Yom Sheini, 18 Av 5779
Monday, 19 August 2019
Responses to Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah's LJ Today article

Thank you for the feedback we’ve had in reply to Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah’s article in the January/February edition of lj today.

Her thought-provoking piece on Israel, Palestine and the need for compromise inspired many lengthy letters and emails – which we’ve printed in edited form below.

Elizabeth Feldman writes:
I would like to say thank you to Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah for expressing so much better than I ever could my own thoughts regarding Israel and Palestine. Of course compromise is the answer, but I guess that both countries have to feel psychologically strong enough for this. I did feel one item might have been left out in the article and that was our similarities, which I think are greater than our differences and certainly more positive.

David Sherman writes:
As a member of her congregation, nobody has more respect and regard for Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah than me. However, I regret she is being extremely naive in stating “…let us find the courage to step forward in empathy towards the Palestinians". Does she not recall that we handed the Gaza strip back to the Palestinians complete with its infrastructure a few years ago only to be rewarded by thousands of rockets being launched at Southern Israel? Going further back, Clinton and Barak offered Arafat 96% of what the Palestinians were demanding only to be rebuffed. It was at that juncture that I decided that the Palestinians would only be satisfied with the complete dismantling of the Jewish State. This is terrible as I have a daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren living there.
What is required "to step forward" is for Hamas to recognise the right of Israel to exist and for it and Hizbollah to renounce violence in achieving their ends.

Iris Singer writes:
Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah suggests diving the land, a two state solution, as a ‘Third Way’ (or ‘Moral Third’ as defined by Benjamin Jessica) as the only way to achieve security and well being for Israelis and Palestinians. Indeed, this is a choice which, whenever it has arisen, as during the Oslo Peace Accords, produces an instinctive and visceral surge of joy in the large majority of both peoples at the thought of an end to the fear and hatred; life instead of death.  But it may be too late to talk of dividing the land, and establishing a viable Palestinian state. So please allow me to share an alternative ‘Third Way’, a truly Moral Third, which is gaining ground amongst a number of Israelis and Palestinians.
This ‘Third way’, the Moral Third, is to accept the desire of the right, that Israel and the West Bank already constitute one state. But instead of it being an occupier/occupied project, let’s create a truly democratic, secular state, with mutual respect and care based on shared socio-economic policies in which all have an opportunity to thrive and live without fear and hate. There are over 140 binational NGOs who are already doing that: Palestinian and Israeli citizens who are involved in education, medical, social, economic, political and conflict resolution bi-national projects. Let’s give them, and many others who yearn to live within a secure homeland, our blessing and support.  Thank you, Rabbi Elizabeth, for opening up this most painful and challenging subject.

John Norman writes:
Dr Tony Klug has been trying to sell the idea of a two party state to British Jews for several decades. He has been in touch and in conversation with Palestinians during the same period. He agonised recently about the present stalemate in the Jewish Chronicle and blamed it solely, of course, on Israel. Nowhere does Rabbi Elisabeth Tikvah Sarah give us any account of Dr Klug's signal failure to sell his ideas to the Palestinians and to harness Palestinian goodwill for them, should there be any. The state of the Arab world, as well as the growth of an explicit anti-Jewish ideology within that world, appears not to trouble her. If it does, she nonetheless counsels a step into the unknown, whatever the conditions. She calls it generosity.
Today, we see that the French government has launched an offensive against Islamists in Mali and warns its European Allies of the dangers of the establishment of a terrorist state on its borders. The distance between Paris and Bamako is just over 2,500 miles. According to the EU and the UN, however, Israel should accept a terrorist state next door, dedicated to its destruction, with but a border separating them. Like Dr Klug and Rabbi Elisabeth Tikvah Sarah, they believe this would be a salutary gesture of generosity. No reciprocal gesture of generosity, however, is required of the Palestinians.

