Sunday, December 17, 2006

Message to a Compassionate Listener

Message to a Compassionate Listener

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, I was one of a panel of speakers reviewing the Israeli film “Shadya,” shown at the Oakland Museum in Oakland, California. The film is about a young Palestinian-Israeli woman whose promising success in karate presents her with issues about her identity as a Palestinian, an Israeli and a woman in both societies. It was presented by ITVS, which partnered with community organizations to foster discussions. I represented one of the partners, the Northern California chapter of the International Solidarity Movement.

After the discussion had ended, audience member Eryn Kalish came to me and introduced herself by name and as a trainer and organizer of the Compassionate Listening Project in the San Francisco Bay Area. We then began a conversation that covered some of the remarks I had made, and issues concerning justice and reconciliation for Palestinians and Israelis. Unfortunately, we were interrupted to be told that we both had to move our cars urgently out of the garage, so we didn’t exchange contact information in order to continue our conversation.

Although I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian, I participate in the Jewish-Palestinian Dialog Group of the East Bay, and many other participants were present at the film presentation. I therefore recruited their help in locating Eryn, whose name I could not remember at the time.

The result is a remarkable dialog that took place on the list server of the group, which I reproduce here. I and many others think it is remarkable because of the issues raised and the way they are addressed. Eryn and I probably represent significant numbers of people who feel as differently as we do but rarely talk to each other as we do. For this reason, I think our dialog may be of interest to such persons and as a stimulus to discussions about the issues addressed. I hope you find it to be as interesting to read as it was to participate. Since the dialog is continuing, I will post addenda periodically.

[Note: For the sake of the context of the first message, I mention that part of my remarks included a quotation of I.F. Stone regarding Israel and double standards. For simplicity and continuity, I include only the exchange between Eryn and me. Interesting side discussions occurred, but I omit them, even if there are occasional references to such messages in the text. I have also corrected some of the typos while leaving a few in place, just for the flavor of the discussion. Although the discussions were on a public list, I have chosen to remove the names of other participants where they occur in the text, just for the sake of focus.

Given the opportunity, Eryn and I might like to edit our statements for clarity and afterthoughts. However, I think it is better to let them stand in the context in which they occurred, with the understanding that they might not represent our full thinking on the issues discussed. My thanks again to Eryn and to all the others who lent their encouragement and advice as the dialog unfolded.]

Paul Larudee

Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 19:36:18 -0800 (PST)
To: East Bay Dialog Group
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener

Does anyone know the woman who came up to speak to me after the film yesterday? She is apparently active in the Compassionate Listening Project. I would like to get the following message to her. (It is intended for public consumption.)


To a Compassionate Listener:

Thank you for coming to talk with me after the film “Shadya”. I was impressed by the sincerity of your views. You also appeared to be willing to devote the time and effort necessary to try to achieve some measure of understanding. Unfortunately, the parking garage permitted less time, so I ran off to get my car without taking your contact information so that we could pursue this at another time. You also told me your name, but I apologize that I find myself unable to extract it from my less-than-optimal memory. I also appreciate your candid but respectful advice about how to address my listeners. It was very helpful.

I will confess that despite your disciplined practice of compassionate listening, I came away with the feeling that you doubt my sincerity and consider my arguments manipulative. I hope I am wrong, but if that is so, I wish to assure you that I d not have the same doubts about you, and that I try to be as sincere as I can in my viewpoint. I believe that your apparent perception may arise from the difficulty in exposing cherished assumptions and beliefs to doubt and criticism.

It requires a great deal of courage to allow oneself to question deeply engrained values and ideas. This is why cult members often prefer denial, why deception on the part of one’s partner is so traumatic, and why confidence scams are so hurtful. Nevertheless, if we are committed to truth and honesty before all else, we must be willing to accept the possibility that we are wrong, and we must entertain the validity of every challenge to our beliefs. This is openness, and it requires us to be willing to allow ourselves to look at things in a totally different way.

The principle applies equally to both of us, but it is my sense that this kind of openness was lacking in our conversation. Perhaps it was partly due to the inadequacies of time and circumstance, which may have allowed neither of us the freedom to indulge in this kind of exploration. However, when I see someone who has enough interest to pursue such a dialog, I regret not doing so.

For this reason, should this message reach you, I would like to invite you to continue our discussion, and especially to participate in the East Bay Jewish-Palestinian Dialog Group, which is a good forum for such exchanges.


Paul Larudee

P.S. Here is the full I.F. Stone quote:

"For Israel is creating a kind of schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which non-Jews have a lesser status than Jews, and in which the ideal is racial and exclusionist. Jews must fight elsewhere for their very security and existence against principles and practices they find themselves defending in Israel."

I think even Stone would consider his statement to be a broad brush. There are Jews outside Israel who have little respect for human rights, Jews in Israel who fight against injustice and of course non-Jews who do both, as well. My point, however, is that I agree with Stone that many who defend Israel hold contradictory values or apply them selectively. Most importantly, the quote was meant to support the premise that we cannot achieve justice for some at the price of injustice for others. Israel needs to stop giving privilege and preference to Jews and welcome back Palestinians who want to live there. Palestinian justice also cannot be purchased at the cost of Jewish exile.

From: Eryn
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 11:05:23 EST
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener

Paul thanks so much for writing. I appreciate your sincerity, too, and sorry if that did not come across. I also felt bad that we did not get to close our conversation when we both ran off to our cars.

What you might have read as my not trusting your sincerity is my sadness and frustration at most of what was said at the event last night.

I've spent so many years listening, studying, going to the Holy Land to see for myself and what I'm most interested in now is people who can honestly hold the complexity of this conflict with heart and soul, with deep compassion and without blaming either side, but helping all of us to walk through the fire.

When I heard you blame Israel exclusively for the situation, comparing the circumstances to South Africa and the Native Americans, I have to admit, I really turn off...things are so dire there now for the Palestinians and potentially for the Israelis as well...I feel pretty frustrated at going to a beautiful and complex film like Shadya followed by a panel that only represents a fragment of the voices...everyone sits around and agrees that Israel is the big bad demon and walks away self-satisfied. Meanwhile, the conflict rages, the blood is spilled, as I believe it will be until a higher integration and synthesis occur where the pain and suffering of everyone involved is honoured and cherished and healed.

I have done so much listening to what I hear you representing, is I guess what I'm saying and I'm really yearning for allies--from anywhere-- who can help to hold the deeper truth and I did appreciate your willingness to listen...AND I heard you clearly state that you don't see the conflict as complex and nuanced but actually very simple and clear: it's all Israel's fault. I don't know where to go with that except to tell you that I went back early this morning to some pieces in Benny Morris' book, my dog-eared copy, well worn, around some of the history you and I were talking about and my eye caught the blurbs on the back cover that say this book will explode everyone's cherished myths, and anyone who reads this will no longer be able to ever again blame one side or the other.

So I apologize if did not convey respect for your opinions...I guess I'm really tired, after so many years, of ANY party lines, right, left or center, that distorts things in ways that keep us all stuck cycling in the pain of this horrible tragedy. I'm physically sickened by it all, hopeful that if we keep sharing our perceptions openly, we will till the soil for something new to arise...I don't know how to do that when I'm hearing stuff I've heard and so don't agree with I want to be respectful, and at the same time, I need to put out that hearing more of the same really is old for me and I want to see break-throughs, places where we can go together that will help things unfold in new ways. Sadly, I did not feel that last night, as much as I appreciated your willingness to hear me...maybe I'm just too old and too impatient to be doing this work any more...

Warmest Blessings and thanks so much for reaching out and for listening now.


Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 11:45:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener


Thanks for responding. As I said, I would be willing to continue the conversation if you are interested, but will not insist otherwise. Your interest seemed passionate, so I had the impression that there was a desire to talk.

My own view is that if we hope to make progress, we have to set aside sadness frustration, be willing to hear many of the same things repeatedly and try to see something new in them that we did not see last time. We cannot afford to turn off under any circumstances, regardless of whether it seems old.

