Editorial: Next Year in Jerusalem: How About Peace?

By Becky O’Malley
Tuesday April 11, 2006

It’s been an established tradition on these opinion pages that we print almost everything we get that’s borderline literate. We accommodate even those correspondents who are spelling or grammar challenged, bringing their output up to normal print standards for the pleasure of our readers. We do have a few correspondents who, though literate enough, are so obsessed with one topic that they run the risk of boring the audience to death.  

This is the situation with regard to two or three writers who are fervent partisans of the state of Israel, and who have decided that Berkeley in general and the Berkeley Daily Planet in particular have major responsibilities for the woes now besetting that nation. We imagine our readers have somewhat limited tolerance for repeated charges that Hamas won the recent Palestinian election because of something done by judicious, mild-mannered Berkeley Councilmember Linda Maio. Ms. Maio might hope to be firing shots heard round the world from Berkeley’s Old City Hall council chambers, but an intelligent analysis would suggest that the Hamas electoral victory might also have something to do with Israel’s actions. We’ll leave that to our correspondents to discuss, which we have no doubt they will do at exhausting length. They’re already starting in this issue.  

What we’d like to address instead are the out-of-bounds attempts in various arenas to squelch discussion of the controversy. A recent issue of The Nation documented two instances of pressure from pro-Israel quarters being applied to artists in connection with the planned New York Theatre Workshop appearance of the long-running Royal Court Theatre of London’s production of “I Am Rachel Corrie,” which resulted in its cancellation (euphemistically called “postponement.”)  

Theaters in the Bay Area, perhaps even those in Berkeley, ought to rally round their Royal Court colleagues and offer them the chance to stage their production here instead. Of course the economic outlook wouldn’t be as bright here as it would have been for a New York run. And perhaps local theaters are worried about getting the same kind of pressure that they received in New York. But if any of them have the guts, even a jointly-sponsored staged reading of “I Am Rachel Corrie” would make the point that whatever you might think of Israel, Palestine and/or the current or past governments of either or both, censorship-by-pressure of a dramatic production with a particular point of view on the controversy should be out of bounds. It would also be cricket to throw in a staged reading of some anti-Palestinian work if such can be found, just for balance.  

This week is called “Holy Week” by many Christians and it also marks the start of Passover for Jews. Seders traditionally end with the phrase “next year in Jerusalem,” which has been the subject of a good deal of philosophical discussion now that Israel controls the city itself. A clergyman of my acquaintance, trying to interpret the phrase for his own Christian congregation, suggested that “next year in Chicago” would do as well, that its deep meaning expresses the universal human desire to reconnect with absent or estranged friends and family.  

Would-be commentators on the deplorable relationship between those who call themselves Palestinians and those who call themselves Israelis should remember that they are jointly custodians, along with miscellaneous Christian sects, of what people of all the desert monotheistic religions call “the Holy Land.” Even more, they are jointly and severally members of what used to be called “the human family.” The recent Israel elections offer some hope that reasonable people might be ready to start trying to make peace again. There’s been enough blood shed by all parties already. Eventually, sooner rather then later, they’ll all have to sit down around a table somewhere. How about, perhaps, “next year in Jerusalem”?