Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter photo 2

A heartfelt look by Aaron B. Cohen at the great arc of life through the prism of its details.

Heart of the Matter

Can Chicago Muslims and Jews engage with mutual respect?

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As the shooting war between Israel and Hamas winds down, Israelis and Palestinians need to rethink how to create a hopeful future for their peoples. Demonization, enmity and bloodshed are not viable options. With the encouragement and support of governments and people of goodwill-including their supporters in Chicago-Israelis and Palestinians can find a path to coexistence.

Chicago-area supporters of Israel and of Palestine need to ask ourselves, can we come to stand on the same side--the side of peace and development--in the aftermath of this summer's war? Can the hurling of insults, the charges of genocide and racism, the free use of Nazi imagery to characterize Jews and Israelis, and the incipient embers of Islamophobia, give way to constructive engagement and respectful discourse?

The fury on Chicago's streets and in its blogospheres has been palpable and alarming this summer. Muslim and Jewish community leaders, together with partners of good faith from across the spectrum in Chicago, need to work together to ensure that the snares that trap ordinary people in the Middle East are not set here by those who put hatred before humanity, hubris before humility, and demonization before decency.

As a pro-Israel Jew, I ask of pro-Palestinians, must our local campuses again roil with anti-Israel stunts-such as disrupting speakers and ramming through divestment measures-designed to intimidate Jewish students? Must self-proclaimed "progressives" expropriate words like "justice," "freedom," and "apartheid" to lend tacit support to virulently anti-progressive movements like Hamas?

For the peoples of the Middle East, nothing good will come from these demonization strategies, and surely nothing good will come from them here at home.

For the sake of all people, let us turn that energy into a mutual embrace of the challenges of finding peace and bringing progress. A helpful first step would be for communal leaders to engage with one another to discuss what constructive engagement looks like.

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