For thousands of years
Jewish and Palestinian people
have lived in a place
called the Middle East.
In ancient times the area was a commercial center
connecting all kinds of merchants
from Europe, Africa, and Asia.
And the people learned the skills of commerce.
The land was mainly suitable for farming
but many had no way of making a living,
so they to moved
to many places in the world.
The Roman Empire found the
commercial skills of the Jews useful
and allowed them to become
a merchant class for the empire.
A million Jews settled in
where they traded goods
that the wealthy chose to buy.
While Jews became prominent merchants,
they were not the ones who held
the political power
in the Roman Empire.
When this empire crumbled,
Jewish people used their
mercantile skills to serve
kingdoms and emirates in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
During these years Jews
developed many languages
which helped them adapt to their
environment, yet maintain their identity.
Jewish communities were similar
to China Towns where people
came to buy or trade
for the things they wanted.
When capitalism emerged
a transformation erupted
which transformed the way
Jewish people lived.
Factories replaced the craft guilds.
Entrepreneurs sold commodities for a profit.
Loans were made to finance corporations,
and not to save individuals who were in debt.
The Jewish merchant class was dying.
Kings who were in debt promoted hatred
against the Jewish moneylenders.
This is when anti-Semitism was born.
Jewish communities were thrown out of
England, France, and Spain.
Most Jews moved to the Turkish Empire
and worked under the protection of the Sultan.
As capitalism emerged in Eastern Europe
the hatred against Jews came with it.
Many went to Germany and the United States
where they attempted to become professionals.
But when capitalism fell apart in the depression,
many who supported the system
blamed the Jews
for their misery.
In the US Jews experienced discrimination.
In Germany the fascists came to power
and murdered six million Jews
using them as scapegoats for the depression.
Then, a new political movement emerged
that rejected all of Jewish history.
Instead of promoting the rights of Jews where they lived,
Zionism argued that Jewish people needed to live in Israel.
One problem with Zionism was that
ninety percent of the population of Palestine
consisted of Arabs
whose ancestors lived on that land for thousands of years.
The other obvious problem was that
Jews lived in areas where their rights
needed to be defended, and Zionists
abandoned this struggle for the state of Israel.
When President Franklyn Roosevelt
refused to accept Jews
who tried to escape from the holocaust,
Zionists refused to protest.
When synagogues were attacked
Prime Minister Sharon encouraged
Italian Jews to move to Israel.
Another problem was that Jewish people
no longer had a cultural identity with the Middle East.
European Jews spoke Yiddish and had
newspapers, radio stations, and theatre in that language.
When the state of Israel was established
that cultural history was abandoned,
Jews needed to learn Hebrew
and Palestinians saw their homes taken away.
But people like Nelson Mandela
and Martin Luther King demonstrated
that the worst forms of discrimination
can be overcome.
Many Jewish people supported those movements
because they found a common cause
in the fight against injustice.
But most continued to support Israel.
An injury to one is an injury to all.
It doesn’t matter
if the injured person is
African American, South African, or Palestinian.
In the words of Malcolm X:
Either we will all be free,
or no one will be free.
Zionism is a rejection of this basic truth.
When the Jewish and Palestinian people
have equal rights in one nation,
there will be peace in the Middle East.
So simple a solution for a seemingly unsolvable problem.