Editorial: Solutions, Not Outrage, Needed for Holy Land

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 19, 2003

We reprinted Professor George Bisharat’s essay (Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11) on Palestinians’ desire to return to the homes they left after 1948 at the request of a Jewish friend, who believed that it was a moving and temperate piece of personal history and opinion. She feared, however, that it would provoke some angry letters from her fellow Jews, and she was right—it did. We’ve reprinted many of them, leaving out a few which were scatological or ungrammatical, and we’ll probably print more. Painful though it is, we believe that letting everyone express their point of view in an open venue is a crucial first step to resolving conflicts.  

Disagreements with the Bisharat article seem to have centered mainly on differing versions of history. As a law professor, Bisharat is undoubtedly familiar with the law school trick of having a crime enacted before a class, and then asking everyone in the room to write down what they think they saw happen. Inevitably, all the students have different reports of what they saw. Since even eyewitnesses to current events have dramatically different perceptions about what’s actually going on, it’s no surprise that we can’t get agreement among our contributors about events that happened long ago and far away. 

What most of us recognize, though, is that the land which is called Holy by all of the major monotheistic religions is now home to pain and death. Many would agree that most current victims, both Jews and Arabs, are innocent, suffering from what Bisharat called “the special wound of victimization for who you are, not what you have done.” California is full of refugees from both sides, sick at heart because of the ongoing conflict, who have chosen to live here in peace.  

A generation of young Israelis has dispersed around the world, much as a previous generation of Americans did during the Vietnam war, trying to avoid participation in a fight that they cannot support. Many of them are here in the Bay Area, illegally overstaying on tourist visas, working at menial jobs, losing out on their educational opportunities, because they can’t bear to go home. Others are living in Europe. A French Jewish friend suggested that sympathetic people in our two countries should form an international support network for these young people, much as the Swedes and Canadians did for young Americans during Vietnam. Some of them are complete pacifists, but most are simply conscientious objectors to this particular war.  

Many Palestinians have become U.S. citizens, and many live in California. They are peacefully carrying on with their lives here, not waiting for the opportunity to return to their former home. 

Even though writers to the Planet might not be able to agree on the genesis of the war, all can surely agree that it’s a tragedy. Even though Palestinians and Israelis are in conflict at home, it’s time for them to make an effort to find common ground here in neutral California, where several harmonious Indian-Pakistani organizations now flourish despite the on-going antagonisms in South Asia.  

Israelis and Palestinians will share some kind of future, whether they want to or not. Our letter writers are entitled to express their own interpretations of the past, but it would also be nice to hear from anyone who has positive ideas on how the future of the Holy Land can be different, and on what we can start doing here and now to create that better future. 


Becky O’Malley is executive editor of the Daily Planet.