Column: An organization tries to bridge a yawning divide

Displaced Palestinians, who have taken refuge in hospitals and schools, walk through the destruction as a result of Israeli attacks to inspect their homes and collect their belongings on Nov. 23, 2023. MUST CREDIT: Loay Ayyoub for The Washington Post.

Displaced Palestinians, who have taken refuge in hospitals and schools, walk through the destruction as a result of Israeli attacks to inspect their homes and collect their belongings on Nov. 23, 2023. MUST CREDIT: Loay Ayyoub for The Washington Post. Washington Post — Loay Ayyoub

Contributor Wayne Gersen in West Lebanon, N.H., on April 12, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Contributor Wayne Gersen in West Lebanon, N.H., on April 12, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By WAYNE GERSEN

For the Valley News

Published: 12-03-2023 6:45 AM

The horrific invasion of Israel by Hamas on Oct. 7 and Israel’s response to it has reverberated across the world. In our country these events are resulting in anti- and pro-Muslim and anti- and pro-Semitic demonstrations. In some instances, these demonstrations are accompanied by violence and others end with arrests. Much of the coverage of the conflict and demonstrations focus on “sides” and a binary choice: one must either be for the Israelis or the Palestinians. This binary thinking, in turn, leads to the conclusion that the ultimate solution must be a two-state solution.

After reading countless articles making the case for choosing one side or the other, arguments too often based on which side has been the most inhumane, it was refreshing to read a New York Times piece headlined “Israeli and Palestinian Activists Ask Americans to Take Side of Peace.” The essay described the work of Sally Abed, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and Alon-Lee Green, an Israeli Jew, who work for an organization called Standing Together. Their web page describes the “unbearable” socio-political reality in Gaza where the “unending occupation feeds violence, fear, and hatred between Israelis and Palestinians,” where wealth and income disparity and poverty are prevalent, and where minority groups, including women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination. Standing Together views Israel as a country where “the elderly, and people with disabilities are marginalized socially, economically, and politically” and “working people must labor for ever longer hours at stagnating wages while the cost of living continues to soar even higher.”

Standing Together rejected the status quo before the Oct. 7 invasion where they saw their political leaders using “fear and racism” to divide the populace. It urged those leaders to recognize that most people in Israel do not seek solutions based on conflict; they want to live in a just and equal world.

The Times reported that representatives of Standing Together are trying to teach Americans about their lived reality and the only path they see moving forward: one where “millions of Israelis and Palestinians would remain on the land they each call home,” a path Green described to a Brooklyn group, “Jews for Racial and Economic Justice,” as very different from the conventional thinking about their part of the world.

Green described Standing Together’s plan as “very simple. It says that both Jewish people and Palestinians are going to stay on this land. No one is going anywhere.” Instead of starting from the position that there are only two choices — a two-state solution or a one-state solution with the Israelis in complete control — Standing Together envisions a solution based on the premise that peace-seeking citizens would prefer to work together to find unity and interdependence. Instead of “either-or,” Stand Together envisions “both-and.”

This idea makes sense to me. It supersedes the 19th- and 20th-century idea of imperialism whereby a few world powers divvy up the globe to reflect spheres of influence and thereby strive to achieve some kind of power balance. Instead of envisioning a nation of Palestinians and Israelis whose allegiances are divided between blocs of nations who are seeking power, it envisions a nation of Palestinians and Israelis with a common purpose: to live in a just and equal society. To achieve this result, Standing Together promotes dialogue instead of debate, and collaboration and cooperation instead of conquest.

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Fittingly, Standing Together’s color is neither red nor blue: it is purple. Why purple?

“We want our movement to be recognizable! Across the globe, purple is associated with new Leftist movements — we want to identify with this trend. In addition, purple is a depoliticized color in Israeli politics, associated with neither the right nor the left. Similarly, we hope to defy current political dichotomies and create a new mass movement centered around hope and change. Finally, purple is the international color of the feminist movement. We know that every fight for justice must be connected to the struggle for gender equality.”

It strikes me that the mission of Standing Together might be applicable in the U.S. While our divisions are not nearly as deep nor as longstanding as those between Israelis and Palestinians, we do face a divide between those who favor the fast and absolute solutions provided by authoritarian leaders over the slow and often inconclusive solutions yielded by democracy. If the U.S. cannot stand together despite our relatively marginal differences, if we cannot find peace among ourselves, there is little hope for peace on the planet. There are many common causes that exist between MAGA devotees and those who admire The Squad. Maybe a U.S. Standing Together can identify those common beliefs and build on them instead of amplifying the differences. My guess is that like the Israelis and Palestinians who are finding common ground, voters in our country want to live in a just and equal society.

Wayne Gersen lives in Etna.