Guy Gelbart, community shaliach, was absolutely right in his June 17 column, “Billed as dialogue on Israeli-Palestinian peace, local series is pure ‘hate pill.’”
The letter writers who responded to his column — and there’s no room to refute all their unfounded accusations — disingenuously suggested that the Steadfast Hope series was never meant to be a dialogue. Really? The announcement of the series in the Arizona Daily Star of April 21 read, in part, “The Rev. David Wilkinson, a board member of the peace center, described the series as a dialogue (emphasis mine). ‘We need to talk about this,’ he said. ‘This is an issue on which there are two very clear sides, and we need to bring them together, and the only way to do that is through honest dialogue and learning more about each other’s history and cultures.’”
Well, you could have fooled me, and in fact, I was fooled. When I read that, I was very encouraged. I was only able to attend one session, enough to realize, as my stomach turned into knots, that the program was simply an attack on Israel. That evening, with a great deal of trepidation and no hostility, I asked if I could just read a couple of phrases from the Hamas Covenant. A chorus of voices shouted me down.
May I suggest to the peace-loving organizers that they hear Khaled Abu Toamah or read his writings. He was born in the West Bank to an Israeli Arab father and a Palestinian Arab mother. A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he is a journalist in Israel and says he prefers to be an Arab citizen in Israel than a citizen of Cairo, Amman, etc. As Ishmael Khaldi, Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, writes in his autobiography, “A Shepherd’s Journey,” in response to the accusation that Israel is an apartheid society, “Never. Jews and Arabs use the same buses, clinics, government offices, universities, theaters, restaurants, soccer fields and beaches. All Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or ethnic origins, are equal before the law, the same law that accords full political, civil, and human rights to its entire population, including its more than one million Arab citizens, some of whom serve in the Israeli parliament.”
Like any democracy, Israel is not utopia, but also, like any democracy, many of her citizens, like many of us, strive to make it a better place.