opinion piece · politics

peace is not a zero-sum game

On 13th October, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks made a speech in the UK House of Lords, about the passing of Shimon Peres and the controversial UNESCO vote that denies links between Judaism and the holy site of Temple Mount. One quote in particular struck a deep chord with me.

Shimon Peres knew that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not a zero sum game, because from peace, both sides gain; from violence, both sides lose.

Historical revisionism helps no one – least of all the Palestinians. By accepting a resolution that identifies Jerusalem and Temple Mount as a purely Muslim site, UNESCO – at the behest of Muslim countries – has turned a site that is holy to the three Abrahamic religions from a religious center to a politicised issue. Referring to Temple Mount only by its Muslim name doesn’t help the Palestinians. Why must the Jewish (and Christian) people, both Israeli and non-Israeli, be punished for the ‘crimes’ of the Israeli government?

This resolution was not designed to aid the Palestinian cause. This resolution was designed and passed with one objective only: to delegitimise the State of Israel and deny Jews historical links to their homeland. This is not pro-Palestinians; this is plain and simple anti-Semitism. For thousands of years we were told to get out of Europe and Arab countries and go back to Judea; now that we have, people deny we ever came from the Middle East at all.

Ultimately, it will not just be Israelis and Jews of the Diaspora who pay the price for this resolution. The Palestinians themselves will suffer for it, down the path. Choosing to indoctrinate rather than educate robs the next generation of fundamental tools to build a fair-minded, functioning society with strong roots. If they believe that denying Jews have any historical ties to Judaism’s holiest site, where does the line get drawn? What other historical facts and events will be rewritten for political propaganda? Choosing to indoctrinate rather than to educate sends the tacit message that historic truth is something to be feared and avoided rather than confronted, and robs the next generation of the fundamental tools to build a strong and functioning society.

The path to peace requires cooperation, communication and a willingness to listen on both sides. Peace is not a zero-sum game. Taking the Western Wall away from Jews, even if it’s just on a piece of paper belonging to a corrupt, insidious organisation like UNESCO, is not an act of peace and it doesn’t help the Two-State Solution. There is no benefit to this – not to UNESCO which has become openly anti-Semitic. Not to the Palestinians who will damage their future generations with political propaganda. Not to the Israelis and the Jews of the Diaspora who once again are disproportionately targeted, and will suffer on a worldwide stage at the hands of historical revisionism which has, in the past, been used against them.

From violence – in whatever form – all sides lose.

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