There are two ways to view this world which the Almighty has created. These two ways are anchored in one's overall philosophy and partake of the very core of one's being. They are at the root of one's faith, morals and political orientations.
They manifest themselves again and again in systems of wisdom and religious faith. They stand side by side in the sources and traditions of Judaism. Each approach has its proof texts.
One view point sees and experiences humanity, both individuals and groups, as if in a state of irreconcilable conflict. Life is a struggle and much of our motivations are egocentric. It is a "dog eat dog" world. The Other, whether a group or an individual, is never to be trusted. Rely on the goodness of people or peoples and you will inevitably suffer the consequences. Gullible fools seek to understand, help and placate. History is littered with the corpses of these naive souls.
The alternative view sees the human condition as flawed but also it as essentially good. Kindness and honesty are only legitimate responses to the ambiguities and pain of individual and communal life.
Justice and empathy are not only true and morally desirable but will also generally yield reciprocal feelings in the Other. Granted, this might not always be true, but it is often a successful approach, and even when not, it is worth erring on the side of the fair, kind and good.
Ultimately, the way a people views itself will color the stance it takes on the above existential decision. For the Jewish people, who have suffered and endured throughout history ( and we leave aside for the moment the reasons for that record of suffering) it is often difficult to abandon the notion that the world is a dark place, full always of enemies who wish us bad for no reason.
Tragically, this view colors most Jewish religious and political speculation.
It colors the thinking of the right wing religious Zionist, who sees Israel surrounded by irrational enemies and rest of the world which always hates the Jews.
It colors the thinking of many American Jewish political activists, both Orthodox and non - Orthodox, who see their task as the defense of Jewish self interest, forever oblivious to the physical and spiritual needs of Others.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has its source in this inability of most Jews to escape the self understanding of themselves as the constant and most suffering victims of unique hatred and persecution. We attribute this notion of implacable and irrational hatred to the Palestinians, most of the Islamic world and the vast majority of mankind that accords some degree of legitimacy to Palestinian grievances and aspirations.
Obviously, power and hate play a large role in history. But it is vital that Jewish self understanding be rooted in alternatives to power and hate. It must be rooted in the Torah which sees G-d as good and our task as emulating his Goodness.
We must posit G-d is good and His creation is good. We must affirm that he loves humanity and desires its goodness, both materially and spiritually.
We should view most people and peoples as essentially good and seeking simply to have a little space to call their own amongst their own kind.
We must see people as responding to the positive motivation of being listened to, of having their stories and grasp of history understood. We believe the Israeli - Palestinian conflict is the result of two deeply wounded peoples, encountering each other at a time when their hopes for the future put them on a collision course.
We are not primarily interested in establishing when each of these peoples erred in the past, or when their obstinacy and belligerence created a path of mutual suffering for both.
We are interested in the future. We are interested in a mutual respect that will yield sensitivity on both sides of the conflict. There are those who speak of two states or of one, but these details will have to be dealt in the future. At present, the exact configuration of peace is very far away.
First, the hearts and minds of all concerned must change. And, being Jews, we are first and foremost concerned with changing Jewish hearts for the better.
Zionism and Judaism -- The Morning After
At times in history, ideological eras have ended, although their physical incarnations still hobble along. The French monarchy in, say, 1785, or Communism in the late 80s existed, but had clearly run their course. And, when the day came for their formal dismantlings, events often went so fast that those involved were ill prepared for what was to follow.
It is my contention that Zionism and Israel, as currently constituted, have reached this point. Yes, the state is propped up by the assorted pressures and intimidations still wielded by America, as it too enters its own period of decline, but these are merely the artificial convulsions of that which is already gone; it's spirit long sapped and drained.
The Zionist enterprise lives today by rote recitations of Gentile iniquity and untenable behavior toward the Palestinians, either overt or via indifference. The dream of Zionism's founders and of the state's early years to live in peace free of Gentile cruelty and a secure homeland has failed. All that remains is the mantra, "All hate us. It is not fair. We must resist, the fight must go on." This is the negative ghost that lingers, despite a few pro forma gestures, which all now see as empty, in the direction of Two States.
Now, it is of little consequence at present to note that Jewish fears are rooted not only in alluring myths, but also in grim realities. Jews have suffered in the past, in Europe and the Middle East. They have been the victims of a Palestinian and general Arabic response that has often been intransigent and resorted to brutal methods of warfare.
There are doubtless sad truths on all sides. And, there will be inevitably be much pain and suffering till the current impasse is over. But my goal here is to speak of the next stage when Judaism will have to confront itself in a world where alternatives to Zionist philosophy will be sought.
This alternative will have to be Judaism, as it existed throughout history, a religious-ethnic community -- a return to roots so to speak. Inevitably, this will be difficult for those Jews, largely ignorant of their Torah faith through no fault of their own, long schooled in the modern cult of Holocaustism and Zionism, to see beyond current confines.
So, yes, a return to Torah, prayer, Jewish law, that is what awaits.
But my hopes go further. I believe that the trauma of Zionism, when it ends, will have served, hopefully, as an enduring lesson, as a crucible of transformation which we allow us to temper our victimology and see the rest of mankind as part of life's sufferings and hopes as well. Jewish suffering over the centuries created a certain harshness of spirit, which in turn gave birth to Zionism, with its blindness to the other people who also dwelt in the land.
Ah, you ask what political forms will this take? That to me is a vastly secondary question. What is first needed is that we prepare Jewish hearts for the morning after -- prepare them with Torah, and justice and empathy for all; for it is this justice and love which is the Creator's gift to and demand of us.
Personally, I suspect we will yet see One State in the Holy Land. The interwoven locations of the two peoples are such that simple divisions will always be temporary. But, of greater significance, it is One State which will enable both peoples to step beyond themselves and see humanity in the Other. As a believing Jew, this is my fondest hope for my people, in the Holy Land and throughout the world