James Margolis: Jews, Palestinians can coexist without the divisive rhetoric

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My friend sent me a note about the Nakba Day commemoration which will occur Wednesday, May 15 in Brattleboro. I respect Brattleboro for having such discussions and speakers of such merit at this event. Brattleboro is a very open city and has clearly shown this when they also had a speaker at its library who clearly was antisemitic and had far-right leanings. Or the Palestinian speaker who spoke in schools last year (Zeiad Shamrouch) and not only delegitimized the state of Israel but also painted our people in a demonic light. Even this week we see young Muslim children in Philadelphia singing about beheadings, an event which took place at the Muslim American Society (MAS) Islamic Center in North Philadelphia. I suppose, like Brattleboro, they too must believe that this at least sparks open debate.

There is nothing that I can do about Nakba. For me, my greatest worry is today's report in our paper that quotes an Islamic Jihad spokesperson that during the Nakba celebration here in Israel, should there be any killings at the Gaza fence (where they have been rioting, sniping, and sending mortar fire into our land) they will flood us with missiles again (like the almost 700 they fired last week) and also target Tel Aviv. This will take place during Nakba Day here, and I am sure that how our citizens will view this will be much different from those in Brattleboro.

Yet, I also live in a nation in which those who live here can and do achieve great things from all walks of life and from all religions. We have so much room for improvement, and we will improve, but the threat to our existence is unabating. I could argue that we have a historical right to this land that equals that of the Palestinians, but I don't think that this is a sensible argument. What I feel deep in my soul is that from the start, we both needed to co-exist and that Keynote speaker Saleh should have never lost his land right outside of Jaffa. I also could and do argue that to some degree within reason, that land should be repatriated. To me, these are the discussions that need to take place not by threat of constant missiles into the southern part of Israel (and now to Beit Shemesh and several months ago near my home in Tel Aviv), but in a manner in which each recognizes the others struggles, hopes, and history.

The Hamas charter states "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam obliterates it, just as it obliterated others before it." (Preamble) My hope that on the coming Nakba Day, at least in Brattleboro, the focus will be not on what was lost, but on what can be gained through peace and the first steps to rapprochement. If this event is yet another get together in which to depict Israel in a manner that speaker Shamrouch did last year, however, I am afraid it will be nothing but a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions love fest that only further divides us.

My wife whose father survived both Buchenwald and Riga said to me tonight that, "You can never make one who hates you love you, but by showing your achievements through positive actions, you can make those who hate you have doubts about their hate." I think this holds true with how Jews should view Palestinians and how Palestinians should view Jews.

James Margolis is a Learning Specialist with American International School in Israel. He lives in Israel and West Brattleboro. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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