Silence Is Not an Option, Peace Is Possible in Our Time

Jews and Muslims can live together and bring prosperity to each other. Neither has to behave precisely like the other, but they have to respect each other’s traditions and culture. I lived with Moslem Arabs most of my life in Israel. I learned Arabic. I went to school with Arabs. I was their lawyer, and they were devoted clients and good friends to my father before he died. Many Arabs and Jews retained this approach.

There were always intolerant Arabs who hated the Western culture, including Israel. They view Westerners as infidels. So long as they were in the minority, they posed few problems.

The Jewish people have created a thriving, prosperous and Western Israeli democracy. The only one in the Middle East. They brought with them only hard work and talent. When my family came to Israel in the late 1800s, they worked to dry the swamps in the valley of Israel and in the north, and died of malaria and other diseases. The local Palestinians would not come near these areas and called the Jews the “Crazy Moscovites” because many came from Russia after the Pogroms. The Pogroms were the reason my family left Russia.

The Jewish people had to have a home. For 2500 years, Jewish people lived in many countries. They were persecuted, were not allowed to own land, and finally were often expelled. After Hitler killed almost 6 million Jews, the remnants of the Holocaust liberated in their camps without a home. The Jewish people had to find a place they could call home. They went to the swamps of the valley of Israel and the north and other places where the Palestinians did not want to be, and they built farms and established institutes of learning like the Weizmann Institute in Rehoboth, where their people innovate and create for the world. The UN recognized that the Jewish people should have a state. But seven Arab countries, including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq attacked this small community of Israeli settlers. They did have many arms, nor an air force, artillery or tanks. They had people who were committed to built a democratic state and fight for it.

Israel accepted the remnants of the Holocaust in Europe. There was a time when the streets were full of people with numbers on their arms. Israel accepted thousands of Jews from Iraq, Yamane, and Egypt who were expelled from these countries. There was a time when Arabic was resonating everywhere. Israel accepted Jews from Russia, when they were finally let go. A few years ago, Israel was resonating with Russian. People used to say that, if America was a melting pot, then Israel was a pressure cooker. Together these disparate people built a thriving democratic state.

The Arabs who lived in Israel benefited from new medical facilities, from the new University in the West Bank, from a higher standard of living. But many, especially in the Gaza strip, lived on the dole for generations. Those Palestinians who left Israel and went to other places, like Saudi Arabia, lived there, worked there, and died as non-citizens. The Arab countries, with the vast oil resources and their vast stretches of land did not accept their brethren. Saudi Arabia financed terrorism in Israel instead of using its resources to settle the Palestinians.

Terrorism did not start on September 11, 2001. It was started fifty years ago by a fraction of the Palestinian people. Financing came from Arab countries. The world stood by, in part because Israel was far away. It fought, but alone it could not stop this terrible form of killing civilians. Syria is supporting such terrorism in the north to this very day. These were the schools that brought the haters of the West to the United States. They started in what they considered an easy place, against a small community, and learned to kill, and to use the money they got for other acts of terrorism all over the globe. They ended in New York.

We should support and strengthen the Arabs that want to live in peace. But that is not enough. They have to learn to prevent the minority in their midst from terrorism. They must take responsibility for the actions of their communities. They will never get their wish of annihilating Israel as Israel becomes stronger and makes more alliances each year. But terrorists are likely to become more proficient and to threaten Western culture, Indian cultures, Israel, and other cultures.

What can one person or a group of persons or one nation or a group of nations do?
Each of us can do a lot.

  • First, support every country, and every community, that acts against terrorism.
  • Second, understand that not all Arabs arc terrorists, and not all Muslims want war, but that their culture is different, and, in some respects tribal. That should be respected.
  • Third, reject the preaching of hatred, especially when it is financially well Ask: where does the money come from? What else does this money support and nourish?
  • Fourth, tell the Arab countries to absorb their Palestinians the way the Israelis have absorbed the Holocaust survivors and their brethren from the Arab countries, from Russia and from other.
  • Fifth, remind ourselves that, when the Israelis fight terrorists, they protect America and Europe, and its democracy in the world. Israelis will not succumb. They will fight for their democracy, for their freedom and for the land they cultivated and made bloom.
  • Sixth, remind ourselves. We all believe in one God. We can come to terms with faith.

January 10, 2005

Tamar Frankel
Professor of Law Emerita
Boston University School of Law

Have a comment on this article? Please let us know?

10 + 7 =