A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Israel and to the
Palestinian territories awed by the progress that had brought our two
peoples together. I am Palestinian Christian and my wife and son are Jewish.
For so many years, we shared so much, but the conflict between
Palestinians and Israelis, pushed by extremism on both sides, caused us both
great pain. It was agonizing. But that brief moment in 2000 seemed to
restore our faith that Palestinians and Jews have so much in common and if
the conflict could be resolved, we could someday be powerful partners to
make this a better world for everyone.
Things don't always work out. For all kinds of reasons, we both have been
pushed back into our corners, surrounded by emotional words of hate and an
absence of reason.
As a columnist, I try to define a moderate Palestinian voice, criticizing
both sides when both sides do wrong. Still, even a balanced argument angers
many, Israelis, Jews, Palestinians and Arabs. I just refuse to believe that
we can't get along. I refuse to believe that the voices of reason that can
stand up in this conflict won't.
In these times of hate, it is so easy to be an extremist and to hate. I
have fallen into that trap several times, and when reason prevails, I
realize my own errors, too. But that is the disease of the Middle East
conflict. It taints even the best intentioned peoples until there is not one
person left standing, Jew or Palestinian, who hasn't wrongly said something
bad about the other side.
It takes real courage to stand up in the face of fanaticism and denounce
hate. I speak out frequently against suicide bombings, rising anti-Semitism
in the Arab world, religious extremism, Holocaust revisionism, and those who
insist that Israeli violence is justification for Palestinian violence.
I condemn the recent suicide bombings. It is a disgusting mutilation of
the real conscience that is the Palestinian people. But please don't brush
off the brutality that is upon the Palestinian people, either.
I continue to push to define voices of peace in the Palestinian
community. You can only do so by reasoned discussion that is fair in
criticism, fair in accepting blame and fair in its intent.
If we look to find a reason to hate each other, we will always succeed
individually, and then fail together. But if we constantly strive to find
reasons to come together, to seek hope and to achieve fairness for both
sides, not even the worst kind of hate can stop us.
In May, I will lead a small group of Jewish American and Palestinian
comedians and perform a concert tour to encourage hope and to help
Palestinians and Israelis resist the power of hate. We want to remind both
sides that we are human and that enjoying life is some much more important
to fight for than reinforcing political differences and seeking vengeance.
I wish we had more Jewish comedians and more Palestinian comedians to
join us, but the effort is difficult. I wish Jackie Mason*, rather than
battling me, would see this effort and use his powers to bring about peace,
too. I don't agree with his views, but I also don't believe that peace comes
from people who agree on important issues.
The peace we need is one that comes from our two peoples who can't seem
to agree. But can't our disagreement remain in the confines of words and
feelings, rather than in the violence that consumes both sides? I think it
I wish we lived in a different world. I wish there were more people who
would join in seeking a different world, and who, in striving to make me a
better person, will also strive to make themselves better, too.
I wish to say Shalom. I wish to hear Salam, too.