To Hamas, for Independence Day

To you, the leaders and activists of Hamas, on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the darkest day on the Palestinian calendar, I offer my sympathy.

After all this time, perhaps there is only one thing more galling for you than the fact that the State of Israel still exists: the fact that you need us.

You want to believe that you do not. You want to believe that independence, by definition, means a process formally free of any contact with the Jews and their entity. That to act otherwise is surrender, acceptance of a Palestinian state which is less than the whole of the Holy Land.

The last thing you want to believe is that this 1967 state, this Arab Initiative State, this barely West Bank and Gaza State, is the only state you're ever going to get.

You want to believe that if you wait long enough, endure enough anguish, exact enough revenge, the Jews will relent. It seems only fair, only just, that after all this sacrifice and struggle, you will come into possession of the very state for which you have sworn to give your very life.

You don't know the Jews.

You think you know them. After all this time, you are certain that you do. Perhaps it is from having worked in their restaurants, served in their prisons, or having been searched at their checkpoints.

You don't know them.

Just as Israelis are sure that they know Arabs better than the Arabs know themselves. And you've seen, over and over again, how mistaken that is.

We Jews wanted to believe, for example, that we could complete the process of our independence on our own, with no formal contact with the Palestinians. We wanted to believe that the definition of independence is unilateralism. We wanted to pretend, as you do, that there is only one side, our side.

We wanted to forget about you. Just as you want to wish us away, or believe that we'll consent to be citizens in a nation of your making.

You don't know the Jews.

The Jews and the Palestinians are now in the 60th year of their War of Independence, and it is not going well for either side. For all their struggle, the Palestinians are now farther from achieving statehood than they have been in years. For all our independence, we have no idea, nor any consensus, on where our country ends and where the Arab world begins.

At this point, our population is divided between those for whom every day is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and those for whom every day is Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers.

At this point, your population is enduring a second Naqba, a social catastrophe that may have already caused permanent harm to a generation of children.

Both of our peoples are running on instinct, now, and our instincts are not always good ones. We are running on past experience now, a history that has gone poorly for both sides.

As it turns out, not one but two nations were born on Independence Day 1948, two new peoples, who decided to call themselves Israelis and Palestinians.

Two new cultures were conceived as well, both of them based on the concept of Never.

For the newly Palestinian Arabs, humiliated, cast adrift, betrayed and forsaken by brother Arab and Western ally alike, the term Never became a sacred oath against ever giving in and recognizing the state of Israel.

Never, for Palestinians, came to mean self-esteem.

But when Palestinians say the word Never, what Israelis hear is "annihilation."

We Jews - post-Holocaust, pre-Iranian bomb - who long ago adopted "Never Again" as a mantra, cannot free ourselves from the suspicion that it is also a lie.

We need your help. And you need ours.

The belief - not without foundation - that all of your problems are traceable to occupation, has left you paralyzed, unable to govern, unable to make the changes you need in order to seek help, unable to make the changes you will need to make to become independent.

Your stated commitment to the concept of an armed struggle to replace Israel with a Palestinian state has not only cost you your independence, but has robbed you of once-unshakable allies in the West, the Eastern bloc and the Arab world.

You may not know the Jews, but you have seen that we are paralyzed as well. This much we share - we have become orphan peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians. We have no leaders left. Arafat is gone, Sheikh Yassin is gone, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon as well.

You don't know the Jews, but you should know this. We are offering you a promise and a curse.

If you give a clear sign that you are willing to recognize Israel, you will have taken the most important step any Palestinian can take toward independence, one that Israel will be forced to match with a landmark measure of its own.

If, on the other hand, you opt for ideology and decide that a free Palestine cannot abide a Jewish state as a neighbor, we can make this pledge: A people which has been around for thousands of years will do everything in its power to teach you the true meaning of Never.


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