What exactly is
By Rabbi Marc Gopin, Rabbinic
The American Israel Public Affairs
Committee, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United
States, just concluded its annual Washington conference. It drew
a long line of administration officials and the presidential
candidates to its doorsteps, all touting orthodox lines on what
it means to be pro-Israel—messages carefully crafted to
please the lobby.
Now is a good time to ask, what exactly does 'pro-Israel'
mean, and who is pro-Israel in the United States today? The ones
who twist every arm in Congress to be silent, to suppress what
they know is right to do in terms of a fair Israeli-Palestinian
deal? We have before us now a hair-trigger set of confrontations
from Lebanon to the Persian Gulf, with long-range missiles,
chemical and nuclear capable, aimed at Israel from a country in
the Persian Gulf that has no business in Gaza. And yet, due to
the unending festering of the Palestinian tragedy, Shiite Iran
has stepped into Sunni Gaza, in addition to Iraq and Lebanon,
primarily because the United States failed to engage fairly or
at all in the last eight years.
Have our actions made Israel safer, and do they reflect a
pro-Israel position? Or is this in fact an anti-Israel position
that is sacrificing Jewish and Palestinian children on an altar
of self-destructive fears and hatreds? In the end, American
politicians are going to say and do what the most effective
lobbyists tell them to do regarding Israel. And that translates
back to the American people and their voice. The American people
must decide what is pro-Israel and what is anti-Israel.
|This article was written for and originally published by the
Common Ground News Service (CGNews)-Middle East on June 12,
2008. The service offers free subscriptions to its weekly list
of articles, which offer hope, promote dialogue and propose
solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Brit
Tzedek supporters are encouraged to join this service at
Some interesting lessons learned come from Northern Ireland.
On March 26, 2007 Ian Paisley, co-founder of the DUP party of
Northern Ireland, sat side by side with Gerry Adams of Sinn
Fein, his most reviled enemy, and the two of them pledged their
full participation in an Irish government. This is the same Ian
Paisley who had consistently been the voice of Protestant
opposition and demonisation of Catholics. This is the same Sinn
Fein that had represented the Irish Republican Army as it
carried out decades of violence against Protestants. How did
these enemies get to 2007? There was a little stop along the way
in 1998, in which the United States and one George Mitchell
played a central role.
In 1998, former Senator George Mitchell, of Irish descent,
oversaw the completion of the historic Good Friday Accord that
led eventually to the power sharing arrangements which Northern
Ireland now enjoys. He was supported by another man of partial
Irish descent, President Bill Clinton.
Senator Mitchell once told me in person exactly
how he managed to successfully outmaneuver the spoilers in the
Irish/Protestant conflict. He explained to me: I had a pad of
paper with my handwritten notes. I had the only copy. On it I
placed what each side pledged to do, and exactly when and in
what sequence they would do it. I let them know that if either
side failed in the sequence, then the President of the United
States would publicly lay the blame for the failure of the
entire accord on the side that had broken their word.
These words were so simple, so remarkable, so
pristine in their understanding of negotiation and arbitration.
And this is precisely what has been missing from
Palestinian/Israeli peace processes from the very beginning. It
is not as if the American road to Irish peacemaking was easy.
There were spoilers in America, just as there are now regarding
the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There were people on both
sides who thought they were pro-Irish. But were they pro-Irish
all those decades or anti-Irish? In the end, it was Mitchell and
Clinton who were the most pro-Irish, because they stopped the
killing of Irish children once and for all.
It goes without saying that the issues were
exceedingly complex, that it took years to identify the
compromises, and that Mitchell's charisma and skills added up to
much more than a pad of paper. However, what was irreplaceable
was the American political will to authorise Mr. Mitchell to
boil it all down to that pad of paper and its conditions.
Perhaps it is time to finally tell our congressmen
to tell George Mitchell to go to the Holy Land, with a single
pad of paper in hand, armed with the only weapon necessary: the
American will to write on that pad of paper what needs to be
written, what everyone knows must be written. How many more
Palestinian and Jewish children have to die before the American
people find the willpower to send a brilliant negotiator to the
Middle East with a single pad of paper?
Gopin, a member of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet, is
the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and
Conflict Resolution and the Director of the Center on Religion,
Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in
Washington DC. He is also a Senior Researcher at the Fletcher
School for Law and Diplomacy's Institute for Human Security.
Dr. Gopin was ordained as a rabbi at Yeshiva
University in 1983 and received a Ph.D. in religious ethics from
Brandeis University in 1993. His publications
include: Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future
of World Religions, Violence and Peacemaking (Oxford
University Press, 2000), Holy War, Holy Peace (Oxford
University Press, 2002), and Healing the
Heart of Conflict: Eight Steps to Mending Broken
Relationships, (Rodale Press, 2004).
Dr. Gopin's particular emphasis is on the role of
religion and culture in not only sparking conflict, but as
critical to reaching lasting resolution between peoples and
nations. He has trained thousands of people worldwide in
peacemaking strategies for complex conflicts in which religion
and culture play a role and has engaged in back channel
diplomacy with religious, political and military figures on both
sides of conflicts, especially in the Israeli-Arab conflict.
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