Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Broadway and screen star Mandy Patinkin for The News features section (the story runs in Sunday's features section, Spotlight). We discussed a variety of topics, including his views on Israeli-Palestinian relations. As some may already know, Patinkin is eloquent and outspoken and his opinion on both national and world politics is worth sharing in this forum.
Earlier in the year, he told "Jewish Community Online" that he felt incredibly fortunate Barack Obama had been elected president and fortunate to be living at this time, particularly in light of what is happening in Gaza. A short time later, he said "I still think, as citizens of the world, we're the luckiest people in the world that this man is president. He is a great leader. He is only beginning and I think the healing process is massive that needs to take place and we couldn't be in better hands. It is a traumatic time for our country and the world and he is helping it, as fast and as wisely as he can.
"In terms of Gaza and the situation in the Middle East, I think it's a tragic situation that the Palestinians and the Israelis are constantly butting their heads up against each other with," he said, adding that he is currently trying to understand the Palestinian point of view by reading, to a much deeper degree, a number of Palestinian books.
"I certainly know the Jewish point of view and I just want to be more versed in the Palestinian point of view," he said, citing "Palestinian Walks," by Raja Shehadeh.Patinkin is reading several of the books by the lawyer who has worked for Palestinian people's rights. Shehadeh, also author of another book the actor is reading, "Strangers in the House,"strikes Patinkin as an articulate, brilliant Palestinian man. "He has a unique voice and you don't often hear the Palestinian voice articulated so beautifully."
Patinkin also grabbed Edward Said's book, "Orientalism," he said, "because I really feel that there's a void of American Jewry's understanding of the Palestinian people's situation. And I feel that to really help this situation we need to educate ourselves, not just about the Israeli point of view but the Palestinian point of view to equal stature.
"I think the more we understand each other's history and current event the more compassionate we might be able to be to each other and the quicker we might find our way to a solution, which I believe will be some form of a two-state solution living side-by-side, which is incredibly complex. But, I think, what's missing is an understanding and compassion to a sufficient degree that can facilitate some change."
Having Barack Obama as the world leader, he said, will eventually bring a good deal more energy and attention to that process. "And it may not happen in our lifetime but it needs to happen, soon."
Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer