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This War is Unwinnable

Israelis cannot prevail over Palestinians any more than Palestinians can prevail over Israelis. Isn’t this obvious by now? There is not going to be a winner here until everyone is dead, and that would be a hollow victory indeed. But take heart: There is a real alternative and, since we Semites (Arabs and Jews) are clever people, we should have thought of it long since.

We can go ahead and declare the Palestinian-Israeli contest a tie: Game over! Score: Tied, one all. One moral victory for each side; one “I’ve proved my point” for each side; one “I belong to this land and will never give it up” for each side. One “My way of battling is more noble than yours” for each side. One “We will never kneel” for each side. And so forth.

A tie (as in, the game is tied) in Hebrew is “teko.” That’s not hard; go ahead and say it aloud: TEKO (rhymes with “METro”). The valiant struggle to subjugate Palestinians to the will of another people claiming ancestral rights to this land, and engaged in a relentless process of acquiring more and more of it by force of arms, is now over, because the Palestinian people will never be subjugated and they are determined to be free. We declare the outcome TEKO.

In Arabic, the word for a tie is “ta3adol” (pronounced “ta’adol,” more or less; the numeral 3 stands for the Arabic letter “ayin”). That’s not hard either; go ahead and say it aloud: TA3ADOL (rhymes with “pa- pa-ROLL”). The valiant struggle to roll back the tide of the modern Jewish national renaissance – a renaissance pursued with increasing desperation in the wake of the Nazi catastrophe, but at the cost of incalculable suffering and displacement of the other people living on this land – is now over, because the Jewish national renaissance cannot be rolled back. We declare the outcome TA3ADOL.

And while we’re at it: Within the Palestinian reality, the warring factions can also declare ta3adol; and within the Israeli reality, which incidentally includes a million Palestinian-Israeli citizens, the warring players can also declare teko. It’s enough! Call it a tie! Get some decent mediators in here and let’s get a life.

Ah, yes: The old-time coaches on both sides hate to admit that an outright win may not be within their grasp. As coaches do, they want to forge on, regardless. Victory, they promise, is just around the corner, or in another generation, or two, or three. The diehard fans – all over the world – certainly want the game to go on. Victory is a uniquely seductive dream, and the fans themselves are not paying the price in blood that is being exacted from the players on the field. Even some of the players – those too old to worry, too young to fear, too embittered and hopeless to care – want the game to go on. The arms merchants and various foreign powers, whose strategic plans incorporate an ongoing conflict in Palestine-Israel, are happy to have the game go on, and on, and on, and on. And on.

Here on the actual playing field, however, in real time, we (the players) have been stripped of our last illusions, most of us. Ask anyone. Privately, most will say: “Enough, already! It’s enough!” Both teams now know that outright victory, if indeed attainable, comes with too high a price tag; that the continued quest for an outright win is creating a devastating shared legacy of cruelty, shame and sorrow. Give our teams an honorable way out and most of the players will take it willingly, gladly. We want to get a life. We want our children to have a life.

As the scripture says: I set before you life, and death. Be smart, folks. Choose life.

It’s not a soccer game we’re talking about, dear reader. People are needlessly dying here (mostly Palestinians), every day, while the mad coaches rant and rave and the clueless fans scream themselves hoarse in the stands or just go on about their business, deep in denial. But things could be otherwise; it’s up to us.

Speaking in the voice of umpire (not empire), I hereby declare that the game is over! Sisters, brothers, cousins – the contest is done. It’s a tie! Ta3adol! Teko!

In the new era, we will send all our young people to more productive endeavors than mutual bloodshed. We will send them to the Olympics to test their mettle, or to the moon, or into deprived neighborhoods to work with needy kids, or to remote regions to measure their stamina in the wilderness, or even to UN Peacekeeping Forces, if conflict and combat are what they thirst for. But the conflict will be somewhere else, far from here. Here, we’ve had our fill of that.

To all the courageous players out there, Israelis and Palestinians: Listen up, everyone: We may now retire honorably from the field and build a new life, side by side. For our children’s sake, we must get ourselves some new coaches without delay, people with good credentials in co-creating a free and just and prosperous society for all. We should make a detailed list (before we hire them) of the skills they should have. Let’s get busy. A brand new day is waiting to be born.

DEB REICH, author, editor, and translator for Ha’aretz-International Herald Tribune and for NPOs in civil rights and related fields, was born in Manhattan, educated at Barnard College, and has lived in Israel for 25 years. Contact her at debmail@alum.barnard.edu.

Copyright DEB REICH 2002.

 

 

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Deb Reich is a writer and translator living in Israel/Palestine, based in Jerusalem and Abu Ghosh, and the author of No More Enemies (2011). 

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