THE ISRAELI QUESTION
RELIANCE ON INTUITION
By Hal O'Leary
Please allow me to begin this treatise with an explanation of where I, the author, might be coming from.
As a person with a long history of working closely with the Jewish citizenry of my city, Wheeling, WV, to be accused of anti-Semitism, as I have been, is difficult to accept. In 1965, having accepted the challenge of creating a community theatre program for our local arts organization, Oglebay Institute, I chose as my first production a little known play titled, Tevya and His Daughters. For those of you who may not have heard of it, it was the forerunner of the great musical, Fiddler on the Roof. Apart from the fact that it was a fine play, I chose that particular play for the express purpose of attracting the interest and support of the extremely cultured members of our society, namely the Jews. Prejudicial? I suppose, but I offer no apologies, for it worked. The Towngate Theatre will in a matter of months celebrate its Golden Anniversary, partly because there have been few seasons in which we have not produced at least one play with a Jewish theme or by a Jewish playwright.[tag]
Nevertheless, our local Rabbi has taken it upon herself to announce to her congregation that I--along with a few "self-hating" Jewish friends of mine who feel as I do about the current situation in Israel/Palestine--must be anti-Semitic. I called on the Rabbi in an effort to discover, in the face of my history of theatre productions for over forty years as artistic director at the Towngate plus the many other programs I participated in for both the old Synagogue and the new Temple (not to mention the several trees in my name planted in Israel), why I should be so labeled. She could only respond by telling me that she had been to Israel twice and therefore knew the truth of the Palestinian hatred of Jews, ignoring the fact that they had lived peacefully together for centuries before the, "Nakba" or the "Catastrophe" of 1948. Nevertheless, it was her conviction that any display of sympathy for the Palestinian cause had to reflect that hatred. It so happened that during a panel discussion that we both attended, I had professed such sympathy.
This current conflict between the two peoples is difficult to address for two reasons. The first is that spokesmen from neither side can be believed. Without truth, neither side can trust the other. Without trust, there can be no resolution. Without a resolution, there can be no peace. There is, of course, the hope that world opinion could force concessions from one or both sides, but on what grounds could a just opinion be formed when neither side can be believed? The only truth to be found lies in the accusations from both sides that the other is side is lying. The danger is that no justifiable opinion can be based on known deceit. What conclusions then can the misinformed bystander draw, or can he conclude anything at all?
The second reason is that for all the ballyhoo by both sides' proclaiming a desire for a "two-state solution," it is obvious that--in view of the fact that annihilation of one side or the other is the only alternative--neither political side will, or even can with honesty, accept the other as neighbor. Let me stress, political, for I believe that the conflict represents neither a religious nor humanitarian division. Arabs and Jews have lived side by side for centuries in harmony. There can be little doubt that the basis for this situation will be found in terms of economic and political aspirations. Further examination will disclose that those aspirations lie exclusively with the Western powers led by the neocon movement in the United States in conjunction with The World Zionist Organization. What then can be a basis and a hope for world opinion?
While my answer to that question, as stated, cannot be based on faulty information from both sides, I will base my opinion on the only thing left to me--on a human intuition that I possess of what constitutes right and wrong. Currently, at age 89, I can remember intuitively knowing at age eleven that the Ethiopians, with their spears and shields defending themselves against Mussolini's tanks, were on the right side, even though they lost. I remember supporting the white-clad Finnish ski troops swooping down the snow-covered slopes to attack the invading Soviet forces. Once again, I was on the right but losing side. Then, of course, my human intuition led me to the right but losing side with the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. It was not until WWII that my intuition allowed me to be on both the right as well as the winning side. I trust, for the sake of humanity, that I will eventually find myself intuitively on both the right, and in this case, the winning Palestinian side.
Before attempting to explain my reasons for this opinion, perhaps it would be fair for me to explain that, in political terms, I distinguish sharply between the Zionists and the Jewish faithful. There seems to be a marked separation of the more recent political aspirations of the Zionist movement from the basic goodness found in the ancient teachings of Judaism. At a symposium sponsored by the International Organization for the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, G. J. Neuburger, member of Neturei Karta International, had this to say about the difference between Judaism and Zionism:
The greatness or worth of a person is not measured by his or her outward appearance. Jews believe that Adam was created in G-d's image and that he is the common ancestor of all mankind. At this stage in human history, there is no room for privileged people who can do with others as they please. Human life is sacred and human rights are not to be denied by those who would subvert them for "national security" or for any other reason. No one knows this better than the Jews, who have been second-class citizens so often and for so long. Some Zionists, however, may differ. This is understandable because Judaism and Zionism are by no means the same. Indeed they are incompatible and irreconcilable: If one is a good Jew, one cannot be a Zionist; if one is a Zionist, one cannot be a good Jew.
It is further stated by the Jews themselves that:
"Furthermore, the Torah teaches (Deuteronomy 30:3) that G-d will be the One to redeem us from exile. The Talmud explains further that any human attempts to bring an end to the Jewish exile will fail. To support such an attempt, made by Jews ignorant of their own Torah and Talmud, is not supporting the Jewish people."
With statements like these from prominent Jews, my intuition is to concur.
My reasons for favoring Palestine are based on several questions I put to myself. The first was a question of the origins of this impossible situation. Having read of the founding of Zionism with its desire for a Jewish homeland by Theodore Herzl in 1897 and a subsequent quid pro quo WWI agreement that in exchange for a promise by the British government, as stated in the Balfour Declaration, to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine following the war, the Zionists would use their considerable influence to persuade America to enter the war on the side of the Allies, I intuitively sense that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine was more a political cause than a religious one.