By Diana Shaw Clark
If I had come on this trip expecting to leave with any hope for a swift resumption of work toward a two state solution, I would be disappointed. The violence has escalated rather than receded during the time we’ve been here, and to be realistic, we can hope for nothing more than a ceasefire.
Putting it in the context of our long-term goals is not to diminish the need for a ceasefire. Thousands more may die without one. And the higher the death toll climbs, the harder it will be for anyone affected by the violence to consider co-existence.
It’s hard to find unanimity of opinion on anything in this region. But everyone with whom we’ve met, from members of Knesset of various parties, to peace activists, human rights workers and community organizers agree that the hatred and violence have exceeded what they witnessed in previous conflicts. Everyone expresses dread of what’s to come, and no one has a clue how to stop it.
We were heartened by the thanks we received for coming to show our concern, and by the praise for John Kerry for having demonstrated good faith in his commitment throughout the peace talks. But now what? Will we have to wait a generation for the children who attend classes at the Arab Jewish Community Centre in Jaffa to take the reins of power from those who have not grown up to love and respect “the other”?
I hope not. The cost is too high. The searing, unfathomable pain among among families, nuclear and extended, who have suffered loss is palpable everywhere. And hatred for Israel is festering well beyond Gaza, spreading worldwide as anti-Semitism, the most opportunistic movement in human history, makes the most of Palestinian deaths to discredit not only the occupation, not only the Jewish State, but Jews.
The paramount lesson I am taking from this mission is this: American Jews cannot be complacent. We can’t assume that the leaders on either side know what to do and/or have the will to do it. Our political allies in the region–those with a profoundly felt interest in an Israel that is the secure, democratic home of the Jewish people, alongside a Palestine that is equally free to build its economy and civic society and offer commensurate self-determination for its people, want and need our help and support. J Street has work to do. Our allies toward peace and security are counting on us.