The following was an address to Berkeley City Council on Sept. 7.
We are all aghast at how inflamed passions and explosive hatred in the Middle East have spun out of control, causing endless death and destruction. How much blood must be spilled and how many human beings maimed or killed before a rude awakening occurs to the reality that the strategies of the Israeli government and Palestinian suicide bombings are a dead end and are counterproductive.
During my lifetime I have witnessed several seemingly intractable, entrenched conflicts of momentous scope resolved through nonviolence. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela will always be regarded as inspiring heroes.
As a Holocaust survivor, the terror of violence and repression deeply engrained in my being, I have felt throughout my life a calling to work for Jewish security. Over the years I have observed that neither upward economic mobility, racial segregation, nor military might have provided safety for Jews. Israel, which had been envisioned as a safe haven for Jews, has instead become a most dangerous place. I came to realize that only experiencing what Martin Buber would call “the immense otherness of the other,” growing friendship and community, will create real security for Jews.
I commend the Berkeley City Council action to support House Resolution 111, calling for an investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie, because I believe that their action reflects a desire to reduce the level of violence in the Middle East. If the investigation reveals a callous use of force by the Caterpillar operator, it would provide deplorable evidence of the hardening and brutalizing of young Israeli soldiers, which threatens the erosion of human decency in Israeli society. Resultant political pressures might have a humanizing effect on Israeli society.
Reducing military power worldwide is a pressing need. Nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare represent an unfathomable threat to life on earth. Nonviolent conflict resolution based on meaningful dialogue has become a survival imperative for humanity.
The Berkeley Council’s action occurred as Jews were still reeling from news of yet another devastating suicide bombing. This triggered deep-seated Jewish fears for life caused by centuries of persecution. We should mourn the victims of all the suicide bombings and the Palestinian victims of Israel’s current political and military policies, along with the death of Rachel Corrie.
I wish that the killing in the Middle East rather than polarizing our Berkeley community would motivate us to reflect on the preciousness of our precarious existence here on earth and celebrate our shared humanity.
Karl Linn is a member of East-Bay Dialogue Group of Arabs and Jews and president of Berkeley EcoHouse.