Where ‘Dialogue’ Doesn’t Work, and Does

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Real journalism. Matt Kalman of the San Francisco Chronicle has done a piece on dialogue programs between Israelis and Palestinians, like Seeds of Peace, and concluded that nothing happens. The NGOs that set up these meetings, in faraway lands, are seen as corrupt and trading with the enemy by Palestinian communities; the (privileged) kids never see each other again; and yes it's great to hang out in Switzerland, but they're still cutting down my olive trees… Reminds me of what Zach Wales, activist, once told me of dialogue at Columbia U.: that it was an opportunity for Jewish kids to "atone" without doing anything really. I'm all for dialogue. But it's interesting to consider that many funders of the dialogue (like Robert Kraft, Columbia '63, whose name is on the Kraft Fund for intercultural dialogue and whose wife has said she wishes her sons could fight for Israel) basically don't see any injustice in the underlying situation. Let's everybody make nice.

Meantime, Richard Witty has sent along the following link from a synagogue in western Massachusetts announcing a "year-long dialogue" on Middle East issues. The first speakers, last night, were Israeli peace activists:

Ms. [Efat] Cohen explains, ''Our most important message is that the Israeli
occupation in Judea and Samaria is bad for Israel and should end as
fast as possible. It is not about not building settlements, but about
evacuation from all the occupied territories, including all the Jewish
settlements that were built in the middle of Palestinian lands, and
giving up the idea of a bigger Israel for the sake of smaller Israel
with high standards and better Jewish morals. …"

A great thing that the synagogue is talking about the damage to Jewish morals. This is huge, a reflection of the grass roots change I'm writing about. I wonder whether that synagogue will invite people like Anna Baltzer in to talk. Dialogue within the Jewish community is important, I'd say, to wake Jews up. This speaks to the larger issue: it is more important that Israel change than that the Palestinians do. Palestinians know all about the occupation; American Jews are steeped in nescience. Wounded by the Holocaust, we are unable to see the true victims of this situation. So it's really about Jewish awareness…

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