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Joel Silverstein

Growing up Jewish in New Jersey, I was taught to hold the state of Israel near to my heart. Zionism was not a club that young Hebrew school students chose to join; they were bred into it. Love Israel, go to Israel, support Israel at all costs.

Lately, however, this cost has become too much to bear. For years I had seen the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as having one transgressor, Palestine. Much like Americans have come to stereotype Afghanis and Arabs as terrorists, I had considered Palestinian groups like PLO and Hamas to be entities of evil that stood for violence and sought to deface our rightful holy land. Then I woke up.

I started to see the other side of what had always been a two-sided conflict, with two aggressors. I found the double-edged sword of violence to be equally sharp on both sides. These realizations came somewhere around the time Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

Throughout the ’90s it seemed as though Rabin and Yasser Arafat, with the help of the Clinton administration, had been taking steps towards resolution of their countries’ conflict. But extremists reared their ugly faces once again, stifling what was becoming a healthy relationship between the two Middle-Eastern leaders.

The conspiracy that surrounded Rabin’s death came to resemble the Kennedy assassination, in that it was rumored that Rabin was killed by a right wing extremist who saw peace talks with Arafat and Palestine as a forfeit of Israeli values (playing on the theory that Kennedy was offed to prevent him from taking power away from a couple of ultra powerful law enforcement agencies). Since Rabin’s death, tension has built up to a boiling point. As the steam rises, the number of deaths related to this conflict has skyrocketed exponentially. Still, both sides remain transfixed on obliterating the other.

It has become somewhat of sibling rivalry. Current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon states that he will call off attacks on Palestinian territories when Yasser Arafat polices anti-Israeli regimes within his jurisdiction; Arafat maintains that these groups are not under his control.

“I’ll stop when he stops.”

Sharon, the minister of defense before becoming prime minister, has come to adopt this form of massive retaliation as a means to resolve this conflict. It has become excruciatingly obvious to most of the rest of the world that this brand of violence only succeeds in creating a gross loss of human life. Knowing this, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia created a peace overture that he believed could help appease the needs of both states. His proposal has received great acclaim from many world leaders, including President Bush and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who met this past week to discuss the solicitation of Israel’s support of Abdullah’s doctrine. Arafat is said to have considered this proposal. Unfortunately, Sharon has shown no sensitivity towards these suggestions, and maintains his declaration of war against Palestine.

For the first time since I’ve been alive, American officials have criticized Israel for their refusal to compromise. Colin Powell was quoted as saying, “If you declare war against the Palestinians and think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed – I don’t know if that leads you anywhere.” Still, coming from a secretary of state whose military continues to wage war in Afghanistan, Powell’s sentiments teeter on hypocrisy.

Powell was right, however, in seeing the inutility in Sharon’s stubbornness. In its most simple form, this conflict is over land: two small pieces of land. Is it worth the volume of deaths that have littered the news throughout the last few weeks? Never.

As a child, I dreamt of one day finding my way to the wailing wall, and floating on my back in the salt-rich waters of the dead sea. Today, these wants seem miniscule. If I could trade those monuments in return for the lives of innocent people who have died because of this struggle for 100 square miles of land, I would. To me, human life is far more precious than any landmark or physical structure. How many people need to die before Sharon can see that as well?