By JOE GREENHERON
On Christmas Eve, there were back-to-back rallies at Bayview Park and Ride: pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel. Despite different flags and signs, my guess is people at both rallies want the same thing: a quick end to the war, minimizing casualties (especially civilians and children), an end to extremist theocracies and lasting peace in the region.
What follows is my opinion alone, as a practicing Jew on South Whidbey, and of someone with the utmost love and respect for Israel and Israelis, Palestine and Palestinians. I don’t speak on behalf of any organizations.
I denounce both Hamas’ attacks on civilians and the human rights violations being committed by the Israeli army. Hamas and the Netanyahu governments are more alike than different: both are committed to theocracy; both are unpopular among their constituents; both are serving one another’s needs, not the welfare of the people in the region, whose fates are inextricably linked. Israel will not be safe until the Palestinian people have hope for a better future.
I don’t have a solution for lasting peace in the Middle East. But I know it won’t come as a result of yet another cycle of violence, so a ceasefire has to be the next step. More war only creates more orphans, hostages, and grieving parents, which creates the next wave of extremists. There are risks to a ceasefire. For example, Hamas might regroup once the bombing stops. But that’s going to be a danger whenever it stops. So why not stop now?
In the words of Rami Elhanan, who lost his daughter to a Hamas suicide bombing, “You cannot annihilate Hamas. You cannot ignore…Palestinians, living here in the Holy Land…They will not go away. We [Israelis] will not go away. We are doomed to live here together, and we have to choose whether to share this land or to share the graveyard under it.” Elhanan now works at an Israeli-Palestinian peace organization. Instead of a battleground, he chose a common ground.
I know we can do likewise here on South Whidbey, halfway around the world from the violence. I reached out to the organizers of both rallies with the idea of a discussion session and both have expressed interest. Instead of letting conflict in the Mid-East deepen existing divisions between neighbors, let’s demonstrate that we can be a small part of the solution, using dialogue and understanding, tools that ultimately pave the way to peace.
Joe Greenheron is a father of three, a tech consultant and a member of the South Whidbey School Board.