I never thought I’d ever be texting with one of my kids about bombs and bomb shelters. But there I was last week, texting back and forth with my daughter, Shanni — who is studying at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya and was driving with friends to a Purim event in the south when Palestinian bombs started falling. I was pleading with her to be careful and only go where there was a bomb shelter.
For years I’d tried to imagine what my friends in Israel go through when their children are fighting in wars or are exposed to terror. Now I was experiencing, on a much smaller scale, my own little “Israeli moment.” It had a clarifying effect.
Here’s what it clarified: Fear for my daughter’s safety makes me long for a war that would eliminate the threat once and for all, but also for a peace that would do the same.
In other words, I long for anything — war or peace — that will keep my daughter safe.
But there’s a difference between the two sentiments: When I long for war, I am saddened, even slightly depressed, that it might come to that. Still, I feel like a grown-up facing up to a very painful reality.
When I long for peace, I feel elevated to the highest ideals of my tradition, like a poet dreaming great dreams, or a preacher appealing to the divine in all of us.
But I also feel like an idiot, like a spoiled kid banging on the table and screaming: “Why won’t our enemies make peace with us?”
Well, kid, maybe because they really, really hate us.
There was plenty of Jew hatred on display last month when Lara Friedman, one of the leaders of Americans for Peace Now, attended the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem in Doha. I wonder if Friedman felt like that frustrated kid as she walked around the conference and asked herself: “Why do they hate us so much?”
As she wrote in The Forward about her experience: “All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians.”
She seemed especially disappointed that the Israel hate fest included the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas: “If President Abbas cannot acknowledge Jewish claims in Jerusalem, even as he asserts Palestinian claims (a problem Yasser Arafat suffered from), he should not be surprised if it is more difficult for Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, to believe that he can be trusted in a peace agreement that leaves Jerusalem sites precious to Jews under Palestinian control.”
Jonathan Tobin, in the Commentary blog, gave Friedman credit for “having the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.” But then he asks: “What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization’s name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews?”
Tobin adds: “She [Friedman] and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace ‘now’ was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time.”
I also wonder what went through the mind of professor Norman Finkelstein, one of Israel’s harshest critics and a passionate advocate for the Palestinian cause, when he lashed out last month at a Palestinian activist who was interviewing him about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
In the video, Finkelstein has a “dayenu” moment when he challenges the goal of the BDS movement: “They’re not really talking about rights. They are talking about destroying Israel. In fact, I think the Israelis are right. That’s true. I’m not going to lie.”
For anyone who has cringed over the years at the nastiness of Finkelstein’s verbal assaults on Israel, the video is a remarkable portrayal of what happens when an ugly truth simply can no longer be ignored. Finkelstein, despite his support for the BDS movement, is forced to admit this painful reality: “We have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuousness. They don’t want Israel.”
That’s right, they don’t want Israel, just like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn’t want Israel, and just like Mahmoud Abbas rejects any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
But what should we do with such inconvenient truths?
For starters, we should call them what they are: truths. The deep-seated Arab animosity toward the Jewish state is a painful truth that predates the settlements by decades. Let’s hope it is not a permanent truth, but for now it is profoundly relevant and must be integral to Israel’s strategic thinking.
Also, we must recognize that desire and hope are not truths — they’re feelings.
Yes, I fervently desire and hope that Palestinian terrorists stop dropping bombs where my daughter travels in Israel, and that Ahmadinejad stops his nuclear program and that Israel’s enemies stop hating Israel and start respecting the 3,000-year Jewish connection to the Holy Land.
But while the child in me longs for this new reality, the father in me knows better.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.