There is a column that I have wanted to write ever since I made the decision to write for the Daily. A column on a topic that I thought I would write reams about but only wrote on once: Israel and Palestine. Seeing that this will be my final column for this newspaper, what better way to go out than with a little controversy?
I’ve heard constant bickering between pro-Israel activists and their pro-Palestinian counterparts on campus since I got here four years ago. From the shouting matches on the Diag to the back-and-forth name-calling on these pages, it just never stops. When all is said and done, however, the end of the conflict will come as all good compromises do: with sacrifice.
The two camps on campus are so repellent in their ideology that this compromise seems like a pipedream. The pro-Israel side, while at times begrudgingly admitting that the country has made mistakes, prefers to glorify its good qualities while overlooking its problems. Granted Israel affords more rights to its minorities than any of its neighbors, but that doesn’t alleviate Israel of its responsibility to eliminate the discrimination of those minorities, the Israeli Arabs in particular. Unfortunately, the pro-Israel camp has few if any solutions regarding disparities in education, civil service and socioeconomic status.
In addition to dismissing Israel’s discrimination against its own citizens, the pro-Israel camp also ignores the reality of the occupation. The occupation, meaning the presence of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the Palestinian territories, is consistently overlooked. Few people on the pro-Israel side will admit the horrors of such an occupation, one in which many innocent Palestinians have been imprisoned and killed. They will vigorously defend the separation barrier that Israel has constructed, but they will dismiss the concerns of the local Palestinians who are cut off from their own land as a result of its construction. And the military checkpoints are an injustice in and of themselves.
The anti-Israel side has critical faults too. Many within this camp deny that the Jewish people are a cohesive people like the Palestinians. They assert that Jews are merely a religious group and therefore do not deserve a nation-state. They say this while simultaneously condoning nation-states for almost everyone else.
There are even many anti-Israel activists who want to see Palestine return to the way it was before 1850. The “European Jews” would return to the shtetls of Eastern Europe, and the “Oriental Jews” would return to the ghettos of the Middle East. The only Jews permitted to remain would be those who know their place as second-class citizens.
It is a distortion of reality to say the Middle East was a utopia for the Jews before the coming of Zionism. Prior to the establishment of Israel, Jews in the Middle East lived as second-class citizens. A return to these conditions is not peace. It’s servitude. This will never happen, but the fact that many want it to happen is disturbing itself.
Please note that these characterizations are for the different ends of the ideological spectrum. Most people fit into the place that I call home: mutual recognition of the grievances of both sides.
Anyone who understands the essence of compromise knows what peace in the Middle East will look like. It will be two states existing side by side. Jerusalem will be the capital of both states. Israel will recognize its role in the creation of the refugee problem and provide compensation. How close this situation will be to Israel recognizing the Palestinian right of return is questionable. Either way, a compromise will have to be agreed upon.
What should be clear, however, is that Israel will most likely not resettle within its borders the millions of Palestinian refugees living in camps scattered throughout the Middle East. That may be painful to accept, and for those who may be so inclined to write letters to the Daily to express their outrage at such a conclusion, bear this in mind: If the world cannot force Israel to end the occupation – something which even Israel now acknowledges it cannot sustain – what makes you think the world will force Israel to resettle the refugees?
With this last column, I sincerely hope I leave this campus a little more cooperative, rational and inspired than I found it. If we as students cannot find a way to peacefully disagree and coexist, what hope is there for those people thousands of miles away that we care so much about?
Jared Goldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.