Time Out! Can we talk about this?

May 21, 2024 | Read Now, Voices

It’s time to find common ground across the chasm that divides the pro-Palestinian students on our university campuses from so many others there. One of the primary purposes of any university education is to apply critical thinking in an orderly process to bridge gaps of understanding and opinion between people. Isn’t one of the purposes of these United States of America, to observe foreign conflicts but not to import them to harm us here? Isn’t the best energy of the American Dream in our efforts to live civilly together, while yet protecting our own cultural, ethnic, and national identities? It’s called a melting pot, not a shouting pot, right?

One of the outstanding features of our American Dream has been for our communities to check their grievances at the border and work within our nation’s rich history of pluralism to advocate for their particular point of view.  While passionate advocacy is common, the use of violence and hostility toward “other” groups should be condemned by all Americans. If we look at other foreign disputes between peoples, we see that they often do not come as hostile baggage on an airplane to the United States. Instead, in America we prize E pluribus unum, one nation created out of many. The American Dream involves tolerance and mutual understanding while valuing individual cultural identities, the diversity of religions, and national origins.

For example, the longstanding conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland was historically as full of hate, violence, death, and injury as one could ever imagine. And yet in the United States, it did not lead to widespread violence or clashes. While there were some isolated incidents, the Catholic and Protestant communities of the United States have lived together constructively and in peace. The vast amounts of bloodshed and hatred between Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan have generally not led to any substantial amount of violence in the United States.

The lesson from these and other examples is that our society provides an opportunity for reconciliation and coexistence, even between groups with deep-seated historical animosities. It requires a committed effort by community leaders, government officials, and the public to denounce hate, promote understanding, and create an environment where all Americans feel safe, respected, and heard. It takes leadership:

Our universities should be the incubators for this dialogue. Some have done better than others in reinforcing our American traditions.  Such a meeting place of ideas historically has been a core purpose of any university. College is where we travel from our hometowns and families, experience others, and learn to live with them for the rest of our lives.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is unlikely to go away in our lifetimes, but we can certainly hope that the appalling violence we are currently witnessing will soon end. Let me agree with several things: the death and injury of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children in Gaza is beyond awful. The Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank should be able to achieve their goal of autonomy and elect their own government to live in peace with all their neighbors.

But the same must be true for the State of Israel. The highest responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens. When terrorists crossed over the fence and power-glided into civilian communities in the south of Israel, they killed, raped, and injured nearly 2000 Israeli civilians who were living peaceful lives, many at the Nova Music Festival for Peace. They did it carrying Hamas battle orders to inflict the maximum hatred, violence, and atrocities on those victims. Don’t believe me? Look at the video evidence from the body cams of the Hamas terrorists here and here and here. These atrocities are not lies, they are eyewitnessed truth recorded by the perpetrators themselves. They are provable and have been proven. Process that. Understand what it means about intent. The Hamas terrorists are proud of October 7th. They paraded the rape victims through Gaza City as thousands cheered their “great victory.”

It is necessary for any decent human being who wants to live in a world at peace to understand exactly what happened on October 7, and that Israel, in defense of its civilian citizens, cannot allow such atrocities to ever happen again. As President Biden said today, “Antisemitic hate speech has absolutely no place on college campuses or anywhere else in our country.  As Americans, we cannot stay silent as Jews are attacked, harassed, and targeted.  We must also forcefully push back attempts to ignore, deny, distort, or revise the history of Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust or Hamas’ murders and other atrocities committed on October 7th — including the appalling and unforgivable use of rape and sexual assault to terrorize and torture Jewish women and girls.”

Let us also recognize that Israel is not going away. One can argue this pragmatically, in terms of its nuclear deterrence, its sophisticated, well-provisioned, and highly active army, navy, and air force. One can also argue it ethically, morally, and historically. Israel has been the only homeland of the Jews, continuously over millennia. More than two thousand years ago, when the pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph, walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted in the occupying Roman census, they and baby Jesus were recorded as Jews. The area known as Judea for thousands of years was not named by coincidence. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob appear not just in the Jewish and Christian Old Testament and the Quran as prophets and disciples. They were Jews. They spoke Hebrew. They lived in what is now known as Israel. When the Jews escaped from Pharaoh, they went back home.

