The death of Osama bin Laden and the popular democratic movement now being called the “Arab Spring” may offer us glimmers of hopeful light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. If Nashvillians are tired of war, just imagine how the people of Afghanistan and Iraq must feel. Since the vast majority of earth’s people of all races and creeds want peace rather than war, it seems time to ask: “Where do we go from here?”
While many Nashvillians probably believe that our problems in the Middle East are unsolvable, I disagree. I think we are closer to peace in the region than we realize, if only our government will do something it has never done before: take a firm stand for equal rights, justice and democracy where it matters the most. Ironically, what our government must do if we want peace is persuade the government of Israel to do what we did here in the South not so very long ago: abandon Jim Crow laws and treat everyone as equals in the eyes of the law. If we can persuade Israel to become a true democracy with fair, nonracist laws and courts, we should soon see results similar to what happened here after we made the practice of racism illegal.
And we need to remember that American leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were convinced that blacks and whites could never live together in peace. Jefferson owned slaves until his death, while Lincoln planned to have slaves deported once they were freed. But they were both wrong. Once we finally ended Jim Crow laws, we soon discovered that all races could live together in peace.
Today Israel’s leaders insist that Jews must have the upper hand and be allowed to practice apartheid and ethnic cleansing because Palestinians are “the problem.” But that’s what Nazis once said about the Jews. It’s also what American white supremacists once said about blacks and Native Americans. But the Aryan and American supremacists were wrong. So are the present-day leaders of Israel. We need them to see the light, or be replaced, so that we can live in peace ourselves. As long as the U.S. pours billions of dollars in financial aid and advanced weapons into Israel — while Israel continues to deny Palestinians basic human rights and justice — we will always find ourselves in the bull’s-eye of men who want to defend their women and children from such unconscionable abuses.
Osama bin Laden cited the plight of Palestinian women and children as being his main motive for the 9-11 attacks. I think Americans must turn the tables on the extremists by persuading Israel that none of us can afford the terrible consequences of causing women and children to suffer so grievously. If we will not correct our mistakes out of love, compassion and a sense of justice, still we must act for purposes of self-preservation and to give our children and grandchildren a chance to live in peace.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.