A few months after the magazine incident, the local paper carried a notice that a rabbi invited the public to a discussion about the conflict in the Middle East. Since I thought it was important to hear a variety of perspectives on the conflict, I attended the pleasant gathering of 15 or 20 people. During the discussion I voiced my opinion that the wall Israel was building followed a convoluted path designed to cut Palestinian people off from the aquifers, depriving them of water.
Obviously, I supported the rights of the Palestinians. The rabbi asked me one question central to the Middle East conflict: did I believe that Israel had a right to exist?
I’ve never been talented at verbal articulation of my thoughts. The words racing through my mind frequently don’t make it out of my mouth, so it’s possible what I wanted to say and what the people heard were two different things. It’s also possible those who believed fervently in the Zionist quest for a homeland had a finely-tuned auditory faculty that filtered out all but trigger words. Despite what I tried to say, I suspect what they heard was “No, I don’t believe Israel has the right to exist.”
What I tried to say was “Israel has a right to exist, but not at the expense of the people who have been continuously inhabiting the land since before the first Hebrews left it. Israel does not have the right to expand its settlements by bulldozing stone houses where generations of the same Palestinian families have lived for five centuries. Israel does not have the right to create a nation by trampling the human rights of people who had absolutely nothing to do with the holocaust.”