      You could start here
      or here

      If I am accused of anything by my fellow Israelis and Jews, it’s of taking the Palestinian “side” of things. Believe me when I say: I have no choir. Indeed, this sentence alone “I understand that the dehumanizing oppression inherent to Israel’s occupation plays a decisive role in the choice many make to take up arms…” is likely to get some folks coming after me, if the very notion of considering members of Hamas to be rational human beings wasn’t enough.

      As an Israeli and a Jew, though, I do feel that it’s all right to occasionally address our needs directly.

      • samioj

         /  March 23, 2012

        The entire premise of Zion Square is “a conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the *Jewish* Future.” Palestine only matters insofar as it relates to the “Jewish future.” The future of the Palestinian people isn’t explicitly a part of the conversation. If it is brought into the conversation, it is only because the token Palestinian voice Youssef Munayyer insists on bringing it up.

        No, I never suggested nor do I believe that you should never address the needs of Israelis and Jews, but nothing about the article necessitated that you address only those to the exclusion of Palestinians’.

        Let me put it to you this way: for the sake of argument, let’s say that Palestinian unity is actually a detriment to Israeli interests. Let’s say that Israel’s strategic position will suffer if Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are re-united under one occupation system again. Is the goal of Palestinian unity still worth it, from a Zionist perspective? Is it still the moral thing to do?

        The reason I ask this, is because in your article you say we Palestinians have stubbornly refused to be anything other than human, and yet you completely exclude any consideration of what’s good for our humanity from your article’s arguments.

        If what matters most is Israel’s interests, then the argument (among Zionists, that is) will always be about what’s the best way to preserve Jewish privilege, what’s the best way to keep all threats to Jewish and Israeli hegemony safe, and what’s the best way to limit Palestinian agency. This, more than anything, is why disunity among Palestinians has such widespread support in Israel’s halls of power. And thus it will remain, until we all consciously choose to alter the premises of the conversation.

        • I appreciate that you’re engaging with me, but the simple truth is that one cannot take on all issues in a single 750 word piece. I have written about the Palestinians’ rights and humanity over and over and over, for years and years (and even, at the very least, referenced them here). You can continue to insist that I fit all thoughts possible on a topic into 750 words, but I’m afraid it will continue to be impossible.

          And yes. Zion Square is a conversation (mostly) among Jews. It’s a conversation we should have started having 40 years ago, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to Peter Beinart for opening it now. As an American-Israeli-Jew, I have a right to be concerned for my people’s future. I very clearly do not believe that future should come at the expense of the Palestinians’ future, and I know that Peter Beinart doesn’t either.

          And it should be noted: I’m a Zionist. My argument is not now, nor has it ever been about “the best way to keep all threats to Jewish and Israeli hegemony safe and what’s the best way to limit Palestinian agency.” Indeed, today’s post is an effort by me to welcome that agency.

          I’m going to disengage here, because I have an enormous amount of work that I’m supposed to be doing, but I do quite genuinely appreciate your discussing these things with me.

          • samioj

             /  March 23, 2012

            And I quite genuinely appreciate that you would take the time to respond to my criticism, here and on Twitter.

            Yet I’m not asking you to write a dissertation about the benefits Palestinians would receive from reconciliation of Gaza and the West Bank. A few words acknowledging that Palestinians, not Israelis, are the ones who suffer most from the division isn’t too much to ask. The truth remains that the conversation about what is good for Israel has been a mainstream one for a long time in America, especially as it relates to welfare of Jewish Israelis. Beinart has started a high-profile venture to discuss the conflict, and the Palestinian voice is once again sidelined.

            Maybe one day, Palestinians will have an *equal* place at this table to discuss Palestine and Israel, but it’s clear that Zion Square isn’t going to offer it. I don’t envy the burden on Youssef Munayyer’s shoulders.

            • nm

               /  March 23, 2012

              I’m not Emily, and not claiming to speak for her. But I think that “the conversation about what is good for Israel” has become so mainstream in the US that a discussion of what’s good for Palestine couldn’t be heard right now. Mainstream support for Palestinian interests can only come (IMO, which is no better informed or wiser than other people’s Os) once the mainstream gets convinced that listening to Palestinians is also good for Israel, or at least that listening only to Israelis is bad for Israel.

    • PS I agree with you on the settlements. I think if you read what I’ve written about them closely, that comes through, but either way: Yes. I agree.