Jonathan Brun

Brothers in the Desert

The Israeli situation produces many opinions in the Jewish community, but overwhelmingly it has elicited support. This is very sad. If the subject of the Palestinians is broached with Jewish people you typically get two responses, negation of any major wrong by Israel and an indifference to the suffering of the Palestinian people. If the discussion is pushed further, it becomes clear that rational thought is thrown out the window. The conversation becomes completely emotional and therefore impossible.

So why bother? For the same reason that Gandhi tried to make peace between the Muslims and Hindus, because it is right.

A major hurdle is that both camps are entrenched in their positions, the Pro-Palestine on one side and the Pro-Israeli on the other. Where is the Pro-Peace camp? Lately even brave organizations such as Peace Now – who advocate immediate peace – have been marginalized and told by Israelis to stay out of the way. Where is a strong leader on both sides? Well, the Israelis kill most of the Palestinian leaders or marginalize them and on the Israeli side, people like Yitzhak Rabin are killed and Avraham Burg are ostracized.

So, where is this conflict going? Why is it happening? Quick answer, it is happening because people are letting it happen. The fault lies with everyone, Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, Jews, You, Me. It is not their fault, whoever “they” might be, it is our fault. Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari succinctly explained, “Peace is a question of will”.

In a quick experiment, I emailed every Jewish person I knew with a link to an article about an innocent man killed in Gaza, along with a quote from Rabbi Hillel concerning the Golden Rule, and a note stating I was going to boycott Israeli products (not that I buy any to start with). Emails and Responses are below. Most went without response. The responses I did get conveyed outrage or a desire to not be bothered. I doubt they even read the article I linked to.

In contrast to my simple non-denominational non-violent e-mail, I have repeatedly received chain letters (from Jews) with “facts” about Israel, Arabs and Jews. These chain-letters are at least 50% categorically false and about 50% irrelevant to the ongoing conflict. One thing they are, is racist. Example here, and here (with rebuttal). It is very sad to see people who were only 60 years ago subject to the same misinformation, use it against their neighbours.

When it comes to North American Jews, how can people who have so much wealth and so little love? Where is the compassion between relatives? After all, if you believe in the Torah or Qur’an, the Arabs and Jews are born of the same father, Abraham. Separated when still young, Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, were estranged for years. Even amongst their descendants, little has changed.

It is even more peculiar is that North American Jews are more war-mongering than the Israelis, which is pretty remarkable for people who have never served in the military, been attacked by another nation, or probably ever been in a serious physical altercation. The question becomes, how we exit this negative feedback loop?

Not easy, but reading history would probably help. One thing that is clear, pacification through force does not last. The only long-lasting peace-building has been through co-operation and non-violent resistance. I am an engineer, and as such, I believe in cause and effect. Every action has an equal or greater reaction. The only way to break the cycle is to stop fighting.

Imagine if India had attacked Pakistan after the recent bombings in Mumbai? Two nuclear nations going at it; India has the brains and history to understand the futility of such a war. What would Israel have done if over a 100 civilians were killed? The answer is, sadly, written in the deaths of Gaza. It is time to stop and say, Enough! As Mahatma Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye will leave the world blind”.

Recently, Charlie Rose interviewed Bob Simon on 60 minutes about the current conflict in Israel. The main hurdle right now is indifference. People are passionate about the issue, but they are unwilling to really sit down and say, “We are going to solve this and we are not leaving until we have”.

One of the many things Bob Simon said was (paraphrasing), “The people of Tel Aviv do not want to talk about Palestinians. They have a good life, in a beautiful city. Why should they be concerned with the Gaza strip?” Probably, the same thing was true of the British in India, the Whites in Cape Town, the French in Haiti, … the list is long. As Bob Simon explains, due to the settlements in the West Bank, a two-state solution is not viable anymore. If a one state solution (confederation like Canada) or federation (think Germany) is the inevitable situation, maybe you should stop killing your future citizens.

It is time for Israel and Palestine to grow up. Peace will only come if they are willing to treat their neighbours with the same respect they request. The Israelis will only act under American pressure, but the Palestinans can act today, through non-violent resistance. Every rocket that is launched from Gaza perversely helps Israeli hawks, and yet both parties have the power to break the cycle, the question is who will do it first. It is a lot easier to bomb, kill and hate than it is to love, sacrifice and care. No one person is to blame for this mess, we all are.

Remember, in the book of Genesis, Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael, after years of estrangement, come back to bury their father, together.


Original email I sent:


You are all the jewish people in my address book. I know I bombard Facebook with articles, but here is one, short, single, story about the tragedy currently occurring.

Personally, I will be boycotting all Israeli products for the forceable future – it worked for South Africa, maybe it will work here.



“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” – Rabbi Hillel

“Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.” – Elie Wiesel

Responses I got:


Jon, you’ve taken it too far- really. While you might have greviances towards the recent actions of the Israeli government, it is unfair to hurt an entire economy or people to make a political point. Throwing aside the economic reason mentioned, as its not like you’re purchasing falafel balls everyday, i think you’re behaving with a quick knee-jerk reaction. South Africa treated its people terribly each and everyday for decades. Israel is NOT South Africa. While you can question the legitimacy of this specific operation and the awful humanitarian effects it has had, Israel does not go out and do this everyday and i would argue would never do so if it was not attacked. Black south africans did not shoot rockets into Johanessburg, and if they did let me tell you i’m sure the boycott would not have been so successful.

I understand your disgust- we expect more from Israel. But this is not the way to show your criticism and dismay. Write opinion pieces, write to your MP, the usual route but I strongly disagree with your decision to boycott Israeli goods. Israel should receive blanket support for its actions this time round, agreed, but neither should it pay such a cost.

i’d be happy to continue this conversation further.

2. Brun, I’m surprised to see someone with your level of education and intellect be swayed into a mood of such hatred by a single news article authored by a reporter from Gaza. If you have such feelings, that is your business and your right. But there is no need for you to spread the hatred on behalf of a terrorist organization such as Hamas.

3. Brun, just so you know, your arguments and opinion align fully with the Concordia student group responsible for the Netanyahu riot in 2001 (I believe? Not sure the exact date). They also believed a boycott of Israel was needed. They also complained of Israel cutting off their resources. I was a student at ConU at that time, and had to go to class with a small weapon due to the thuggery present. My Jewish classmate was beaten up because he wore a yamaka (jewish head covering). By endorsing the idea of a boycott of Israel and its products, u r, in my mind, as low as those thugs sitting in the Hall building of Concordia. Why not support some other cause like stopping the seal hunt in Canada, preventing global warming, or promoting the legalization of full contact strip clubs?

Here’s a website listing of companies ull have to boycott to get you started:

Not sure why u ended ure last email in shalom. If u boycott Israel, why use its word for peace?

4. jonathan, please do not include me on your email list when expressing political views…….there are as many different views and perspectives as there are minutes in a day………

you had sent me a quote, now let me forward one to you……..

As Golda Meir once said:
“[The Arabs] will stop fighting us when they love their children more than they hate [Jews].”

NOTE by Jonathan: The quote from Golda Meir is disputed and I cannot find a reliable source for it, please point me in the right direction.

5. Please do not send me more articles.

Thanks very much. See you soon.

Published on January 10, 2009