No panel of five can do more than scratch the surface in an hour's time. No panel of five can represent the entire spectrum of views. No presentation of any kind can display the full complexity of issues. That is too much to expect. Instead, we can at best address narrow areas at a time, and not be afraid to do so. We need to confront them head on and pursue them to conclusion. That way we may make a small advance on at least part of the problem. I don't think we can find a deeper truth or achieve any kind of synthesis without doing the hard work of facing all the individual issues, of which the justification for a Jewish state is only one.

I'm sorry you think I find the problem as simple as blaming Israel for everything. I think that is a hasty judgement. The complexity can be seen only by talking about many issues, which we did not.

On the other hand, my impression is that you are either in denial about Israel's role or are getting your information mainly from those who are. A key to having a fruitful discussion is to be willing to face the hard questions and be open to unpleasant answers. To what extent does your reading include Ilan Pappe, Uri Davis, Salman Abusitta and Jonathan Cook? How much time have you spent in Palestinian communities in the West Bank or Gaza? To what extent are you committed to Israel and unwilling to question that commitment?

To take only the issue of a Jewish state, I hope that I am open to the idea that such a state is a good idea for reasons that I have not yet considered, or for an analysis that I have yet to see. I hope that I care equally about Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Palestinians. If we accept Uri Davis' definition, they are all Palestinians. However, if your priority is the welfare of Jewish Israelis (even if you also care about the welfare of Palestinians) and you are unwilling to critically examine your premises, then I fear that our discussions will be fruitless and that we will never arrive at a deeper truth or the kind of synthesis you claim to want.

Obviously, I must be willing to do the same, and to the extent that others are also willing, we may achieve some progress. However, too much is at stake to allow fatigue, age and impatience to be an obstacle.

I will not be offended if you decide not to pursue this, but would be delighted to see you at the dialog group. I also hope you don't mind me sharing this with the group, as this is precisely the sort of conversation it was created to address, and speaks to issues of interest to us all.


From: Eryn
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 22:09:49 EST
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener

Paul thanks for responding..I'm about to go offline for Shabbat so this will be quick...

your questions and challenge for me surface two deeply held values.

Since I spend my life facilitating very deep dialogue and so of course I believe very much that we can't really afford to stop the conversation, must stay at the table and build bridges where we can as one premise...

the second one is that at 52, there are certain things that I don't reconsider on a daily basis and you probably don't either: I don't entertain whether robbing a bank when I'm low on money is an option, don't entertain whether it's okay to slug someone when I'm angry...I'm sure you get my drift: there are certain core essentials that I have come to accept and I'm okay operating from them as I believe I have come to them with a lot of care, thought, meditation, inner guidance...they are my deep I know everything I need to know about why I shouldn't steal from my friends? Probably there is always more to learn, but that is not where I want to put my life's energy.

Israel's right to exist is one of those fundamentals that I've come to...I made a decision about a year ago that I will be in dialogue with anyone about how to resolve the middle east as long as they accept as a premise that until nation states are all dissolved (I hope that happens in the future and we don't need them any more!) that focusing on dismantling only the Jewish state is not on the table for me to negotiate about, even in dialogue. I do find myself drained by the conversation, see it going nowhere nor does it interest me.

Since we each have to make very conscious decisions about where to put our precious life energy, what we're called to do, etc. I have decided that I will be in conversations with people who can hold all of the peoples in the conflict with love and compassion and want to talk about how to move forward together in ways that are healing for all...that is my understanding of what Len and Libby's model of dialogue is about and also that we fully accept where each person is at the time we encounter them.

So while I appreciate that you see things from a different angle, unless we can agree on the existence question, I don't think there is much more for us to talk about, though I do appreciate your offer and I do believe you are sincere in your willingness.

Warm Blessings,


Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2006 00:54:40 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener


I'm 60, have been with this issue 41 years, and find myself questioning more things the older I get. I think I could give you reasons to question Israel's right to exist, if you give yourself a chance to consider them and evaluate them fairly. Furthermore, they are reasons you have never heard before. In fact, I think you can never make significant progress towards your objectives without honest consideration of such questions, even if in the end you still decide that for you, the issue is non-negotiable. At least you will know what price you are paying and you will be less frustrated about why others are unwilling to meet you there. Benny Morris is honest in this regard; he recognizes that Israel could not have been created without ethnic cleansing, and for him it is worth it. I think your analogy to questioning whether to rob a bank is not a serious one.

Even more important than the right to exist, however, is the question of whether justice for some can be purchased with injustice for others. Are you willing to discuss this question?


From: Eryn
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2006 14:32:25 EST
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener

Paul, while I deeply appreciate how sincerely you are engaged in this issue, I continue to feel that you are discounting all of the questioning I HAVE done up to this point, or to respect my conclusions... and that you continue to filter everything I say through your agenda...this is not a useful place for dialogue from my perspective.

Thanks for trying.


Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2006 13:24:37 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener


If you feel that this is a waste of your time, I don't want to push you to continue. However, if you think that it can be useful if pursued in a different place, I would be happy to do so, in which case I would be open to your suggestions.

My impression of our exchanges is essentially the mirror image of yours, i.e. that you are discounting my questioning, applying your filters and declaring some things to be off limits. That said, I am not yet convinced that our discussion cannot be productive and would like to propose how.

1. Let us choose a manner and place of communicating which you think might be more productive.
2. Let us allow the issues that you care about to drive the discussion.
3. Let us keep to one issue at a time, in order to limit the scope of what might otherwise become quite wide-ranging.

As you might imagine, the postings to the dialog group have generated some discussion. With your permission, I would like to forward two postings, one from SP and the other from AH, which are supporting different views.

I also would like to again invite you to the dialog group this evening.

Sorry for my persistence, but it is rare to have respectful, honest discussions with persons who hold passionately different views, and especially one who is committed to the principles of compassionate listening. I have not trained in the program, but care about both compassion and listening, even if I practice both imperfectly. However, I will also understand and respect your decision if you prefer to discontinue the discussion altogether. Also, please feel free not to copy the dialog group if you would rather not include them. Obviously, the members of the dialog group should also choose whether they want to accept continued postings of this kind.

Thanks for your patience.


From: Eryn
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 01:17:29 EST
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener

Paul thanks for your patience, too.

I have been receiving all of the postings that have come from our conversation and sadly I see so much polarization...I'm not sure where this kind of thing leads because my sense is that until we're all able to lay down our political swords and really hear what's most important to each other nothing will deeply change and we will continue to rewound each other with our words and our matter how we might want to legitimize the right to challenge each other's beliefs, what compassionate listening is about is getting underneath the beliefs and positions to what is really important ...we work to till the soil for something new to arise (see attached if you're interested in my thinking on this).

In my experience, and painting with very broad brush strokes, Jews deeply want security and Palestinians respect and honour...and BOTH want their suffering legitimized by the other and the we each manifest the demand for those deep/essential needs varies of course. So when people just blame Israel and the Jews for a mess that was so clearly co-created by so many players, including but not limited to the Jews of the Yeshuv and the diaspora, the Palestinians, the larger Arab world and the Western world, not to mention 2000 years of Christian persecution of the Jews and to a lesser extent Muslim persecution, we are reducing real needs to sound bite phrases that might make us feel righteous but will never get at the core issues....

So the reason I've stopped having conversations with folks who seem to have what I call a reductionist view of the conflict is that I think it's a red doesn't touch the real needs and thus has no possibility of meeting them...without meeting them, the conflict will continue...and to empower that cycle seems like a waste of time, energy and creativity when we could be working together to come up with solutions for how we're going to deal with the mess. Solutions that demonize one side over the other seem sure to fail ultimately.

The thing that intrigues me about this conflict, in addition to having a very heart felt and personal passion or seeing it solved, having lost 33 of my mom's family in Auschwitz, loving the Holy Land deeply and the Palestinian peoples, is that it is different than most any other conflict on the planet, from my perspective.

