The Blog

A Note of Thanks

After I read a piece in The Guardian by Izzeldin Abueleish, a Palestinian doctor, I felt a deep sense of gratitude.

Having suffered the profoundest and most relentless and painful of losses - a parent's loss of his children - three of whom were struck by an errant Israeli shell in 2009 in Gaza and killed - he has acted and written with immense generosity, compassion, empathy, and humanity.

His words are unlikely to yield headlines precisely because of this; they are uncompromising in their moral clarity and depth of wisdom while being simultaneously moderate and rejecting all forms of extremism.

They lack the instant gratification that follows from strident rhetoric and arguments that focus exclusively on the vindication of the self, whether the individual self or the collective self.

They lack any traces of the virulent rage and narcissistic self-righteousness that all too often masquerade as moral indignation in the face of human rights violations but are, in fact, selective, chauvinistic, and prejudiced; the very opposite of the humanism that characterizes his writing and his values and the principle of the universality of human rights to which he so powerfully adheres.

Hatred and rage are choices; and Abueleish rejects them outright. He speaks for and insists upon his people's rights and dignity, but not at the expense of others. He recognizes that in this protracted conflict no one has a monopoly on morality and that suffering and violence are experienced by both Palestinians and Israelis.

While he recognizes that these are experienced in different ways and degrees he affirms that in the shared contours of loss and suffering Israelis and Palestinians can recover a sense of common humanity.

For many, his words are discomforting. They do not make for easy sloganeering - they are too measured, nuanced, and humble and they do not appeal to those who lack a willingness to be self-critical. They accept that moral responsibility is not for one side and not the other but a mutual and reciprocal obligation.

Instead of making the all too common assumption that whatever party to a conflict with greater power is intrinsically less moral than the weaker party he recognizes that the capacity for good and evil, help and harm, construction or destruction rests with all parties; not necessarily alike but certainly with opportunities for ethical autonomy and ethical action available to all.

Abueleish's words and these values are at once revolutionary and radical and common sense wisdom and moderation, which anyone can appreciate and act upon.

His plea is a call for the values of egalitarianism and mutual respect and civility, that value and welcome diversity within the context of a shared commitment to desisting from denigrating language and emotions that dehumanize and demonize others because of their collective identity.

There is no surer pathway to justice, peace, and genuine coexistence then through the words of a man who in tending to the wounds of others and of his own wounds and that of his family refuses to succumb to the narrowness of mind and the poverty of spirit that rejects the Other in all its humanity, diversity, vulnerability, and need.

Thank you for outstretching your hand. It is an honor to clasp it.