Maybe it is the recent events in Gaza that have made me think of Yitzhak Rabin, or perhaps it was that Oslo has been mentioned often recently. I don’t really know. However, thinking of him made me recall the many years of my activism in Palestinian and Arab issues and the numerous ups and downs that occurred during those years.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling helpless and disheartened, I think how futile it has all been! But, it really hasn’t. The recent carnage on Gaza especially, has changed that for, while between 1967 and Oslo, our efforts, achievements and setbacks remained mainly within our organizations, amongst our adherents and followers, unknown to most of the rest of the world, they have since then become in the public domain, available for the entire world to witness.
As I watched television and browsed the social media sites, the blogs and the alternative press articles, as I looked up and saw the incredible young men and women presenting the Palestinian story, I was so gratified and filled with pride. There are a slew of voices, of smart, articulate, knowledgeable and beautiful women – with or without a hijab – confidently speaking, writing, blogging and orating! I am so amazed, awed and proud of every single one of them. This, I say to myself, was worth every second of effort that I and my generation invested in this effort. This is what we have spawned, nurtured and inspired. This, exactly, is how change happens: slowly, painstakingly, and arduously, fraught with setbacks and disappointments. However, what a wonderful result! What an awesome vindication! I felt the same way about the rising voices from American Jews and Israelis. They, too, have been weathered by all the carnage and senselessness of this whole drama. They, too, have been worth all the efforts of the men and women – Palestinian, Israeli and American Jews especially – who have been fighting and pleading for Peace throughout these years, setting the stage for them.
At the end of the day, my generation and those many who have been fighting in the trenches with me all these years, might not see any Peace in our own lifetimes. However, we know that there are new soldiers of Peace that we leave to the world. This, at least, is heartening.
There is a beautiful introduction that was in Time magazine’s The Peacemakers issue of January 3, 1994 written by Lance Morrow. It says:
“Low in the central brain lies the limbic system (hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdale) where the aggression seems to start.
But there is a higher brain as well. If war originates as an impulse of the lower mind, then peace is an accomplishment of the higher, and the ascent from the brain’s basement, where the crocodile lives, to the upper chambers may be the most impressive climb that humans attempt.”
On the cover of that issue were: Mandela, De Klerk, Rabin and Arafat. What a hopeful moment in history that was! I was walking on cloud nine believing that this was the moment! It was going to happen, after all! And I adored Yitzhak Rabin and truly believed that he was dead serious about ending the Palestinian/Israeli drama, realizing at the same time that this was the proud Israeli General who, during the Intifada said: I will break the bones of the children of stones. However, he also said later on: I’ve said more than once, we make peace with enemies, sometimes with bitter enemies. He also said: No more occupying another people.
On that fateful, hateful night in November of 1995, 100,000 cheering Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv. Yitzhak Rabin was encouraging his supporters to embrace peace (as he had said on the White House lawn: “enough of blood and tears. Enough.”) He was assassinated as he was leaving that event and so ended that hopeful, rosy phase of this unending tragedy. I was shattered! No other Israeli, I thought, would have the chutzpah, the stature, the history of commitment to his nation, as well as the courage and pragmatism, to take such a daring step.
Since then, I have heard Israelis and Palestinians saying and writing that Rabin would not have gone through with the peace that he had promised – his people and the world – would happen. I don’t know whether he would have or not. I do not know either whether those respectable and knowledgeable Israeli writers and activists who knew him better than I and who said that he wouldn’t, are right or wrong. None of us really knows, because he was killed before there was a chance to find out what would unfold.
The fact remains that his assassination was a huge loss.
The world was going through very serious issues at that time, about fifteen years ago. There were many turbulent regions on our Planet; there were several hot places that caused real anxiety to those of us who were politically active. As I look back on those days though, I speculate whether fifteen years from now people will look back on our world of today and say the same thing? Whether this churning cauldron we are all swirling in today will simmer down somehow? Whether our survival instincts will direct those in power to take the necessary steps required to turn the heat down, to calm the tsunamis in our political ocean waters, to stop our Free Fall?
I don’t know the answer to my own questions.
What I do know is that I don’t see any political leader on the scene today, any Yitzhak Rabin – irrelevant of whether he would have inked that Peace or not – who would have “the chutzpah, the stature, the history of commitment to his nation, as well as the courage and pragmatism, to take such a daring step.”
Nevertheless, and as happened with my generation of activists and of the inspirational younger activists we had set the stage for, there will be new, fresh blood flowing into the political corridors of the world soon enough.
This is my fervent hope; this would be the thrill, the vindication for every ounce of effort that my generation has invested in the endeavor of making life on our planet more Just, more Democratic and more Honest.
P.S. I just pray that St. Peter doesn’t call my number before I see just a little bit of that before I go; just a mere glimmer perhaps? That would be a real nice send-off! Right?