There’s a strange dynamic in the Palestinian cause encouraged by a large group of Palestinian supporters. It’s an energy that is very easy to fall into or feed, but one that works directly against the Palestinian cause. I remember doing a public talk on the situation in Hebron, Palestine which included many videos of the human rights violations committed by Israeli soldiers, settlers, and police. At the end of this talk, a man in the back stood up, said hateful things about Jewish people and concluded with suggesting genocidal violence against the Jewish population would be the only cure.
Having lived under the incredibly hateful regime in Hebron, which is the absolute unmasking of colonialism, the man’s comments and energy did not inspire hope; they just added another layer of unconscious hatred to the mix.
What is the Palestinian cause about? Peace, freedom, justice, equality, liberation of the land, rights and dignity, the worth of every life. These are just a few things. Yet, in response to the brutality of the Israeli apartheid, many supporters feed an energy that is the exact opposite of this, thinking it will help free Palestine.
You can see this in responses to online videos showing Israeli brutality. Comments about Israelis as “animals,” “disgusting human beings,” “monsters,” and that advocate for a new Hitler, or the bombing and killing of all Jews are in no way rare.
The documentary Defamation, by an Israeli filmmaker, shows clearly how these unconscious sentiments easily play into feeding Israeli brutality. The film follows Israeli high school students, who visit Auschwitz en masse the year before they enter the army. Their teachers and the secret service detail meant to provide “security,” lie to the students repeatedly, telling them that Jews are hated by the entire world who would kill them in a moment if given the chance. They tell the students not to talk to anyone in Poland, feeding the illusions by telling them what Polish people think about them rather than letting the students find out for themselves.
It’s clear how the innumerable comments dehumanizing Israelis or advocating for brutal genocidal violence against them play into this mindset. Rather than appeal to the humanity in the people, such comments push them into a corner, with only the Israeli government to turn to. The Israeli government is able to manipulate this situation very easily. The entire Israeli society has moved to the right in the last decade, to a startling degree. Calling someone a disgusting inhuman monster over and over, the world acts surprised as nearly the entire society begins to reflect this.
It is easy to be blind to this, to get sucked into frustration and rage in response to the treatment of Palestinians. I found myself in a similar place, so I say these things because I have been through it myself. There is no question that the people of the world are confused about how to deal with the energies we are faced with. But if supporters in the West align themselves deeply with the values of the Palestinian cause, they will have a kind of protection that ensures that the energy they create has more to do with that of liberation than with the sickness of colonialism. They will find themselves like those Palestinians we all admire, those who can create deep warmth and openness in their homes in the midst of apartheid hell, rather than more akin to, for example, hate-filled Israeli settlers in Hebron who cannot see their own sickness. Many Palestinians seek a one state solution, full of values like equality, democracy, freedom, respect. There is no way Palestinians want support of their cause to increase hatred and sickness in the world, and as supporters we have an important part to play in this.
Who will remember that justice does not mean hatred, that freedom has something to do with wisdom and discernment and self-responsibility? These voices are greatly needed, more and more of them.
The book Refusenik: Israel’s Soldiers of Conscience documents the transformation that many former Israeli soldiers make to become people who speak out against the Occupation and who would rather go to jail than participate in it. The testimonies demonstrate again and again that such growth is possible. The Refusenik members spent a lot of time outside Israeli soldier transportation centers, talking to soldiers and encouraging them to take up their right to think as humans, rather than give that power to the army. They understood the mentality the soldiers and Israeli society were immersed in and used the knowledge to speak to the humanity of the soldiers as a way to break through. They show an example of what transformation is about, and how growth, maturity, and wisdom can increase.