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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 20, 2014 PAGE 5A Paralyzing narratives: Why peace keeps failing By David Suissa The Jewish Journal We're so used to seeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace pro- cess fail that we often overlook this simple question: How is it possible that so many can try so hard for so long and still fail to make any progress? How can it be that the United States, the most powerful country on Earth, has failed so royally, despite decades ofmaking this conflict a top priority? What I'm especially inter- ested in is this: Why have the Palestinians, in particular, seemed so reluctant to make a deal? AsAri Shavit wrote recently in Haaretz, "Twenty years of fruitless talks have led to noth- ing. There is no document that contains any real Palestinian concession with Abbas' signa- ture. None. There never was, and there never will be." Instead of criticizing this stubbornness, it's more useful to try to understand it. As I see it, the Palestinians have inter- nalized four "paralyzing nar- ratives" that have prevented them from moving forward. The first is that they see themselves as being unfairly punished for the great sin of the Europeans, the Holo- caust. According to this nar- rative, the only reason for the creation of the State of Israel was to cure the European guilt for murdering Jews. There is no historical Jewish connec- tion to the land, no centuries of Jewish yearning to return home to Zion. In this narrative, Israel is simply a foreign transplant--a forced sovereign intrusion into Arab and Muslim lands. The second paralyzing nar- rative is to see Israel as a thief. Judea and Samaria, Gaza and East Jerusalem are seen as Pal- estinian lands stolen by Israel in the war of 1967. Now, all that must happen is for Israel to return this stolen property. In this narrative, just show- ing up at negotiations is seen as a major concession. After all, why should the victim of a theft have to negotiate the return of his stolen property? The third paralyzing nar- rative is a painful reversal of roles. For centuries, Jews living in Arab lands accepted their roles as dhimmis, or second-class citizens. That was the image of the Jew. Now, suddenly, with the creation of the State of Israel, Jews are in charge. This change is unac- ceptable. It creates cognitive dissonance and is a source of deep humiliation. The fourth paralyzing nar- rative is also rooted in humili- ation: envy and resentment over Israel's enormous success. This resentment reinforces the pain of the previous nar- ratives: "Here are people who were forced on us, who stole our land, who presume to be our superiors after centuries of being our subjects, and now, to add insult to injury, look how they have become so powerful and successful at our expense." While these narratives may paralyze any movement toward peace, they simultane- ously speed up another pro- cess--that of demonization. Demonization of the Jews helps reconcile the cognitive dissonance caused by the incredible success of the Jew- ish state. Only Jewish demons and Jewish conspiracies can explain this extraordinary transformation of the modern Jews of the Middle East. Of course, the very process of demonization makes every- thingworse. The more Jews are demonized, the more the peace process is paralyzed. Add it all up and you have a lot more than "obstacles" to peace. You have profound, fundamental reasons why Palestinians are so reluctant to accept what they call the "catastrophe" of Israel. The tragedy is that even if Israel dismantled every settle- ment tonight, these narratives would not go away. The Pales- tinian conflictwith the Jews is resistant to practical solutions because it's not a practical problem. It's not an appendix that can be removed, but a chronic condition that cannot be cured. For all of Israel's mistakes, no amount of positive gestures can cure the emotional trauma that lies deep within the Palestinian psyche. It doesn't matter if these Palestinian narratives are ac- curate or not. What matters is that they have been nurtured as truth in mainstream Pales- tinian society. Three generations of refu- gees who refuse to leave their refugee camps are the living symbol of this paralyzing, victim mindset. Yet, however depressing this analysis is, it doesn't mean we should give up hope. The status quo is getting more and more untenable, and I have sympathy for those who keep searching for solutions. That said, it doesn't do us any good to ignore the un- derlying narratives that are eroding all hope. We ought to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that all it takes to re- solve this conflict is hardwork, determination and good faith. That is also a paralyzing narrative. David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp.Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournaL corn An open letter to the Brandeis faculty By Martin J. Gross Aish Hatorah Resources. When I graduated from Brandeis in 1972, where I majored in philosophy, I im- mediately knew that I owed Brandeis a great debt. And so, over the past 2 decades I have been, at times, an adjunct lec- turer at the Brandeis Interna- tional Business School, served on the Board of the Business School, and the Board of the University itself. With grati- tude I have contributed signifi- cant surns to my alma mater, including a chair in Financial Markets and Institutions to the Business School. It was at Brandeis that I was introduced to the pre- Socratic philosophers and was fascinated with how they struggled to find ways to ex- plain the world around them, and how their ideas influenced Plato, Aristotle and others who succeeded them. It was at By Rabbi Rachel Esserman The Reporter, Vestal The recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League has been making headlines in the Jewish and non-Jewish media. Some articles see the research as flawed, and one rabbi, Jay Michaelson, claims that according to the survey, he, too, could be considered anti-Semitic. Michaelson's column is abit disingenuous, since at times he deliberately twists the questions, but he does make a good point: Why does agreeing with these statements, which could be taken neutrally, equal anti- Semitism? The answer seems clear in one way: Many are the same canards used to convict Jews of organizing an international conspiracy to run the world. Yet, Mi- chaelson does correctly note that Jews are also guilty of making generalizations about themselves, although the resulting comments are usually positive. My first thought after reading about the survey was of the anti-Semitism Ive experienced in my life. The main incident took place in Brandeis that Iwas introduced to the thought of Immanuel Kant, and the other giants of western thought, as well as the thought of other cultures. It was at Brandeis that I came to understand that in intel- lectual dialogue all ideas are on the table, that everyone is entitled to his point of view and that public scrutiny of ideas is the best way to assess their worth. It was at Brandeis that I was taught how controversy served as an impetus to