The following New York Times photo essay on reconciliation in Rwanda between Hutus and Tutsis will disturb, challenge and amaze anyone who sees it, who looks into the eyes of the murderers and the relatives of the victims as they pose together, and tries to imagine oneself in either of their places.
Jewish ethics posit that no one other than the actual victim of murder is in a position to forgive the murderer for his evil. This isn’t to say, of course, that the relatives of those murdered have not suffered and been victimized as well. This is what the photo essay is about.
If forgiveness means to “let go” of injury, pain, suffering, hatred, and the thirst for revenge in order to live any kind of normal life (especially in Rwanda where Hutus and Tutsis live amongst each other), I can understand why the relatives of those murdered victims have chosen to forgive and reconcile, as difficult as this is to imagine.
I cite the NYT’s “Portraits of Reconciliation” now, in the wake of the discontinued negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in order that we might glimpse a model of what is possible despite Israeli and the Palestinian distrust and hatred towards each other.
“Portraits of Reconciliation – 20 years after the genocide in Rwanda, reconciliation still happens one encounter at a time.” Photographs By Pieter Hugo & Text by Susan Dominus – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?src=me&ref=general&_r=0
The second piece was written by Haaretz journalist and author Ari Shavit who recently published “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.” Shavit argues that Palestinian President Machmud Abbas has consistently refused to compromise with Israeli negotiators on anything of substance since the late 1990s, and it should no longer surprise anyone that he has refused to compromise again in these just-halted negotiations. Shavit lays the blame of the failure of the negotiations solely at Abu Mazen’s feet.
“Waiting for the Palestinian Godot – Why are we repeatedly surprised every time Mahmoud Abbas fails to sign a peace agreement with Israel?” – By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Blog, April 24, 2014 – http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.586945
The third piece, written by Lisa Goldman of The Weekly Wonk, takes a different view. Reporting from America and reflecting the views of Secretary of State John Kerry, she writes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is primarily responsible for the breakdown in the negotiations with the Palestinians, though she opens her piece by saying that it is not in either Abbas’ or Bibi’s interest to change the status-quo.
“Why the U.S. should step away from Israel-Palestine Negotiations – for good! It’s time to admit we’ve seen enough” –The Weekly Wonk – By Lisa Goldman, April 16, 2014 – http://theweek.com/article/index/259957/why-the-us-should-step-away-from-israel-palestine-negotiations-mdash-for-good
The fourth and last piece is written by Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem (Times of Israel blog), who looks to the future and discusses what is likely to come in light of these recently failed negotiations. He writes:
“The making of peace requires two sides. Whether we did everything in our power, and whether the Palestinians did everything in theirs is a factual question, and as such, paradoxically, unresolvable, for we rarely shape our opinions on the basis of facts, and instead shape our perception of the facts on the basis of our opinions.”
The Day After The Negotiations Fail – by Rabbi Donniel Hartman, The Times of Israel, April 21, 2014 – http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-day-after-the-negotiations-fail/
Less we fall into despair, we American Jews, Zionists and Ohavei M’dinat Yisrael (Lovers of the State of Israel) would do well to reflect upon what has taken place in Rwanda over the last twenty years, and remember that once Germany was the Jewish people’s greatest enemy. Today, Germany is the least anti-Semitic country in Europe. Seventy years ago Germany and Japan were bitter foes of the United States, and Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland were killing each other. Today, all these former enemies have laid down their guns and established peace.
In other words, the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from over!