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December 12, 2003 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-12

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Finding The Right Balance

Cambridge, Mass.
hile events in Iraq domi-
nate American political
discourse, the Israeli
government is undertak-
ing an extraordinary construction
project. Although coalitions opposed
to this project exist in the United
States, West Bank and Israel, attention
and scrutiny seem hardly commensu-
rate to the enormity of the construc-
Like almost every issue related to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, defini-
tions and intentions depend on one's
perspective. This recent project (for
lack of more neutral term) is no dif-
According to one perspective, what
is being constructed in the West Bank
is a security fence, which will stop sui-
cide bombings inside of Israel. The
impetus behind its construction is
security — to protect Israeli civilians
and put an end to terrorist attacks.
For others, it is simply known as the
WalL which will curtail Palestinian
social, economic and political free-
doms. According to this view, much of
the impetus behind its construction is
political — to create "facts on the
ground," in an effort by Israel to accu-
mulate more land and resources in


Kevin Schwartz is a recent graduate of

the Harvard University master's program
in Middle Eastern Studies. His e-mail
address is Schwartz_kl@hotmail.com

addition to strengthening her position
in any future negotiations concerning
a Palestinian state.
For some, the security fence will
protect all of Israel's citizens. For oth-
ers, the Wall will adversely affect hun-
dreds of thousands Palestinians in the
most dehumanizing way possible. The
list of counter-posing viewpoints,
including the number and nature of
its access gates, goes on and on.

A Fine Line

Taken from their accompanying per-
spectives, both viewpoints are legiti-
mate and to merely attack one view-
point as false is not a worthwhile exer-
This is a central point to Rabbi
Michael Lerner's new book Healing
Israel/Palestine (Tikkun Books,
Rabbi Lerner spends much of the
book presenting both the Israeli and
Palestinian narratives in order to
demonstrate that both sides have an
equally important story to tell, sup-
ported by facts in accordance with
their interpretation. What is needed,
he argues, is a relationship built on
trust and compassion, one that accepts
the other's narrative as legitimate and
focuses on future coexistence rather
than conflicting interpretations and
past transgressions.
But the battle over the Israeli gov-
ernment's present construction project

is being waged on the ground,
retrace the 20th century nar-
not on paper. Unlike the more
rative of Jewish collective
abstract issues that have stifled
memory, from the death
peace negotiations thus far,
camps of Europe to the sites
like the right of Palestinian
of Jerusalem.
return to Israel, for example,
After developing his photos
the simple physicality of this
back home, he realized that
issue is shifting the grounds
one role of film had been
upon which future negotia-
double exposed. With the
tions will take place, inten-
SCHWARTZ same role of film he had used
tionally or not.
to capture the remnants of the
Altering the physical land-
Commentary Holocaust, he had also
scape of Israel/Palestine so
snapped photos of Israel's
drastically, and in a manner
most breathtaking sites.
that has few equivalents in this land's
He showed me a photo, which, by
millennia-old history, ensures dramatic sheer coincidence, had eerily merged
effects on any future negotiations.
images of two walls in disparate parts
This structure is not being built
of the world: one wall was at
along an internationally recognized
Auschwitz, the other was Jerusalem's
border, or even the Green Line for
Western Wall. The combined photo
that matter. Whether one finds its
was sliced down the center on a diago-
present intention and purpose legiti-
nal, dissected exactly in half, and
mate or not, this structure is inter-
though it was in black and white, the
twining itself into any future negotia-
division between the two was clear.
tions based on a two-state solution by
The half of the wall made from
virtue of its physical stature alone as
Jerusalem stone was noticeably lighter
much as, I fear, into Jewish history on
than the mottled grays of Auschwitz,
account of its political and cultural
invoking the dichotomy of struggle
and renewal.
And now, for better or worse, I see a
third wall (fence, structure, etc.) trans-
Uncanny Metaphor
posing itself onto his miraculous
Under such intermingling of past,
photo, disrupting its elegiac beauty
present and future, I can't but help be
and shattering its symmetry — with
reminded of a photograph a friend
nowhere to thrust itself but some-
once showed me. He had taken the
where in the middle, caught between
photo on the March of the Living, the
the Jews' greatest triumph and greatest
journey during which Jewish teenagers despair. 0

The Jewish Future In Europe

nti-Semitism in Europe
was for nearly two millen-
nia a Christian phenome-
non; now it is basically a
Muslim one.
That is the basic message of an
officially-commissioned study by the
European Union (EU), which
became notorious in recent weeks
when the EU itself quashed the 104-
page draft version. The Financial
Times, which broke this story,
reported that it did so "because the
study concluded Muslims and pro-


Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle

East Forum. His e-mail address is

Palestinian groups were behind many
of the incidents it examined. This
focus on Muslim and pro-Palestinian
perpetrators, the Financial Times
went on, "was judged inflammatory."
One person familiar with the draft
study concluded, "The decision not
to publish was a political decision."
But beyond the politics of this dis-
pute, the draft study — titled

Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the
European Union and now released by
the EU itself, though with a dis-
claimer — confirms the historic
change in the locus of anti-Jewish
sentiments and actions.
Focusing on a sample monitoring
period one month in duration (May
15-June 15, 2002), the study ham-
mers home again and again the key

role of Muslims in forwarding
attacks occurred either dur-
ing or after pro-Palestinian
• "From the perpetrators
demonstrations, which were
identified or at least identifi-
also used by radical Islamists
able with some certainty, it
for hurling verbal abuse. In
can be concluded that the
addition, radical Islamist cir-
anti-Semitic incidents in the
cles were responsible for
monitoring period were com-
placing anti-Semitic propa-
mitted above all either by
ganda on the Internet and in
right-wing extremists or radi-
Arab-language media."
cal Islamists or young
• "Physical attacks on Jews
Sp ecial
Muslims mostly of Arab
Corn mentary and the desecration and
destruction of synagogues
The problem includes vio-
were acts mainly committed
lent attacks:
by young Muslim perpetrators most-
• "Physical attacks on Jews and the
ly of an Arab descent in the moni-
desecration and destruction of syna-
toring period."
gogues were acts often committed by
It results from the rabidly anti-
young Muslim perpetrators in the
Jewish discourse that exists among
monitoring period. Many of these

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