Cross-posted from Gush Shalom
RESEARCH SHOWS that one of the most often used words in Hebrew is "Shalom." Israelis greet each other with "shalom" and many of them do the same when parting. (The others use the two slang words "yallah bye," the one Arabic, the other English.)
Shalom is not a synonym of the European word "peace," as many believe. It is far more. It is based on the root "whole" and conveys the sense of wholeness, safety, wellbeing. In no European language can you say "our soldiers attacked the enemy and returned to their base in shalom."
In Arabic, Salaam has the same meaning.
But even in its restricted meaning for peace, shalom expresses a profound human longing. From antiquity, people craved for peace and dreaded war. "Dona nobis pacem" -- "(God) give us peace" - is part of the Catholic mass. Several composers have set it to music. I remember singing it as a child.
Yet in today's Israel, using the word "peace" in political discourse is almost indecent. A four-letter word (as indeed it is in Hebrew and Arabic). One may still express a wish for a "political settlement," but even that sounds a bit suspicious.
It has become fashionable to say that the peace movement is moribund. That the "Two-State solution" is dead, while the so-called "One-State solution" is stillborn.
The safest way to put it is "I am all for peace, but..."
RECENTLY, HAARETZ columnist Ari Shavit, who is popular among American Jews, has written an article in which he equally condemns "extreme rightists" and "extreme leftists," those who advocate war and those who advocate peace. He succeeded in creating a furor. Leftists protested that they have never murdered any opponent, let alone a prime minister, while the Rightists have done so and much more.
Can one compare, say, the leader of the Meretz party, Zehava Galon, with Miri Regev of Likud? (Recently, Regev, a very good-looking former chief army spokeswoman, sued a blogger for calling her "a prostitute with the mouth of a cesspool." The suit was rejected by the court.)
Israel's best and brightest attacked Shavit. Columnist Akiva Eldar, the world-renowned sculptor Dani Karavan (whose work includes the wall behind the Knesset speaker) and many others condemned his reasoning. How can one compare?
The Right is leading us towards an apartheid state in which a Jewish minority will oppress an Arab majority, while the Left advocates a situation in which both peoples live side by side in peace. Where is the symmetry?
But columnists love symmetry. Condemning both sides gives an impression of superiority and even-handedness. Also, it allows their readers to think that they are free spirits, soaring high above the tumult of the masses.
For politicians, the temptation is even greater. Both Leftists and Rightists claim to belong to "The Center," on the assumption that is where most votes are to be found. Also, if you are on the Right, you assume that Rightists will vote for you anyhow, so it is more profitable to invest all your efforts in "The Center." The same goes for Leftists.
This leads to a distortion of the political process. Both sides hide or play down their real views in order to please a group of voters who hold no views at all, and who, frankly, don't give a damn.
In other words, those who care least about the future of the nation are deciding who shall lead the nation into the future.