The Tyranny of the Past

Yesterday I spent a little time logging into what seems to have been an all-day conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Clubhouse. The discussion was, of course, prompted by the recent Hamas rocket attacks and the Israeli bombings that murdered hundreds of civilians. But it was really a lot of venting about the endless history of grievances. It seems there is no statute of limitations on any sentence that begins “What about…”

I was too unsure of myself to speak up in that forum. I’m hardly an expert on the situation. I had no Jewish education; in fact, I didn’t know our family’s proper last name until I was in my late teens or early twenties. Kutisker. Not Browde, which was an Ellis Island misspelling of Braude, my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Kutisker was my father’s last name. It was also the name on Nazi propaganda posters. “The Jew Kutisker…” with a photo of my great grandfather, who had been accused of financial crimes.

My family history is the classic Jewish Diaspora story. Flight from oppression and genocide; many dead, many others, like my father, who went through life with what I suppose might have been PTSD, which left him sometimes tone deaf to the suffering he inflicted on others.

But here we are now. Yesterday‘s conversation was frustrating to listen to. It’s not as if the state of Israel was founded on uninhabited territory. People lived there. People lost homes and communities. People who had had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

And here we are now, almost 75 years later, arguing on Clubhouse. One Palestinian woman protested that any time she criticized Israel, she was called “anti-Semitic.” “I’m Semitic too,” she said, her frustration mounting. Someone else corrected her, saying the term has now become widely understood to mean anti Jewish. Another woman kept bringing up 7 million. Yes 7 million Jews, And Armenians. And Cambodians. And the native tribes of North America. The history of our species is pretty abysmal when it comes to the sanctity of life.

But haven’t we evolved, learned the futility of hatred? Why not look forward? Why not ask what vision Palestinians and Israelis have for the future (taking the annihilation of each other off the table). What if you had to imagine an outcome that would enable every person to have equal human rights, equal self determination, equal access to resources and opportunities?

David Rock, who founded the Neuroleadership Institute, developed a great heuristic to explain core human needs. He calls it the SCARF model. Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. If we made the elements of the SCARF model our core values, wouldn’t we be able to come up with a humanistic solution?