With a broken heart

After decades of failed peacemaking attempts, it's apparent the only solution is 2 states-- Israel and Palestine

By Emily L. Hauser. Emily L. Hauser lives in Oak Park and has written about the Middle East for much of the last decade

June 25, 2002

I have a seemingly unending supply of tears inside me now. My 3-year-old can tell I'm crying even in the dark. When I stop, he says "Mommy, do you feel better?" And I lie and say yes, because he's my baby. But for once in my life, no amount of crying helps.

I'm an American-Israeli Jew. I grew up in Lake Bluff but later moved to Tel Aviv, where I went to school, became a reporter, became a citizen, built a life. My Israeli-born husband and I came to this area so that I could get my master's degree at the University of Chicago, but we'll be going back home in two or three years.

Of course, right now our home is in turmoil, an uproar of fear and loathing. Family and friends alike, on both sides of the ocean and with varying degrees of panic, tell us we'd be crazy to return. What they don't understand is that we have to. All that we once loved about our country is going up in flames, and we have no choice but to go back and try to make it right.

I am told, by the Israeli government, the American government (executive and legislative branches), Israeli public opinion and world Jewry that loving Israel today means not questioning its government's actions. Means believing that an indiscriminate war of attrition against a weakened and demoralized civilian population is the right answer, the only answer, to Palestinian terrorism. I cannot believe it.

I cannot believe that my love for Israel can only be expressed by ignoring international law, universal ethical norms and Palestinian humanity.

I cannot believe that driving tanks through people's yards, imprisoning them in their homes, killing their 12-year-olds and their 2-year-olds, will do anything but deepen their already bottomless desperation, justify their hatred, spur them to greater violence. (Would we be any different?)

People tell me that we have no other option, that we tried--the Oslo accords were just, Ehud Barak made a generous offer at Camp David--but that for the Palestinians it still wasn't enough, and they responded by blowing themselves up, to kill us.

But the people who believe that the Oslo accords and Barak's offer were good for the Palestinians have allowed themselves to be duped. In spite of Oslo's promise, in its wake (and in no small part because of official Palestinian corruption) Palestinians found it harder to make a living, send their kids to school, live a life of dignity, than they had before. And they were still under occupation, whether admitted or de facto. Barak's "generosity" would have left the Palestinians with Gaza and some 60 to 70 percent of the West Bank--which would have been split into three parts, by slivers of land under Israeli sovereignty. These lands would have been further surrounded by additional areas under Israeli sovereignty, either permanently or "indefinitely." It was not so much generous as humiliating.

None of this excuses terrorism. I'm devastated each time my countrymen are killed, sickened by the calculation that adds nails to explosives to maximize casualties, and deeply, deeply horrified by the very notion that a person would allow his or her flesh to be shredded and splattered, to kill me, my son. We, too, have lost our 12-year-olds and our 2-year-olds.

W.H. Auden once wrote that "those to whom evil is done do evil in return." That's what we are doing, all of us, returning evil because evil has been done to us. All of us. The difference is that on my side, we have combat helicopters.

The ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed during this intifada is about 3 to 1--not surprisingly, dying in greater numbers has not encouraged the Palestinians to lay down their arms.

I say these things, and know that I've put myself beyond the pale. That I'll get threatening phone calls (as I did after writing a letter to this paper in April), that people will stop talking to me (as some of my Israeli friends already have). I feel alone and drifting, unwelcome at home or in my faith community, unsure of how, even, to breathe some days, for the sheer horror of it all.

But all of that is nothing, my tears are nothing, my sense of despair is nothing, in light of the war being waged by my government against the Palestinians.

It's a luxury to indulge my anguish--there's no time. The only answer is to fight for a just solution: two states, each with a viable government, infrastructure and culture. Each equal before the other, each populated by citizens who are no longer frightened for their lives.

It's the only answer.

The Bible tells us we were all created in God's image, and that God prefers justice to sacrifice. "Seek peace and pursue it," it says in the Psalms. In great sorrow, with a heavy, broken heart, it's all I can do.

Copyright 2002, Chicago Tribune

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