“Shooting and Crying” Vs. Mutual Accountability

“Shooting and Crying” Vs. Mutual Accountability

“Shooting and Crying” vs. Mutual Accountability
By Margo Hughes-Robinson

As an undergraduate on a campus that typified the polarization that has become endemic to American universities (a Jewish student union which at the time offered a kind of right wing Zionism; bagel brunch, and Taglit trips more than deep engagement with Jewish tradition; an active SJP chapter that built a mock “apartheid wall” across the quad each year; student leaders discouraged from meeting across lines of disagreement by Hillel staff), an introduction to S. Yizhar’s “Khirbet Khizeh,” was revelatory. The professor who assigned the novella was a visiting Israeli academic, who laid mimeographed slides on the ancient projector by way of introducing the book.

“These are copies of maps that my father-in-law kept from 1948,” he explained. He showed us, laying one map over the other, the names of Palestinian villages that had been liquidated or abandoned, renamed and resettled in Hebrew by the nascent Israeli state. As a twenty-year old, this was nothing short of revelatory: here was an Israeli intellectual, someone brought in by my campus to be an authority on history and literature, speaking calmly about the realities of 1948, both as it was experienced by the citizens of the fledgling state and by Palestinians who lived through the Nakba. Although the text was a fictionalized account of the war, I was opened up to a much more nuanced understanding of Israel that was tied not only to hasbara, but to history.

It was only several years later, living in Jerusalem and more deeply steeped in Israeli literature and culture,  that I learned how “Khirbet Khizeh” functioned as a  foundation stone of the “shooting and crying,” genre  of Israeli literature, a dynamic described by scholar Gil Hochberg as one of “remorse and hesitation” in the  psyche of both the IDF soldier and the nation at large,  that evolved over decades to one that included, “self justification,” and “a way of maintaining the nation’s  self-image as youthful and innocent, along with its  sense of vocation against the reality of war, growing  military violence, occupation, invasion, and an overall  sense that things were going wrong. It was commonly  used in mockery of the anguished Israeli liberal during  the First Intifada. 

As Israel has reeled from the shock of Hamas-perpetrated  terror on October 7th and the subsequent hostage crisis  – and blown headlong into an assault on Gaza that has  included mass civilian death, growing starvation, and  apparent abdication of the responsibilities that the Israeli  Supreme Court has concluded Israeli bears towards  Palestinians living in Gaza – it appears that more and  more American Jews have taken up the mantle of  “shooting and crying.” As the war continues, I see many  of my colleagues clinging to a model of self reflection  and hand-wringing only to the point that it enables our  own passivity – or even permissiveness – in the face of  Israeli war crimes. This is a master story that allows the  American center-Zionist camp to busy themselves not  with the graphic realities of conflict in Gaza or the West  Bank, but instead with an internal wrestling: the tension  of one’s self-image as a “liberal” in the classical sense  juxtaposed with an apathetic resignation to military  domination as the only assurance of Jewish safety  between the river and the sea.  

 To express deep pain at the rising death toll, starvation,  and violence in Gaza while wringing our hands and  asking a version of “but what can be done?!,” or to pray  for peace without taking material steps to call for an  end to this war, is to ultimately engage in a kind of  closed psychological loop. A generative conversation  happens between Jewish communities in Israel and the  Diaspora about grief, the uses and abuses of military  and state power, the waste of civilian life, and even the political narcissism at the helm of Israel’s government but it remains a Jewish conversation. Engaging in the  emotional maelstrom of shooting and crying from  across oceans allows American Jews to express nuanced  empathy and solidarity with Jewish Israelis, but the end  result is that of a continued conversation that ignores  the voices – the reality– of half of the people engaged in  this war; of Palestinians.  

As many Palestinian and Israeli activists remind us: no one is going anywhere. Regardless of the shape of any future political arrangement, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean sea is home to Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Druzim, Bedouin communities, and more, all with deep ties to the Land and its history. What could be possible, then, if American Jews saw our role not only to be in conversation with our Israeli family and coreligionists, but with all those who call it home?

What may be most needed in this moment is not only a political shift but a spiritual and psycho-social transformation. What steps might be possible to take under the mantle of “no one is going anywhere?” What kind of shared society – not normalization of a “status quo” built on human rights violations or euphemistic military exercises of “mowing the grass” – but instead rooted in the acknowledgement that Palestinians and Israelis must be free and enjoying equal rights, and that the safety and flourishing of each community is bound up in each other? What could grow in a Land where there is a basic acknowledgement that both communities are not just accountable to themselves, but to one another?

We call for a “day after” plan, but it must be said: We are already living one kind of day-after, rooted in Netanyahu’s political narcissism and marked by a refusal to recognize either the humanity of the Palestinians or their right to self determination and statehood. We must insist on and make real a very different vision of tomorrow, of next week, of the days and months and years ahead.