There you have TWO wounded peoples, TWO suffering peoples who have come to manifest their suffering in beautiful and strong ways in order to survive, and horrible and twisted ways that hurt the other and therefore ultimately themselves...and despite the stereotype perpetuated, this was not come colonizing entity that had no connection to the land (ala South Africa) but an indigenous people who had been ousted by the Romans, yearning through their prayers and stories for the return, no less so than the tragedy of the Palestinians sitting with keys around their necks in refugee camps yearning to go back home...

I see the great spiritual calling of this conflict as the call for humanity to develop itself to the point that it can truly hold all of the co-creators of this conflict fully...the story lines that distort what I see as pointing toward our development as a species seem doomed to perpetuate things and will never, in my estimation, lead to resolution, and thus my disinterest in continuing them.

So I guess my first question to you if you are still open to conversation with me is to focus on the human side of who you are, what drives you, a white, non Palestinian, non Jewish man to spend 41 years of his life working so hard on this issue? Why did you choose this conflict and not try, instead, to dismantle Australia, built on the back of the Aborigines...Why do you care and what is the vision you hope to see if you could wave a wand and have what you desire unfold tomorrow?



Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2006 23:46:46 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Message to a Compassionate Listener


Wow, your last question is great. I'm glad that you've been receiving the other posts, where I see some polarization, but also real understanding, as in S's and A's messages (though not exclusively theirs).

I have to say that I think there's much more to the solution than acknowledgement of suffering, and that if there is something more fundamental than beliefs and positions, it is important to describe it. Perhaps I will understand when I read the attachment, but I think that legitimation of suffering is pretty low on the Palestinians' list of priorities.

I absolutely agree that assigning blame is not a solution, and often moves us away from a solution. However, understanding is important, as is a realistic assessment of facts and events. It is also important to talk about solutions, the form that they might take and the principles that would govern them - principles like justice, equal rights and other first principles.

You speak of red herrings vs. real needs. What are these real needs? What is “what's really important" and who is permitted to decide such priorities?

I don't think it's entirely accurate to say that it was the Jews' attachment to a particular plot of land that brought them there. For some it was the case, but for many it was not their first choice, or even their fifth. It was their only choice, but it wasn't their attachment to the land, which came later, and perhaps in a succeeding generation or not at all.

So now to your question. First, I do not consider myself white, or only partially so. I was born in Iran to an Iranian father and an 11th generation American mother of English stock (although I tended to ignore such matters while growing up, and even she didn't know her own history at the time).

What ignited my interest is when my father became director of the USIS bi-national center in Amman, Jordan. This started my education, and particularly the life-long association with a Palestinian who became like a brother to me from that time. I ended up working in Arab countries for a total of 14 years and as you say, the conflict is different from any other. Coming from largely American values from small towns in the East and Midwest, the injustice of the Palestinian plight struck an instant chord with me, and I felt that it was equally unjust for me to ignore it when such a large part of the problem was my own country's involvement and when such a distorted view of it was being propagated in my country. As a participant in the social struggles of the 60s, I took to heart Martin Luther King's statement (which I quoted at the film) that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I also felt that although I care deeply about what is happening in Haiti, Darfur, to indigenous peoples everywhere and other injustices, I was closest to this issue, knew more about it that many others, and might be in a position to do more than with other issues.

As for my hopes for Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbors, I would want the societies to welcome all persons who consider Palestine (the geographic region) to be their home, to live wherever they want to in that homeland, without segregation or privilege and in mutual respect.

In fact, that applies to much more than just Palestine. In my opinion, Jews will never find peace in a fortress Israel that insists upon exclusion of people who consider it their home. Instead, Jews need to be welcome in Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus and many other places, and they need to welcome the indigenous Palestinian population back to what is now Israel. I believe that this is the formula for peace and reconciliation regardless of how many states give expression to self-determination in Palestine, which is for the peoples themselves to decide. This is what I meant at the film when I said that I have no problem with the idea of a Jewish homeland, but am totally opposed to a Jewish state.

I hope this is a start to answering your question, but I would be happy to elaborate on any part of it that you wish me to.


Document from Eryn:

Draft Statement: The Compassionate Listening Project:
Our Work With the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict becomes ever more tragic, we want to share with others how we have brought Israelis and Palestinians together and held the space for healing and peace- building in the face of so much fear and violence over the past 16 years.

Our work on the ground began in 1990 with a mission to create safe and respectful venues, and to provide the tools to strengthen the “third path.” We believe that the “third path” (as conflict resolution experts call the alternative to the fight or flight syndrome) is the foundation for transformation and healing of this conflict. In other words, we are working to till the soil where something new can grow.

We believe that in order for a lasting resolution to take root, an integrated solution is necessary. Political, legal, economic, psychological and spiritual approaches are all necessary for healing in the face of so much pain and anguish.

Compassionate Listening is a foundational practice that helps individuals to listen deeply to each other. It is not an answer to the conflict; it is a skill-set and deep practice that helps people create solutions based on listening and speaking from their hearts, rather than on recycling grievances. We support deepening mutual understanding so that personal and collective stories can be held in a broader context that includes the stories of “the other.” We help people see how their stories are rooted in their humanity and how they are connected to the humanity of “the other.”

Sometimes advocates of one side or the other ask if we are biased. Sometimes they ask if we should be doing more advocacy work. While we have enormous respect for those doing human rights and advocacy work, and we understand how concerns for those suffering can prompt these questions, we have chosen another path. We have chosen to advocate “strongly” for a shift in consciousness that recognizes that all of life is valuable, that each human being is a spark of the divine, and that people in pain and fear can do horrible things. We agree with Gene Knudson Hoffman who says that every act of violence is the expression of an unhealed wound, and that an enemy is someone whose story we have not yet heard.

We know that not taking a stand for one side against the other can appear as inadvertently supporting the very violence we hope to address. We want to state, with as much clarity as possible, that we stand for saying “enough is enough” to all acts of violence. We stand for cooperation, a sustainable and just peace with full security for both peoples. We stand for healing the wounds that both peoples have suffered and that have been historically documented. We stand for a world where the loving essence of every human being is encouraged and allowed to thrive within a healthy eco, political and social system.

Compassionate Listening has been called “meditation in action.” We stand for the use of this and other deep practices that will allow Love, Compassion, and Cooperation to thrive on this planet sorely in need of these qualities.

More than anything, we stand for providing the skills and the hope so that the deep voice that lives in each of our hearts - the deep voice that says “there must be something better than this” - can be lived in practical reality.

If our approach appeals to your heart and to your vision of what will support resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or if you would like to participate in a training delegation to the Middle East or a U.S. training (to strengthen your peace-building skills for daily life in your family, community and workplace), please visit our website:, or contact our national office at 360/297-2280.

For Bay Area workshops and speakers, please contact Rachel Eryn Kalish, certified Compassionate Listening facilitator, at 415.289.7079

Copyright 2004, 2006 Rachel Eryn Kalish, M.C. for The Compassionate Listening Project

Date: Sun, 10 Dec 2006 23:54:17 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece


I am in complete accord with all the principles in this statement, and find no contradiction with it and the idea that we must address all the fundamental issues in order to achieve resolution.


From: Eryn
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 11:51:54 EST
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece

In a message Thanks Paul...I was just about to respond to your first post when I noticed this yes, I agree that political, legal etc. solutions need to be in place for a true and lasting's just that without the heart connection, in my estimation, nothing good and sustainable only has to look at the systems created by most revolutions born in violence to realize that solutions that come from a true collaboration of hearts addressing a problem together is very different than what most systems, as S so eloquently stated, are born from.

Re your vision of an open middle east (I take it you also suggest reparations for the hundreds of thousands of Jews kicked out of the other countries during the founding of Israel?)...sounds like your vision is of the bi-national state that Buber and Magnes and others spoke about pre-Israel? Tirzzah Agassi, Buber's great granddaughter and a friend of mine who lives here, said that he evolved his vision post 48 to a federation, similar to the EU today, that would include two states with open borders. Wondering how you would accept that?

