Something Interesting Is Happening in the Middle East
But I have no idea what
I don’t know much about the Middle East. I don’t know much about Israel, or Saudi Arabia, or the Palestinians, or Iran. But what I do know is that “Peace in the Middle East” used to be an aspiration, nothing more. I knew that almost all of Israel’s neighbours refused to even recognise its right to exist.
I also have memories. I lived in the suburbs, and my street butted up against an entire community of Jewish people. In hindsight, it was probably a planned community, but there were a lot of Jewish folks in my area so I didn’t think much of it. The year I turned 13, I was at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah nearly every weekend. I had more Jewish friends than Christian ones. So I heard a lot about what young Jewish kids in the DC area were learning and experiencing in the 90's.
I remember when America attacked Iraq as a response to Iraq invading Kuwait. A key part of that conflict was how Iraq targeted Israel with Scud missles. I was at my friend’s house one night as we listened to a crackly radio broadcast from the war zone. He had lots of family in the very cities that were being attacked. I remember for some reason the power was out in Maryland, so as we listened to the reporting by candlelight, it almost felt like we were there. It was scary, but even worse was the historical precedent.
After all, conflicts and war aren’t anything new. But when it becomes socially acceptable for a country to say Israel should be wiped off the face of the map, that’s not an idle threat. It’s not a far-off fantasy. Statements like that have a direct connection to thousands of years of anti-semitism, and we know what the end result of that language looks like. It looks like systematic genocide, as we saw in World War Two with the holocaust.
In that same house, the one where we listened to Scud missles hitting Tel Aviv by candlelight, I once saw thousands of black and white photos in dozens of towering piles in my friend’s living room. They were photos his mom was helping curate for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened a few years later. These memories made things in the middle east a lot more tangible for me. But I’m not still not sure of many of the details.
So I’m not sure what’s going on, but Israel is normalising relations with a lot of its neighbours lately. I haven’t read think pieces about if this is as good as it seems, or tried to reconcile all the differing opinions about all the nuances. I don’t know if Trump is right to claim credit, or this would have happened anyway. I don’t know what this means for Netanyahu, or how these moves are perceived by Israelis and Jews living around the world.
What I do know is that fewer countries are refusing Israel their right to exist. And that seems like good news. Not just for Jews, but for the concept of peace in the middle east. There’s still a long road to walk, but it feels like there’s cause for hope for the first time in a long time.