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It has become clear to me that we are not going to negotiate ourselves completely out of this conflict. Of course the government of Israel and representatives of the Palestinians need to keep trying to find acceptable accommodation, but a process of evolution needs to take place—and fast. Arabs and Israelis need to start seeing each other part of the same region with a shared future.
This conflict is more than just religion and politics. It is an example of how poverty, and the feeling that there is no way to ever come out of those conditions, can lead to extremism. Many people on all sides of the divide recognize that, without economic opportunities for all the peoples in the region, the marginalized on both sides will continue to fall prey to extreme voices urging violence.
King Abdullah of Jordan was frequently quoted saying that Israel, Jordan, and Palestine should become something analogous to Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg) for the good of their own economic futures. These are small countries with limited resources, but significant skills and advantages if they would work together. Ideas like this are often dismissed as pipe dreams on the level of Israeli president Shimon Peres’ “New Middle East” with highways from Tel Aviv to Damascus. No matter how far afield it might seem, we need to keep working for it.
Every religion has its extremists and Judaism is no different. The leading rabbinic figure in this raging culture war is the Chief Rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu. He has repeatedly called Israel’s 1.2 million Arab citizens “the enemy.” He urged Jews not to rent or sell apartments to Arabs, and he claims all Arabs have a violent nature. In his manifesto (published in March 2008) he writes, “The time has come to tell the truth. Providing a livelihood for our enemies leads to grave consequences.”
Rabbi Eliyahu is rabbinic royalty in Israel. His father was once the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of the whole country. This is a position many think Eliyahu also covets. To that end, he has built a high public profile as the great defender from the dangers of living in peaceful coexistence with Arabs, either Arab citizens of Israel or from other countries. He is well known for saying it is forbidden under Jewish law to rent apartments to non-Jews in the land of Israel.
Some of his statements he has tried to deny or recant but others he proudly owns. He was recently exonerated from charges of racist incitement by the State Attorney’s Office, but the impact of his views is undeniable. The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) www.irac.org has been documenting his statements for years. A list of those statements can be found on their website and here are a few highlights from the last year. (translated from Hebrew LINK )
Please Note: This article by Steven Beck has been written in his personal capacity and not as a representative of IRAC.ORG. All opinions stated are solely his personal view and does not in anyway reflect those of the organization that he works for, which is IRAC.ORG. – Mark Ulyseas, Publisher/Editor
The main concentration of refugees in Israel is in Tel Aviv, but there are also communities in other cities like Arad, Be’er Sheva, and Eilat. The majority are men ranging in age from early twenties to fifties, but there are refugees that are older and younger, as well as women and children (born both abroad and in Israel). Occasionally members make the journey with their families, and other times they send for their families once they are more settled.
Their status is one of deliberate ambiguity. Israel does not grant them refugee status and the rights that would go along with that, which include the right to not be sent back to their country of origin.
In the history of the state of Israel, less than 200 non-Jewish individuals have been granted refugee status in Israel despite Israel being a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Steven Beck was born in Ohio and grew up in Florida. He moved to New York to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Affairs at Columbia University and stayed to work in local politics. After several years as a political operative in New York, Washington, DC and Ohio, He joined the Peace Corps and spent two years teaching computers in Togo, West Africa. Steven currently works in Jerusalem at the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, as their Director of Israel-Diaspora relations. He lives in Tel Aviv with his fiancée Sari Ganulin. www.irac.org mail: firstname.lastname@example.org