The National Director of the ADL, Abe Foxman, has it all figured out. There is only one fundamental cause preventing the emergence of a ‘new Middle East’ in which Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, live in harmony and brotherly (and sisterly) love: “The problem isn’t settlements; it’s Arab rejection”, he wrote in a full-page NY Times ad yesterday.
Mr. Foxman might have added that the problem certainly isn’t competing claims over Jerusalem; or conflicting narratives regarding the events that led to the redemptive (for Zionists) or catastrophic (for Palestinians) events of 1947-48; or division within the Palestinian ranks; or an Israeli political system that makes it difficult to make dramatic moves while maintaining a coalition of parties; or 42 years of occupation that have created destructive new facts on the ground, and that have spawned terrible, violent strains in both Israeli and Palestinian society.
But Mr. Foxman didn’t mention any of these. Because really discussing the problems of the Middle East would cost so much ad space in the NY Times that even the well-funded ADL couldn’t afford it. So instead they decided to reduce complex historical situations to singular causation. How wonderful.
In response, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street has offered a nuanced rejoinder to Mr. Foxman, which is worth reading.
But the best answer to Foxman might have been penned in the 18th century by the French philosopher, François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire. Reflecting on the concept of absolute ‘truth’ and certainty versus mere opinion, Voltaire wrote as follows:
“Such is the character of truth, which belongs to all time and to all men. It is only to be produced to be acknowledged, and admits of no opposition. A long dispute signifies that both parties are in error.”
Mr. Foxman: It’s a complex issue and there are no simple answers. Right and wrong are to be found on all sides, and the only way to make progress is for all sides to recognize that. Even Ehud Barak recognized that occupation has led to terrorism; even Ariel Sharon acknowledged that occupation stands in the way of peace. Not to mention the strides made and the words spoken by Misters Rabin, Peres and Olmert.
Israel has come a long way since the bad old days when Israel’s role was perceived to be simply waiting for ‘the Arabs’ to ‘change their ways’. Let’s not let Mr. Netanyahu take us back there now.