Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The need for historical reconciliation

Writing for Salon, Baruch Kimmerling offers some advice to his fellow Israelis:

Despite the last four violent years of the Al-Aqsa intifada, a growing portion of the Palestinians, particularly those who live in the territories conquered by Israel in 1967, are prepared, for lack of choice, to relinquish the dream of Greater Palestine. Despite the injustice in this concession, they are willing to relinquish their family property and part of their national assets, on condition that they get a state and that their own and their people's lives improve.

In exchange, the Palestinians ask simply that even if we do not return the lands and homes that were usurped in 1948, at least we will recognize their catastrophe and their suffering, and that our society and state were founded and built upon the ruins of the Arab society and culture.

The Palestinians do not even expect that we ask for their forgiveness -- just that we recognize the historical facts. In the political and practical realm, they are entitled to expect that we will take direct responsibility as a society and as a state for the rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee society that we have created. Also, they have every right to demand that we will not force upon them a "subcontractor" regime, like Arafat's Palestinian Authority, that violates all their human and civil rights.

Simply recognizing the Palestinian narrative, their collective memory, and their suffering -- a narrative Israel is part of, just as the Palestinians are part of the Israeli story -- is necessary for the maturation of Israeli society itself. Strength is not only military. Our true strength will emerge when we are able to look self-critically in the mirror -- and when we understand that the more that Palestinian society and people are rehabilitated, the better it will be for us as well, as Jews and as human beings. If the past, with all its burdens, cannot be forgotten either by us or by the Palestinians, at least we must strive to create a common and empathetic narrative of the past, where each of us recognizes the suffering of the other. That open path of memory, trod by both peoples, would bring greater security to Israel, in the long run, than any wall.