I am mining and sharing a treasure trove of documents from the files of Allan Solomonow. Most of his papers and recollections pertain to efforts to resolve the conflict in Palestine/Israel. From as early as the 1960s, Allan has been working on all parties involved in the Middle East, especially private and governmental entities in the United States to listen to one another and come together for the good of the people in the region. As a Jew and as a long time staff member of the American Friends Service Committee, Allan has collected myriad articles, meeting notes, conference agendas, reports of peace delegations to the region and material related to tours of peacemakers visiting the United States.
I will share pieces of documents that touch me, that make me consider how close we have come to a broader understanding of the competing interests that each side needs to hear from the other’s perspective. You may cringe with me at the thought that if only so-and-so hadn’t subverted some effort, all would have worked out long ago.
The views expressed in some of the uncovered documents are astounding. Some are notable because they expose the longstanding, insidious nature of racist attitudes and propaganda that have existed for a long time in the establishment Jewish community in the United States and Israel. It can be easily argued that Israeli leaders and political parties have actually precluded any peaceful resolution because they truly haven’t wanted to respect the needs or rights of the Palestinian people. I have been amazed at the insightful, aware statements by some commentators within the American Jewish community but their inability (unwillingness?) to push for more honest brokering.
Because the US media, politicians and general public blame the Palestinians (be it the Palestinian Authority or the PLO before it, its leaders, its rogue elements, Hamas, its leaders its rogue elements or just the Palestinian people themselves) as the de facto impediment to peaceful coexistence, I am focusing on the examples in which the racism, Islamophobia and support for violating Palestinian human rights are expressed, to show that the problem has been at least as much the fault of the hateful, dishonest intransigence of American Jews and the Zionist establishment.
Understanding this history won’t be enough to shift the discourse to a more honest view of the situation, but without accepting that these attitudes have had a terrible influence on peace efforts over the years, I don’t know that justice and righteousness will be able to flow. I hope that what isn’t new will be seen in an historical light. Steps taken may be small, they may be infinitesimal, they may take us in the wrong direction, but many of them aren’t baby steps in that this work isn’t newly born. If we don’t want to reinvent the wheel (to mix metaphors for a moment), we need to honor the work and vision, and sadly, the longstanding prejudices that must be acknowledged to be overcome.