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Yearning for Peace

Yearning for Peace

Please stop lecturing Israel about the need to pursue peace.


Not a day passes that I don't encounter another Israel-directed lecture on the imperative of peace.

Sometimes it comes from diplomats. Or from editorial writers. Or from columnists. Or from scholars. Or from human-rights groups.

Frankly, it makes my blood boil.

First, it assumes that Israel wants peace for itself less than others do.

Second, it displays an arrogance that what may not be immediately apparent to Israel is abundantly obvious to those on the outside sitting in their ministries, offices, ivory towers, or vacation spots.

And third, it reveals a lack of humility insofar as Israel, and Israel alone, will bear the consequences -- and they could be calamitous -- of any misguided actions.

I know of no people on earth that has prayed for peace longer than the Jewish people.

Strikingly, many of these commentators have never been to Israel, or have visited infrequently, or visit, but only in the company of those who share the same ideological predisposition. For instance, an individual appointed to head up a U.S.-based Arab-Israeli peace group had never set foot in Israel before assuming the position.

I know of no people on earth that has prayed for peace longer than the Jewish people. Turning "swords into plowshares" and "spears into pruning hooks," and visualizing a day when the lion and lamb would lie down - and wake up - together weren't conceived as slogans on Madison Avenue; they're the Jewish people's age-old contribution to civilization.

I know of no nation on earth that yearns for peace more than Israel, no nation, victorious in unsought wars, that has been more generous in yielding to its vanquished foes' terms in pursuit of peace, and no nation that has taken more demonstrated -- and tangible -- risks for the sake of peace than Israel.

To think otherwise is to assume that Israel would prefer a state of permanent conflict, and that, quite frankly, would be preposterous.

Of course, there are debates within Israel about the best way to arrive at peace. How could it be otherwise? There is no surefire plan for getting from here to there in the topsy-turvy Middle East. Six decades of Israel's existence have amply demonstrated the challenges.

But can any well-intentioned person truly believe that the Jewish people, resettled in the land of their ancestors after centuries of violence, persecution, and stigmatization, would seek anything other than a long-denied tranquility and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors?

Or that survivors of the Holocaust who were able to reach the shores of Israel, despite innumerable obstacles, would welcome decade after decade of ever-present conflict and danger?

Or that Israel's residents, whether settled in the country for generations or newcomers fleeing the intolerance of the Arab world or the oppression of Communist regimes, would seek a state of endless war?

Or that Israeli parents would wish to see their children, and then their grandchildren, and then their great-grandchildren go off to war, perhaps never to return?

Or that Israelis would welcome the daily barrage of rocket and mortar attacks raining down on Sderot and creating havoc in the daily lives of those trying to do nothing other than ride the roller coaster of everyday life? Or derive joy from the fact that all the children of this working-class town suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder?

Or that Israelis in the north would eagerly anticipate another barrage of Hezbollah-fired missiles from Lebanon targeted at anyone and everyone?

Or that Israelis would luxuriate in the knowledge that there is risk of a terrorist attack even in the simple act of riding a public bus, dancing in a discotheque, eating in a pizzeria, or attending a university?

Or that Israelis would relish the honor of being among the world's most highly taxed people because of the sustained burden of defense spending to ensure a qualitative edge over the forces of its adversaries?

Or that Israelis would derive pride from being shunted off to the far corners of international airports, where they're surrounded by heavily armed guards, for the simple pleasure of boarding planes destined for Tel Aviv?

Or that Israelis would take their cue from Hamas and Hezbollah leaders who propagate a culture of death and mayhem, when, in reality, Israel and the Jewish people have made an art form of celebrating life and seeking its enhancement?

Pundits have made a cottage industry out of ignoring, denying, minimizing, rationalizing, contextualizing, or trivializing the obstacles Israel has faced.

No, the Israel I know desperately seeks peace. Israel's Declaration of Independence expressed it. The Israeli concessions for the Egyptian and Jordanian peace accords showed it. The withdrawals from Gaza and Southern Lebanon proved it. The efforts by successive Israeli governments to reach a viable two-state settlement with the Palestinians continue to underscore it. The polls consistently demonstrate it.

But those armchair commentators too often fail to grasp Israel's objective challenges in finding trustworthy partners. Instead, they've made a cottage industry out of ignoring, denying, minimizing, rationalizing, contextualizing, or trivializing the obstacles Israel has faced.

