I am born of east European Jewish heritage, my parents fled Poland and Russia in order to escape brutality, hatred and death. They arrived in America during the 1920s and thus escaped the Holocaust. About 12 members of my family died during the Holocaust. I was raised in the spirit of east European Socialist Judaism whose goals were to create a society in which ALL people enjoyed equal rights and respect for their dignity as humans. I am American born and proud of both my American and Jewish birth.
The state of Israel was attacked by Arab nations who aimed to destroy the new nation, and, most probably kill millions of Jews. An Israeli has cause to distrust Arab nations, an Israeli has cause to believe most Muslims in the region would be happy if their nation ceased to exist. Today, peace with Israel is not in the hearts of a large proportion of Arab people. In other words, an Israel Jew can feel justified in doubting the good word of Muslims.
But, times change, circumstances change. During World War II, Germany was responsible for the deaths of over 30 million people in Europe. For every European Jew who died in the Holocaust, five non-Jews died. I understand the rationale for their deaths differed, but the bottom line is they died at the hands of Germans. In 1948, the American Marshall Plan compelled Europeans to cooperate in economic reconstruction. People of France, the Netherlands, England, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Italy who had witnessed Germans killing millions of their fellow citizens had to work together with their former enemy. Out of that meeting of people who four years previously had been engaged in a battle of death, emerged the European Union and restoration of economic health, but equally important, spiritual health because enemies now became friends.
Times change, circumstances change, people change. I do not know what percent of Germans who worked cooperatively in the Marshall Plan had four years previously been fervent Nazis seeking death for their new colleagues. I do not know what percent of those whose families had endured death at the hands of Germans were pleased at the prospect of working with Germans, but most did. There is scant doubt the number of Jews killed by Middle Eastern Muslims is measured by a few thousand, not by the millions killed by Germans. People who seek peace and an end to hatred MUST at some point extend the hands of trust and forgiveness.
President Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority, in his younger days wanted to kill Jews and did. He now stands prepared to negotiate with Israel Jews(remember, about 15% of Israelis are NOT Jews). To reject this hand of reconciliation due to the past, condemns Israel to become a state in which apartheid is the norm and Israeli Jews will stand as hated symbols of those who deny the humanity of fellow citizens. I worked with German educators in the 1970s and one day, Professor Manfred Bayer, urged me to ask him a question. I finally asked: “what did you do during the Holocaust?” He replied: “I was in Hitler Youth.” We then talked. His father was a Socialist union organizer in Hamburg and when Hitler took power, the Gestapo beat him up and warned against anti-Nazi agitation. At age 11, Manfred and several of his friends whose fathers had been in the union movement, decided to join the Hitler Youth to protect their fathers. Please be clear, I am NOT saying most Germans were anti-Nazis, but even among those who shouted with glee for Hitler, there were others who dared not speak from their hearts.
We Jews share the same DNA as our Muslim brothers in the Middle East. In fact, we might even share common ancestors. Muslims are my brothers and sisters. I understand that brothers and sisters often become enemies, but there is a family connection. At some point, in any family dispute, someone has to extend an offer of peace and love.
There are millions of decent peace loving Muslims. Some fear speaking about peace with Israel. Forge peace with Middle East Muslims and those who seek the path of peace and reconciliation will be able to speak. No Israel Jew can argue that Muslims pose a greater threat to their lives than did Nazi Germany. In 1948, it took courage on the part of Frenchmen and Belgians and Dutch to extend the hand of peace to Germans, but they did. Israelis must turn away from voices who can never forget the past. Bibi Netanyahu plays for votes, not for peace. Being a Jew is difficult because we are children of God and must adhere to strict standards of human decency. It is time for Israel jews to take the same gamble as was taken by the British or French people and work with a former enemy. In doing so, Jews truly act as the special children of God.