Ruth Barnett writes:
I agree with everything Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah said in her article, especially quoting Amos Oz that there is no 'right and wrong' only two rights and two wrongs.
Unfortunately this is very difficult for British people to grasp. Traditionally the Brits like to support the 'underdog' and therefore they ‘need’ to see one side as victim/underdog and the other as oppressor. 
My view is that everyone, when they are outside the actual conflict, who takes one side (whichever side they take) becomes part of the problem. Only those people who refuse to take either side are part of the solution.
We, in Britain need to support only those projects that bring Jews and Arabs together to hear each other and work together and/or produce something of equal benefit to both.
Ultimately, the two peoples in the land of Israel/Palestine have to make the decisions about how they resolve their conflict. If we really want to help we need to learn to understand both narrative and support only what they have in common and what benefits both equally.

Byron Simmonds writes:
There was a time when a two state solution might have been considered a real possibility by a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians. How different from Rabbi Tikvah Sarah's current assessment that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians see just one land and just one people – one people with an exclusive right to the land.
Given Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and its continuing occupation of the West Bank, as well as the seemingly unstoppable drift to the right in Israeli politics, the increasing confidence of the Hamas and concomitant side-lining of the Palestinian Authority — with the best will in the world it is difficult if not impossible to imagine a future in which Israelis and Palestinians might co-exist "between the river and the sea", each within their own state.
Such a solution would require the leaders on both sides to have the strength and courage on behalf of their respective peoples to accept an almost unimaginable level of compromise. Which is a pity, given that the alternatives hardly bear thinking about.

Peter Phillips writes:
As stated in Brian Diamond’s ‘Fascinating History’ piece in lj today, the Jewish Liberal movement has a history of anti-Zionism. The three main founders of the LJS – Rabbi Dr. Israel Mattuck, Claude Montefiore and Lily Montagu – were anti-Zionist and, to my mind, he only prominent Liberal rabbi that I would say was ardently pro-Zionist was the late Rabbi Dr Sydney Brichto. It is hardly surprising therefore to read what Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah has to say about the situation in Israel. She is following precedent.
She says “let us find the courage to step forward in empathy towards the Palestinians and help to build a bridge between the two people”. These are noble sentiments except that she forgets that every Arab country with the exception of Jordan is at war with Israel, a war that was declared when the state of Israel was founded. Furthermore, most of them would like to wipe Israel off the face of the world map. How do you “step forward in empathy” towards those who have declared themselves as enemies until death?
Many years ago, when I offered to help Israel, pro bono, to change its image in the Western world, the Israeli ambassador pointed out that the biggest problem facing Israel was the question of the Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948. One solution would be to allow back those who were actually alive in 1948 and to pay compensation to the others. This would be fair and practical. Sadly, I have to quote “to the victor, the spoils”. I was kicked out of Austria in 1939. Fifty-five years later I received a tiny amount of compensation, as did the German refugees somewhat earlier. The Poles, Czechs and Hungarians are still waiting.
As a refugee, I was helped by the Allies – particularly by the United Kingdom. Let the rich Arab states now help the poor Palestinian refugees in the same way that the British helped me.

Peter Davis writes:
I read Rabbi Tikvah Sarah’s article with interest. It is a well-balanced centre-left view of the situation in Israel – the type of approach I would expect from a highly intelligent rabbi, with an undoubted passion for peace in the area. There are certain things on which we undoubtedly agree. 1) A two-state solution is the preferred option. 2) To achieve this will require compromise.
However, the article is notable for what is omitted, not what has been included. Compromise by its very nature, requires BOTH sides to compromise. The International view is that Israel should constantly be making compromises, ignoring that the 1947/8 partition boundaries were never accepted by the Palestinians and that the pre-1967 borders were in effect the cease-fire lines of 1948.
The main dispute is NOT about land/territory. It is about the Palestinians acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. Hamas, in control of Gaza, will NEVER accept Israel’s right to exist. Fatah tend to change their views, depending on who they are addressing. If the Palestinian leadership would indicate their willingness to live side by side with Israel in peace, an agreement on land would be relatively easy. A Palestinian state would have to be demilitarised, and correctly policed to prevent terrorism.
I personally think that when learned rabbis criticise Israel, it only gives the Israel bashers another stick with which they can beat and demonise Israel more. In an impossibly difficult situation, Israel currently needs all the support it can muster – the diaspora MUST lead the way.