The Deeper We Go, the Clearer Our Understanding

Opinion

The Power of Talk: Members of the dialogue group.
Courtesy of Letty Cottin Pogrebin
The Power of Talk: Members of the dialogue group.

By Nadia Saah

Published November 10, 2010, issue of November 19, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

My connection to the Jewish experience didn’t begin in our Dialogue. It started at birth.

As a Washington, D.C. native, born blond and “Barbra”-esque to Palestinian parents who fled West Jerusalem in 1948, I was strangely more mishpucha than habibi. My brother spent his afternoons spouting Mel Brooks-isms while I ran around the house belting “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

On family trips to the Occupied Territories, children in Ramallah or Silwan greeted me as “Yahoodiyeh!” — the Jewess. In Amman, Jordan, my cousins would flat-out say I was a spy.

During elementary school, I’d hang out at my best friend Susan’s house until she came home from Hebrew school. Though we were aware of our people’s enmity, it was never an obstacle to our constant companionship, even when we shot hoops to see who would win Jerusalem.

I began hearing the details of our Nakba (the catastrophe of 1948) around the same time as “The Holocaust” aired on TV, and the narratives echoed each other in a profoundly sad way. My parents had fled; Susan’s grandparents had fled. My people were butchered; her people had been gassed and butchered. Both were terrorized, despised and cast from their homes in fear and humiliation. Fortunately for Susan, her people resurrected themselves. Unfortunately for me, that occurred on the broken bones of my people who were now being oppressed by Susan’s survivors.

My growing awareness of this mindboggling transference of victimhood did not stop me from feeling compassion for Jewish suffering. However, what I grew to understand, I could not reconcile. How could Jews hide behind their tragedies and hardwired insecurities and deny or rationalize Israel’s crimes against Palestinians? How could they market Palestinian victims as aggressors and blame them for their own suffering? Why does the world stand idly by when Palestinians are brutally punished for daring to resist the stranglehold of Israeli occupation, losing more of their land each day?

Despite the Dialogue members’ shared commitment to a just peace and our growing affection for one another, painful questions continually arise in our meetings. I joined the group to understand Jewish fear in order to speak to it without becoming overwhelmed by anger. I also joined to see if blunt talk mixed with genuine empathy could translate into substantive action among Jewish opinion makers.

But it made my brain bleed to hear one of the Jews say that the Palestinians have the power to make Israelis feel secure enough to demand peace. How, I asked, can a systematically oppressed, impoverished, ghettoized and entirely insecure people make Israelis feel safe? Israel has the fourth most powerful army in the world, a thriving economy, control over roughly 86% of historic Palestine (including settlements), and the unconditional love of the world’s superpower. Of course, with occupation there can be no security, regardless of walls, checkpoints and prisons.

On that last point, all eight Dialogue members agree. And as we continue to grapple with these extremely difficult issues, I find that the deeper we go, the clearer our understanding of our parallel narratives, and the more imperative our need to find the most effective and human way to individually and collectively impact our shared futures.

Nadia Saah is a partner at BoomGen Studios, a film company that produces and markets entertainment content about the Greater Middle East, its people and cultures.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.