I have to ask the obvious of course, being that you oppose Israel as a Jewish state, how you would have seen protection for the Jews in Palestine when they were oppressed (though not as severely as they were under Islamic dhimmini laws) without them having a state...I don't hear much acknowledgment of the fundamental need for a political entity where Jews were not at the whim of some dictator or would you have envisioned this all evolving in the 20's, 30's, post holocaust?

And thanks for your does help contextualize your interest a lot...though none of us can be reduced to our biographies (nor should we be) I think it's crucial for anyone working in this conflict to be to claim what has influenced I like to say, we all have "schmutz" on our windows but we think we're seeing clearly...yet our own biases, fears, predispositions toward empathy toward some aspects of the complicated history and not toward others make for a very complex picture..I think when we fully own the complexity, really deeply, than a true solution will be found...and I do believe that validating the suffering that is at the core of both Jewish and Palestinian demands is a part of one of my spiritual teachers used to say, "we can live without getting what we want but we can't live without asking for it." So what we need, what will ultimately serve the larger whole, may be very different...that is as true for Palestinians as it is for I that raises a question for me: you seem quite willing to dispense with what seems sacred to many Jews: the Jewish State of Israel and you ask us to entertain the possibility of a transformation to something else...yet I hear you holding very firmly to your beliefs of what the Palestinians need and what it must look like...are you fully open to dispensing with ALL preconceptions of what a solution would look like or only asking that of the Jews who hold to Israel?

And Paul, I hope you have enough empathy for the Jewish story to know that at a time when Haniyeh is in Tehran with Ahmmadinejad calling once again for the destruction of the State of Israel that you can see why most of us do not easily entertain that idea with the open heartedness you would like. Can you speak to this?

Thanks Paul.

Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 11:10:25 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece


Let me preface my remarks by saying that I think we're really starting to get somewhere in the exchange, and I'm very hopeful about where it's going. Please accept my appreciation.

I totally endorse your statements about revolutions and violence. Those who gain power by force are wedded to it and usually maintain themselves by it. That is why I think that nonviolent movements such as the Solidarity movement in Poland bring about much better results than violent overthrows. It is also why I belong to ISM, which acknowledges the right to armed resistance under international law, but does not encourage it, and is itself committed to nonviolence.

With regard to specifics like a bi-national state, as proposed by Buber and Magnes, and more recently Ali Abunimeh, whose father I have known since 1967, I have only one strong feeling, and that is the one articulated by I.F. Stone, namely that we need to be consistent in our values. If nondiscrimination and integration are what we believe in elsewhere, we need to apply them as much in Palestine as we do in Alabama or South Africa. Beyond that, I am reluctant to prescribe the specifics of how the affected populations should realize this principle.

And yes, I agree that all displaced persons have the same rights to return to their homes (if they choose) and be compensated for their loss, as guaranteed by the Fourth Geneva Convention. Similarly, I don't condone discrimination or unequal treatment of any kind at any time, whether in Palestine, Baghdad, Europe or the Augusta Country Club.

In terms of dispensing with preconditions, I agree, but with the caveat that it doesn't mean dispensing with principles, as I've outlined above. Until this summer, when I gave talks in Amman and Beirut on the subject of international solidarity in the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement, I had never met more than the occasional Palestinian who advocated the expulsion of European Jews from Palestine. However, my talks were attended by a significant number of armed resistance supporters who were committed to just that. We definitely parted ways on this issue, but it is my sense that such persons are thankfully still very much in the minority in the Palestinian community, regardless of the way it is characterized in the western media, as reported by persons who often have an axe to grind. Nevertheless, I was glad for the dialog with them, which I thought was productive in Beirut, with increased interest in nonviolent resistance, while my experience in Amman was less hopeful but still not totally discouraging.

Finally, with regard to the statements of Haniyeh and Ahmadinejad, I think it is unproductive for Palestinian, Arab, Iranian or other leaders to advocate "the destruction of Israel" or for the phrase to be used by Israeli leaders or news reporters in representing (and often misrepresenting) Palestinian positions. What does the phrase mean? Sometimes it means no more than the open society with tolerance for everyone that I advocate. However, it can also mean the expulsion of Jews from Palestine that I oppose.

I certainly do understand the Jewish Israeli reaction to such inflammatory statements. However, I think that the existence and advocacy of a Jewish state (i.e. one that gives privilege and/or preference to Jews) is the primary fuel for this unfortunate language and the extremism that drives it. The conversion of such a state into a secular one would, in my opinion, take the wind out of the sails of the extremists and drive moderates in both communities to achieve a more just society.

To put it in perspective, in order to remain a Jewish state, Israel has to find ways to assure an overwhelmingly Jewish population. If anything should threaten the demography, ways must be found to correct the problem. If, for example, Israel annexes territory, the land must be largely cleared of non-Jews, as with Plan Dalet in 1947-49 and the Golan Heights in 1967. In the case of Jerusalem, the land was annexed but not the people, who were not offered citizenship and who can lose their residency for a variety of reasons. Similarly, the West Bank was not annexed for the reason that Israel would not want to absorb such a large non-Jewish population. In addition, non-Jewish marriage partners from Arab countries and the Palestinian territories are not permitted to immigrate to Israel. Jews from outside Israel can become posthumous citizens by being buried there, thus boosting the immigration statistics. Many Israelis living abroad are still counted as living in Israel, with "temporary" overseas residence. Proposals have been entertained in the last few years to create more expatriate Jewish Israelis by granting citizenship to Jews who come for only a short period of time and buy heavily subsidized property, often in the West Bank settlements.

I apologize if that sounds like an indictment and assignment of blame. That is not my intention, and there are plenty of examples of obstacles and injustices for which Palestinians, Americans and others are responsible. My point is rather to illustrate the consequences of a commitment to a particular ethnicity for a particular state: It is a formula for gross injustice that will undermine any attempt at reconciliation between communities, just as did segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa (not to mention the many examples from Jewish history in Europe).

It is of course a very tall order to ask Israel to give up being a Jewish state, and I don't pretend that it will be easy. Furthermore, there may be more digestible steps along the way. In the long run, however, it is fundamental to justice and reconciliation. I am also convinced that progress toward this end is served by the kind of dialog in which we are engaged, and by not permitting the forces that maintain this injustice to go unchallenged.


From: Eryn
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 17:03:21 EST
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece

Paul thanks...I think you name a lot of the difficulties really well that Israel faces in maintaining itself as a Jewish state...

what I am looking for, which does not seem to be here, though, is how would you envision meeting the core problem that Israel was designed to address without a demographic majority?

As I'm sure you know from history, Jews did well under some regimes for a time, and then at the whim of some king, dictator, or just during a down turn of events, often economic, Jews would once more become the scapegoats and be expelled, persecuted, or far, far worse as we all know..

James Carroll does a beautiful job dissecting why this was so as part of Christianity in Constantine's Sword, yet I continue to see the myth perpetuated that under Islamic rule it was some idyllic paradise, which sadly was not the case...would you please speak to how your vision of a bi-national state where everyone does fine and the Jews are not vulnerable to what would quickly become an Arab majority would meet that need?

For me this is THE sticking point and I would love to hear how you would address the very real, deep need for Jewish safety along with Palestinian justice. That seems to be the core set of issues and why Buber's vision did not gain more traction than the 25% (if I recall correctly) that it had in the Yeshuv in pre-state Palestine...

as I see it mistakes were made for many years before 48 by both sides that led to those core needs not getting met by the other, co-creating the conflict and the bloodshed and tragedy so many of us want to help resolve.

Thanks Paul!


Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 16:46:54 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece

I see a lot of postings, but I'm going to take them one at a time and not prejudice myself by reading ahead.

Eryn, I really like your question very much. I'm less confident that you will like my answer, but I'm beginning to feel that we are building a trust that will help us to be honest without risking the ability to dialog.

I regard the search for security as largely elusive.

One of Israel's concerns has been that its dependency on the U.S. is, in effect, putting its eggs in one basket. What happens if the political climate changes and Israel can no longer count on U.S. support? That is why it has sought in the past to wean itself. Even if it succeeded, however, who is to say that the U.S. won't be taken over by anti-Semites and become a new threat to Israel? Of course there's the "Samson option," which is one of the reasons it was created. However, it is far from certain that it would save Israel. Reliance on military might leads to the conclusion that the most powerful nation on earth is the most secure, and that this must be the goal.

