Looking for love in all the wrong places

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: John Kerry’s Chelemer Mayse

If John Kerry is serious and realistic about establishing peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, then he has to stop looking under the lamppost for something that doesn’t exist; or to paraphrase a popular American song, he has to stop “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Peace will not come about from signatures on a piece of paper, it has to be nurtured and developed.

By Israel Zwick, January 12, 2014

Those familiar with Jewish folklore are usually captivated by the stories of the Wise Men of Chelm. The silly and humorous antics of the men of Chelm often provide us with valuable lessons in life. One such story goes something like this:

Reuven is walking home at night and sees Shimon on his hands and knees under a lamppost. Reuven stops to speak with Shimon:

Reuven: What’s the matter Shimon, is everything all right, do you need some help?

Shimon: I’m all right, I’m just looking for my wedding band, I lost it.

Reuven: I’ll help you look.

So Reuven also gets on his hands and knees in the muddy street and together they look for the wedding band under the lamppost. After about 20 minutes, Reuven asks:

Reuven: We can’t seem to find it, are you sure that you lost it here?

Shimon: No, I lost it by the synagogue when I took it off to wash my hands.

Reuven: So why don’t you look for it by the synagogue?

Shimon: Because it’s too dark there, there’s no street lamp.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, would do well to learn from this little tale. With ongoing violence in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East, John Kerry has made it his mission to search for a “framework for peace” between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority. Today, Israel is probably the most stable, multicultural area in the Middle East. Jews from different countries can be found together with Arabs in the shopping malls, transportation facilities, health care facilities, and recreational areas. Jewish and Arab school groups can be found alongside each other touring the zoos, attending exhibits, and playing in the parks. There are only isolated incidents of violence perpetrated by those who want to deny the other’s rights to the land. We don’t see in Israel the extreme violence that is going on now throughout the Middle East and North Africa. That is because Israeli security forces have the situation under control and are constantly monitoring potential sources of conflict. There is even security cooperation between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority because they all realize that it within their interest to promote quiet and stability.

So John Kerry has decided that the best place to concentrate his peace efforts is between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, ostensibly to prevent the possibility of the future outbreak of violence. Why is John Kerry looking for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority when there is so much violent conflict going on in the world that is more in need of immediate attention and intervention? Several theories have been advanced to try to explain this phenomenon. Perhaps the answer lies in the little tale from Chelm cited above. The only street lamp, and source of light in the Middle East is in Israel and the liberated areas of Judea and Samaria. The other areas are all cloaked in darkness and may have to wait a long time until the sun rises over them. So John Kerry is seeking to leave his mark as a peacemaker in the only area where he sees a glimmer for the possibility of success. These areas are beholden to the USA so Kerry might have some leverage here. Other countries in the Middle East and Africa that are engaged in violent conflicts don’t care what the USA, UN, or EU tells them to do, they will continue to do what they want to do.

Yet, Kerry is like Shimon in the tale above. He refuses to realize that searching for the gold wedding band under the lamppost is a futile effort. As many Israeli politicians and military leaders have noted, there cannot be peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as long as the Palestinian Arabs persist in promoting the narrative that Jews came to Israel in the middle of the 20th century, drove the Arabs from their homes, continue to “occupy Palestinian land,” and “oppress the Palestinian people.” As long as the Palestinian Arabs continue to deny Jewish rights to the lands of Israel, Judea, and Samaria, there cannot be peace between them.

So Prime Minister Netanyahu is justified to insist that the Arabs recognize Jewish rights to the land that is now the State of Israel, Judea, and Samaria. Jews have strong historical, cultural, and religious connections to all parts of that land, including all of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Beersheba, Nablus, Nazareth, (Shechem), Jericho, Shilo. Beth-El, Gaza, and almost every centimeter of the disputed lands. These lands are all mentioned in Jewish literature of thousands of years ago and have had a Jewish presence until Jews were expelled by invading armies. These are liberated Jewish lands, not occupied Arab lands. To deny Jews the right to establish communities in these lands would be like denying Shimon the right to wear the wedding band that he wore since the day he got married.

Those that question Israel’s right to assert itself as a Jewish state must realize that the State of Israel with Judea and Samaria is only about 25,000 sq. kilometers, an almost invisible speck in a map of the Middle East and North Africa. In 1947, the members of the United Nations recognized that Jews have a right to establish a homeland in part of the British Palestine Mandate. Jews around the world had always dreamed of having a little piece of land where they would be free to practice their religion and culture without harassment and persecution. The establishment of the State of Israel helped to realize that dream. It is a land that welcomes Jews at anytime. The official day of rest is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish holidays are the national holidays. There is no problem with ritual slaughter of animals or ritual circumcision. Kosher food and restaurants are readily available, even at hospitals and nursing homes. Jews are free to build synagogues, yeshivot, and succot when and where they are needed. Jews can wear their ritual garments in public without fear of harassment and ridicule. Jews don’t have to beg their employers to release them early on Friday afternoon or request special permission to take an exam on Sunday instead of Saturday. Jews want and need all of this. They do not need Israel to become another multinational and multicultural state. If it were, then Jews could just as easily live in a number of areas throughout Europe and North America. Jews are attracted to Israel because it is a Jewish state, with a Jewish history and heritage.

Despite this, let’s suppose that John Kerry is successful in convincing Israel that it must accede to his “framework” for establishing another Arab micro-state on disputed land, carved out of the ancestral Jewish homeland. That is, Israel would divide Jerusalem, dismantle Jewish communities, and allow a hostile Arab population from Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, to become citizens of Israel. Would this “framework for peace” actually bring peace to the people of Israel. Would the State of Israel be able to reduce its security forces and its vigilance against terrorism? Would Jews be able to walk or drive in in Arab neighborhoods without fear of injury? Would the residents of Sderot and Ashkelon be able to leave their homes without fear of being hit by a rocket? The answer to all of these questions is an obvious “no.” On the contrary, Kerry’s “framework” would require increased security measures in the Jordan Valley, the environs of Jerusalem, and around the airport. A piece of paper signed by Mahmoud Abbas, whose term expired in 2009, would in no way guarantee any peace and security for the people of Israel. It would more likely be a “framework” for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.

If John Kerry is serious and realistic about establishing peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, then he has to stop looking under the lamppost for something that doesn’t exist; or to paraphrase a popular American song, he has to stop “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Peace will not come about from signatures on a piece of paper, it has to be nurtured and developed.

In 1957, Golda Meir famously said that peace will only come about “when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Now, almost 60 years later, Israeli leaders recognize that peace will only come about in the next generation if children are educated for peace, tolerance, and acceptance. Arab children must learn to accept and recognize Jewish rights to the land, as Jewish children must recognize that Arabs have rights as well. As long as the Palestinian Authority continues to incite hatred against Jews while promoting “resistance” and boycotts against Israel, there can never be peace. Instead of promoting boycotts, the Palestinian Authority should be promoting increased cooperation in academics, athletics, technology, health care, and conservation of natural resources. This is the way peaceful coexistence is established. Until John Kerry realizes this, he will keep looking under the lamppost for something that doesn’t exist.

This entry was posted in Education, Judaism, Middle East Report, Opinion, Recent Posts, Zwick's Picks. Bookmark the permalink.