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Sunday, August 4, 2002

Want to help the Palestinians?

"The more the Israelis are treated like pariahs," writes Yossi Klein Halevi in the New Republic, "the greater their tendency toward recklessness." The ultimate irony for human rights advocates is that taking up the Palestinian cause by condemning and isolating Israel won't help the Palestinians and will certainly harm Israel and the Jews.

"A benign or at least neutral international climate is a key precondition for Israeli willingness to take risks for peace," Halevi writes. He shows how Israel entered the peace process in the early 1990s partly as the international climate toward Israel thawed at the end of the Cold War. But international pressure on Israel is currently strengthening the Israeli far right's siege mentality and spawning apocalyptic scenarios among Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jews. Worse, it's bringing anti-Semitism back out in the open all over Europe.

When a critic of the Israeli occupation can say — as one of Halevi's friends casually remarked — "If the world can't find space for a sliver of a Jewish state, then the world doesn't have the right to exist. And if it blows up because of a nuclear war in the Middle East, maybe that's poetic justice" — the last thing we need is to encourage greater isolation. Halevi observes, "In the current atmosphere, it's ludicrous to assume the Israeli public will feel safe enough to consider returning to the concessions offered by Ehud Barak, let alone the concessions envisioned by the Saudi plan."

Religious liberals and people of good will must not forget the reality of anti-Semitism as they rush to embrace the human rights of the Palestinians. Halevi writes that "perhaps the Holocaust's deepest long-term wound on the Jewish psyche isn't the actions of the murderers but the passivity of the onlookers. Jews must continually resist the suspicion that even the enlightened world cares little for their survival. The consequences — political, social, and theological — of feeding that suspicion could be shattering." The best way to bring about lasting improvements in the lives of the Palestinians is to help Israel feel secure enough to take risks for peace again.

(Originally posted to UUsMiddleEast)

Copyright © 2002 by Philocrites | Posted 4 August 2002 at 9:00 PM

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