We know: No one is going anywhere. What does this mean in practice? We cannot continue in war if we are to live together. It means that when I see images of Kfir Bibas, who turned one year old in captivity, I think of my own child. When I see ten-year old Amr Mohamed Najjar, who was shot and killed by the IDF outside of Nablus last month, I see my own child. If no one is going anywhere, it means that every new parent in Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem is accountable to the starving pregnant women of Khan Younis and Rafah. It means that I seek a flourishing Palestinian government that shirks extremism, bloodshed, and corruption, alongside an Israeli government that disavows Kahanism and refuses to continue a brutal war that puts civilian safety in the back seat behind one man’s desperate attempt to avoid criminal accountability and jail time. It means that we demand an end to the occupation. It is important – essential – to note that this model of mutual accountability is not a fantasy, the dream of another naive American staring at a phone screen an ocean away from the events in Gaza. It is a practice that is already being lived out by organizations and individuals in the Land: from the political organizing of Standing Together and Women Wage Peace; to the community building of groups like the Imbala Cafe, the Sulha Peace Project, and the Bereaved Families Forum; from media outlets like +972 and Local Call as well as activist-artists like Yuval Avraham and Basel Adra, and Hadar Cohen. These entities and individuals are midwifing a new model of what is possible in Israel and Palestine – not based in normalization of a deadly and stagnant status quo, or sharing an inequitable society – but another vision altogether, rooted in mutual liberation: it is upon us as American Jews to decide to be part of this new model of family, and mutuality. Will we, in the midst of our own grief, be brave enough to partake?



Rabbi Margo Hughes-Robinson is the new Executive Director of Partners for Progressive Israel.


  1. Judy Bernstein April 3, 2024 at 4:08 pm - Reply


  2. Jon Snipper April 4, 2024 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    I wonder if there are enough ME Palestinians as interested in getting along with Israeli Jews adn their state as the latter are with the former, at least as presented or rather assumed by the rabbi. ME Palestinians, brought up from the cradle to the grave on a diet of anti Zionism and anti semitism and hero worship of those most call terrorists, all reinforced by the actions of the IDF in Gaza and the West Bank, listening to the statements by some in this current Israeli government, actions of past governments since 1970, all compounded by the activities extremist settler movement, are now far more likely to call for Israel’s total destruction than for a two state solution. If that is the case, then Israelis need to buckle up for an even more rocky ride than since 1948. They need to accept that events like Oct 7th will occur from time to time without the greatest of vigilance and some luck; and that killing tens of thousands of Palestinians is going to make no difference to the Palestinian belief Israel has to go, but rather simply reinforces it. And the rest of the world is slowly taking up the Palestinian cause, mostly ignorant of the fact that the Palestinian cause often now includes the destruction of the Jewish state. Right now there are 2 forces of evil battling each other: an Israeli government composed of self confessed fascist bigots and a corrupt, egomaniacal, mendacious leader, and their supporters; and the Palestinians and their blood thirsty, corrupt and dictatorial leaders. Only the former is capable of being changed, the latter not. Israel has been through periods of “liberal leadership” and support of a 2 state soltion and is still a relatively democratic nation; none of the Muslim Arab states nor the Palestinians can lay claim to either democratic impulses or liberal ideals, and none has since their creation. Indeed settling disputes by wars, both interstate and civil. mass murders, ethnic cleansings and vast repression is the ME Arab Muslim way, and that includes the Palestinians who had their own brief but very violent civil war after the only democratic election in their history. World Jewry should rightly be castigating Israel for what has gone on since the last election there and this dreadful and destructive war in Gaza. But no Jew, at least one worthy of the name, should be a supporter of the Palestinian cause as articulated above, or any group or organization that offers support. Let world Jewry call for an immediate ceasefire with a promise from Israel of complete withdrawl from Gaza once all the hostages alive or dead are released; and the flooding of Gaza with humanitarian relief that gets to Gaza civilians (ie, not brought in by UNWRA which is a flunky of Hamas). Let Jews around the world raise up their voices in a call to end apartheid in the West Bank and urge IL to leave it; and call for the end of bigotry and discrimination against Israel’s own Arab/Palestinian citizens. Decry any calls for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, even though the majority of non Israeli Palestinans wish that for Jewish Israelis. But support Israel’s need to always remain vigilant in protecting Israeli citizens from their enemies, calling on western nations to continue to support Israel even if condemning this current government, and encouraging Israel eliminating its enemies’ leaders and foot soldiers where possible, without taking with them thousands of civilian lives. Urge restrained conduct that does not bring down on Israel’s head the wrath of a growing cadre of Jewish liberals, conduct that does not alienate westerm Jewish youth, and conduct that does not create scorn and hostility in the rest of the civilized world, so ready to excoriate the Jewish state for it’s real as well as imagined internal and international delicts while mostly ignoring those of other states, particularly Muslim ones. A tall order for sure, but all more realizable than the search for the holy grail, a peace settlement of the Israeli/Plalestinian conflict via a 2 state solution that leaves the Jewish state intact with non hostile Palestinian neighbours.

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