Monday, October 27, 2014

Update on Gaza 10/23/2014

After the latest Israeli offensive into Gaza last August, living conditions have worsened considerably. Families and communities are still grieving the 500 children killed by Israeli airstrikes. Another 400,000 children have been severely traumatized: nightmares, inability to concentrate, anger, and deep sadness continue to haunt children long after the bombs stopped falling. Daily life has become untenable. Water and sewage treatment plants are nearly non-functional, heightening fears of an impending public health crisis. At least 175 businesses were destroyed in the bombing, putting thousands out of work. Unemployment has reached record levels: 50% among adults and over 60% among youth. More than 57,000 displaced persons are being sheltered in schools administered by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees. An additional 40,000 to 50,000 remain with host families.
It has been estimated that the reconstruction of Gaza will cost the international donor community at least $7.8 billion. Yet, this figure may be far too low. Should only the destruction from last summer’s offensive be repaired, or should it include the damage from Israeli military operations of 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2006? Some experts believe that the cycle of military offensives and rebuilding cannot continue. 


At some point, the area will become such a wasteland – economically, ecologically, psychologically – that the residents will simply leave. The wounds of war will have become too deep to heal. 

Palestinian families have already begun to take this step, says historian Sara Roy. For the first time in history, a true exodus is taking place. Hundreds of Gazans have already been smuggled through tunnels to Egypt where they have boarded ships to cross the Mediterranean. Palestinians from all social strata and all political camps are leaving. Even members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are sending their children abroad to give them a chance at a better future.

Cynics might say this has been Israel's goal all along -- to reclaim all of historic Palestine by any means necessary. Through settlement building, humiliating checkpoints, imprisonment, torture, restriction of food and medicine, and recurrent military terror, Israel will force Palestinians to give up what remains of their homeland. And within their new borders, perhaps, Israelis will finally feel secure.

But as Quakers are convinced, true security cannot be attained through violence. As the world sees ever more clearly the lives of the Palestinians under Israel's harsh rule, as more nations support Palestine's quest for statehood, and as Israel finds itself increasingly isolated through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, pressure is mounting on Israel's leaders to move beyond oppression, fear, and self-righteousness. Security for one can only be built on security for all.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Israelis are content to live in a bubble of denial


The National 
The 24-hour visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel this week came as relations between the two countries hit rock bottom. According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine last week, Ms Merkel and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netan­yahu have been drawn into shouting matches when discussing by phone the faltering peace process.

Despite their smiles to the cameras during the visit, tension behind the scenes has been heightened by a diplomatic bust-up earlier this month when Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament and himself German, gave a speech to the Israeli parliament.
In unprecedented scenes, a group of Israeli legislators heckled Mr Schulz, calling him a “liar”, and then staged a walkout, led by the economics minister Naftali Bennett. Rather than apologising, Mr Netanyahu intervened to lambast Mr Schulz for being misinformed.
Mr Schulz, who, like Ms Merkel, is considered a close friend of Israel, used his speech vehemently to oppose growing calls in Europe for a boycott of Israel. So how did he trigger such opprobrium?

Mr Schulz’s main offence was posing a question: was it true, as he had heard in meetings in the West Bank, that Israelis have access to four times more water than Palestinians? He further upset legislators by gently suggesting that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was preventing economic growth there.


Neither statement should have been in the least controversial. Figures from independent bodies such as the World Bank show Israel, which dominates the local water supplies, allocates per capita about 4.4 times more water to its population than to Palestinians.


Equally, it would be hard to imagine that years of denying goods and materials to Gaza, and blocking exports, have not ravaged its economy. The unemployment rate, for example, has increased 6 per cent, to 38.5 per cent, following Israel’s recent decision to prevent the transfer of construction materials to Gaza’s private sector.

But Israelis rarely hear such facts from their politicians or the media. And few are willing to listen when a rare voice like Mr Schulz’s intervenes. Israelis have grown content to live in a large bubble of denial.


