Will All the Real Moderates Please Stand Up? By Tiffany Harris, Israel

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with Israeli and Arab moderates.

imageI have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the great stumbling block in his stride toward peace is not hardline settlers, those who oppose a peaceful solution, or fanatical Islamists; it is the Arab and Israeli moderates, who is more devoted to the status quo than to justice; who prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly say: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believe he or she can set the timetable for another person’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises Palestinians to wait for a “more convenient season.”

With this statement, I would like to express a constant problem for peace activists within Israel and the Palestinian Territories. There is not and never will be never a ‘right time’ to change the status quo. When I talk with my Israeli friends about a two-state solution, they generally disagree with the strict restrictions on Palestinian movement, especially as it relates to their ability to get to school, work, and hospitals; calling it a balagan. But this conversation, when taking place in public, is generally conducted in hushed tones. Unfortunately, most of my friends and in fact most people here are far too comfortable remaining voiceless, apathetic, rather than upholding our moral duty to speak out against unjust laws. Speaking to those of us living here, we need to be fearless! We need to have the courage to brave tension, discomfort, and the potential social hellfire that comes with breaking the status quo.

Now onto my second confession, the words in the first paragraph are not my own. The text came from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I just switched a few of the words: moderate whites to moderate Israelis and Arabs. I also swapped the word Negros for Palestinians. I did this to illustrate the idea that even today, fifty years (August 28) from the date Dr. King delivered his legacy “I have a dream” speech in Washington DC, his words remain relevant. King wrote this letter while he was imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama. He was jailed because of his participation in a nonviolent demonstration for civil rights. King’s full letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance, arguing that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws.

Since the resumption of Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations, there has been a bit of progress. But still, the reality of this conflict is played out in the day-to-day experience of average Palestinians and Israelis. In addition to the words above, Letters from a Birmingham jail also said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I say these words remain relevant given the current quest for equality. Realistically speaking, the lives of Israeli Jews are far less impacted by this conflict than that of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. As such, we can assume that if Dr. King, were alive today, he would assert that his dream is not yet fulfilled. So on the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington and King’s I have a Dream Speech, lets remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, and his actions as a model for courage and idealism. Lets also remember his call to action: Moderates, remember that you have a great deal of power. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Dr. King dedicated his life to love and to justice. His dream for a more just and humane world is as important as ever, so lets throw caution to the wind and bring that dream to fruition.”

Tiffany Harris

YaLa Young Leaders

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