The Case for Israel Revisited, Part I
(With apologies to Frank Gervasi)
By A. D. Freudenheim

7 October 2000

Death can be an impersonal event. Some million-plus people die every day, and for the most part we are unaware of these deaths; even when we read the obituaries - or the war reports - they are at a remove from us, apart from us. However, it's a part of human nature, empathy aside, that when someone we know dies, their death seems to affect us, to be "personal" in a way that these other, anonymous casualties do not. Knowledge of the dead adds to their personal tragedy, and to ours.

This week, my wife received the news that a young man whom she knew had been shot and killed in Israel, in the current violence that has erupted there. The events in the Middle East are usually of interest to the two of us because of connections to the people, and the place, that we each have. We follow the news, the ups and downs, of the effort to find a lasting peace, but a few occasions aside, there is always a divide between the reality of life and death there and our daily realities here in the US. Hearing that this young man died has affected us both. The death was personal, the conflict suddenly much closer.

It's true - the uprising of the last two weeks already had our attention. Ariel Sharon incited the violence that we're now seeing in the news each day, and I have no reservations in criticizing him. Sharon's march on the Temple Mount was an attempt to show strength, yet his accompanying legion of policeman and the ensuing chaos instead brought to light exactly how weak the Israeli position is, morally and militarily. As with the Intifadeh of the 1980s, this new outbreak of fighting should, in the end, help the peace process, not hurt it - by clarifying, once again, that the Palestinian people will not be subjugated (nor should they be), and reminding the Israeli government that delaying the process is not in their interests either.

Nonetheless, among the dead is a teenager who spent several of his most recent years working to avoid exactly the situation in which he died. A participant in the "Seeds of Peace" program, and my wife tells me, an articulate, intelligent young man, he was protesting the violence when he was shot. Anyone near the violence risks not only death or injury, but the possibility of becoming a political casualty - particularly to the Israeli perspective, pervasive in the news in the US. This view says that his mere presence near the protests show his willing participation in the violence - a very jaundiced view of life. We hope that this 17-year-old has not died in vain. He had been working for peace, was part of a community of people more interested in coexistence than co-annihilation. His death is all the more tragic for his age and his devotion to the cause.

For Jews, these are the Days of Awe, holy days between the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the formal day of atonement, Yom Kippur. We, as a people, should be thinking about our actions over the past year, and our actions during these few days, with particular emotional and intellectual weight. In some senses, our fate for the coming year is in our own hands now, dependent upon our ability to find an inner peace based on a better relationship with the community around us. Violence cannot be part of that.

I cannot condone the actions of the Palestinians. Those who throw stones cannot reasonably expect not to face retaliation. Yet right now, the Israelis are living in a glass house, and they too are throwing stones - or bullets - which is a mistake. Israel should step back from this conflict. It should not give in to the violence, and it should not give in to the political manipulations of the dying, bitter generation of Ariel Sharon. Asel Asleh was a young Israeli Arab who was willing to work for coexistence. His death is not just a loss for Israel and Palestine, it's a loss for peace. It should be otherwise.

Part II Copyright 2000, by A. D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired!