It was Thurs, Aug. 14 at the Irish Rogue, a very pleasant tavern at 44th St. and 9th Ave., Manhattan, that I attended a “Meetup” about Middle East peace. It began with some socializing and then a screening of “Blood and Tears,” a 70 minute documentary on the Israeli-Arab conflict. The event’s sociable organizer, David Greene, mentioned that he’s a member of Brit Tzedek V’Shalom and is interested in what we do at Meretz USA. We chatted amiably.
The film was selected for its relative objectivity. It did indeed attempt balance and presented a wide gamut of views, including two or three brief comments by Yossi Beilin, the immediate past leader of the Meretz party (and also from his predecessor, Yossi Sarid). Yet, due to its modest length, the film had to be less than comprehensive.
We broke into small groups for discussion around a list of questions. A discussant sitting opposite me, bitterly criticized the film for showing most Israelis to be reasonable and many Palestinians to be extreme. I think her criticism is valid. This reflects a flaw in the film in not revealing more about the difficulties and injustices confronting Palestinians as a result of the settlements and the behavior of extremist settlers, soldiers and police.
I also noted how the film telescopes history by ignoring (as do so many sources and analysts) the fact that the Palestinian Arabs themselves launched a serious effort to destroy the Jewish community in Palestine half a year before Israel declared its independence on May 15, 1948 and was promptly attacked by four outside Arab armies.
The subject matter is extremely difficult. One pro-Palestinian discussant called my citation of this historical detail, “the Zionist narrative.” My response is that since you find this in the work of the New Historians (known for debunking the official “Zionist narrative”), it is nothing of the sort. But my disagreement with this gentleman, and with another who I believe is of Arab origin, was polite; both were open to the possibility of compromise.
Alas, my disagreement with a young woman who is apparently an activist for the Palestinian cause, was bitter. She could not see anything the Palestinians did or ever do as explaining their plight. It had to be entirely and completely the fault of the Israelis. Even when I said that I consider many or most Israeli security measures to be disproportionate and that I’m opposed to the settlement enterprise and occupation, she could not acknowledge common ground.
Sadly, I lost my cool and started to scream at her, calling her a bigot. Still, she did note the name of Hashomer Hatzair (which she had never heard of), when I brought up our lineage with a Zionist current that didn’t even support the concept of a Jewish state until after the Arab onslaught of 1947-48.
As I left for the evening, another group participant (who felt he was too ignorant of the issues to register an opinion) expressed concern for my welfare, stating that talking to somebody like that young woman was like “talking to the wall.” I had to agree that she was not worth raising my blood pressure, but I admitted that this was just such an emotional issue for me. Even so, I felt validated by, and grateful for, his kind words.