2.1 million Israeli citizens are Arabs, the majority of them Palestinian Muslims. That’s 21% of the Israeli population. Each has every right of an Israeli citizen. They include highly educated engineers, brain surgeons, members of the Israeli parliament, business people, architects, and academics. They have by far the best educational opportunities in the Middle East, and they receive them freely. Listen to the voices of Arabs living in Israel, who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, who believe in their country and are determined to defend it. See hereand here and here and here.

Why have civilian deaths happened in Gaza? Hamas, a terrorist organization that began as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, regularly in its Charter states that its goal is to kill all the Jews, kill all the Israelis including the Muslim Israeli citizens who live there. It aims to impose an Islamic Sharia Caliphate worldwide, initially extending across North Africa and up into Spain, where it existed hundreds of years ago. Do the Spanish and Portuguese people want this? Of course not.

Hamas are self-avowed absolutists. They are terrorists. They are a cult that prizes death over life. They believe it is their right to bring death to their people, who rise in stature by being involuntarily martyred to the Hamas cause. Israel does not seek death. Most civilized human beings in the world believe in life, family, truth, love, peace, and prosperity. Many Jews, and I am one of them, oppose the hard right tactics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the frequent violent tactics of the settlers on the West Bank. As I write this, I still believe in a two-state solution, but it is unreasonable to suggest that any government should negotiate with a neighbor that killed 1200 of its citizens and kidnapped over 200, including old women with Alzheimer’s, babies, toddlers, and women. Ask yourself why the Egyptians have fortified their border with Gaza for many years to keep Hamas out. Read the Hamas Charter, the one they don’t want you to see in English translation: here. And remember that Hamas are proxies of Iran. They receive Iranian money, weapons and training. The fascist Iranian theocratic state and their proxies throw opponents off roofs, disfigure women with acid for showing their hair, and regularly hang LGBTQI people in public. Be careful what you wish for.

The greatest catastrophic genocide in human history in terms of the headcount of the men, women and children murdered was the Holocaust in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. 6 million people were murdered, almost all of them because they were born Jewish. The Nazis ran an industrial genocide, with gas chambers and firing squads, burning people alive in barns, hanging them, and cremating them in a quest for ethnic purity. Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman realized that you cannot sit down with such people. In fighting the Nazis, many innocent German civilians died. In fighting Imperial Japan, many innocent Japanese civilians died. These things are awful. War is always awful. But nobody ever said that those were not justifiable wars for freedom, for self-determination, for safety, for world peace and to protect the innocent. After 9-11, no sane person said the United States should not go after Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or ISIS because they systematically hid behind civilians.

The victims in Gaza have been used as human shields by Hamas terrorists and their weaponry. Hamas built an underground tunnel network bigger than the New York subway system. That’s where Hamas used the imported concrete that should have built housing. Their published policy of Death to the Jews is far from adhering to the rules of war. It is the opposite: a cowardly call for the genocide of an entire people. The taking of hostages is disgusting. The way they were taken and the seven months they have been held is inhuman. It ought to be and is unacceptable to Israel, as the government of the country of which they are citizens. Imagine if Hamas had done this in Ohio. Would you have demonstrated for the U.S. to sit quietly and wait for the next attack?

Let us remember that the purpose of a university, beyond any subject studied, is to teach critical thinking. It is to study the diversity that exists within humanity and to create communities of coexistence which respect and honor different traditions, beliefs and cultures while creating a greater whole through tolerance and understanding. University leaders, start your motors! Lead on this, and call the meetings. Students, listen with your biggest ears. We promise to do the same. Let our great universities grow from this confrontation and not shrink into ghettos that hate each other, defecate in the bushes, deface community buildings, shout, and throw fists. No more useful fools. No more sheep. No more cult of death. We can do better, and our great American experiment shows that progress is possible. God bless. At www.people4peace.net, we are right there with you.

Author: Peter Samuelson, People 4 Peace Chairman, Media executive, philanthropist, producer of 27 motion pictures, some award winning. Father of 4

View This Times of Israel Op-Ed from May 21st