Mr Netantahu and his ministers are making every effort to reinforce that bubble, just as they have tried to shield Israelis from the fact that they live in the Middle East, not Europe, by building walls on every side – both physical and bureaucratic – to exclude Palestinians, Arab neighbours, foreign workers and asylum seekers.

Inside Israel, the government is seeking to silence the few critical voices left. The intimidation was starkly on display last week as the supreme court considered the constitutionality of the recent “boycott law”, which threatens to bankrupt anyone calling for a boycott of either Israel or the settlements.

Tellingly, a lawyer for the government defended its position by arguing that Israel could not afford freedom of expression of the kind enjoyed by countries like the US.
Illustrating the point, uproar greeted the news last month that a civics teacher had responded negatively when asked by pupils whether he thought Israel’s army the most moral in the world. A campaign to sack him has been led by government ministers and his principal, who stated: “There are sacred cows I won’t allow to be slaughtered.”

Similarly, last week it emerged that a Palestinian from East Jerusalem had been interrogated by police for incitement after noting on Facebook that his city was “under occupation”.

Outside Israel, Mr Netanyahu is indulging in more familiar tactics to browbeat critics. Tapping European sensitivities, he accused those who support a boycott of being “classical anti-semites in modern garb”. He justified the allegation, as he has before, on the grounds that Israel is being singled out.

It looks that way to Israelis only because they have singularly insulated themselves from reality.

Western critics focus on Israel because, unlike countries such as North Korea or Iran, Israel has managed to avoid any penalties despite riding roughshod over international norms for decades.

Iran, which is only suspected of secretly developing nuclear weapons, has been enduring years of savage sanctions. Israel, which has hidden its large stockpile of nuclear warheads from international scrutiny since the late 1960s, has enjoyed endless diplomatic cover.
Contrary to Mr Netanyahu’s claim, lots of countries have been singled out by the United States and Europe for sanctions – whether diplomatic, financial or, in the case of Iraq, Libya and Syria, military.

But the antipathy towards Israel has deeper roots still. Israel has not only evaded accountability, it has been handsomely rewarded by the US and Europe for flouting international conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.

The self-styled global policemen have inadvertently encouraged Israel’s lawbreaking by consistently ignoring its transgressions and continuing with massive aid handouts and preferential trade deals.

Far from judging Israel unfairly, Mr Schulz, Ms Merkel and most other western leaders regularly indulge in special pleading on its behalf. They know about Israel’s ugly occupation but shy away from exercising their powers to help end it.

The reason why popular criticism of Israel is currently galvanising around the boycott movement – what Mr Netanyahu grandly calls “delegitimisation” – is that it offers a way for ordinary Americans and Europeans to distance themselves from their governments’ own complicity in Israel’s crimes.

If Mr Netanyahu has refused to listen to his external critics, western governments have been no less at fault in growing impervious to the groundswell of sentiment at home that expects Israel to be forced to take account of international law.

Both Ms Merkel’s diplomatic niceties and her shouting matches have proven themselves utterly ineffective. It is time for her and her western colleagues to stop talking and to start taking action against Israel.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Traveled to Palestine-Israel And Discovered There is no "Palestinian-Israeli Conflict"


