I am not part of the organizing team that presented the Steadfast Hope series, but I was a member of the audience, so I know that most of what the shaliach said after the event is pure obfuscation and distraction and in many instances simply fabrication.
According to the shaliach, to the organizers of the event, “all that matters is ‘the occupation.’” Here is what Sara Roy, a Jewish woman who has lived in the occupied West Bank for many years, has to say on the subject:
“For the last forty-one years, occupation has meant dislocation and dispersion; the separation of families; the denial of human, civil, legal, political, and economic rights imposed by a system of military rule; the torture of thousands; the confiscation of tens of thousands of acres of land and the uprooting of tens of thousands of trees, the destruction of more than 18,000 Palestinian homes; the relentless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands; the undermining and then the destruction of the Palestinian economy; closure; curfew; geographic fragmentation; demographic isolation.”
What part of this litany do you wish to dispute? Is it even necessary to point out that most of the events noted here also happened to European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s? We are anxious to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, yet the suffering of others, imposed even by our own hands, we choose to ignore. I would like to know how such a view is even remotely compatible with Jewish teachings.
Dissident voices at the event repeatedly expressed outrage over Palestinian acts of terror. Does anyone remember when the very first Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel took place? It happened in 1989, and what’s so special about that? That unforgivable act of terror (not to be repeated until nearly four years later) came about after 22 years of military occupation. Can you imagine Israeli Jews showing such patience in the face of such oppression for so many years? I can’t, because we know from numerous examples that European Jews took up arms against their Nazi oppressors almost immediately.
Hamas’ charter indeed calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. And how do they implement this destruction? With ineffectual rockets, often homemade, and small arms. Meanwhile, the IDF has a standing army of many tens of thousands of well-trained and fully armed men and women; fighter jets and helicopter gunships; long-range artillery; tanks, and so on. Palestinians have none of these so they rely in desperation on rockets blindly fired into Israel, attacks that have yielded only a few casualties in decades. Meanwhile, Israel carries out the actual destruction of Palestine with a huge array of the most modern military technology, frequently using those weapons to assassinate “suspected terrorists,” in other words, state-sponsored murder.
“The program also ignored the basic fact that the Israeli-Palestine conflict is only part of the bigger Israeli-Arab conflict,” Gelbart wrote in his June 17 AJP column. To begin with, there is no more “conflict” here than there was between the Warsaw Jews and their Nazi oppressors. What we do see is a situation of illegal military occupation and a resistance to that occupation.
Finally, with regard to states that are both “democratic” and “religious,” none of the European countries the shaliach cited practices discrimination by the state against people of other races or ethnic backgrounds. I lived in England for years, and no one ever challenged me because I was Jewish. No one denied me a building permit. No one destroyed my house. And no one took over my family’s property and called it a “settlement.”
If Israelis want to find “common ground” with Palestinians, I suggest they start treating them like the human beings they are.