In the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, I’m on the Side of Peace and Justice
November 16th, 2012 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

I’ve been seeing a ton of traffic about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all of which consists of a series of constant, strident, endless calls to take one side or the other. I keep wanting to respond, to discuss, and to find some common ground, but I can’t do it effectively inside the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” paradigm.

I’ve always rejected that paradigm, for one simple reason: If people are being killed, or having their limbs blown off, or sustaining traumatic brain injury, or going through any of the other innumerable types of physical and psychological trauma that happen in the midst of war, I couldn’t care less whose side they’re on.

Do you think I weep any less for a Palestinian baby who is killed and for the Palestinian parents who have to bury that child than I do for an Israeli baby who is killed and for the Israeli parents who have to bury that child? I don’t, and I have relatives in Israel with families, and my tie to the Jewish people is very strong. But my membership in the Jewish people doesn’t mean that I bifurcate my conscience and tell myself a story that it’s all right for Israelis to bomb the hell out of Gaza and kill babies because of the sins of Hamas. It also doesn’t mean that I think that the sins of the Israeli government make it perfectly acceptable, or reasonable, or ethical in any way, shape, or form for Hamas to lob rockets across the border where children are going to school, or to blow up buses, or to do anything else whose only purpose is to destroy life and hope.

If you think that violence is the answer to anything, I’m not on your side. And if you think that the sins of one side mean that everyone on that side deserves to have violence done to them, I’m not on your side.

I’m not on your side if you’re the Israeli government and you want to pound the hell out of the Palestinian people, thinking you’ll bomb them into submission. That strategy is doomed to fail. We Jews have been kicked around for thousands of years, and we’re still here. Do you really think that the Palestinians are any different and any less determined to live and thrive in the face of violence?

I’m not on your side if you’re anti-Zionist and you think that Israel has no right to exist. Do you really think that your fantasy of Israel ceasing to be will create the world anew? Do you really want to make Palestinians the sole victims of the despicable history of the past 60 years and counting?  Have you not seen for over 60 years just how brilliantly it works out when people who consider themselves the sole victims of history get a nation state? That strategy will result in a bloodbath. Good luck with your conscience on that.

I’m not on your side if you demonize Israel as a colonizer and the Palestinians as terrorists — not because there isn’t colonizing and terrorizing going on, but because that kind of rhetoric just continues the war-mongering. How is making one side or the other the personification of evil working out for you? Has it reduced the body count? No? Then maybe it’s time to stop.

I’m not on your side if you want Allah to grant a Muslim victory, and I’m not on your side if you want God to grant a Jewish victory. The One Above is not a Palestinian or an Israeli. God does not take sides when people are killing one another’s children. God is weeping over the very idea of granting victory to one side or another. God wants a victory of peace and justice, for everyone.

Whose side am I on? I am on the side of anyone who wants to wake up and realize that talking about who belongs on the land, who God wants to win, who is an oppressor, who is a victim, who is a colonizer, and who is a terrorist isn’t working. Maybe it makes people feel very righteous and in perfect solidarity with whomever they think is more oppressed, but it does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem. It does not address the very basic concern that people on both sides have: To wake up tomorrow morning and not have to bury their children.

If you want to solve the problem, get off one side or the other, and start standing on the side of peace and justice — not just for Jews, and not just for Muslims, but for everyone. That’s the side I’m on.

© 2012 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg


One Response  
  • carolyn writes:
    November 17th, 20127:59 amat

    Wonderful post, and wonderful site. I’ve only discovered your writing, and look forward to spending a good deal of this morning reading more.

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