So, I went down to the capitol for the protest. We were a few thousand in the middle of the day on a weekday. I got a $50 parking ticket but opted to stay short of an arrest. I thought I could do without the interaction with the criminal justice system. This ticket is a hardship for me, and the trip was exhausting. The plight of these people needs to be addressed. As many of the signs pointed out, deportations are inhumane.
The juxtaposition of this protest with the recent events in Jerusalem gave me some insight.
What is common about these 2 situations is the idea of self-identity. Israelis have considered Jerusalem to be their capital for a very long time with all of their government offices there. The rest of the world has not chosen to acknowledge this identity for reasons of peace with the community that surrounds Israel. It is difficult because, the shadow of anitsemitism (as with racism) is always present in every evaluation of Jewish relations with the world, and therefore criticism has to be carefully considered. It is not that these communities are always right, or above criticism. Indeed they are diverse communities – a fact that is often ignored. Rather it is that because of existent bias, one has to be able to determine what is culturally relevant to the history of this group, and understand why others without this history may not see things the same way, and then screen this difference very carefully for harmful bias, that many people are not even aware that they possess, which can be strengthened or “validated” by positions.
Rabbi Polack gave a talk last night on nonviolent Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution, and there was an interesting point raised during the course of the talk. The conflict can be seen in its earliest inception with Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Ishmael, and Isaac. Ishmael may be stronger (older) and the first born, but Sarah was Hagar’s master, and therefore, when her own son, Isaac, was born, her son took preference, although the original birth of Ishmael was to have been considered Sara’s birth by proxy. Hierarchy notwithstanding, it was apparently up to Abraham to settle the peace in his own household, and he felt that the only way to do this was to cast Hagar and Ishmael out into the wilderness.
So here we are 3000 years later. Isaac (Israel) has almost been sacrificed (on the mountain) with the Holocaust. The world has determined that they were almost willing to allow the Jewish people to be exterminated in the most horrific way, and so we are left with a “saved” people who must express their right to exist in the face of the most horrific aggression against their own families and lives. They need boundaries. They need a country. It was logical that their original homeland be considered for this.
So, what to do with Hagar and Ishmael (the Palestinians)? In modern sensibilities, you can’t just kick them out into the wilderness. This may have worked 3000 years ago, but in today’s world, all sides are empowered to the point where negotiation and settlement are needed.
So, Isaac (Israel) says, “I may not have been the firstborn, but I have decided to have that identity. The rest of the world may not see me this way, but it is my identity, and in the spirit of self-determination, this is the image that I choose.” In reality, there is little that changes significantly on the basis of this identity crisis. The Palestinians are not being asked to evacuate their homes. They are not even being forced to recognize the Jewish claim of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.
Now, the US (Abraham?) steps in and says “We choose to acknowledge Israel’s claim to identity.” Did the US overstep? Our friends probably have the right to agree. Still, Isaac and Ishmael have to make their own living situations. They have to live with the consequences of how they treat one another.
In the end, it is better to have friends. It is better to say, “You are my brother, and although I would rather see things differently than you see them, I do value you as a part of this family.”