We're Not Man Enough to Make Peace

We are poorly developed primates, these people, my friends, the Jews and the Palestinians of the Holy Land.

We beat our fists against our chests a lot to assure our enemies, and no less, ourselves, that we haven't lost an ounce of macho. But we're not man enough to be human beings.

Just as we drive like monsters to proclaim our machismo to the broadest possible audience, but we are not man enough to stand up to our kids and make them wear seat belts in the back seat.

In more than a century of living together in this place, we have proven ourselves, decade after decade, macho enough to make war, but not man enough to make peace.

Like little boys delighting their family with precocious displays of bonehead locker-room masculinity, every act of war that we the Jews or they the Palestinians perform, is met with a chorus of cheers, blessings, learned explanations and justifications from supporters across the world.

Every half-hearted tic we take in the general direction peace is hooted at from home, condemned to death by the self-styled keepers of the faith at home, who will shout it down the initiative if they can, or literally shoot it down if they must.

The choice is simple, and we are persuaded to make it early. If we make war, we are loved by our own side as the little boy who has done as his family or his rabbi or sheikh, would have him do. There will be compliments on his devotion, his guts, his savvy, his clarity of thinking, his willingness to act.

Try to make peace, however, and your own side will be the first to emasculate you. How could you know so little, they will ask. How could you risk so much?

We have persuaded ourselves that even peacemaking is a function of the quality of our he-man posturing, that we will find a true peace only through improving our ability to make war, that we will convince the other side to bend only when they are convinced that we never will.

Holy men of this place teach chapter and verse that war is right and proper, that peace is worse than surrender, it is contrary to the will of the one God of these two peoples. The Mideast conflicts, in particular the 1967 war, have warped religious Judaism and fundamentalist Islam beyond recognition.

It is only natural that these teachings, these displays, grow only more feverish as the situation grows more despairing, more hopeless. There are those in Hamas ? and, truth be told, in the Knesset and the IDF as well ? who believe that initiated violence is necessary, and the sooner the better.

We have been taught that the other side deserves collective punishment. We have not internalized how that punishment feels.

We have been taught, both in the Israeli and Palestinian narratives, that uprising and warfare are the path to freedom. But we are, both of our peoples, now slaves to the consequences of our uprisings and our wars.

It is time for a redefinition of courage here, a new conception of heroism, one that recognizes that the risks of compromise are fully as necessary as the readiness to fight. It is time to fight the idea that manliness and moral authority grow out of the barrel of a gun.

It is time that we two peoples turned our uprisings inward. Israelis must take the lead in dismantling their own occupation. Palestinians must take the lead in coming to terms with a sovereign state of Israel.

It's time, before we all grow any older here, that we grew up.


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