Generous Orthodoxy  

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A call to the Palestinians

The thing that struck me most about President Obama's speech in Cairo was its direct address to the Palestinians. With particular authority as an African-American, he referred to the history of the civil-rights movement in the United States and the anti-apartheid crusade in South Africa to strengthen his appeal to the Palestinians to set aside violence. It has often been noted that if the Palestinians had mounted a campaign of nonviolent resistance (a la Gandhi's, Tutu's, or Martin Luther King's), they would have been successful, especially in view of the deeply rooted values of the Torah in Judaism. Obama, addressing the Palestinians, said, with regard to violence, "That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered."

The Palestinians have never had a leader with the commitments of a Gandhi or a King. The Palestinian I respect most, Sari Nusseibeh (author of the indispensable Once Upon a Life) said an astonishing thing in an interview with David Remnick in The New Yorker, a few years ago--he wished the Palestinians would try to act more like the Christian ideal.