Some time back, in an email to participants of the Dialogue under Occupation conference in Abu Dis, Palestine, I made a statement comparing the (historically) recent fears of Palestinians with the millenial fears of Jewish people concerning identity-based violence. A response from an Israeli participatn indicated an interpretation that such Jewish fears need more support and validation.
No, that is not what I meant! I was arguing that Israelis need to break out of strategies that are held hostage to this fear. In a feature story about Barack Obama’s campaigning within the American Jewish community, J. J. Goldberg, editorial director for The Forward, a Jewish newspaper, is quoted, putting into words the tension that I meant to highlight.
Some Jewish leaders said the anxiety over Mr. Obama might reveal more about Jews than about the candidate. By their analysis, those who heed the [inflammatory anti-Obama] e-mail are generally older and have closer ties to Israel. The break is between “those who are motivated by traditional Jewish liberalism and those motivated by traditional Jewish anxiety over Israel.”
NY Times 1 March 2008
The tension between “traditional Jewish liberalism” and “traditional Jewish anxiety” is at obvious play in the peace efforts I observed among Israelis and Palestinians (and outsiders, academics and activists). The liberal rhetoric is often not followed up with action, the absence of which is justified by the anxiety. I’m impressed with Obama’s insistence that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal (they are) and with his obvious intention to find new ways to mediate between entrenched extremes.