by Donald H. Harrison
I hope that Israel is successful wiping out Hamas as a military and a political force. Thereafter, I hope that Israel will not let the situation stagnate but will build upon its victory by fostering in Gaza humanitarian aid and beneficial governance.
Whereas violence can harden a survivor’s heart, kindness can soften it. If Israel demonstrably recognizes the humanity and dignity of Gazan civilians on a consistent, ongoing basis, I believe that in time Israel can counteract the Hamas-instilled lessons of hate for Jews upon which many Gazans have been raised, thereby building toward the reconciliation of their two peoples.
I believe this is possible because the world witnessed after World War II the reconciliation of longstanding European enemies, in particular Germany and France, so that today they are partners in the European Union. I have seen the United States reconcile with Japan, so that today the two countries cooperate in the Pacific. I even have witnessed the growing friendship between America and Vietnam, which no one would have predicted back in the 1960s and 1970s when the war between them was being fought.
What it will take is for Israel, as the conqueror, to clearly enunciate and act upon a message of good will, while encouraging other nations to join it in a rebuilding process so that Gazans will look back and decide that they were better off following the war with Israel than they were before it.
A similar process needs to be undertaken in the West Bank, known to many Israeli Jews as Judea and Samaria. As critical, if not more so, is the repair of Arab-Jewish relationships within Israel proper. There have been notable examples of Arab successes within Israel, such as the elevation of Salin Joubran, a Christian Arab, to Israel’s Supreme Court, and the appointment of Ali Yahya as Israel’s ambassador to Finland and later to Greece. Yayha died in 2014, one of only a handful of Israeli diplomats who had been named an ambassador for life.
There need to be far more success stories like those of Jourbran and Yahya. Israel needs to send a message to all Arabs over whose lives it has some influence or control that it wants friendship, partnership, cooperation, and growth and a positive inter-relationship. I have made the controversial proposal that a stanza should be added to this effect in the exclusively Jewish Israeli national anthem Hatikvah, so that for Arabs, Israeli flag ceremonies reinforce the idea of inclusion rather than exclusion.
Just as the hearts of Arabs need to be softened, so too do the hearts of Jewish Israelis. Too many have learned to reciprocate the hate they feel coming toward them from many Arabs. Yet, we know that most Israelis yearn for peace, real peace. Many of us remember the wave of thankful emotion, and grateful tears, that came over Israel when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his momentous peace-seeking flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv in 1977, the first leader of an Arab nation to set foot in Israel.
I believe organizations like the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, which was founded by the late, great Israeli Prime Minister and later President Shimon Peres, should be encouraged in their efforts to bring Jews and Arabs together in numerous cooperative enterprises and thereby build feelings of trust and inter-dependence rather than of separateness and isolation.
Goodwill cannot only be spoken about, it must be practiced.
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected]. This column is republished from San Diego Jewish World which is, along with The Moderate Voice, a member of the San Diego Online News Association.
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