WASHINGTON WATCH ORI NIR
Jews for a TwoState Solution When Israel took over the West Bank in 1967, my family, like many Israelis, rushed to explore the liberated land of the Bible. In our old Susita,an Israeli-manufactured clunker with a Ford engine and a fiberglass body, we traveled to Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, and Bethany. And through the torn-down wall that separated our home in West Jerusalem from East Jerusalem, we walked to the Old City. We pressed prayers into the cracks of the Western Wall and climbed the Mount of Olives. My parents, who had both been Bible teachers, put the scenery in a historical context. We felt that our country was finally whole. Like most other Israelis, we gave little thought to the Palestinians who lived in the West Bank. We did not see them as significant to Israel’s present or future. The first Arabic expression I learned then was mush-lazem (“no need” or “don’t bother”). My father said it to the Palestinian kids who wanted to wash our old Susita and to the women who tried to sell us cheap souvenirs. When Palestinians approached us, my brother and I used to cry out: “Mush-lazem, mush-lazem.” I later realized: There is a need. We must bother. June 2010 marked 43 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a somber landmark for both Israelis and Palestinians. Over these years I have come to realize that Israel must cede control of much of the land that I once was so happy to see “liberated.” I am not alone. Since 1967, Israelis have increasingly come to realize that securing our country’s future as a democratic and Jewish state requires that we withdraw from the West Bank. We have
come to realize that it is both in our national security interest and in our interest as Jews with a strong sense of social justice and human rights to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state and to cooperate with a capable Palestinian partner to make a two-state solution a reality. We have come to realize that Israelis simply can no longer afford a mush-lazem attitude toward the Palestinians. That is why my organization, Americans for Peace Now (APN), and our Israeli sister organization, Peace Now, are working with a strong sense of urgency to bring about a historic compromise between Israelis and Palestinians. Our imperative is “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:14). Peace Now, Israel’s peace movement, educates and mobilizes Israelis to support a bold move toward peace with our neighbors, which would lead to normalized relations for Israel with the entire Arab and Muslim world.
The time has come for peace-seeking Jews and Christians to unite in common cause. We at APN advocate for Mideast peace with Washington’s political establishment, in the media, and within America’s Jewish community. Like President Obama and most others in Washington’s security establishment, we believe that Middle East peace is a key US national security interest and that there now is a rare moment of opportunity for a breakthrough toward achieving it. To strengthen our advocacy efforts, we need the help of our Christian brothers and sisters. We know that those who believe that compromising over land for peace is sacrilegious do not represent all biblically faithful American Christians. We appreciate the concern that many PRISM 2010
Christians have for Palestinian churches and, more broadly, their concern for peace in the land that all the children of Abraham consider holy. And yet we worry that far too many churches seem to think that the best way of advocating peace is through boycotting Israel.This approach serves only to hurt peace-seeking Israelis. The approach we advocate is diplomacy. Speaking out in support for serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is one of the most important things that American Christians can do to bring peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Just as Israeli and American Jews who advocate a two-state solution are often accused of not caring enough about Israel’s security or national rights, so, too, Christians who support that vision are sometimes condemned as biblically unfaithful or even anti-Jewish. Both accusations are untrue.We want Israel to remain a strong homeland for the Jews and know that this is only possible through a historic compromise with the Palestinians. We know that numerous Christians support our views, although many are unaware that an organization such as ours exists within America’s Jewish community. The time has come for peace-seeking Jews and Christians to unite in common cause. Israelis and their American friends are attached to the land of the Bible. That will not change. But all must recognize that if Israel is to survive as a democracy, it must relinquish sovereignty in the West Bank. As they come to terms with this realization and take painful action toward that end, Israelis and their American Jewish partners need broad support from all Americans, starting with America’s communities of faith. Let us all take action to advance Middle East peace and reject the attitude of mush-lazem. + Ori Nir is the spokesperson of Americans for Peace Now (PeaceNow.org), the nation’s leading Jewish organization advocating for IsraeliPalestinian peace. He invites response at email@example.com.