Palestine – Israel


Diane Perlman, Ph.D. - TRANSCEND Media Service

Best Dialogue on Israel/Palestine with a Liberal Zionist
Iverson – Ben Ephraim Model of Respectful, Buberian, “I-Thou” Communication

30 Jun 2024 – Like many Jews, I am in presumed disagreement with fellow Jews on current events. I say “presumed” because I imagine that some of us could reach common ground if true and deep dialogue was not automatically suppressed and if people were curious and open to exploring a variety of sources and points of view, including people they disagree with.

But people feel threatened by perspectives outside of their bubbles. We are at a time of existential fear, trauma, and heightened political hysteria in which rational thought is overwhelmed by emotions. Propaganda and censorship fuel the fires.

We desperately need models of true, deep, respectful dialogue to rise above destructive, dualistic, superficial black-and-white, all or nothing thinking. Below is

US culture is dominated by a two-sided debate model that promotes dualistic, superficial black and white, all or nothing thinking that divides us into us/them, right/wrong, good/evil.  If I don’t see the world your way, I am reduced to a cartoon character who believes the opposite. Dialogue is shut down because they assume I will just fight and make them wrong so there is no point.

Some preserve relationships and avoid taboo subjects. Some end relationships. Some “agree to disagree” which is a lazy, mindless cop out. It precludes attempts to understand other points of view.

Some out of love and unacceptable discomfort struggle to find a space for agreement, a potential common denominator. I was introduced to Shaiel Ben Ephraim by a relative who is an observant Jew who wanted to share with me an admired liberal Zionist who represents values I might appreciate.

Before listening, I was reactive and expecting stereotypical Zionist rhetoric. Out of respect and curiosity, I listened and was pleasantly surprised.

I think this is the best dialogue I have ever witnessed. It is not a debate and it is not even an interview. In my Jungian and other psychoanalytic training in the 1990s we were trained that for therapy to work, for true healing, both the analyst and the analysand (patient/client) are transformed. In this deep, Buberian, I-Thou dialogue, I believe that both Kim Iverson and Shaiel Ben Ephraim emerged from this experience enriched and transformed.

Kudos to Kim Iverson, who is a brilliant and thoughtful interviewer, for actively seeking out a Zionist to interview, and for finding and following Shaiel. And Kudos to Shaiel for his intelligence, moral compass, integrity and courage to work for deeper, ethical, social justice values of Judaism.

Kim and Shaiel are both honest, sincere, and respectful. They are not ideological or defensive but interested in objective, even painful truths. They are deeply engaged and willing to learn from each other to be changed by each other. This is a model for how we can talk to each other.

At a few points Kim expressed an opinion and upon hearing Shaiel’s response had a deeper understanding of the subjective experience of Israelis and Jews, and changed her opinion. Kim made some challenging comments which Shaiel commented that he could not push back on what she said. At the end, they were each grateful to the other for this profound exchange.

Also note that Zionism, despite being simplified means many different things. People who identify as Liberal Zionists have humanistic values. One listening to this dialogue might not experience Shaiel as a Zionist.  Btw the “Z word” has become radioactive and I think we need a new word for those who want peace, human rights and self-determination for Palestinian and who want Israel to live up to ideals of social justice.

Here is the interview. Let me know what you think. Please share widely

Note that I think Shaiel’s heart and brain are in the right place but some of his ideas would benefit from deeper analysis and input from fields outside his areas of expertise, like social science, conflict analysis and transformation about processes necessary to lead to nonviolence and creative alternatives to simplistic one state two state thinking. I assume he would be open to learning and dialogue on these.

And here is Twitter post Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

“describing what it means to be a liberal zionist…While this may be a minority position among Israelis and American Jews after Oct 7, I’m curious to know if there is a similar community of Palestinians that share the vision in #3, that the ultimate goal is not to defeat the other but to live side by side with them in peace. If those voices are out there, I certainly am not hearing them.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim. @academic_la

It is time to fight back against the MAGA attempt to take over Zionism here. We can do that by standing proud as liberal Zionists. People often ask me what it means to be a liberal Zionist, so here is the credo of our movement as I see it:

1) There is no contradiction between wanting a state for the Jewish people and the liberal principles of individualism, freedom, universalism, equality, and pluralism. In fact, if we respect the rights of others, they are more likely to respect ours.

2) Our goal should be to create alliances with people of different faiths, creeds, nationalities, and sexual orientations. Strong relations with broad groups give use more political capital.

3) The ultimate goal of Zionism is not to defeat our Palestinian neighbors but rather to live side by side with them in peace, with both sides treated equally and equitably.

4) Religion has no place in the politics of Israel or any other state. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalism are all regressive. The state should be based on secular and liberal principles.

5) Israel is part of the Western liberal world, and its security depends on its acceptance and relations with that community. In particular, the alliance with the US is essential for its existence.

6) Democracy is just as crucial as Judaism in maintaining the identity and integrity of the State of Israel.

7) We should not only consider our security and welfare but also do our best to help others who are oppressed and in need. Helping others is not transactional. It is part of our culture and the right thing to do.

8) You do not have to support the current leader of Israel or the United States if they are not true to liberal Zionist allies. Our loyalty is not to leaders. They are here to serve us.

9) Israel has a right and duty to defend itself. But the use of force is a last resort. When force is used, it should be done with the utmost care not to harm civilians.

10) We fight antisemitism regardless of whether it comes from the right or the left. It is our job to hold the extreme left accountable.

11) We pledge to fight antisemitism in the Democratic Party by electing moderate and pro-Israel candidates. But we will also take into account the interests of the USA and its citizens regardless of religion, race or sexual orientation.

Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.


Diane Perlman, PhD is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce terrorism, reduce enmity, and to raise consciousness about nonviolent strategies for tension reduction and conflict transformation. She is a visiting scholar at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, is active in Psychologists for Social Responsibility, the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, and on the Global Council of Abolition 2000. Some of her writings can be found on and Email:

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Jul 2024.

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