"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Quite a few more years later, I wrote a PhD proposal comparing the peace processes in Israel and Northern Ireland. I was full of facts, books and sophisticated analysis. Then I went to Belfast. Despite the ‘facts’ about the conflict, such as land, citizenship rights and ideology, all I could see was deep-seated mistrust, thugs and people wanting to get on with life. I thought that what kept the peace process fragile was the mistrust and even hatred for the other. It was the people who experienced pain and suffering who sought reconciliation. It was the women who went from the nationalists to the unionists and vice versa to allow dialogue.
I might have lost all my sophistication and knowledge. I’m not a ‘realist’. I’ve never been, I’d like to think that I’m much more ambitious than that. So, when I look at Israel, all I can see are human beings, either side, suffering and hating. There's no space for love, which is where everything begins and, I believe, what life is all about. It is unforgivable to forget this, but, it seems, both sides and their 'supporters' do it.
It is very easy to justify violence (or should I say ‘force’?) on the grounds of security or self-determination. These words, however, mean nothing, are nothing. If all you want is security, there will always be enemies. If all you care about is self-determination, there will always be ‘others’. It will always be night.
An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.
'Could it be', asked one of the students, 'when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?'
'No', answered the rabbi.
Another asked, 'Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?'
'No,' answered the rabbi.
'Then what is it?' the pupils demanded.
'It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.'
There are Palestinians and Israelis for whom the dawn has come. They are the heroes who have overcome fear.