I don't need to paint where that leads, or to describe the insecurity of the most powerful nation on earth today. In fact, I would consider Israel to be the most insecure place on earth for Jews, with no foreseeable change in the future.

The conclusion for me is that dominance of any kind - military, economic or demographic - does not bring security. I believe that our best hope for security is precisely what I.F. Stone describes Jews doing in other societies, i.e. fighting for pluralism and human rights (although that is something of a stereotype, in my opinion). It is also what you are doing with the compassionate listening project. In short, it is the justice of the societies that we build that is our best protection, and the respect that we show each other.

As for the safety of Jews in a secular Palestine, I have heard many Palestinians tell me over the years that they are wary of a Palestinian Arab state - that they are afraid that it will turn into yet another oppressive oligarchy, especially if it is forced to be a junior partner to a more powerful Israel. They tell me that they prefer to be in a state where half the population is Jewish (as long as it is based on total equality of rights), because they know that this population would never permit such a thing to happen, and that the large moderate majorities in each community will have much more of a common interest with each other than they will with the extremists in their own community. The effect of separation is to drive moderates into the arms of the extremists in both communities.

I can't say that this is the opinion of most Palestinians, but I think it is a significant segment of the society, and most of those who oppose it do so as a utopian dream, not because it's a bad idea. That at least is my experience.

I also hope that you will accept a mild criticism with respect to language. I have never seen any characterization of Jewish life under Islam as "some idyllic paradise" and I don't think it is fair to say that anyone is making such a claim. The most I have heard anyone say is that anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon, and I think there are grounds to say that.


From: Eryn
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 22:09:36 EST
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece

Paul you're right on both counts--there is enough trust for you to say what you said and I don't find your answer very satisfying. You probably won't find mine very satisfying either but let's keep going.

First of all, I don't think the majority of most Jews who feel a need for Israel to exist as a Jewish state would find your response satisfying either. And my concerns are not just for Jews, but for Palestinians as well.

So while I agree with you that there are Palestinians who very much see things as you do, (certainly the majority of the Palestinians that I know through my work in CL), hold a very benevolent and moderate position, what you are proposing still leaves both people vulnerable to the goodwill of the other, and I think that is what is so untenable at this stage of this bloody process.

In all honesty, I can't fathom how can anyone in the world can ask the Jewish people en masse to give up being a majority in their own state on the hope/belief that another group of people who en masse have shown very little empathy for their plight, going back to the earliest days of the Yeshuv in the 1880s? I'm painting with very broad brush stokes here and I know that there are many exceptions to the stereotypes of both Jews and Palestinians who don't care about "the other" but in general, I think it's fair to say that there has been what one teacher of Nonviolent Communication would call "empathy collision" in that, generally speaking, both peoples were more ethnocentric than universal in their values when dealing with each other...for good reasons, of course...but nonetheless, the end result was that trust and care and concern and great political solutions were not built.

I've been doing conflict resolution for 25 years, and it's just not my sense that you put people (couples, co-workers, community members or anyone else who has had intense conflict) together to run something without deep work to prepare them to do so...reminds me of the couples therapists in the 50s who suggested people have a baby to bring them closer together when they are heading toward divorce! Or of my high school in the 70s during racial integration forced the African Americans and the whites into the same school with no preparation...the school sadly blew up into riots and we were dubiously on the cover of Life magazine, one of the first schools in the country to have an armed guard at every was an important life lesson for me: do the up front work and you don't have to do the clean up later. Since we're way past the stage when it's anything but too late to do "up front" work, throwing people together into one state with no healing seems, no offense to you, insane at best.

Over time, over many years of healing, not killing each other, experiencing each other as human beings, trading with each other....sure it could be possible to evolve to something else ...but now? Seems like a recipe for more death and destruction and not just of the Jews...too close, too hot...what I do think is needed is the gritty and hard work to build trust for "the other" in both societies, to have lots of citizen exchanges, compassionate listening sessions where they listen to each other's experiences, a truth and reconciliation committee, work on shared projects (as some are on water and other environmental issues etc) trust is built, who knows what is possible...but I do think it's a long hard process and as I see it, we need both structural solutions and relationship/trust building. I don't believe either one will be sufficient to bring about all that is needed. Oslo started to get at pieces of this but as we probably agree, was very incomplete both structurally/politically and in terms of trust and education...I fault both sides in different ways for its failure.

This is why I think a two state solution that can hopefully evolve into a federation over time...I think what you are asking would have been like asking the Europeans to create the EU during the 100 years war...the timing is not right, the trust is not there, the need is felt but I don't think we can leap over the gritty work of trust building which is why I do hope a Palestinian state will be created that will not be dominated by Islamic extremists...just as I hope Israel's majority that supports peaceful actions will prevail, which only gets harder the more Hizbollah, Hamas and Iran scream for its destruction from podiums and from their heinous charters.

What role do you think the Palestinians and the Israelis have in creating such a healthy, thriving two state solution and what do you believe the US and Israel need to do to support them?


From: Eryn
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 00:50:05 EST
Subject: Thank you East Bay Dialogue community

At the risk of one more overwhelming email from me today, I really want to thank you all, and Paul of course especially for inviting me in. I'm sure that this conversation is not easy reading both due to the volume and the content of what is being said here.

I appreciate the chance to stay in such a respectful dialogue with someone who holds a very different view and while I initially did not want to do this, I offer it up in service of healing us all of the historical wounds we carry with a prayer that we find our way through the thicket of pain and anger we carry to something more whole, more holy, more worthy of those who came before us and could not find peace in their time.

Thanks to any of you who are listening/caring/crying over the conflict that hurts us all.

Warm Blessings for Salaam, Shalom, Peace,

Rachel Eryn

Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 01:23:22 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece


I agree that those who feel the need for dominance or exclusiveness or privilege in a state "of their own" and who fear the consequences of giving it up might find my suggestion unsatisfactory. However, I offer it not because I think it is more just (although I do) or because it is consistent with the beliefs that most of us hold dear (although it is), but because I believe that in the end the only security we have is the good will of our fellow creatures, and that the sooner and more fully we put it into practice, the nearer we approach our goal, which otherwise recedes ever farther the more we try to create it by force. Paradoxically, it is vulnerability that is the best guarantee of security, a principle upon which practitioners of nonviolent resistance rely.

I see little or no chance of ending an injustice by preparing the way for the injustice to end while perpetuating the injustice itself. There is no doubt that racial desegregation went through violent times in the south and still is far from realizing the hopes of its proponents. However, the arguments that the society was not ready for it, that it was too sudden and that it needed more time and preparation are not ones that I am inclined to take seriously (as they were not taken seriously at the time), for reasons that are hopefully obvious.

I agree that the hard work of reconciliation will need to be done, but in the absence of the condition that creates the injustice. Otherwise, we are rubbing the wound even as we cover it with salve. I understand the reservations, which some might call "risks," but if we do risk assessment, I think we find that the greater risk is to allow the injustice to fester.

If a two state solution were to be realized, I think the "Jewish" state would eventually evolve into a state without a Jewish majority, unless additional unpleasant and unjust measures were used. This is precisely why the Israeli and Zionist leadership (as distinct from their constituency) have continually undermined it; they consider it as much a threat to the existence of Israel as the "one state" solution - and I think they are right. You may be right that the road to the ideals that I espouse lies through a two state solution. If so, however, it is unlikely to endear such a solution to Jews and Israelis who fear a unified secular state.

As for the role of Palestinians, Israelis, and the U.S. in bringing about such a solution, I have a few ideas even if I hesitate to forward them for fear of being considered a meddler. I am more comfortable about discussing principles, defending rights and displaying solidarity than I am with prescribing measures. I therefore prefer to consider them as food for thought.

1. Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority is worse than useless. It gives the false impression that Palestinians have control over their fate and are therefore responsible for it. Better to abolish it and go back to direct Israeli military rule. At least the causes of the problem are then no longer disguised. I also think that the potential of nonviolent action is still grossly underestimated. A civil disobedience movement that refuses to abide by the rules and restrictions of the Israeli military can render it impotent. If properly planned and executed in coordination with international supporters, it can go a long way toward regaining Palestinian rights with a minimum of risk. A hundred thousand peaceful marchers to Jerusalem cannot be stopped, nor can they be prevented from simply proceeding to their ancestral homes. A boycott of Israeli products and the preferential use of Palestinian products is another nonviolent means of resistance.

2. Israelis. The most important thing that Israelis can do is to practice solidarity with Palestinians, spend more time with them, and advocate on their behalf. It might include refusing to live or serve in occupied territory.

3. Both Palestinians and Israelis would obviously do well to stop targeting civilians and creating more misery for each other. However, I do not consider this a practical suggestion that is within the hands of ordinary citizens.

4. The U.S. needs to practice tough love with Israel, which means reducing or withholding support until Israel abides by its obligations under international law and conforms to the stated policy of the U.S. The U.S. community should also try to stimulate a more honest dialog in the media and stop trying to silence criticism of Israel (without suppressing their own voice). Ostracism of Jewish critics of Israel like Jewish Voice for Peace does not permit the Jewish community to be properly represented. U.S. citizens can also do their part by "thinking globally and acting locally" - i.e. practicing through boycott, dialog and activism their solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian nonviolent efforts.

I'm sure much of this is not what you might have been hoping for, but the list is long and I'm trying to keep it mostly to things that we can practice without relying on governments or other relatively unaccountable sources of power. Obviously I support the work of reconciliation efforts such as the Compassionate Listening Project and others as well. However, I consider such work to be most valuable in the absence of the conditions that create the wounds that these efforts are intended to heal.


From: Eryn
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 14:21:33 EST
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece

I'm taking S's post as the guideline that folks can get this in one email a day and that it's okay to keep going...

I have to admit Paul that I'm having a very hard time with what I read as some unquestioned assumptions on your part, which was what led me to be wary of entering this dialogue in the first place.

I really hear an implication in what you say that the injustices are all Israel's fault and that the Jews have no right to self-determination, and no need for self-protection from what has been a lot of hostility throughout our history. While there are many reasons for that hostility, to lay it all at the feet of the Jews of the Yishuv and now Israel really seems to distort, again, a very complicated picture. I don't know how anyone can read the deep history of this conflict, as you have done, from the 1880s forward and come up with that conclusion.

And while I agree with you that our best protection is on an inner level, a willingness to be vulnerable and to trust life, I admit that I still lock my doors to my house and car, even while doing the deep inner work to be open and vulnerable, to listen deeply to folks from all sides..the Muslims have a saying that I love: Pray to Allah and tie your camel. Does it change me when I lock my door? Yes, I believe that EVERY action taken in fear contracts our hearts, changes our energy field even in a very slight way. I hear you saying that to ask that level of work from the Palestinians given all that they are suffering is not realistic and I agree....why ask it of the Jews who are dealing with their own intense sense of injustice and trauma? Why not set the conditions where both peoples can heal by creating the structures that will serve justice AND healing? To use Ken Wilber's model, working on only one quadrant will not an integral solution get...and anything less than fully integral will never really work

Sometimes I use the analogy for this conflict as two abused children suffering is the adorable 3 year old who everyone wants to protect...the other is the angry 12 year old who is harder, more angry and determined not to be hurt. again..of course these are broad brush strokes and both cultures have plenty of both ages represented in them...yet in nothing that you say Paul do I hear your empathy or an acknowledgment for Jewish needs and that troubles me...

I'm wondering what you thought of Jeff Halper's proposal, which I think is brilliant though of course the extremists in both societies could easily derail it...greed, wanting the whole of the land, is something that is not limited to one side or the other, as there are representatives of both societies that seem to not being willing to let go...I'm happy to say that the large majority of Israeli society is very willing to let go of having the whole thing and it seems that this is also so in Palestinian why do you maintain your position rather than hearing the cries of the people you are trying to serve? seems like Halper's idea is the most creative and visionary one I've heard in a long while.

If we only end up where we started days ago I hope this has been useful for others...I really think what Joel said that bi-nationalism in the current environment is a non starter and making the equation of Jewish self-determination with US racism of a slave culture brought over here totally against their will seems like another distortion of the truth of the 120 years..


Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 18:38:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Compassionate Listening and the mideast piece


It seems that you are reading me wrong. Part of the reason may be my failure of expression, but I think it is also in part that you are not giving my statements a chance or interpreting them at face value. I fear that you may be interpreting them according to your expectations, and not giving a chance to other ways of interpretation.

You say that you hear an implication that the injustices are all Israel's fault. That is not my intention, but I'm guessing that you might read it into my suggestions for Israelis and Palestinians and perhaps other statements of mine. Since I oppose the pursuit of blame, there must be another reason for the focus of my suggestions.

There is a difference between assigning blame and acknowledging a power imbalance, recognizing that one community is the occupier and the other the occupied. It is pointless to make demands of Palestinians that they are unable to keep, whereas Israel is capable of changing things in a very profound way. The same is true of Iraq and the U.S.

It is a matter of degree, of course, but for the most part, Palestinians can implement only what Israel permits them to, whereas Israel has the power to make profound changes both on the ground and in the relationship. Palestinian power is mainly limited to defiance of Israeli power and refusal to accept conditions that Palestinians find intolerable. That is why I think Israel has to be the main focus of attempts at change, without implication of blame.

I also have never said that Jews have no right of self-determination. However, I do not think that Jews or Catholics or Muslims or whites or Hutus possess such a right separately from each other.

With regard to self-protection, I have already discussed what I regard as the best form of protection, which is mutual, not self-protection. I will admit that I find it a bit disconcerting that although the dead, wounded, imprisoned and impoverished as a result of this conflict are overwhelmingly Palestinian, your main concern appears to be for protection of Israeli Jews. In fact, the idea that Palestinians should be permitted the means of self-protection is not even on the table of most discussions. And whose lives are the least secure? This is not to belittle the fears of Israeli Jews, merely to put them in perspective - a perspective that is often absent.

With regard to healing and justice, I believe I said only that it is pointless to try to heal the wound with one hand while continuing to strike it with the other, not that it is unrealistic to expect Palestinians (or Jewish Israelis, either) to engage in the healing process. I was referring to results, not attitudes. And I believe that I said that mechanisms for healing are exceedingly important, not that they should be discarded in favor of simple removal of unjust conditions. I am concerned that you are selecting only part of what I'm saying. I favor integral solutions and thought I had so indicated, but perhaps not explicitly enough.

I like to think that my empathy for Jewish Israelis is as great as for Palestinians. In fact, it brings me great pain to see them perpetuating a system of injustice that I think they have the power to change and to thus rid themselves of many of the ills that they face. However, my acknowledgement of their needs takes a very different form from yours, because my interpretation of their needs is so different. I believe that they need liberation, just as white South Africans did, and I think that the best thing we can do for them is to remove them from the grip of the injustice that is killing and hurting them all.

You may object to the comparison with South Africa and other comparisons that I have made. It is fair to compare; it is unfair to equate, and I have never intended to equate, nor do I think I have done so. Comparison is for the purpose of illustration, not to say that the two situations are identical. Even those who consider the Palestinian plight to be worse that that of blacks under apartheid have to admit their difference.

I support Jeff Halper in just about everything he does, and I know he is there for me, too. If his proposal or a two-state proposal of the kind set forth in the 2002 Saudi proposal or a number of possible proposals win consensus, I certainly wouldn't stand in the way. I confess, however, that the principle of persons residing in one state having citizenship in another reminds me too much of the apartheid Bantustan solution; it is too easily a means for denying the rights of the "non-citizens."

