“Arab terrorism” has once again swept through the streets of Israel claiming the lives of a number of innocent Israelis and injuring others. Both the victims and the perpetrators of this violence are human beings and so there is nothing trivial about this recent outbreak of violence. Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been lost and to all those who mourn them, but peace cannot be found in the blanket condemnation of the perpetrators or in their dehumanisation by the language of terrorism. Violence and murder are wrong, but they do not happen without reason. If we are genuinely seeking peace in these dark times then we must be prepared to listen to those reasons and understand them. Our failure to listen and understand can only lead to more violence and more deaths. A small number of young Palestinian women and men have armed themselves with knives and they have killed innocent people, and they are being killed with guns. As always in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we are looking at a situation of asymmetric violence; where the terrorists are attacking one of the most sophisticated military complexes in the world with knives, sticks, and stones. We know that they face certain death, so why they are doing this?
It has been argued, in light of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, that one means of bringing about peace may be found in reclaiming Zionism – a political philosophy which has been formally defined by the United Nations as a racist ideology – from the State of Israel and, with the help of the doves in the Jewish diaspora, restoring it to its original ideals. It is true that this thinking may have some merit, but we must interrogate these original ideals; the recognition of Jewish autonomy and nationhood, and the creation of a Jewish homeland. If this is how we are to define the purity of Zionism then we already have a number of serious problems. Jewish self-understanding has always contained an element of national and ethnic identity and few, if any, non-Jews have ever disputed this. Yet nation has never presupposed a state. Questions of homeland are more difficult. Modern Jews are not ancient Judeans. Yes, they may share genetic markers, but twenty centuries of dispersion and, at times, mass conversion have produced a Jewish genetic mix as wide and varied as any other Mediterranean genetic population. Why must any other nation be displaced to make way for a Jewish state? Certainly the displacement of Palestine has been a process of violence, and given that the Palestinian people were and are given no choice in their past and present suffering we must ask if any other present was possible.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.