World leaders should tape this to their walls
A Haaretz op-ed opines that Israel should follow Nelson Mandela's lead in trying to come to grips with the Palestinian question:
The first and clearest lesson one can learn from Mandela is that peace is only achievable if the putative peacemakers believe in it. "One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen," Mandela once said. Does Israel's current leadership truly believe in peace? Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett are on record as saying that they don't. Netanyahu maintains that he does, though I can't help looking for the fingers crossed behind his back whenever he says it.
Peace is both an abstract concept – "a winner is a dreamer who never gives up," according to Mandela – and a very finite calculation of profit and loss. Peace means making compromises – and Mandela came perilously close to losing his base of support among South Africa's blacks in compromising to the extent that he did. He was prepared to take significant risks in the interest of peace. Are Israel's leaders prepared to do likewise?
Mandela was able to take risks and make compromises because he believed in what he was doing and he had a clear vision of the South Africa that could emerge. Addressing the court at the conclusion of his trial for treason in 1964, he said: "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
And there it is: one has to wonder what the Israeli leadership really wants. Hegemony? Over a billion Muslims, most of whom could care less whether Israel lives or dies, and a minority of whom want to destroy that nation?
Mandela did take risks, but then he was willing to lose it all, even after his release from prison, even after his ascendancy to president. He had courage, which Mandela defines as not the absence of fear but the strength to overcome it. It seems odd to me that a nation whose people have courage in boatloads can't bring themselves to use that courage to create a niche for themselves that doesn't involve the constant vigilance of armed forces.
It is a courage that I wish America would show, too, in its own struggle against many of the same adversaries that Israel faces (possibly because we support Israel so strongly.) We lost three thousand citizens in one day from an Islamist terror attack and we've lost a few dozen since in this country, most notably the Boston Marathon bombing.
Yet, this year more toddlers have killed using guns than were killed by a couple of backpack bombs. More Americans died "taking the fight to the terrorists" – as if Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 – than died on September 11, even if you include the first responders and residents who subsequently got sick and died. And never mind the 500,000 Iraqis who died at our hands.
That's not courage. Courage is the ability to take a punch and still stand. Courage is saying, "You bloodied me, and while I will not forget, my get-even will be to become even stronger, even better, and a brighter beacon to the world of what freedom really means."
I mean, if the terrorists hated us for our freedom, we must be on pretty friendly terms now, with all the recent revelations. We gave away our precious Bill of Rights in exchange for... nothing.
Courage seems to be in short supply in the world: from the NSA scandal here to Israel's fear of a black burqa, to Turkey's prime minister warring with his own people over a public park, echoing our own response to Occupy Wall Street, but much much bloodier.
And I'm not even counting Syria or Egypt or Iraq or Afghanistan. We are sitting on a powder keg and all this grandstanding is merely inciting someone to light a match. Someone needs to defuse at least their corner of the world.
Take the message of Mandela, leaders. We can't stop being afraid until you are.
(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)