I had written a piece earlier on Leo Kramer’s pioneering work supporting Palestinian and Israeli doctors who work together. Leo’s follow-up article, Israeli, Palestinian Doctors Affect Change on the Ground, is even more revealing. Leo writes that the medical work is vital because doing is more important than talking, a theme I have been trying to push recently in It Is What You Do That Defines You. Leo writes:

These efforts, however, must also be directed toward achieving results on the ground. That means ameliorating the insecurity of the Israelis, while addressing the deprivation of the Palestinians, their need for medical services, goods, utilities, food and freedom of movement. The overt violence of the conflict is bad enough for both sides, without the medical and humanitarian border crises, which thwart the struggle to maintain a basic standard of living for the Palestinians.

To properly approach security and standard of living concerns, we must consider the following:

1. Israel came to agreements with Egypt and Jordan without demanding that they first recognize Israel.

2. The Palestinians do not have the military capability to invade Israel. They can do harm to nearby cities, but a Palestinian invasion is out of the question.

3. To believe in democracy and promote it by deeds as well as words means countries (including the United States and Israel) must accept the results of an honest election, even though they did not support the winners.

4. When the deeds do not match the words, trust is lost. After an election that was certified as honest by observers from the United States, necessities which cross the border to Gaza were rationed, cut back, and limited. What religious tradition advocates such actions against a civilian population? Certainly the Christian, Muslim or Jewish religions would not justify such a response.

5. Israel recently prevented university students from Gaza to travel abroad to study at institutions which had already accepted them. This involved hundreds of students who are still waiting for permission to cross the border, including Fulbright scholars to American universities. It is to Israel’s advantage to have an educated populace at their border, especially if they have received their education in the western tradition.

Deeds much more than words define relationships between adversaries. The beauty of positive gestures and deeds is that they often can be crafted in such a way as to give away nothing strategically but to make a profound impact on the psychology of conflict. The key to the future is not peace or conflict resolution, which can elude us for so many reasons at any given time. It is our deeds that promote a positive change in human relationships. Every purposeful act of humiliation creates ten more enemies. Every authentic act of generosity, kindness or respect creates ten more friends. This much we can be certain of in a chaotic world.

© Marc Gopin