Jewish and Muslim Leaders in Israel and Palestine: End Rhetoric That Exacerbates Hatred and Violence

The widespread political vitriol dehumanizes the Israeli and Palestinian experience. But it's a symptom of the underlying problem: the persistent lack of a two state solution.

Thousands attend an anti-violence and incitement rally at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, Sat. Aug. 1, 2015.
Thousands attend an anti-violence and incitement rally at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, Sat. Aug. 1, 2015. Moti Milrod

In 2002, Robi Damelin, an Israeli mother, received news that her son was killed by a Palestinian sniper. Five years later, Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian father, learned his daughter was killed by Israeli Border Police. Today, connected by a shared hope for an end to violence, Robi and Bassam travel the world together, advocating for peace. 

The renewed violence in Israel and Palestine brings familiar and heart wrenching grief to parents like Robi and Bassam. As the violence intensifies, Israeli and Palestinian families are the victims.

The political vitriol and hostility we have seen is merely a symptom of the underlying problem: the persistent lack of a two state solution. 

The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have a moral obligation to denounce the violence, but leadership that works to end the violence permanently requires more. History tells us that when leaders in the region make a commitment to the peace process, violence decreases. Without progress, without hope, people turn towards extremism.

Without progress, without hope, people turn towards extremism. We call on the governments of Israel and Palestine to return to the negotiating table towards two states for two peoples – once and for all.

We have just commemorated the 20th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s death. Prime Minister Rabin was shot and killed by an extremist opposed to the proposition of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side. Rabin died for the pursuit of peace. As we remember his death we should also remember the cause to which he dedicated his life. Prime Minister Rabin was a moral leader, a hero who dreamt of a future where Jews, Muslims, and all the residents of the Holy Land could live peacefully. He worked for this future even as suicide bombs tore through residential neighborhoods. When Rabin was shot, he had the words of the song “Shir La’Shalom” in his pocket. The last verse of the song starts with the words “Do not say the day will come; bring the day about!” Rabin did not wait. He actively worked to bring peace. 

We need courage like Rabin’s now. We call on politicians, rabbis, imams, civil society leaders – all the people of Israel and Palestine to end rhetoric that exacerbates hatred and violence. We call for all people dedicated to the heroic cause of peace and justice to help end the bloodshed. And we call on the governments of Israel and Palestine to return to the negotiating table and engage in the difficult work of finding a solution to this conflict – two states for two peoples – once and for all.

Israeli and Palestinian civilians pray for the safety of their children and their families. They pray for calm in the home that they both share. Now more than ever Israeli and Palestinian leaders must model Prime Minister Rabin’s leadership and do all they can, sacrifice all they can, to end the violence in the City of Peace.

Congressman Keith Ellison has represented the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2007. Rabbi Adam Latz is Senior Rabbi at the Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis.