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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
Rockland, Speaker: Israeli-Palestinian peace a matter of perspective
The Bangor Daily News
By Walter Griffin
ROCKLAND - Finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be possible if each side looked at its differences from the perspective of the other.
That was the observation made by Dr. Aaron Ahuvia of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish American Alliance for Justice and Peace, during a talk at Adas Yoshuron Synagogue on Sunday. Once one learns to understand an adversary’s mind, one can hope to win his heart, he said.
Ahuvia said his organization was committed to achieving a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the creation of two independent states along the lines established by the Geneva Accord. The boundaries would be similar to those that were in place at the time of the 1967 war, and Israel and the Palestinians would each control a part of Jerusalem.
"Right now neither side trusts the other," he said. "They are sure the other side is only pretending to be interested in a deal."
Along with his work organizing for Brit Tzedek, Ahuvia also is professor of marketing at the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country and Ahuvia said he has worked closely with groups representing that population. Although they don’t agree on everything, both sides agree on the need for peace, he said.
"I’ve been looking very much at marketing peace and you have to start with understanding the people you are talking to," he said. "We have to understand why people do what they do. [Muslims] don’t see the world the way we see the world."
Ahuvia said that the irony of the situation is that every time either side attacks the other, hopes for a settlement climb. As the same hope grows, however, the likelihood that peace actually could happen becomes more distant in the minds of both sides.
As an example of taking a different look at a situation, Ahuvia asked those attending how they would classify their behavior if they cut off another driver with their car. All agreed that they would consider it an inadvertent mistake. When he asked how they would look at the situation if it were reversed, they said they would view the driver who cut them off as a jerk.
"When we as Jews see Palestinians doing horrible things, we say they’re doing it because that’s the kind of people they are. When they see Israelis doing horrible things, they say its because that’s the kind of people they are," he said. "We need to focus on the actions that lead to that mistrust."
He cited Israel’s decision to send its forces into the Gaza Strip as reprisal for the barrage of rockets Hamas rained down on Israel cities last week as an example of how violence plays into the hands of the hard-liners.
"We say, ‘What are we supposed to do? We can’t just sit here and do nothing,’" he said.
Ahuvia said that while some reject the thought of peace outright, the history of Israel itself reveals that success is possible if people strive for it. He said the obstacles of today are nothing compared with the obstacles faced by the Jewish people immediately after the Holocaust and the founding of the state of Israel.
"I am glad there is a Jewish homeland in Israel. I like that and I want to see it succeed," he said.
Formed four years ago, Brit Tzedek has grown to more than 38,000 supporters and has more than 30 chapters with offices in Chicago, New York and Washington. The group was created to actively lobby with the American government to pressure both sides to continue negotiations. Brit Tzedek believes that both Jews and Palestinians have the right to statehood. Members are convinced that the futures of Israel and the Palestinians are inseparable and they will either prosper together or suffer together.
"We’re American citizens. We spend a lot of time talking to the American government about what we want it to do," he said. "We want the American government to be more active in bringing both sides together. We want to build trust and work for a solution."