Sunday, September 29, 2013

(7th) Report from the Ground

Dear Friends,

I/P Study Tour Report (7th) From the Ground
(Rev.) John Kleinheksel for FPI

The above sign, ubiquitous in I/P, shows how it is against the law for Israelis to be in Palestinian territory, mixing with the natives. Such separation (segregation) of the two peoples reinforces inequality. These twisted, knotted threads are part of the present fabric.

And yet, representatives of Israel and Palestine are in conversation, persons from Likud and Fatah, with Americans hanging around, bringing their conflicting expectations out into the open, trying to untangle the gnarly knots, with the Two State as the payoff.

FPI (Friends of Palestinians and Israelis) aligns itself with those persons and groups who are building the political will to end inequality between Israelis and Palestinians. It means getting at the often subconscious mindsets we bring to relationships that prevent us from treating “the other” with the respect they deserve as children of God. Palestinians are convinced Israelis (as a whole) perceive them as inferior; and Israelis are sure that Palestinians have not received/accepted them in the land.

I’m attaching a seminal essay by the feminist Jew, Ruchama Marton, a psychiatrist, who probes the psycho/social causes of treating the “other” with disrespect. The implication is that “group think” applies more to Israelis than Palestinians, but a similar case could be made in regards to Palestinian disrespect of Israelis as a whole.

As you know by now, I want to get at the roots of the conflict and move beyond conflict to treating each other with the mutual respect instead of as Enemies, each being created in the likeness of God (who gives manifold expressions of Self-ness, yet is Single [unified] and wants God’s children to welcome diversity in harmony-Shalom-Salaam).

Ruchama Marton brings fresh insight into Israeli “group think” that justifies segregating Palestinians behind a “separation barrier” to protect them from the evil Enemy who threatens their very existence. It goes like this: “We are quite sure we are not being accepted, received, welcomed here; therefore, until you show us respect for who we are, we will treat all of you as enemies. There must be complete acceptance of our “right” to exist here. Absolutely no allowance will be made for any acts of violence against us for being here. Your hatred of us must not be allowed to make any inroads into our way of life”.

Since this mindset is perceived by Palestinians as oppression by Occupation forces, there will always be a state of war between the two peoples. There is no way Palestinians can earn Israeli trust and respect. We want “peace” (with no power sharing); and you want to destroy us. If we actually did extend “respect” to you it would mean sharing power. Since you don’t want us here, if we shared power with you, it would mean the death of us and our way of life. It won’t happen. The war will never end.

Friends, this is what makes the “conflict” so agonizing and maddening. Ms. Marton equates “respect for Palestinians” with “sharing power” with them. On its face, her insights offer no solutions, only diagnosis and “understanding”. But understanding these roots does not lead to mutual respect, only further isolation. When will we start seeing “the other” as fellow human beings with their own desire for space?

Institutional injustice can only lead to liberation when we start seeing the evil in ourselves as well as “the other, the Enemy”. Then fear gives way to vulnerability, healing and mutual respect. My visit confirmed the deeply felt fear on the part of Israelis: fear of Palestinians, fear of extinction.

Eugene Peterson (The Message) has a compelling translation of Jesus’ teaching on how we perceive the world around us: Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (Matt 622-23)
Indeed! That is, what we “see” is what we allow into our being, our person. What do we “see” when our eyes light on “the other”? An Enemy or a potential Friend? The Rich Man never “saw” Lazarus at his door (Luke 16:19-31) and so the chasm became unbridgeable. Hindus talk about The Third Eye, the center of wisdom, bringing order out of chaos. Having discerned betrayal in relationships, how do we move to “wonder” and even entrustment again? This also explains the dilemma Israelis and Palestinians confront on a daily basis. Reading Ruchama Marton, I was reminded of the truly fine books by Rabbi Michael Lerner (Embracing Israel/Palestine), Richard Forer’s Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion and Mark Braverman’s Fatal Embrace.

As the separation (segregation) deepens, “Aggressive militarism on a daily basis” (Marton essay), makes reconciliation [seem] impossible. And this: “For us Israelis, equality (power sharing) is an impossible mental mission”. Please read the Ruchama Marton which I am placing here next. JRK for FPI

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