Alternative Memorial Ceremonies and Peace Clocks: Fantastic Future?
I hope the attendees at the 2022 Alternative Palestinian-Israeli Conjoint Memorial Ceremony finally noticed what I noticed.
In advance of the event, JNS published two excellent articles that brought out important issues with respect to the place of Memorial Day in Israeli society.
In the first case, Ruthie Blum talked about this year’s annual gift sent to bereaved families by the Defence Ministry. The outer rim of the clock is decorated with the Islamic crescent-moon and the Christian pentagram. Why is there no Star of David or Menorah? What is the message given by this symbolism?
Herein lies the greater problem with the memento: that it portrays a fantasy for the future, rather than the harsh reality in which Israelis exist. While bereaved families and other Israelis may cling to such a dream of “peace and brotherhood,” Memorial Day isn’t the occasion to highlight it—certainly not now, with a surge in terrorism and open calls for the killing of Jews, including by Israel’s Arab citizens. [emphasis added]
And directly following that is the article by Jonathan Tobin, in which he discusses the “Alternative Memorial Ceremony” at which bereaved Israeli families and bereaved Palestinian families mourn together, imagining that fantasy for the future as if the event can have some effect in bringing that about. Tobin protests the implications of equivalence as the rationale behind the event:
Treating those who died to save Israel and those who died trying to destroy it as merely two sides of the same coin is as egregious as it is immoral.
And he hits the nail on the head when he says that peace activism “consists of Arabs who denounce Israel[,] sitting down to talk with Jews who agree with them.”
But then he goes on to suggest that:
When Muslims are willing to share the Temple Mount with the Jews . . . then it will be appropriate to talk about sharing a Memorial Day or a realistic vision of peace.
He is trying to make the point that this is not likely to happen. At least not in the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, his parallel is inappropriate. The Muslims built their mosque(s) on top of the ancient Israelite temple and claim the land on which it sits as their own. So, in effect, Tobin is saying that when the Muslims are willing to share with us something that is really our own, then we can talk peace. This reminds me of the person who says: what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine.
The question then becomes, will there ever be a time when it may be appropriate to establish a conjoint memorial day for Israelis and Palestinians? Perhaps, contrary to the organizers’ belief that the event can catalyze peace, Tobin suggests it may only become fitting after the hostilities will have ended and we are no longer at war. Will it be appropriate then?
Do other countries have such conjoint memorial ceremonies? After this current war between Russia and the Ukraine, will bereaved families on both sides have one? What about the Tutsis and the Hutus who massacred them? Do they conduct conjoint ceremonies, with victims’ families standing beside the descendants of those who slaughtered them? Or are genocide memorial days in Rwanda part of a dictatorial government that is trying to erase ethnic differences and create a common Rwandan? About three decades after the Srebrenica Massacre, will the Bosniaks and the Serbs hold a conjoint memorial?
Is it not just another example of antisemitism when something that is not expected of any other people is expected of the Jews?
As a special case, we might ask if the day could ever come when descendents of Nazis killed in World War II mourn their predecessors alongside descendents of Holocaust victims? Would the grandchildren of Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goering or Rudolf Hess be invited to speak from the podium alongside Holocaust survivor children or grandchildren, such as Steven Spielberg or Elisha Wiesel? Actually, we could imagine such an event if the Nazi leaders’ descendents expressed outrage and horror at the behaviour of their forebears and participated in Holocaust memorial services as a means of publicly asking forgiveness and joining in the cry for “never again.”
And here is where the parallel with the Alternative Memorial Ceremony arises. Over the 17-year history of such events, one word dominates: “occupation.” Palestinian terrorism is because of the Israeli “occupation.” Israelis are dead because of the “occupation.” Palestinians are dead because of the “occupation.” Contrite Jews speak from the podium and talk about dismantling the “occupation” without seemingly understanding that the Palestinians consider Tel Aviv, Haifa, Carmiel and all of Israel, in fact, to be occupied. These Jews seem to not notice that we Jews are, for the Palestinians, the Nazis of the Middle East.
Personally Experiencing the Alternative Memorial Ceremony
It is easy to be taken in by the sweet musical interludes when the melodies and lyrics calling for peace and harmony pull at the heartstrings.
And, of course, there were the speeches, the flowerly and upbeat speeches about peace for the sake of all our children. Oh! How I wish I could believe that the Palestinians were sincere. Yet, when they talked about wanting to live with us in peace, I saw in my mind’s eye the vandalism and violence against Jewish neighbours in Lod, Ramla and Acco just last spring.
Yes, an Arab taxi driver who had done nothing wrong was lynched in Bat Yam, but that was one. How many Jews were attacked? How many rocks were thrown through the windows of Jewish homes? How many Jews ran away from Lod to wait out the storm somewhere else where they could keep their kids safe?
I wish I could have joined all those well-meaning Jews lapping up the honey with their eyes shining with the inner glow of being on the right side of morality.
And then I remembered the last two weeks of violence and hatred on Har Habayit. And the sweet talk seems so vapid. An out and out lie.
But it would feel SO GOOD to be able to sit there and forget reality and pretend that the means of making peace happen is in our hands, we who could supposedly make the “occupation” go away. The lack of peace is the Jews’ fault, of course. Only ours.
Not a word about terrorist murders of Jews. Did any one of the bereaved Palestinians talk about their son/father/brother who was killed while committing a terrorist act? No. Mothers of martyrs were not among the invited speakers.
The two Israeli stories of personal loss involved soldiers while the two Palestinian stories of personal loss involved innocent civilians (a 12-year-old boy in Judea-Samaria and an elderly mother-in-law and husband at home in Gaza when a bomb hit their building).
It is as if we Jews just go out looking for someone to kill because . . . because. . . because, well, “the occupation,” you know!
But it would feel SO GOOD to believe the lies and feel like a better person for it.
And in a final flourish, the two moderators were shown on a single screen showing where they were located. Note the labels: Occupied Palestinian Territories and Tel Aviv. Do I need to explain the significance of this? And the Jews in attendance — did any of them take exception to this or understand what they were, in fact, applauding throughout the event?
The Fantasized Future
Even in a fantasized future that sees a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there would be no excuse for a “peace clock” that does not include a Jewish symbol on the outer rim alongside the Christian and Muslim symbols.
After all, peace does not include replacing the Jewish state with a state of all her citizens as implied by the screenshot above. It does not include changing the national anthem or the flag. If that is the fantasy for the future as expressed in the Alternative Memorial Ceremony, then it is not a future that anyone other than antisemites can endorse.