"Those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down," said President Barack Obama in his United Nation's address (Sept 23, 2010).
Many fall in the "Israel is always right" or "always wrong" categories, but it is not a zero-sum game. Like President Obama, one can be an uncompromising supporter of Israel but also support Palestinian aspirations for a state alongside Israel.
Though extremely articulate and intelligent, Rashid Khalidi, who spoke on campus last week, is clearly in the Israel-is-always-wrong crowd. We could argue all day about Khalidi's possible connections to the PLO (cited in major newspapers), but he is certainly politically active.
One could tell his bias by some of the language he used, such as "Zionist myth," "ethnic cleansing," and comparing the refugee issue to the Armenian Genocide. He implied any scholar who disagrees with him is not a good scholar. For him, everything is black and white, without any nuance. And certainly his opinions influence his scholarship.
I think it is legitimate to look at Khalidi's scholarship. He misquoted Moshe Yaalon in a 2009 New York Times op-ed, which was corrected. He ignores evidence Arab leaders helped create the refugee problem by opposing the partition or encouraging Palestinians to leave (Economist Oct. 1948, Beirut Telegraph Sept. 1948). And he did not mention the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands and Jews from East Jerusalem under Jordanian rule.
The loss of life on both sides is tragic and I know someone whose cousin was killed by a rocket in Sderot. Would a "proportional response" be launching thousands of rockets over years at Gaza? The only reason more Israelis did not die is they ran to bomb shelters multiple times a day for years.
But maybe we can take this opportunity to learn more about the Middle East from both perspectives. More importantly, maybe we can move beyond our biases and be practical.
While painful for both sides, most experts agree there is only one solution that will allow both sides to achieve their aspirations: a two-state solution with the Jewish state of Israel living alongside a sovereign Palestine, based on the '67 borders, the splitting of East Jerusalem, and solving the refugee problem mostly in the Palestinian state. Let's save lives, let's stop trying to undermine the other side, and let's work towards peace.