Michael has been an educator for over 20 years. He was a founding member of the Torat Tzion Kollel movement in Cleveland, Ohio, where he and his wife Dara taught in and helped create the curriculum of the Fuchs Mizrachi School. Michael was the lead educator for ICNext, a training program for the broader Jewish Community in Cleveland. He was also a creative consultant the the Cleveland Playhouse. Michael studied philosophy in and received smicha from YU. Michael and Dara have five children and live in Efrat.
Sometimes, conversations on social media can be productive. People can respectfully discuss a topic, and share thoughts and ideas. In honor of that, and to bring light to an important topic, below is the discussion I had on Facebook. I've replaced the names of the other guys with clever pseudonyms. (For a lengthier discussion of the Abbas speech, you can check out this recent article that I read)
Michael Naftali Unterberg - Yesterday at 7:33am ·
How do we make peace with this? Abbas on Israel yesterday: “This is a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness. The Jews were used as a tool under the concept of the promised land — call it whatever you want. Everything has been made up.”
MR. X - Absolutely true. Asking sincerely: does the Israeli government recognize Palestinians as having a native-origin connection to the land?
MNU - Essentially that’s why Israel has repeatedly agreed to a two state solution.
Mr. X - True. I guess it would be nice if the more right wing elements would drop the trope the of "there is no such thing as the Palestinians people, etc." That seems unhelpful to me, to say the least.
Mr Y - There were Arabs living here and never under their own sovereignty and you don't have to be right wing to say that there never was a Palestinian people. They are no different than the Jordanians. And that is an undeniable fact. A simple DNA test will prove that.
Mr. X - But there is now. It's a national identity not a racial one. DNA is not relevant.
MNU - agreed.
Mr. Y - Yes. One where Jesus was a Palestinian and where public officials lay claim that the Palestinians have been in this land since man arrived here.
MNU - there are millions of arabs between the Jordan and the Mediterranean that are citizens of nothing. Call them what you like. Call them blueberries or catfish. That’s a problem for them. Which is a problem for us. Unless we want to make them citizens of israel. Which we don’t. History does not help us avoid the difficulties of current events.
The fact that their leaders lie about a fake history doesn’t negate the reality of the problem we face today.
Mr Y - I want them to be citizens of Jordan. They don't deserve a state just because they don't like ours!
MNU - great idea. In theory. Jordan, the world and the Palestinians won’t let that happen. So the problem remains.
Mr. Y - The problem will remain as long as we aren't in the sea.
If it meant that we would have 100% peace, I would give away even half of Jerusalem. If it meant that my children can grow up here in peace and security! Unfortunately the reality is that their state threatens our existence.
MNU - both are powerful political statements. I even somewhat agree with both. Neither has any relevance to Noam Shapiro’s statement that denying the reality of them existing is at best unhelpful. Or, perhaps it proves him right. Reality resists our earnest desire for fairness to our causes. I don’t believe we can attempt real prescriptions until we diagnose with painful honesty.
Mr Y - The painful reality is that we created them. They do however exist and it doesn't matter at this point how they came to be but how to move on. They, as a majority and as official policy don't want peace with us and don't recognise any of our rights. In the end it doesn't matter if we recognize them as a people or not. It has no effect to the realities on the ground.
Michael Naftali Unterberg - perhaps it does. Perhaps it doesn’t. Surely, clarity, honesty and reason are their own intellectual and religious rewards. Also certainly, their denial of our existence and our right to it has hurt them for decades. I refuse to follow their example. I believe that Mr. X was making a similar point.
Mr Y - I can hear that. I would love to know what IS helpful. Everything in today's world is unhelpful.
MNU - you’ve stated the problem accurately. (As did I in the quote above) the fact that there is no sensible prescription does not absolve us of the work for correct diagnosis, IMHO. It is also the clearest way of making our case to outsiders, also IMHO. At the end of the day, we agree on the diagnosis, but are disagreeing about the particular terminology relevant to one aspect. On that particular issue I agree more with Mr X.
Mr Y. - Fair enough
MNU - Btw, isn’t it always refreshing to have enjoyable and polite disagreements on FB?
Mr. Y - Absolutely. Am a big fan of that :)
Mr. X - Yes, to all of the above :) and thanks for a civil and productive convo. I am certainly sympathetic to fear of a Palestinian state. I share it. And by the way, as someone who tends to lean left of center (at least at this stage of my life :) ) I often need to remind myself to recognize when I am guilty of not acknowledging realities that play better in a more right wing narrative . Anyways, I can't recommend Micha Goodman's book מלכוד ששים ושבע enough in this regard. It is fearlessly honest, yet pragmatic and modestly optimistic.
MNU - Mr. X & Mr. Y, would you guys mind if I turned this conversation into a blog post? I'll leave out names, unless you would want them in.
Mr. Y - I don't mind.
Mr. X - Sure, I'd be honored