Editor's Note: The Planet received this letter tonight (the first night of Chanukah) from Rabbi Lerner:
Challenged by interviewer Michael Krasny on the NPR affiliate KQED's Forum show Tuesday morning Dec. 20, 2011, to defend one part of Embracing Israel/Palestine (my claim that the path to peace requires a transformation of consciousness, and that Israel and Palestine not only could live together in peace but that there is no peace and justice for Israel without peace and justice for Palestine, so the best way to be both pro-Israel is to be pro-Palestine, and the best way to be pro-Palestine is to also be pro-Israel) I argued that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians actually want peace but cannot believe that the other side wants it too. It is this depressive paranoid certainty that "the other" wants to destroy us that has been a central part of what keeps Israeli and Palestinians from finding the path to their common interests, just as it is a similar paranoid and pathogenic fantasy that keeps the US population willing to finance an inflated military which keeps in an ending state of hyper-alertness and makes it a ready tool for imperial ambitions of the wealthy. I also presented my psychological assessment of both sides and my view that consciousness transformation, though difficult, is both possible and absolutely necessary, both in Israel/Palestine and in the U.S.
The answer from the Jewish Right came tonight in the 4th attack on my house, this time on the first night of Chanukah (tonight, Dec. 20th). This one was relatively mild—two black-hooded men pasted signs on the outside of my house and garage saying "Palestine is an Arab fantasy." They were taking their clue from Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich who has tried to out-do his Republican opponents in the primaries by, among other things, showing that he can be even more extreme on Israel than anyone else. Thus the notion that Palestine is an "invented nation."
It seems obvious to me that the attack, while responding to the NPR interview with me this morning, is part of the same attempt to terrorize me and my family as the past three assaults. As the police made clear to us the last time, the goal is not to destroy property as much as to remind us that they know where we live, and that we are not safe. Needless to say, in a world where Israeli right-wingers this past week burned a mosque and assaulted an IDF (Israeli army) post for allegedly being too pro-Arab, there is no way to be sure that all these warning shots at me are only meant to scare and do not suggest that worse may be coming if my book gets more attention. But of course I will not be intimidated, and we will continue to look for venues to speak about the book and to reach out to media to challenge the way they tend to present all Jews as standing behind Netanyahu, or at least to only quote those who do. And the best way you can help is to take my new book and talk about it to friends, neighbors, and create a study group in your neighborhood, your college or university, your church or synagogue, in which you read it carefully (and critically—because we at Tikkun don't seek "followers" but rather "comrades" to help us in the task of building a new consciousness, and that requires having the sophistication that only comes when one listens and reads critically and not as though I was "a guru" to be followed, but merely a teacher whose teachings need to be thought about seriously). [And once again, I forgive these psychological terrorists—I believe that they must be driven by great fear for our people and great inner pain, and I pray that they may recover from all the anger that leads them to project onto me the hatred that is eating away at their souls.]
I thought, however, that you might be interested in reading the article by MJ Rosenberg whose columns we publish on our website www.tikkun.org. He takes on Newt Gingrich's perspcective and answers those who think that Palestine is just an Arab fantasy.
One Invented Nation Or Two
By MJ Rosenberg
It is hard to believe that anyone who defends Israel's legitimacy as a state would buy into former Speaker Newt Gingrich's argument that Palestine is an "invented nation."
The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people — Israel and the Israelis — from scratch. The first Hebrew-speaking child in 1900 years, Ittamar Ben-Avi, was not born until 1882. His father, the brilliant linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, created a modern language for him to speak by improvising from the language of the Bible.
The founder of the Israeli state was Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an assimilated Viennese writer who was convinced by the Dreyfus trial in France and the horrendous right-wing anti-Semitism that resulted from it that Jews had to get out of Europe.
In 1897, he wrote the book that would essentially inaugurate the Zionist movement. It was called Der Judenstaat (meaning "the Jews' state" or "the Jewish State"), which was his proposal for moving the Jews out of Europe and into their own country.
He didn't specify where the Jewish homeland should be. He was more concerned about quickly obtaining territory anywhere for Jews to seek refuge.
Later he decided that Palestine made the most sense because that was where the Jewish people both began and exercised self-determination in ancient times and where there already was a small minority of Jews. But he also spoke of finding a place in Africa or the Americas if Palestine was unavailable.
The reaction to Herzl's idea was primarily that he was a bit crazy. Jews committed to assimilation insisted that Jews were not a nation but a religious faith. Their nationalities were French, German, Polish, Iraqi, or American — not some imaginary Jewish nationality that had not existed for 1900 years.
As late as 1943, during the worst days of the Holocaust, the American Jewish Committee — which adhered to the assimilationist view — resigned from the body created by American Jews to respond to the Nazi catastrophe over its "demand for the eventual establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine."
Seventy-plus years later, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world (more authentic than some, in fact).
The Hebrew language is spoken by millions of Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli culture is unique, bearing little resemblance to any other in the world. In fact, diaspora Jews have as little in common with Israelis as African-Americans have with Africans.
Israelis are not just Jews who happen to live in Palestine, even though the concept of Israel-ness started just over a hundred years ago as nothing but an idea. They are Israelis, entitled to self-determination, peace and security in their own land.
And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel).
Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day.
The answer to this is: So what?
Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The Polish nation existed between 1790 and 1918 even though the state was erased from the map — divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary. It achieved independence in 1918 only to again lose it to the Nazis and then the Soviets from 1939 until 1989. Would anyone today argue that the Polish nation was invented?
The idea of it is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, etc.), whose national existence would have been unimaginable a few centuries ago.
The second argument is that Palestinians never thought of themselves as Palestinians until Jews started moving into their territory, that Palestinian nationalism is a response to Zionism.
Again, so what?
When European Jews docked in Jaffa, Palestine in the early immigration waves of the late 19th century, there were Arabs waiting at the port. When the Jews purchased land, it was Arabs who had to move out.
And if those Arabs didn't call themselves Palestinians until the Zionist movement began, neither did the Jews call themselves Israelis. Until 1948, they were just Jews. But each of the two peoples knew who they were and who the other was.
The bottom line is that today the Palestinian nation is as authentic as the Israeli nation, and vice versa. Those who think either is going away are blinded by hatred.
To put it simply, the first part of the phrase self-determination is the word self. Both nations have the absolute right to define themselves as two nations which, hopefully, will evolve into two states. The alternative is national catastrophe not for one nation, but for two.
Why would Newt Gingrich care about that?
(Foreign Policy Matters)