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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
Experts Paint Grim Picture
May 17, 2007
In a difficult discussion of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline last week, two experts on the Middle East painted a grim portrait of the situation overseas if a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not found soon.
Rafi Dajani, executive director of the Washington, D.C. based American Task Force on Palestine, and Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the New America Foundation spoke to more than 150 attendees on May 10 at a discussion entitled "Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Forget It or Not Just Yet?"
The event, which was sponsored by the Boston chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and co-sponsored by Temple Beth Zion and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, was held to give individuals the chance to discuss the difficulties and possibilities "in the current situation on the ground," according to Beth Wasserman, community liaison and spokeswoman for the Boston chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.
"It's important to know that at various levels there are Palestinians that share the same solution for peace and negotiations as Israelis," Wasserman said. "The situation is always very dynamic. This [event] represents the concept of needing to talk to each other."
Opening with a joke to ease the audience, Dajani then launched into a speech about the misconceptions of equating the Palestinian unity government with Hamas, an extremist group. Starting that the whole reason the Palestinian unity government was "put together" was to "end Palestinian violence," Dajani said that 88 percent of Palestinians now support this new authority. But "whether we like it or not," Dajani added, Hamas is a part of the Palestinian political landscape and it is imperative for the extremist group to recognize the right for Israel to exist. Pushing Hamas out of power could act as the "role of spoiler," Djani noted.
"If one [side] gives up hope, such as the Palestinians, these people will start calling for equality and that is a hard request to deny," said Dajani, whose speech angered an attendee who had to be escorted out of the temple. "Basically, if a two-state solution is lost, which I hope it is not, we will move to a much more dangerous state."
Levy, who was the principal Israeli negotiator of the historical Geneva Initiative in 2003, agreed with many of Dajani's statements, adding that "it's probably easy to build a case for pessimism to why you have to be a wide-eyed tilter of windmills" to find peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Levy spoke about how the Israeli government tried many tactics and failed, eventually succumbing to using the military to invade and destroy the homes of suicide bombers with the hopes of "curbing the terrorist threat." Levy said he now believes it is in the Jewish state's "best interest" to make peace with its neighbors and secure borders, as aliyah figures have been lowest since 1989 and many tourists have stopped visiting Israel. But the many point Levy wanted to drive home is the lack of help received from the United States in finding a solution to the conflict overseas.
"I don't see how it's in Israel's interest to have America not involved in peacemaking," said Levy drawing an overwhelming applause from the crowd. "America has done Israel a terrible disservice."
At the end of the presentations, Wasserman urged attendees to sign Brit Tzedek v'Shalom's call for U.S. diplomatic engagement in Israeli-Arab peacemaking and to promote talks between Israel and any other party.
Said Levy: "we know we need to end the occupation and it's very difficult and I hope our friends [in the United States] will help with that pursuit."