Google “Peace and Justice Center” and you will find hundreds, maybe thousands, of these centers in the United States. There’s one in my city too.
The folks at the Albuquerque P&J Center are currently wrestling with the Israeli-Palestinian “issue”. What position should the Center take? Which side should the Center support?
The majority want to stand firmly on the side of the Palestinians. A few want to remain neutral. When I heard that, I was stumped. What does neutrality mean in this context? And what does it mean to take a side?
NEUTRAL: “Not helping or supporting either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartial. Having no strongly marked or positive characteristics or features.”
I suspect those well-meaning souls who want to remain neutral are either:
- flummoxed by this long-term occupation, witnessing the atrocities that both sides have committed, and believe neither side is morally justified or without blame; or
- fear that “taking sides” with the Palestinians means opposing Israel, which is an impossible conundrum for many Americans.
I suspect that those thoughtful individuals who want to stand on the side of the Palestinians believe:
- they are standing on the side of justice because they have a firm grasp of the history of the occupation and the role of Israel as the occupier and the righteousness of resistance; or
- they see the imbalance of power between the State of Israel and the stateless Palestinians and want to stand with the weak and oppressed.
This mini-crisis at the Albuquerque P&J Center mirrors the world’s stage in so many ways. If the individuals can work through their heartfelt differences to reach an amicable resolution, there is hope for the future. If those holding the minority opinion feel unheard or dismissed, they will probably kiss the P&J Center goodbye and walk away. That would be a tragedy.
In my humble opinion, we need to move beyond the notion of taking sides, of categorizing the right or wrong side, and we should also toss “neutrality” from our dictionary.
Since our brains are hard-wired to fit everything into boxes, and divide the world between the white hats and the black hats (“You’re either with us or against us!), I think it requires an evolutionary leap of faith that there is a world beyond what we imagine today where “sides” are an anachronism of the past.
The future I imagine is one where all people everywhere (Muslims, Jews, Christians, black, white, brown, young, old, rich and poor) are loved despite their flaws — for who is perfect?
The future I imagine is one where we can champion the needs of the weak and dispossessed while educating the occupier and the world beyond about the injustices that occur daily in Palestine. Everyone deserves a future free of fear and want. Everyone deserves dignity and respect.
Our minds must move beyond this zero sum mentality and the false idea that criticizing the actions of the occupier is somehow delegitimizing the State of Israel. Israel needs many more friends in the world willing to call a spade, a spade, and help it end the occupation.
There is no such thing as “neutrality” in this context. We might choose to be silent but our tax dollars will continue to flow to Israel to purchase weapons used to maintain the occupation. We might choose to take no action, thereby supporting the status quo. “Neutrality” is merely a code word for copping out of this intractable situation.
I choose the side of humanity with love and respect for every person regardless of which side of the Green Line they might live. I choose to be actively engaged, not an armchair pacifist. I choose to be an equal opportunity critic — of Hamas, Fatah, Netanyahu and Obama, and everyone else. I choose to think for myself and question everything, rather than a lap dog to Fox News and CNN.
If the folks at the Albuquerque P&J Center can’t find a common path to follow together with mutual respect, then I think they have all lost their way and should reexamine the notion of what “peace” and “justice” means for the future.