The Asymmetry of Pity

Oslo failed because the Palestinian side has taken no responsibility for having helped cause the conflict, and has seen itself above any need to make concessions in order to end it.

Issue: Fall 2001

My most instructive conversation on the Middle East conflict was not
with a politician or a journalist but with a soft-spoken Palestinian
Anglican minister named Naim Ateek, whose group, Sabeel, promotes a
Palestinian version of liberation theology. During a long and
friendly talk about two years ago, we agreed on the need for a
"dialogue of the heart" as opposed to a strictly functional approach
to peace between our peoples. In that spirit, I acknowledged that we
Israelis should formally concede the wrongs we had committed against
the Palestinians. Then I asked him whether he was prepared to offer a
reciprocal gesture, a confession of Palestinian moral flaws. Both
sides, after all, had amply wronged each other during our
hundred-year war. The Palestinian leadership had collaborated with
the Nazis and rejected the 1947 UN partition plan, and then led the

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