The Tricky Business of Searching for Mideast Peace

I am sure you would agree that peace is a “good thing.” Not always, of course. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany in 1938 and proclaimed that he had ensured “peace for our time,” it turned out to be catastrophic. The price of that “peace” was Hitler’s rampage through Europe, the slaughter of six million Jews and a litany of horrors too numerous to list.

But, generally, people of good will seek peace.

As President Obama is doing – seeking peace in the Middle East.

Surely, that would be a “good thing.”  Hamas rockets would cease raining death and mutilation down on the Israelis and Israeli jets would cease massacring men, women and children in Palestine. There might even be a peace dividend as blockades fall and trade improves.

But from the reaction of the right-wing Israeli government and America’s Zionist hawks, you would think the president had called up Chamberlain’s ghost.

President Obama’s “sin” was suggesting that peace talks should start with a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, before the Six Day War with the Arabs. He has emphasized repeatedly that he was talking about a “start,” that “land swaps” would be required to accommodate the realities of development since that time. But the Zionist right and the Israeli hawks are not placated. They want the president’s head on a platter.

Click on the map above to se Israel’s borders before and after the Six-Day War.

You may have noticed that I use the word “Zionists” and not “Jews.”

This is an important distinction, one that too many people do not recognize.

Today, I received a request from an organization called J Street to sign a petition to Congress supporting President Obama’s position. Here is an excerpt:

Did you see President Obama defend his pro-Israel, pro-peace policies at AIPAC yesterday?

What a sight. The President of the United States making a strong and compelling case about the urgency of bold American action to achieve a two-state solution to thousands of pro-Israel activists, who by and large applauded the President’s words.

But many political opponents of the President are ginning up opposition to the President’s sensible approach on Capitol Hill – and some are even spreading lies about the speech without bothering to actually read what the President said. We need to show our support for the President’s vision, including his call for two states “based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Why am I telling you about the petition request? Because the organization that sent it is Jewish. It calls itself the “political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.” And the Jewish people who run J Street describe its activities this way:

The organization gives political voice to mainstream American Jews and other supporters of Israel who, informed by their Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy. J Street’s mission is two-fold: first, to advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community.

Obviously, opposing Israel’s current government is not the same as opposing Israel. And it is definitely not antisemitic. Indeed, in my book it is pro-Israel and sympathetic to the Jewish religion, culture and ethnicity. After all, what could be more pro-Israel than trying to find a way for Jews to live peacefully in their ancestral homeland?

Here’s the petition if you’re interested.