May 15, 2008

Coexistence or no existence

I have read a brilliant oped in International Herald Tribune on the 60th anniversary of Israel. The writer, Daniel Barenboim is a pianist and conductor and the music director of the Staatskapelle Berlin. He discusses about Israel, Palestine and coexistence of two nations, zionism, socialism etc. Some excerpts:
After 1967 Israel turned very much toward the United States - not necessarily to its own advantage. The traditionalists said, "We will not give up the newly occupied territories." The religious Jews said, "These are not occupied but liberated, biblical territories." And with that the end of Socialism in Israel was sealed. Since then the conflict in the Middle East has been instrumentalized by world politics.

Many Israelis dream that when they wake up, the Palestinians will be gone, and the Palestinians dream that when they wake up, the Israelis will be gone. Both sides can no longer differentiate between dream and reality, and this is the psychological core of the problem.

Yes, the Jews had a right to their own state, and they had a right to this state. This demand was made even stronger by the Holocaust and the guilt of the Europeans after 1945. It is all too easily forgotten, however, that there was a moderate Zionism, there were people like Martin Buber who said from the beginning that the right to a Jewish state must be made acceptable to the existent population, the non-Jews. Militant Zionism, on the other hand, did not develop any further in its thinking. Even today, it is still based on a lie: that the land that the Jews settled was empty.

Today, many Israelis have no idea what it must feel like to be Palestinian - how it is to live in a city like Nablus, a prison for 180,000 people. What has become of the famous Jewish intellect here? I am not even speaking of justice or love. Why does one continue to feed the hate in the Gaza Strip?

There will never be a military solution. Two peoples are fighting over one and the same land. No matter how strong Israel becomes, there will always be insecurity and fear. The conflict is eating away at itself and at the Jewish soul, and it has been allowed to do so.

We wanted to own land that had never belonged to Jews and built settlements there. The Palestinians see this as imperialistic provocation, and rightly so. Their resistance is absolutely understandable - not the means they use to this end, not the violence nor the wanton inhumanity - but their "no."

We Israelis must finally find the courage to not react to this violence, the courage to stand by our history.

The Palestinians cannot expect that we should have been able to take care of anyone besides ourselves after the Holocaust; we had to survive. Now that we have done so, we must both look forward collectively.

Essentially, we are no further today than we were in 1947, when the United Nations voted to divide Palestine. Worse yet: in 1947 one could still imagine a binational state; sixty years later, this seems unthinkable. Today, people in Israel speak of separation, of divorce in respect to a two-state solution: What cynicism!

Some of these things are exaggerated by the media, but I do as I do because it drives me crazy to see how much injustice we Jews commit daily, and how much we endanger the future existence of Israel.
He is co-founder with Edward Said of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together Arab and Israeli musicians. And he has just become my personal hero.


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