For Israel and Palestine to live in peace, whether as one whole state or two, they need an entirely new kind of leadership. Both of them, and us too, to better accomodate solutions grounded in an authentic desire for peace, and the resources necessary to guarantee Palestinian self-sufficiency and Israeli security.
Most activists and academics seem obsessed with the blame question, their anger towards whichever other side blurring their anger over the existential question of the conflict. This doesn't make sense to me. When we witness our friends or family fighting, we try to stop the fight first. Of course, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one side or the other is going to seem alien to us. That's precisely why we should turn to organizations like Parents' Circle, groups of Israeli Arabs (haven't read the new Newsweek article on that, but I intend to soon), and, where possible, Palestinian critics of Hamas.
Those defending the Palestinian leadership (I'm talking Hamas in the Gaza context) need to acknowledge the reality that many ordinary Israeli citizens live in fear of terrorist attacks. They need to accept that reality even though there are some words in there uncomfortable to discourse-leftys. They also need to distance themselves from violence against innocents--or at least admit that they favor it so we can mock or ignore them. (I'm not talking about understanding the root of such violence. We need to do that, but we can do that without favoring it politically or tactically. It's precisely the break away from such violence that will distinguish the successful, creative Palestinian leadership I am wishing for.)
Those defending Israel's military campaign have already lost the ability to sincerely wish for a nonviolent solution to the conflict. Even if Israel is merely retaliating, to defend retaliation--particularly when it results in such a higher death count than what it retaliates against-- is to renounce one of the core principles, and arguably the core political implication, of New Testament ethics; it is to distance oneself from one of the few genuinely consistently successful political strategies of the 20th century. And it admits, without explicitly bothering to do so, that the dead three year-old boy, the sobbing mother, and homeless people who have done nothing more than live within the borders of misleaders, are all acceptable byproducts of Israel's decisions. That last one puts Israel's supporters precariously close to where the most cynical --or mentally unstable-- Palestinian leader may be found.
I want leaders in Palestine, Israel and America, not misleaders. I don't care whether the solutions forged are secular, spiritual, material, financial, capitalist or socialist. I want the adults to grow up so the children can grow up. You won't hear the mainstream media talking much about misleadership, at least in a thematic way. Corporate media is too bound up in the fate of its subject matter to be able to imagine or predict a Gandhi or Martin Luther King. As long as we let media sensationalists, weapons makers, and religious fanatics set the tone, mainstream public discussions will fail.
Alternative media is another story. As long as progressives are willing to listen to both sides, our fora may be the key to finding common ground. I'll be moderating a debate between Professors Jason Steck and Stephen Zunes on Saturday, January 24 on Shared Sacrifice Radio, on the subject of Gaza. My role in that debate will be one of neutral moderator, so nobody should worry about whether my personal feelings about the issue will bleed into any of the questions. But if anyone wants to suggest questions to ask our opposing scholars, feel free to send some my way.