critical thinking and that it is often the very people who are con- demned for expressing ideas, like Spinoza and Galileo, who are later considered the great minds of western thought.And it was this foundation that I relied upon when I next stud- ied philosophy and politics at Oxford University and then law at the University of Chicago. I must now confess to hav- ing serious concerns about the spirit of free inquiry at my alma materwhen it rescinds an honorary degree toAyaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who champions women's rights in the Muslim world. A woman honored in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. A woman who received the Moral Courage Award from the American Jewish Committee and was voted Woman of the Year for 2006 by the European editors of Readers Digest magazine. And I thought it regrettable that upon learning that Hirsi Aii was offered an llonorary degree 87 Brandeis faculty members were so "filled with shame" that they presented President Lawrence with a letter urging him to "rescind immediately the invitation to Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali for an honorary doctorate" based on her "virulently anti-Muslim public statements." These faculty members said that"the selection of Ms. Hirsi Anti-Semitic or not? high school and fortunately was limited to some anti- Semitic statements by a few fellow members of the Na- tional Honor Society. I can't remember what they said, but do know I told one person something along the lines of, "If I want to say something bad about you, I don't have to talk about your rel!gion." My closest friend in junior high and high school, who was not Jewish, actually had it much worse. After we graduated, she mentioned the negative comments people made to her about being friends with me based on the fact I was Jewish. That some people didn't like me was not a surprise. I have a strong personality and that doesn't appeal to everyone. However, why should that have translated into the idea that my behavior was based on my being Jewish? Mak- ing an assumption that all Jews have a particular kind of behavior is as racist as saying all Italians (I went to school with lots of them) or all African Americans (there were only a few in my class, and not many more Jews) are alike. From a sociological view- point, though, the fact that we generalize about people and phenomenon makes sense. Life was so complex, particularly for early hu- mans, that we needed to made generalizations in order to survive. If eating a plant with red flowers causes someone to get sick and die, then the rest of us would do well to avoid plants with red flowers. If an animal is easy to trap, we should look for others like it. And a group of strangers, even if they look like us, most likely signal danger: Better to assume they are a problem, if only because they will compete with us for limited resources. Although times have changed, the human mind has not. In fact, in our very complex computerized world, it may make sense to jump to conclusions. Take, for example, our use of the Internet. It's estimated that there are more than 3.5 billion websites. How canwe possibly look at them all? We make decisions about which ones to view in a variety of ways, but most of our choices are not based on reasoning and careful thought. Our local Ali further suggests to the public that violence toward gifts and women is particular to Islam or the Two-Thirds World, thereby obscuring such violence in our midst among non-Muslims, including on our own campus". And they also could not"acceptMs. Hirsi Ali's triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples." For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that some of her comments may be provocative and controversial. But that is what intellectual inquiry is all about. For decades serious scholars have examined in all major religions the use of force, the role of violence and compulsion, male dominance over women, the role of honor killings, etc. Since when have these topics become off limits to scholars? It is hard for me to imag- cable company offers more than 200 channels. Even if we went without sleep, it would be impossible to watch all the shows, so we make semi- random decisions. As for the TV news, people use politics to decide which pundit offers the greatest wisdom. The one problem I have with the ADL survey is that it mea- sures attitudes, not behavior. Feelings do not always result in actions. Yes, the two are greatly connected, but I re- ally don't care what someone thinks of me or my fellow Jews as long as they don't discriminate or use violence against us. Now, the world would be a far better place withoutbenign antisemitism, racism, sexism, ageism and a variety of other "isms," but that perfect world will never exist. One good result of the survey, though, is the ADL's acknowledgment of the need for continuing education. However, we must also recog- nize that prejudice will never be completely uprooted. And while we're on the subject, perhaps we should also look into our own hearts to make certain we're not guilty of the same crime. ine that these faculty mem- bers seriously think that violence against women on the Brandeis campus is in any way comparable to the violence against young women in a single Nigerian village. When was the last time a Brandeis student was sold into slavery? What is worthy of note is that Hirsi Ali's views do not come from an ivory tower but from the concrete reality of her personal experiences as a woman. She was genitally mutilated as a child, fled a forced marriage at age 12 and lives under constant threat of death by the very people who proudly wear the ideology she condemns. Who are we to judge that her conclusions are beyond the pale? Surely we would not condemn a Christian or Jew at the time of the bloody Crusades who said similar things about Christian- ity. When Tony Kushner said that the very creation of Israel itself was a mistake, this did not disqualify him from receiv- ing an honorary degree from Brandeis University. And how preposterous is their issue with her Western triumphalism, especially when she fled to the West from the very ideology that is trying to kill her. Is not the belief in American exceptionalism tri- umphalist in nature? Just last September President Obama himself celebrated the idea of American exceptionalism be- fore the UN GeneralAssembly. Would this disqualify him for an honorary degree? I am profoundly perplexed that there is no counter letter submitted by any faculty mem- ber to President Lawrence. Is there not a single woman faculty member in the Women and Gender Studies Program who can find the compassion to defend her? Is the majority of the faculty too intimidated to speak out against this new tyranny for fear of being os- tracized? The only acceptable re- sponse to bona fide controversy is robust dialogue. It now ap- pears that Brandeis' motto of 'truth unto its innermost parts' has been replaced by the eleventh commandment of political correctness--"Thou shalt not offend." MartinJ. Gross is a member of the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University. Dry Bones