Two weeks ago, a group of Tufts students protested prior to a lecture of an Israeli legal officer at the Fletcher School. They called for human rights and spoke against killing innocent civilians. However, like in other similar lectures, none of them exploited this opportunity to ask the Israeli officer tough questions or challenge his explanations. I know this event was closed to non-Fletcher students. However, my experience suggests that this was not the only reason for not having a constructive talk. I admire people who follow their values at the price of popularity, even if their opinions contradict mine — people who are willing to fight for the morals they believe in. Unfortunately, those people were silent in our university during recent weeks.
I entered the Fletcher School’s Hall of Flags last week in search of these same human rights protestors. After five Israelis were murdered while praying in a Jerusalem synagogue, I expected similar demonstrations from those who are guided by their values of protecting innocent civilians. But not even a small gesture for the Druze policeman killed trying to prevent the massacre could be found.
Are Israeli civilians less innocent than the Palestinian ones? Do human rights hold only in the Palestinian territories? According to every international standard, the answer is no. Is this political ignorance or moral hypocrisy? This is a question with which I continue to grapple.
Prioritizing the lives of one people over those of another is not only immoral according to any international norm, but also politically detrimental. It confirms the fears of Israeli hawks that should Israel take risks for peace resulting in violence, it will be left alone to face the consequences. This fear is informed by the Israeli experience of pulling out of Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005). Since then, these territories have become hotbeds of terrorism from which thousands of rockets have been launched at Israeli civilian centers. Israel cannot afford to take this risk while the Middle East burns around it.
Ignorance and hypocrisy also serve to strengthen those Palestinians opposing negotiations with Israel, leading them to believe that time is on their side. Over time, their stature in the international community will only grow, and the pressure on Israel will increase. This will translate into greater concessions from Israel. Under this scenario, these Palestinians will be incentivized to obstruct, rather than make, the historic concessions that any peace agreement formula demands.
I am not against demonstrations, regardless of their political affinity. I am against valuing the life of one group over the lives of another group. I am an ardent supporter of the two-state solution. In contrast to most of the people protesting, it is my family and I who will pay the price for diplomatic failure. This is why I call to support moderates on both sides, Palestinian and Israeli. To renew the belief that it is not a zero-sum game, but there is an alternative in which both sides could live peacefully next to each other.
In a choice between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine, I choose both. This is why I dare you to follow your values regardless of any politics. To solve this problem, we must fight ignorance and hypocrisy. We should study the conflict with depth, ask the hard questions and truly listen to the answers provided — as we expect our political leaders to do. More than ever, the holy land needs the support of those who really care, not those who want to feel self-righteous. Spreading hate is the easiest path, but it doesn’t promote a just and sustainable solution for millions of people living in an already too violent region.