Finally, I want to once again return to the issue of the use of language and of reinterpretation of what I say. Your closing words are, "the equation of Jewish self-determination with US racism of a slave culture brought over here totally against their will seems like another distortion of the truth of the 120 years.." I agree, but I think it is not constructive (and a distortion) to imply that I made such an equation. I'm no expert on compassionate listening techniques, but it doesn't seem consistent with its principles, either. I promise to try not to misrepresent what you say, and I hope you will extend me the same courtesy. Apart from exceptions of this kind, however, I would like to commend you for your constructive approach, and hope that I have been reasonably successful in reciprocating likewise.


From: Eryn
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 12:12:08 EST
Subject: Continuing the conversation

Dear Paul and All~

First I want to thank the 15 people who have written in support of the dialogue that Paul and I started, and to thank everyone who is jumping in. The response is very touching and even though the list has overwhelmed some, it seems to be striking a deep chord for many.

This will be a bit long, and I apologize for that, but I can't continue without raising this issue again as it's really a core piece for me. So at the risk being told again by B that my pain and fear is a demonstration that Jews are meek, whining and condescending, I need to raise the issue of Jewish pain as it has a key role in much of what we're discussing. I wish it were nothing more than a Byzantine issue that could be relegated to history. And I'm aware that certain actions Israel has taken have contributed to (but I do NOT believe are the sole cause) of the reactivity and lack of empathy we face continually.

For the last two nights I have woken up around 3 in the morning with a kind of sadness and fear that I have not felt in a long time.

The Fed-Ex guy knocked on my door yesterday morning with a package for my neighbors who were not home...what went through my mind was that is could be a bomb because of what I'm saying on this list!

Personal paranoia? You could write it off to that...or, as I would hope, to feel with me into the very real fear of annihilation that on some level undergirds most Jews (even though we deal with it in very different ways).

A dear friend of mine who used to be part of this group (but will no longer attend meetings because of the lack of support for both peoples) has been reading all of our posts and wrote me with the following comment after B's first post (below) [Note: not included in this transcription]:

" I think they actually DON'T know how scary it is for Jews to be attacked. I think that the Leftist beliefs about power - combined with anti-Semitic beliefs about Jews being powerful - prevent them from having any such knowledge or understanding or compassion. Instead, when any Jew - or the Jewish nation, for that matter - speaks of past trauma or of feeling fear, they are seen as being false and manipulative, or at least in denial around their power, rather than as having genuine post traumatic reactions and or realistic present-day fears. I think the Leftist stuff about power is absolutely major and is a major problem in their theory in general, not just related to Israel or Jews."

For the life of me, it's hard to fathom that so many people on the left, who have compassion for every single group on the planet (from sufferers of oppression to chemical sensitivities) have such rage at Israel that Jewish pain can only be seen as manipulative. It was in the environment of another bout of virulent anti-Semitism, after the post-enlightenment liberal societies had failed to deliver a healthy enough society that the Jews were protected from A-S, that Zionism was born, like any other liberation movement.

For various reasons Zionism was not enough to stop the atrocities of WWII, which are still recalled by millions of people alive today and are not just some manipulation (though I'm sure it can seem that way if you're sick of hearing about it while the Palestinians suffer).

Another friend sent me the following video clip taken at last summer's "peace" rally. Can anyone imagine the uproar in the Bay Area if "Israel" and "Jews" were substituted with "Palestine" and "Palestinians?" This stuff is chilling to me and to many of us.

So I guess that leaves me with this metaphor: there is rot in some of the roots of the Zionist tree.. absolutely...from my perspective that is true for the Palestine Liberation movements, the political left and right, western powers and the Arab world...and with the recent coup on Fiji, once again I'm reminded that there is nowhere to run or hide and we have to work together to heal what we have sown.

Judging from my experience and read of history, I don't believe that we should chop down all of these trees and burn the forest NOR do I believe that we should fixate on chopping down only the Zionist tree as the left would have it, or the Radical Islamic tree as the right would have it...As Jesus admonished: let's take the beam out of our own eyes before focusing on the splinter in someone else's...and look at all of the rot and irrigate it together...perhaps the world is in need of a massive root canal:)

So I would like to propose that we continue this dialogue with the following guidelines:

that we acknowledge the suffering and/or fear of the players in the middle east's affairs that has led to the need for trying to have control over their circumstances, including control over others,

that we study together each other's narratives (several good versions of the dual narrative out now that show the Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli stories)

and that we keep finding ways to look at the beam in our own eyes/our own systems of belief (and not just have the Jews doing this!)

and that when we've done the hard and gritty work of really being able to be in hard conversations about this topic while holding deep compassion for the circumstances that led to the difficulties we are trying to combat, that then and only then do we go public with Allan's idea of forums through AFSC and Paul's proposal to be on KPFA.

Re-reading the intro to Buber's Land of Two People's early yesterday morning, I was again struck by his stunning recognition that G-d is in politics and that politics is never complete, always evolving, situation by situation. If these times don't call for us being mindful of the depths and complexities in order to navigate through them, I don't know when humanity will ever have another chance.

As a colleague of mine said after 911: "there are no more prizes for predicting the flood, only for building the ark."

Shalom, Salaam, Peace,

Rachel Eryn

Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 18:59:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Continuing the conversation


I haven't read all the responses and am not sure I will have the time to do so. To keep things simple and for the sake of continuity, I would like to keep the central thread the dialog between you and me. Is that OK with you? We can have all the side conversations, but I don't want to respond to a message where you are responding to B rather than my last post to you (for example).

If you would rather not do that any more, that is up to you and everyone can join in and we will have a discussion more like those on typical listserves. However, I was finding our dialog valuable.


From: Eryn
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 23:20:25 EST
Subject: Continuing the conversation

Thanks Paul...actually what I was naming to you in previous posts about lack of empathy and the lack of connection with Jewish suffering is a huge issue for me and for many of us...B just happened to be the major carrier of that voice in this round of email; I believe if there is to be any true break through in this conflict (as in any conflict) people have to really understand each other's world views, pain, hopes, fears and vision.

I've received several offline comments from former members today who are too frightened or upset to attend dialogue meetings anymore, so I would like you to address my comments from today's post if you're willing to as it seems to be a key component of our disagreements as well.

Again, I'm not asking anyone to change how they see the situation for the Palestinians, only to expand that sight to include the Israeli and Jewish that together we can move to something that just might work for more of us as Bay Area peacemakers who care dearly about this conflict and it's resolution.

Also wondering about your response to my suggested guidelines for continuing...



Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 21:57:01 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Continuing the conversation


My apologies to B and some of the others who have posted, but I have only scanned a lot of the discussion. I find it difficult to thoughtfully address so much without giving up my day job and possibly my family as well, which is why I earlier asked Eryn if we could do one issue at a time, and I think it has worked out well.

With respect to the issue of empathy, Palestinian Ambassador Afif Safieh said that for Jews the most important historical event is the Holocaust. For Armenians it is their genocide. For African-Americans it is slavery. For indigenous Americans it is their genocide. And for Palestinians it is al-Nakba.

This is not to equate any of these; they are all unique. And there is not a single generation in all of human history that is free from mass killings and ethnic cleansings and other atrocities, usually multiple ones. And it is important to recognize and share each other's pain.

You may see that as a means to reconciliation. I do not. I see it as an end in itself that is independent of reconciliation. Whatever else happens, we must care for each other. I have not met any Palestinians who deny the Holocaust, although some must surely exist. A minority have said that Hitler had the right idea. I like to think that this is out of frustration, and when I suggest that without Hitler Israel might not exist, most of them see my point. The vast majority acknowledge that it was a terrible thing, but wonder why they have to pay for it.

I think that reconciliation, on the other hand, is a function of correcting existing injustices and resolving existing grievances. Empathy is not merely the sharing of the pain of the other. It is also the pain of parents watching a child become addicted to drugs, or of seeing friends in an abusive relationship. They may not want your help or even see what you see, but if you care, you will do something to help them anyway. (And yes, your interpretation of events can also be mistaken.)

This is one way (though hopefully not the only one) that many of us express our empathy with Jews. Part of the tragedy for me is that I see Jews becoming racists and oppressors. How can so many otherwise good persons perpetrate such cruelty in the name of self-defense and self-determination? Many say they don't want to but feel that they have no choice. That is what I think I hear you saying, to a degree.