It's almost as if Hezbollah's blood-curdling cries to destroy Israel and the Jews, Hamas's aim of replacing all of Israel with an Islamic state, Iran's objective of a world without Israel, Syria's hospitality to all the leading terrorist groups in the region, and the teaching of incitement and contempt in Palestinian textbooks don't count for anything. Instead, they're simply seen as pesky, off-subject debating points by pro-Israel supporters.

We live in a half-cocked world.

For many, it's business as usual with Iran, while its leaders unabashedly call for an incitement to genocide.

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, controlled by a reflexively anti-Israel numerical majority, routinely rewrites history by labeling Israel as an aggressor state, while blithely ignoring the threats and attacks it endures for no reason other than its very existence.

The media can't bring itself to call the Hamas and Hezbollah murderers of innocent civilians "terrorists," but instead more gently refers to them as "militants."

The conflict between Israel and Hamas is too often referred to antiseptically as a "cycle of violence," when it's anything but. After all, isn't there a clear moral difference between those who aim to murder and those whose objective it is to stop the murderers?

And the BBC took the rare step of apologizing after one of its reporters, reflecting the same mindset, lumped together in one sentence assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who sought to rebuild his country, and Imad Mugniyeh, the Hezbollah terrorist mastermind recently killed in Damascus.

Peace has been at the heart of the Jewish journey for more than 3000 years. It has been at the heart of Israel's journey for six decades. We may need lessons in many things, but the imperative of seeking peace isn't one of them.

March 1, 2008

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 25

(25) Reg Saretsky, March 10, 2008 12:00 PM

Ohh, Andy...

Israel took in more Jews evicted from Arab lands than Arab lands lands took in Palestinians fleeing their'naqba'.

Are you stirring the hornets nest here?

(24) Annie, March 4, 2008 7:31 PM

Excellent, intelligent, informed, accurate passionate article

My summary says it all! I agree 100% with the author. Dayehnu!!

(23) Rabbi Philip J Bentley, March 4, 2008 3:26 PM

Pursuit of Peace is a Mitzvah

The pursuit of peace is a Mitzvah and one that is in a category all by itself. There is a Masekhet Shalom to celebrate this highest Jewish social value. There have been many important Rabbis such as the Breslover, Shmuel Aharon Tamaret, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.
What we see today is a denial of this Mitzvah for the sake of the State of Israel. Yeshayahu Liebowitz called nationalism a form of Avodah Zarah (idolatry). In the sense that idolatry is an overturning of values this is a justified criticism.
Making peace with the Palestinians and with Israel's Arab neighbors is essential for Israel's long-term future. One truly lost war could be the end of Israel. The Israeli peace movement and those of us who support it in the Diaspora want to prevent the next war. This cannot be achieved by force of arms or by the threat of force of arms. The ONLY true way to peace is to sit down with your enemies - as Abraham sat down with Abimelech - and work through all of the issues and grievances.
The idea that peace activists are somehow dangerous to Israel's survival can be answered with the fact that, for all of Israel's military might, and her willingness to use it, peace has not been achieved because of it anywhere. The peace with Egypt came because Egypt no longer wanted to pay for war in material or blood. The peace with Jordan came because Jordan's kings had met with Israeli leaders from the beginning.
Peace-making is not sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya or even Shir Lashalom. It is difficult work and requires wisdom, patience, courage, and vision. The use of weapons requires the moral maturity of a child who does not understand that all human beings, even enmies, are made in the Divine Image.
David Harris has given us a celebration of war and endless mayhem. He sounds so reasonable but that is what makes his arguments so awful.

(22) Andy, March 4, 2008 2:40 PM

time to give up on Israel as a Jewish State for peace

The Arab world will no longer seek to destroy Israel when there is a one State solution in Israel/Palestine. That state would have an Arab majority and repeal the right of return for Jews. Palestinians and their children and grandchildren who left or were expelled can return.If Israel does not agree to those condtions for peace I suggest she not delude hereself that her enemies will accept less. It seems to me that Israel is showing much weakness and that gives encouragement to those seeking her demise as a Jewish State

(21) Jennifer Gersch (Comment #5), March 4, 2008 2:29 PM

Re: Anonymous (#8)

First, Israel doesn't just have a right to defend her citizens. She has an obligation. Much like the US government is obligated to defend you.

As for a "balanced" portayal in the media, perhaps the media should also ask why there are Arab millionaires living just miles away from refugee camps where children live in poverty.

Golda Meir said it best:

"There will be peace
when the Arabs love their children, more than they hate the Jews."

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