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Jewish-Arab Unity

From Ruah Hadashah No. 4 (1980) and The Benign Reality, pages 549 to 554

The following is a set of assumptions I worked out for myself before leading the recent workshop for Jewish-Arab Unity, in Israel. These were not distributed at the workshop, since they were my own positions rather than those of the workshop sponsors, but I read some of them aloud so the workshop participants would understand my attitudes better. There were many requests for them from workshop participants and, later, from others, so I am now distributing them.

For the information of those who were not there, the workshop was a brilliant success. All participants deserve congratulations.

I will be assuming, as the leader of the workshop, that I am there not as an expert on the Middle East but as a skillful Re-evaluation Counselor whose role primarily is to guide people in communicating their knowledge to each other and in resolving the conflicts that have existed, or will arise, between them.

I will assume in this workshop that it is eventually possible to achieve warm, cooperative relationships between all peoples presently living in Palestine and Israel and between all the peoples presently living in the Near East.

I will assume in this workshop that it is impossible for any group of people or combination of groups of people to destroy or permanently expel any other group of people from the Palestine-Israel area or from the Near East scene. Each group is too numerous or has too powerful support to be “overcome” by any others in any permanent sense. Each group residing in the area at present must be reckoned with as permanent inhabitants of the region. The Palestinian exiles will not “disappear” or “assimilate” but must be dealt with and their future provided for. Israel cannot be “destroyed” but will be a permanent factor in the Near East.

I will assume in this workshop that governments and government policies are not permanent and, at any given time, do not necessarily represent the real needs or legitimate aspirations of the people whom they govern. Rather, they often function for the purposes of oppressing or exploiting the people of their country or region, sometimes acting on behalf of a group of exploiters in the country and sometimes acting on behalf of foreign exploiters or foreign oppressive governments. On the other hand, the real interests of the people in a country or region are permanent and will eventually find expression in some way or other in spite of temporary interference through oppressive governments or temporary conflicts engendered between the people by such oppression.

I will assume in this workshop that the real, long-term interests of the Palestinians and the other Arab peoples and the real, long-term interests of the Israelis and the other Jewish peoples are not in conflict; that the apparent conflicts between them have arisen as a result of manipulation by oppressive governments, governments both in the Near East and elsewhere, governments which have oppressed them and taken advantage of them and exploited the lands of the Middle East in so doing.

I will assume in this workshop that all past injustices done to any group of people through the actions or agency of the other groups must be openly faced and acknowledged, but that realistic solutions to present problems or the achievement of a cooperative future cannot be limited to restoring past situations or to achieving reparations or “atonement” for past injustices.

I will assume in this workshop that each aggrieved or injured person or group deserves the right to fully recount all grievances and have them listened to with respect, to speak of all the injuries and injustices of the past fully, including any reproaches or blames which they wish to offer, and to be listened to with respect and attention as they do so, and without any interjections, objections, or “answering back” on the part of the listeners, including those who feel blamed or attacked. The working out of concrete steps for cooperation, for unity, and for dealing with the present and future should not be attempted until this “listening to grievances” has taken place fully, with none of the things said being “answered back” to or argued with.

I will assume in this workshop that the Israelis and other Jewish peoples present need to take into account that the occupation of large parts of Palestine by the Israelis and the expulsion of large numbers of Palestinians from their homeland has left a great deal of fear and anger among all Palestinians and all other Arabs, and that until this distress is discharged, it will necessarily influence their thinking and response to other issues, so that Israelis and other Jews should not expect the Palestinians and other Arabs to be immediately rational and objective about other issues, remembering that the tragedy of the loss of their homeland and the driving of Palestinians into exile will tend to color their thinking about everything.

I will assume in this workshop that the Palestinians and other Arab peoples need to keep in mind that the background of the Israelis and other Jewish peoples includes a vast amount of fear left by the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and other previous near-exterminations of their peoples, which took place as a result of their betrayal by the rulers of the people among whom they lived, so that there is likely to be ever-present, coloring their views of all matters, a fear of abandonment, of imminent betrayal, of being unable to trust anyone except themselves. This fear must be taken into account until it is thoroughly discharged. The Palestinians and other Arab peoples cannot reasonably expect the Israelis and other Jewish peoples to be immediately rational on other issues but need to realize that their fears and distresses about the past, especially about the Holocaust, tend to color their thinking about everything.

I will assume in this workshop that the Israelis and other Jewish peoples need to remember that the continuing occupation by Israel of Palestinian land and the oppression and other mistreatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli governments and people continue to restimulate the old distress, and that this must be taken into account and understood in communicating with the Palestinians and the other Arab peoples.

I will assume in this workshop that the Palestinians and other Arab peoples need to remember that the continuing danger of war and the threat of war and the frequent terrorist attacks tend to restimulate the past fears of the Israelis and the other Jewish peoples, making it difficult for them to think clearIy in terms of reaching cooperation with the Palestinians and other Arab peoples.

I will assume in this workshop that all parties to the conference need to face, and can face, the fact that great injustice was done to the Palestinian people during the establishment of Israel, and that it is everyone’s responsibility that the future of the Palestinian people not remain blighted by the results of this past injustice.

I will assume in this workshop that all parties to the conference need to face, and can face, the fact that the destruction of Israel is no longer historically possible, nor desirable for anyone; that it would not be in anyone’s real interests; that the injustice that accompanied the establishment of Israel does not in itself justify the destruction of Israel, since all present homelands on the earth were established by great injustice to their previous inhabitants. Attacking the existence of Israel, or seeking to isolate Israel from her neighbors, simply reinforces the pressure on Israel to support a reactionary government and for the government to associate with foreign reactionary forces, such as the governments of South Africa or the Shah’s Iran, or to be unduly under the influence of foreign imperialist governments, such as that of the United States.

I will assume in this workshop that proposals for cooperation between the different groups of people involved should start from the present situation and not the past, and should take into account only the real present and future interests of the people involved, including the correction of continuing injustices, but not the distresses of the past nor atonement for the distresses of the past.

I will assume in this workshop that proposals for cooperation should begin with actions that are possible to take now, however small they may be, given the present state of communication and contact. More ambitious proposals, inviting a greater risk of difficulty and disappointment, should be deferred until successes with simpler, easier projects for cooperation have widened the contacts and increased the trust between the cooperating groups and individuals.

I will assume in this workshop that, in the process of being listened to, much re-evaluation of people’s positions will take place as a result of that being listened to, so that both individuals and groups reach different positions after being listened to than they have held before. I will assume in this workshop that it is my function as the leader of the workshop to see that each individual who speaks is listened to with complete respect. It is my function to make it clear continually that we listen to each other with respect and thoroughness in order to help each other lower the level of our distress and to understand each other, not to prepare to argue or debate with each other.

Shalom. Salaam.* Peace.

Harvey Jackins


*Shalom means peace in Hebrew. Salaam means peace in Arabic.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00