Last month, Creativity for Peace and the Council on International Relations sponsored Wrestling Jerusalem, a movie based on a play by Aaron Davidman.
The play misrepresents the Arab-Israeli conflict and demonstrates an only too-widespread moral blindness about Israeli and Palestinian relations. The author repeatedly channels the views of Israelis and Palestinians without any comment, thus indulging in the fiction that these views, and their portrayal of the situation on the ground, are factually and morally equivalent.
Two examples should suffice to illustrate the lack of equivalence.
The play begins with a recital of “catastrophes,” “massacres” and “what ifs” in antiphonal fashion; alternating Palestinian and Israeli voices. The 1929 massacre of Jews in Hebron is followed by the 1994 massacre of Muslims in Hebron; the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila is followed by the 2003 massacre at the Tel Aviv bus station.
Davidman equates these. But the facts make this equation utterly false. The reaction of Israelis to the crimes committed against Palestinians has starkly differed from the reaction of Palestinians to crimes committed against Israelis.
Lebanese forces perpetrated the 1982 Shatila massacre, but the Israeli government took responsibility for its passive role in the murders. The Israeli commanders were dismissed after a well-publicized government inquiry. Three hundred thousand Israeli demonstrated to condemn the killings. The 1994 Hebron massacre was perpetrated by a lone wolf murderer who was beaten to death on the spot by Muslims. The Israeli government, as well as the Israeli public, condemned this attack and have gone to great lengths to perpetuate the infamy of its perpetrator.
By contrast, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority actively support and encourage terrorism against Israelis. Most people in the West are unaware that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority pay lifetime stipends to terrorists and their families. These stipends exceed the average wages of Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority spends one half of all the foreign aid it receives on these stipends. Palestinians at all levels of society celebrate every terrorist attack and lionize the perpetrators, handing out candy to children and naming schools and public buildings for terrorists.
Later on, Davidman quotes “Ibrahim,” again without comment, as “Ibrahim” recites the manifestly untrue allegation that Jews have been in Israel for only 60 years (Jews have lived in Israel without interruption for millennia before Israeli independence). Then Davidman has “Ibrahim” assure Davidman that Jews will be fine under Muslim rule, that they will be cared for once Israel ceases to exist. This assertion ignores the fate of Jews in Muslim countries both before and since 1948. During the more than 1,500 years after Muslims conquered the Middle East, Jews and Christians were dhimmis, second-class citizens required to pay onerous taxes. After 1948, between 800,000 and a million Jews, who had lived in Muslim countries for many centuries, were expelled and all their assets confiscated. “Ibrahim’s” speech likewise ignores the fact that Palestinians are taught, from childhood on, that Jews are evil and should and will be exterminated.
The experience of Creativity for Peace itself demonstrates this sad truth. As reported by Khalid Abu Toameh of the Gatestone Institute, Palestinian girls who attend Creativity for Peace programs are vilified and shamed when they return to their homes. “Prostitute,” “traitor” and “slut” are some of the epithets leveled at these girls on Palestinian social media.
There is no moral equivalence between the Israeli and the Palestinian views of the unfortunate and seemingly insoluble conflict. Wrestling Jerusalem distorts rather than clarifies the problems.
Kristina Harrigan is a Santa Fe resident and an observer of the Middle East situation.