BLOG 300 April 25, 2016
The first night of Passover began on the evening of April 22 and is still being observed through April 30 by Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. Often called “The Festival of Freedom,” the Seder commemorates the release of Jews from bondage in Egypt. It’s a good weekend to consider the quest for genuine freedom from fear in Israel.
With the American headlines absorbed with politicians screaming at each other, there have been virtually no stories on the Middle East. In case you’ve missed it, Israel has been living through a continuing struggle now called the “stabbing Intifada.” Israelis are being attacked with knives. However, more than 70% of terrorist attacks are thwarted by Israeli security forces, but recently a bomb exploded in a bus and many women and children were killed. The problem hasn’t stopped.
The truth is that most Palestinians put little faith in violent resistance and don’t want another out and out intifada with Israel. Today, months after the big war, the Gaza Strip remains a pile of rubble. Toppled buildings and broken concrete are a silent witness to the futility of harassing Israel. Fanatics in Hamas say they’re ready to attack again, but that’s fundamentally just words at this time. Their leaders make big speeches while they pocket millions of dollar that were supposed to go for the people. The contradictions are obvious.
The on-going debate is whether the Palestinian Authority is going to collapse. Fundamentally, the PA is financed from outside of its area. Should those external funds (and tax rebates from Israel) stop, the PA would be done. They continue to wrestle with ineptitude and stagnation as Mahmoud Abbas limps toward death. Apparently, he won’t resign. The jihadists won’t give up and innocent people continue to suffer.
An article in Dissident Voice by Jeff Bankfort claimed that the Oslo peace agreement actually rescued Yasser Arafat. The price the PA paid was legitimizing t he presence of Israel in 62% of the West Bank. The person who negotiated this settlement on behalf of Arafat was Mahmoud Abbas, the current head of the PA in Jericho. Bankfort concluded that a state of cooperation with Israel now exists that verges on collaboration. In other words, Abbas is obstinate in public and far more conciliatory in private.
Bankfort’s idea may be overstated and optimistic, but it is certainly hopeful. What goes on behind the scenes is often in the direction of genuine negotiation. If so, this year’s Seder may indeed be a celebration of freedom and peace.
Let us pray with the Jewish world that this year’s Passover is truly another time when the angel of death flew over – maybe for the entire Middle East.