ROI panel highlights Palestinian–Israeli stalemate with eye toward not solution, but revolutionary thinking
By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
Theodor Herzl saw Zionism as a way to obliterate anti-Semitism, ending hundreds of years of conflict between Jews and gentiles. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook saw Zionism as the Jewish spirit returning to its body.
“Well Zionism didn’t cancel the conflict, it changed the conflict,” said Dr. Micah Goodman, a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “It used to be a conflict with the Christian world. All that Zionism managed to do was transform it into a conflict with the Muslim world.”
He continued, “The second intifada shattered the romantic vision of Rav Kook. We realized that big ideas don’t work in these realities.”
Speaking on a panel with Dr. Dalia Fadila, founder of the Q Schools (English-speaking Arab Israeli schools), at last month’s ROI Summit in Jerusalem, Goodman examined the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with little solution. Instead, he offered an image of a perplexing, lose-lose situation with which the Jewish people of Israel are forced to live in and grapple with.
“The majority of Israelis think the occupation has to end,” Goodman told the crowd of more than 150 young adults from around the world, referring to the settlement communities in Judea and Samaria. “They are isolating us diplomatically, threatening us demographically …”
However, he said, we cannot end the occupation.
Goodman described the Middle East in 2016 as “exploding,” with 14 million refugees, countries that are collapsing and brutal forms of terrorism that are erupting all over the area.
“If we evacuate the West Bank, all of these terrorist forces enter,” he said, noting that we could have ISIS or Hezbollah aiming their terror at Tel Aviv. Israel would become an un-defendable country, whose security and future stability would be at risk.
“My conclusion: We have to leave the West Bank and we cannot leave the West Bank,” Goodman said.
Aside from the diplomatic and security challenges that result from this stalemate, Goodman’s conclusion was that the security situation is what has stifled Israel’s internal stability – it’s inability to properly integrate its minority population, its failure to properly balance religion and state, its incapacity to deal with socioeconomic challenges, such as the housing crisis.
“We’ll deal with these problems when we solve the conflict,” he said was a popular Israeli leadership line for most of Israel’s existence. However, he is “radically optimistic” that we are on the cusp of change in Israel in many areas.
“Israel started dealing with other issues after we realized we cannot solve the conflict,” Goodman said, to which Arab Israeli Fadila nodded in agreement. She said that he, too, is “ridiculously optimistic.”
Her piece of the panel dealt with a similar conflict – but one that happens inside the Green Line: the struggle of Israel’s minorities. She told a captivated audience about the Arab Israeli identity crisis. She described a situation where she feels Palestinian in Israel and Israeli in Palestinian-controlled territories, where she feels Muslim and also Israeli.
“This is not only my personal problem, it is the problem of 20 percent of the state of Israel,” Fadila said.
Not long ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled Arab-Israeli villages as a “state within a state.” Fadila described the Jewish and Israeli communities as “two societies.”
One is living in the 21st century and the other, the highest, in the 13th century,” said Fadila. “Then you start believing or understanding or recognizing why there is tension between Arabs and Jews here and why Israeli democracy is not inclusive of Arabs in Israel.”
Dr. Sami Miaari, a lecturer at the Department of Labor Studies in Tel-Aviv University, said the gap between Jewish and Arab Israelis is growing for many reasons. He says there are deep disparities between the education systems and that the crime rate within the Arab-Israeli population remains significantly higher in comparison to the rate among Jewish Israelis.
“Four times the amount of young Arabs are arrested than young Jews,” Miaari said.
Fadila however is an agent of change. She obtained a Ph.D. and became the first female dean of an Islamic college in Israel. She founded the Q Schools and conceived and wrote an entire series of Q School books. To date, more than 2,000 students, ages 2-18, have studied her curriculum in five locations in Israel and Jordan.
She said that at one point she understood she had a choice: She could either be angry, blame the Jews, men, Muslim society, through which she would remain in a state of philosophical chaos, or she could take the best of all of her identities and harness them for the good.
“Arabs in America, like Jews in America and other minorities, made a decision one day that, since they are in this new context of a minority within a majority, they can make a decision about who they are. Calling yourself African American is about balancing your heritage. This is a systematic approach,” Fadila told The Times of Israel in early 2016.
Like Goodman, she feels that the Arab – and especially Arab parliamentarian – preoccupation with the occupation leads to neglect of education and employment or the fight for equal rights for minorities. She said she believes in a settlement freeze and in two states for two peoples, but she believes she is Israeli and that her fight is for her children’s future in Israel.
“As a mother, my dream is for my children to be successful here,” she told ROI attendees.
“Real change … comes from increased economic opportunities, better infrastructure and education,” said Miaari. “And let’s not forget the importance of good faith efforts to reach out to Arab-Israeli society.”
Goodman said he believes Fadila will succeed when Jewish Israelis can make room for people like her.
“Israelis think that in order to enable minorities to be a part of our narrative, we have to weaken our Jewish Israeli identity,” said Goodman. “The more we feel strong and confident about our Jewish-Israeli identity, the more we can be generous and share our public space and narrative with other identities. … It is cultivating the right attitudes.”