I used to wonder what could make Germans do what they did, or Japanese, or segregationists, or Indian fighters. There are no equations, but people and societies can be in denial and can rationalize the most horrible acts, even while they proclaim the best of intentions. This is the tragedy that I see happening to Jews. Who was it that said, "We can forgive you for killing our children, but we can never forgive you for making us kill yours?" To put it in perspective (not equation), there is even a matching Nazi quotation about "civilized" Germans being forced to kill Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto who defied the closure. I know that hurts, but I think it's important to see the horrible direction that such kind of talk leads.

I just don't think it is helpful to Jews or anyone else to perpetuate injustice in order to be respectful of their fears and "needs." In fact, I think just the opposite is true. They may not like such a message, but if we love, care and respect them, it is our obligation to try to help.

I recognize that the idea of an integrated society that permits Jews and non-Jews to live where they choose may be perceived as a great risk. However, I firmly believe that not to do so is the greater risk, and is necessary to prevent continued and potentially increasing tragedy for both Israelis and Palestinians. I think it is true regardless of the Palestinian response, but I also believe that if Israel does its part to remove injustices, Palestinians will respond in kind.

I'm not pretending that it is easy, but few things are, that are worth doing.


From: Eryn
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 01:11:33 EST
Subject: Continuing the conversation

Paul I feel like I'm at the end of a road with you...a road I've really appreciated walking down, but I think we have to just agree to disagree on this.

When I talk with fundamentalist Christians, I always hit a wall where they just believe that there is only one way to G-d and it's through Jesus...I always wish them blessings and say, "we'll find out some day if that's's not my sense that anything in the world has only one path, though you may be right." I feel like I've hit the wall of your fundamentalism and I sense you feel that you've hit mine.

All I can say is that ANYTHING we do, say, or convey that puts up a wall of defensiveness will not serve resolution...I find myself now feeling defensive in response to what I hear from you as so much judgement and arrogance and self-righteousness and utter lack of understanding in the face of my being very open and vulnerable...

and you're right, this is taking an inordinate amount of time.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to have this conversation in public...I appreciate the time we and others have spent on it..and now, I guess I would say what I've said to those fundamentalist Christians: I guess we'll see...we'll each do our work and may the conflict resolve in spite of what we each see as the other's intransigent positions and because of our good intentions and the intentions and prayers of so many worldwide.

All Blessings for peace,


From: Eryn
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 01:16:45 EST
Subject: PS

There are very few Palestinians that I've met who know that the Mufti of Jerusalem worked as Hitler's propagandist, or how allied some (relatively few) Palestinians were with the Nazis, and how when the Jews were burning that not only did the rest of the world not help or allow Jewish immigration but neither did the Palestinians, who put pressure on the British NOT to allow Jews the line that is so commonly used "why do we have to pay for it" speaks of a total innocence that is not I said in an earlier post, we all have blood on our hands Paul.

Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 06:40:56 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Continuing the conversation (addendum)

Sorry. I already see a bunch of messages, but before I read them there was something that I meant to include and forgot to.

Eryn, please don't let this disturb your sleep. We're having what I regard as an important conversation, but very little is that important. Take it from someone who receives phone threats and anonymous mail, and has had his car vandalized with eggs and pro-Israel stickers, and a smashed window. My home address is well publicized. It isn't worth losing sleep, in my opinion, and I sleep very well. Security is an illusion, and yes, I lock my car and house, but I refuse to worry beyond that.

I don't know if that helps, but I hope so. If not, even this dialog is not that important.


Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 08:01:21 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Ending the conversation


I'm sorry if I'm a bit thickheaded sometimes. We may be, as you say, at the end of the road on which we are now walking, and I have no problem with agreeing to disagree. I also appreciate your willingness to engage in this dialog, which has been useful for me, hopefully for you, and presumably for many others as well.

I confess that I'm somewhat disappointed that it didn't end on a better note than name-calling. I don't think it is constructive to be called arrogant and self-righteous, and especially without explanation. Perhaps I am, but that is not the way to break it to me, nor to increase understanding. I thought I was also being open and vulnerable, and as you said, we may have hit each other's walls, which are the limits of our vulnerability and openness.

Regardless of this, however, I concur with your wishes for our good intentions to carry us to a just resolution. Thank you for permitting this to go forward, and I again invite you to a dialog group meeting, which offers the opportunity to engage with others, as you have already done on line. I think your perspective is an important one.


From: Eryn
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 11:36:52 EST
Subject: Ending the conversation

Paul thanks for your continued graciousness...I didn't mean to call you names...thought I was saying that I interpreted what you said to be those things but I don't think I wrote as clearly as I could/wish I had. So please forgive me.

I guess I really feel sad because I think you are so obviously smart, knowledgeable, caring about this conflict even though you are neither Jewish nor Palestinian. So it's particularly frustrating. I don't expect anyone relating to this conflict with as much passionate intensity as you do to change their minds...I so long for people to just expand them.

After so many years of doing mediation and conflict transformation work, I have seen even very difficult conflicts resolve when the parties had the willingness and capacity (both are needed) to clearly see and convey understanding and empathy of the other's point...I have also seen really "silly" or seemingly "small" conflicts get nowhere because capacity and willingness were missing. This has been my experience whether dealing with family, organizational, community or international conflicts.

When I hear what I interpret as writing off the capacity and willingness building aspects to focus only on a lower right quadrant solution, it's hard to know where to go, because I don't believe those solutions will come about, or be accepted by the parties involved even if they are imposed from the outside, without a critical mass of those involved holding a larger sense of the roots of the conflict...all of them...the rot and the good of each of the systems that co-created it.

Anyway, enough for now....again my apologies that it sounded like I was calling you names.

All Blessings,


From: Eryn
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 11:42:13 EST
Subject: Continuing the conversation (addendum)

Thanks does help and I'm sorry you have suffered you know, it's a very triggery topic...

my constitution is not really built for this...I'm a monk at heart...someday I hope we will all be dancing in the streets celebrating peace in the middle east again...may it be so soon.



Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 17:28:40 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Ending the conversation

Thanks, Eryn. Apology/explanation accepted.

I think it's still surprising how much we agree on a lot of principles. For example, I also think it is important for all of us to expand our thinking and try to find new ways. That's why I sought you out in the first place.

I am constantly trying to challenge my own thinking and that of others, but my preferred method/style is somewhat different from yours. To coin a phrase, I would call it "compassionate confrontation." I think that confrontation is an important means of stretching our perceptions, but it has to be respectful and preferably compassionate. The idea is not really new even if the term is. It is the basis of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, which is confrontational by design, and as you know, it has a strong appeal for me.

I realize that your style is compassionate listening, but I think the two are complementary and may even work better together than either one in isolation, if the goal is to expand thinking. Please forgive me if I overstepped the bounds of provocation at any point, but I meant no disrespect, and I think you understood that.

I think that the exchange has been good for me in ways that I have yet to digest, and I hope that you also benefited from it in ways that are not for me to say. It certainly has been stimulating, and even intense.

As far as the road to resolution is concerned, I agree that a lot of it has to with reaching out and caring. However, I can't imagine that any amount will mean much to a Palestinian who is being denied access to his/her land or whose rights are subject to daily revision by a soldier at a checkpoint. I think that such a person will find it absurd to be asked to reassure a Jewish Israeli, living what is by comparison a comfortable life in Tel iv, that he/she understands his/her pain.

Sorry, didn't mean to start up again. I just wanted to address what you were saying about the need for understanding and empathy. That may be what's needed for (some) Israelis, but I think Palestinians have more basic concerns, and I can imagine them saying, "Sure, I'm happy to give you all the caring, empathy and understanding you want - love and warm embraces, even - just give me my land and my rights."

OK, so perhaps that's an impasse, but I hope and imagine that we will both be working to break it in our own ways. In the meantime, I pledge to keep working to see things in new ways, and hope you will, too.

Thanks again for accepting my invitation.



Post a Comment

<< Home