Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mennonite Central Committee's Cry for Home Campaign: Some Jewish Views

At least nobody threatened to beat me up.

That’s what happened the last time  I wrote about the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
The man who left the threatening message on my phone was angry because he felt I was attacking Israel.

I assume he was a Christian, since he also “cursed me in the name of Jesus.”

Over the years, I’ve learned that no issue I write about riles people up more than Israel-Palestine. I can count on getting angry e-mails each time I do it.

After writing last month about Mennonite Central Committee’s new Cry for Home campaign, however, the responses were reasonable and reasoned—although one person questioned my faith and another accused me of inciting “Jew hatred.”

At the end of that column, I indicated I was interested in sharing perspectives from members of the local Jewish community. I got a number of responses, on both sides of the issue.

“For decades, polls show most Israelis seek peace and are willing to make major compromises to achieve it,” wrote Adam Levene on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

But “tragically, the Palestinian leadership walked away from these offers without even putting forward a counter-proposal.”

Also disturbing for him is that Hamas “rejects all peace efforts and Israel’s very existence.” This, he said, “destroys hopes for a positive Palestinian future.”

The Federation, he added, shares MCC’s hope for “a peace in which Israeli and Palestinian children alike will only know security, mutual acceptance, and reconciliation.”

But this would require “acknowledging the real barrier to peace posed by the Palestinian leadership.”

Belle Jarniewski, Chair of the Freeman Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, said she opposes “the occupation, as do many Israelis,” but finds MCC’s campaign “frustrating” since it is “singling out Israel again.”

She agrees there are many injustices, but said not all “are Israel’s fault.”

A large segment of Israel’s population would “happily get out of the territories tomorrow if a safe and peaceful agreement were possible,” she added, but “for that to happen, Israel needs a partner in peace.”

Israelis “remember what happened with the unilateral pullout from Gaza, which led to missile attacks and incursions that no one wanted.”

What Alan Green, Senior Rabbi at Shaarey Zedek, finds difficult about the MCC campaign is that it “misapprehends the true intent of the Palestinian leadership, which is to destroy the state of Israel.”

Green also believes “the vast majority of Israelis” would be happy with a true two state Solution, “where Palestinians and Israelis both respect the right of the other to a land and home of their own.”

But this, he said, “is not, nor has it ever been, the Palestinian program.”

Sidney Halpern noted that Israel has no recourse but to defend itself when attacked.

“If Israel would put down its arms there would be no Israel,” he said. “If Palestinians would put down their arms, there would be a Palestinian state.”

Other members of the Jewish community indicated their support for MCC’s campaign.

Rubin Kantorovich, a son of a holocaust survivor who describes himself as neither a Zionist or religious, sees the campaign as “positive.”

“The rights of the Palestinian people are being trampled upon by the Israeli state and its backers,” he wrote. “This state of affairs must change and I support the MCC for their stand which all people should support.”

Mark Golden said he opposes the “ongoing Israeli campaign against Palestinian human rights.”

He feels this way, he said, “because I am a Jew,” and because he feels the “need to prevent and end the prejudice and suffering which characterizes so much of Jewish history everywhere . . . only in this way can Jews too be safe and secure.”

Harold Shuster is the Manitoba representative to the national Steering Committee of Independent Jewish Voices. He said he “applaud[s] the courageous stance” taken by groups like MCC in calling for “justice and peace in the Middle East.”

My conclusion? There are valid points to be made on both sides. But what might be more important than making one point or another would be for people with differing perspectives to meet and talk about this issue

Conversations like that won’t bring peace to the Middle East, but maybe they could create a little bit of peace and understanding right here in Winnipeg.

From the Nov. 10 Winnipeg Free Press.

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