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The next cease-fire we need? An end to one-sided PR campaigns.

“The problem is that everyone in this conflict is right and everyone is wrong.”

Nearly twenty five years ago, I was part of a group of American law students living for the summer in the West Bank and we had the chance to meet Yossi Beilin, then a leading politician on the Israeli left. During our discussion, he said this to us and I’ve never forgotten it.

Today, I would add “everyone is in pain.”

I have spent the last two weeks, paralyzed and exhausted from digesting the news of ongoing devastation and trauma from Israel and Palestine.

I see analogous battles online. On the pages of Facebook friends and groups, one post after another looks for better talking points, angles for the next public relations (PR)battle, seeking to counter this or that argument, claiming that “context” is missing.

And where does it leave us? Dissatisfied and angry and exhausted.

If we can have a cease-fire in the actual war, let us call a cease-fire in the war over PR, the war over context, the war over the last word.

Instead we should focus on one simple act: acknowledging others’ pain.

Just acknowledge their pain and stay with all of its discomforts. One need not cede their point of view or perspective or give up on their beliefs. There is no painless resolution to this conflict. But we will all continue to experience more pain until we commit to resolving it, rather than winning it.

It is an old standby that “hurt people hurt people.” Israelis have hurt Palestinians, Palestinians have hurt Israelis, supporters of Israeli government policy here have hurt opponents of Israeli government policy and vice versa. There have been terrible antisemitic attacks against Jews for perceived association with Israel and vicious threats leveled at those supporting the rights of people in Gaza.

So maybe it’s time we stop and acknowledge the pain and suffering of everyone involved.

For my part, as an anti-occupation activist for many years I have tried desperately to ensure the American Jewish community understands the reality of Occupation and grasps the suffering and pain it causes both Palestinians who live under it and the Israelis who enforce it. But often this has led to me diminishing the voices of Israelis who desperately hope for security. I have often not listened to American Jews who rightly fear rising antisemitism. I have diminished the experience of others and refused to acknowledge the pain that many feel.

Is listening and acknowledging the pain of others the only answer to the future? No. It is just a “cease-fire.”

There are others embodying this kind of cease-fire: the Clubhouse group where Israelis and Palestinians are meeting, the “Omdim B’Yachad” marches and organizations like Resetting the Table that teach us to have hard conversations.

This may all sound naive and simplistic, but I would argue that it’s no more naive than imagining that, after our communities have spent millions of dollars on PR campaigns for decades, that somehow now one more round of argument or talking point will work.

We need to find a new way forward, one that is rooted in understanding and acknowledging each other’s pain, whatever its roots, or else we will spend too many more years mourning that pain.

Brad Brooks-Rubin is a member of the New Israel Fund’s DC Leadership Council, an editor and frequent contributor at Jewschool and an active member of a conservative synagogue in Washington, D.C. He was was a member of the Hatikvah slate for the 2020 World Zionist Congress elections.


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