I first read an article in The New York Times Magazine, titled "Clear Cut," pointing out that things that seem "clear-cut" to one side of our current political debate are not at all clear to the other side. Then I turned to The New York Times Book Review, which carried an article titled, "A Palestinian Neighbor Responds." This article reviewed a book by Yossi Klein Halevi, Letters To My Palestinian Neighbor.
Politicians and the press still invoke obviousness in the hope of summoning some conviction we all still share, some bedrock of group belief we can agree on. To see them fail, repeatedly, is unsettling; it makes our deepest values seem impotent. It had seemed obvious to some that a modern presidential administration would not defend white nationalists or that the United States government would seek to avoid taking babies from their parents’ arms — or that a man who bragged about harassing women wouldn’t be elected in the first place. Last summer, NPR celebrated the Fourth of July by tweeting, line by line, the text of the Declaration of Independence; its account was immediately attacked by angry Americans accusing the organization of spreading seditious anti-Trump propaganda. The nation’s founding values have come to seem, somehow, unfamiliar and contentious; we can’t recognize the Declaration of Independence when we see it. Let the obvious sit too long and it becomes like an animal in a zoo: pointed at, but never exercised, and idly wandered past by people who have forgotten how powerful it is in action.
“The purpose of Judaism,” as you see it, “is to sanctify one people with the goal of sanctifying all people.” The Palestinians don’t need to be sanctified by Israel. We simply want the right to control our fate, a desire I know you must understand well from studying Jewish history.
I agree with you that peace can come only if we succeed in sharing this land and living on it with justice and fairness for both nations. And I will forever agree with your sentiment that the “violence, suppression, rage, despair” that characterizes our relationship must end. But perhaps the problem with your letters is that they don’t read as if they are seeking an answer, hoping for that Palestinian neighbor — me — to respond, but instead seem like lectures, half a conversation with a partner who is expected to stay quiet and listen.