Thursday, October 9, 2008
As Kalashnikovs thundered through the streets of the West Bank last summer, I realized that I simply could not be volunteering at a Palestinian elementary school any longer. I’ve always been troubled by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I thought my work in the West Bank would help me better understand what peace with the Palestinians might look like. But as violence erupted, as it often does in occupied territories, I became aware of an obvious truth that is all too often overlooked, this conflict exists merely because we allow it to.
That’s right. Politics, history and nationalism aside, pragmatic leaders who are able to capture both the Israeli’s and Palestinian’s desire for peace will some day resolve this tragic conflict. But that day is not here, and thus, the fighting continues.
You might wonder why a 22-year-old California native with the Jewish last name of “Aizenstat” would find himself volunteering in the West Bank in the first place. Moreover, why I am taking the time to write another article as I did upon my initial return (Enforced Silence) that some continue to brand as being “anti-Israel.”
Well, the truth is that I, like many others, am pro-solution. And I’ve grown tired of people, especially of college campuses, charging such pragmatism as being anti-Israel, or even worse, anti-Semitic.
So, upon my return from traveling and working in both Israel and the West Bank, I came upon three observations that you might not hear from the everyday pundits:
1. Both Israelis and Palestinians are truly awe-inspiring people. When the Israelis and the Palestinians eventually find their peace, they will truly rule the Middle East. Could you think of two more dynamic people? Since approximately 20 percent of Israelis are Arab anyway, evidence already exists for how effectively both Arab and Jew can work together. In a region dominated by bloated dictatorships and poor governance, such grass-root enthusiasm and commitment to democracy only makes me curious about the future that awaits these people down the road.
2. Regardless of the details of any “final-status” peace solution, both people have a profound connection with the land that vastly pre-dates anything known to the American experience. So when the dust finally settles upon a solution, the “Levant” will become an international destination for scholarship, tourism and regional finance.
3. The best way to give the next generation this auspicious future is to assure them that such a peace is theirs to seize. As a clandestine volunteer in the West Bank, I realized, perhaps more clearly than ever, that children are not born with hate. The young Palestinians I interacted with had no quarrel with the Jewish or American people. The same openness is generally true for the the youth in Israel as well.
As American citizens, college students and lovers of a common humanity, it’s time to engage the realities of a two state solution for both Israelis and Palestinians. We must tell our leadership here at home, such as our Congresswoman Susan Davis, that America’s unconditional support for Israel is only continuing to prolong this disastrous statement. As I observed, a one-sided approach only bolsters the platforms of extremists that hold back the undeniable brilliance of both Arab and Jew. Thus, I must say again: I am pro-solution.
Remembering the brash personal attacks I received from writing my original article “Enforced Silence,” it is clear that many of you do not agree with some of my views. Or, you may just not find yourself eager to risk your name with the inevitable criticism that I have faced. But such attacks should not deter. Even in San Diego, we must realize that the cost of prolonging such inhumanity in the Holy Land is a burden for us all.
Perhaps my article may not be exactly what you wanted to hear, but as our own internationally acclaimed University of San Diego professor and Holocaust survivor Dr. John Stoessinger often says, “I know I’m doing a good job when I’m getting it from both sides.”
Originally published in The Vista, a publication of the University of San Diego
Scribed By Jesse Aizenstat at 9:53 PM