December 5, 2015

Letter to the Editor: Israeli Palestinian Conflict Reexamined

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Re: “Letter to the Editor: Israeli and Palestinian Leadership,” Opinion, Dec.1

In her letter, “Israeli and Palestinian leadership,” Sarene Shaked makes an important point: that there is “no moral equivalency” between Israel’s leadership and that of the Palestinians. Without question, Israel lives up to a standard met by few nations throughout the world. But true leaders know that. The real question is, what’s next?

For Shaked, it seems the answer is close to nothing. She provides a brief history of the conflict, concluding that the first step in solving it is to “change the education systems in Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A of the West Bank.” This is, at best, a major red-herring, out of touch with the actual underlying causes of the conflict. Worse yet, it cements the idea that Israel has no responsibility to change facts on the ground.

In reality, the conflict will not be solved until American pro-Israel voices, like Shaked’s, are comfortable discussing Israel’s shortcomings as well its undeniable strengths. We can’t be satisfied saying that Israel is better than Syria if we are prohibited from mentioning ways in which Israel is worse than, say, the United Kingdom. We can’t be satisfied with an Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that has done nothing to deescalate the conflict. His comments during last year’s election, warning voters that Arabs were coming to the polls “in droves,” should not be excused simply because Netanyahu is better than his counterparts in Hamas, nor should his recent, unsubstantiated claim that it was a Palestinian leader, not Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for the mass extermination of the Jews.

Should Israel continue to build settlements simply because Palestinian terrorists seek to one day level Tel Aviv? Should Israel allow for a disparity in its justice system — where crimes committed against Palestinians are much less less likely to result in prosecutions than are crimes against Israelis — simply because its enemies are rabid anti-Semites? Should Israel allow the status quo in the Palestinian territories to continue simply because it protects its innocent civilians while Hamas uses civilians as shields? Not if it is to be the morally superior entity that Shaked insists that it is.

Leadership means taking on the challenge of an issue that is certainly “not so black and white,” as Shaked writes, rather than hiding behind only those facts that make the status-quo seem acceptable. The Daily Sun has done nothing but enable this cycle, by publishing countless pairs of angry op-eds and angrier responses that never leave their respective ideological corners. Everyone can agree that innocent Palestinians should not have to suffer because of a few extremists in their midst, and that Israel is better than its terrorist foes. Cornellians should be encouraged to think beyond that.

Jess Coleman ’17