Friday, August 12, 2011

Re-stating FPI Intentions

FPI Position Paper, August 9, 2011
John R. Kleinheksel Sr.
A direct challenge to my apparent commitment to the “One-State” position has led to a fresh reassessment of what I and “Friends of Palestinians and Israelis” are all about The introduction to a post on August 6, 2011 by Sam Bahour was titled: “Two-States is Dead; Long Live One State”. One of my good friends took heated exception. This statement addresses that question. I’m sorry now I got carried away by a sudden burst of ardor for the One-State position. One State (secular and democratic); Two states (side by side in peace and security); Three states, four states: Right now, these are political games being played. I don’t want to go there.
The deeper issue (for me) is how we treat each “other”, whether with dignity, each person having the right to exist on the face of the land in freedom and equality; or with fear, distrust, and hostility, using previous offenses as ammunition to fence “the other” off. That is the underlying issue. Every essay, link, article, book review, anecdote that appears from now on in FPI will and must encourage people to treat each person with dignity instead of like dirt: Palestinians treating Israelis as persons on a valid journey to authentic existence; Israelis treating Palestinians as persons on a valid journey to self-determination. No more, no less. This is a battle for hearts and minds that is a real battle. Without winning here, there will be neither a One-State nor a Two-State solution. If all we “see” is a thief or a “terrorist”, there will be neither security nor peace.
Now I know that systemic injustice must be adjudicated. Segregated lunch counters and busses needed to be outlawed in the US and personal relationships were affected because of those systemic changes. That too, is an important battle to be waged in the struggle for “equality” (and J Street, the American Task Force on Palestine, the Obama administration and many others are still working hard to make the “Two-State” solution happen). If that is their battle, so be it. Others are working for a one-state solution with freedom and equality for all. On the surface, it is a longer reach. From before 1948, Jewish leaders have feared losing the “Jewish” character of their homeland because of demographic trends. Can this be solved? It MUST and can be solved, to the satisfaction of all parties that make up “the land”. But not without treating grievances with a listening ear and heart, reaching understanding and wisdom.
It’s been a neighborhood brawl especially since the 1920s when each tribe tried to accommodate one another and failed, again and again, building competing “narratives” that served as bludgeons against the validity of the “other’s” existence, dignity and rights.
FPI joins forces with Israeli and Palestinian persons and entities that are shifting the paradigm from competition (warfare) to cooperation (reconciliation). This is the human dimension that is concomitant with any political solution. Looking each other in the eye. Getting to know one another. Seeing each other as fellow human beings with hopes and dreams. Walking in each other’s shoes. Learning each other’s stories. Laughing and crying together. Seeing things about ourselves that are hard to admit publically, because of ridicule, misrepresentation and rejection by “extremists”. And being public about it anyway.
Perhaps you can understand why the stark egalitarian appeal of the One-State position (living together equally), swept me away the other day. Forgive me. It is of course, “impossible”; for now. Of course, the Two-State solution is impossible as well. Who is holding the high cards?
Don’t you think I know how “impossible” this is politically for those who dreamed of a “Jewish homeland” in the late 1800s: the Zionist dream (secular, by the way) of a homeland “of our own” taking historical form among other nations in the world? How do we give up that dream? How do we modify that dream to accommodate the people we find in the land? How successful has the experiment been, especially since 1967 when we occupied huge swaths of land the international community declared was meant for “the other” people living there? And in 1948, driving out the native inhabitants and forcing them into refugee status or to be second-class citizens in a country no longer their own?
I will speak for myself. I need to do a better job of getting to know more Israelis and Palestinians who are sick and tired of the adversarial stereotypes being perpetuated. I want to redouble efforts to make friends with “the other” who also have dreams, dignity, disappointments and heartache and let you know about persons who are making a difference. Be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian, Druze or whoever.
I really like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Psalm 51:8. The older translation goes something like “a sacrifice acceptable to God is a contrite heart; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”. Peterson says it better: Heart-shattered lives ready for love/don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
I’m always looking for those little cracks in armor-plated facades that admit to being human and vulnerable; cracks that drop tears of empathy, joy and sadness when in each other’s presence. FPI is dedicated to finding those stories of brothers and sisters in the human family who find a peace the rest of the world neither seeks nor understands. This is the heart of any religion worth practicing.
I will always lift up The Parents Circle (, Musalaha (Salim Munayer), SABEEL, (Naim Ateek); No More Enemies (Deb Reich); Holy Land Trust (Sami Awad); Christians for Middle East Peace (CMEP); Mark Braverman ( and many others who are breaking new ground in personal relationships.