Posted: Updated: 
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By Ferrari Sheppard, The Huffington Post 2/10/2014 
The mind has a way of making traumatic experiences seem like distant dreams to those who survive them. As it goes, the more traumatic the experience, the quicker the paramedics in one's mind rush to dress wounds, resuscitate and stabilize the victim; the victim being you.
Since returning from Palestine 36 hours ago, I find myself confronted with feelings of detachment and minimization of what I encountered. My subconscious has decided the horrors I witnessed in the 'Holy Land' were nothing serious-horrors which include a 26-foot-tall concrete wall enclosing the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank, and the sniper towers seemingly on every other corner of this open-air prison.
This was my first trip to Palestine-most westerners call it Israel, but I'll address that topic shortly. I had never been to the country, but I read enough to know the basics: Palestinians and Israelis were fighting over land. The Israeli government was formed in 1948 as part of a vision set forth by a secular European colonial political movement called Zionism, founded by Hungarian Theodor Herzl in 1896. Herzl, an atheist, sought to free the Jews from European oppression and anti-Semitism, with the ultimate goal being the creation of a Jewish state. He first proposed East Africa's Uganda as the location of the Jewish state. This proposal also found the approval of the British government which controlled Palestine since the First World War. Herzl, however, later identified Palestine as the country of choice. I knew this.
The history of Palestinians was something I was familiar with as well, only because in high school, my friend's parents were Moroccan Jews with staunch right-wing Zionist views. They'd go on about how Palestinians were worth shit and how they were sucking off the land they stole, and how they were not from Palestine, but Jordan. Truth be told, my friend's parents' passion about their 'homeland' made me sick. As a black person living in the United States, I could not relate to their love for their proclaimed homeland because I never had one. My ancestors were captured from various regions of Africa and forced onto ships bound for the Americas. Therefore, when questioned about the geographic origins of my ancestors, my answers were as vague as Africa is big.
Blurt
Before I go further, I must put to rest a misnomer. Contrary to what's been reported in the news for years, there is no Israeli-Palestinian conflict. None, zero, zilch, diddly-squat. I can say with confidence that Palestinians have no agency. The Israeli government controls everything in the country. This total control which is most magnified in the West Bank, concerns everything from where Palestinians are permitted to travel, to how much water they consume per month. Currently, there is no 'conflict,' only the omnipresent power of the Israeli government and those who resist it. This is important to understand.
Where was I?
I began researching the history of Palestinians in my senior year of college and discovered that my high school buddy's parents weren't only functionally insane, but they were completely incorrect in their claims. Palestinians had not fallen from the clouds and landed on Jewish land, (interpretations of certain religious texts would suggest otherwise) but had inhabited the country for thousands of years. In fact, Palestine hosted several occupations throughout history: Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Philistines, Tjekker, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mamluks, Ottomans, British, Jordanians- a gang bang of military occupations. Nasty.
American author and Professor of Political Science Alan Dowty put it best when hewrote, "Palestinians are the descendants of all the indigenous peoples who lived in Palestine over the centuries." Moreover, studies suggest, that part, if not the majority of Arabs living in Palestine, descend from a core population that dates back thousands of years.
Perhaps it would be easier for me to believe the story of Palestinians falling from the clouds, or crossing into Palestine from Jordan shortly before the creation of Israel -- that is, if my perception were formed by mainstream western media. In the years prior to the events of 9/11, including the initial months of the Second Intifada, media outlets such as Fox, CNN, and BBC, unfolded one dimensional narratives which included bloodthirsty Palestinians blowing themselves up in public places, killing innocent people. Never did they examine the societal constraints and conditions which might drive people to commit such atrocities.
In order for colonialism and occupation to be successful, previous inhabitants of a region must be dehumanized, labeled savages, and finally, their very existence denied. Once this paradigm has been established, any and all acts of horror can be inflicted upon them without recourse. Thus, the stories of the oppressed become irrelevant.
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Members of our delegation show passports at checkpoint entering illegal settlements in Hebron, West Bank. Jewish Israelis are permitted entry, internationals must present passports and endure interrogation and Palestinians are not allowed. Photo: Thomas Dallal

Getting in and out
In the weeks preceding my departure from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Tel Aviv, I received travel warnings from The Carter Center, the organization responsible for sponsoring my trip. Our delegation, which consisted of prominent African-American journalists and artists, was provided suggestions of how to increase our chances of getting into Palestine-Israel. It is not uncommon for travelers to be denied entry into the country for absurd reasons such as their father's last name sounds Arab, or they criticized Israeli policy on a social networking website. I decided I would tell my Israeli interrogators the truth, but be as vague as possible.
If denied entry, travelers could be detained for hours, interrogated and forced to board an airplane back to where their flight originated. Other visitors to the region advised me to avoid saying words like "Palestine," "Palestinian," "solidarity," and "West Bank" inside of Israel's airport. I was also advised to sanitize my email in the event that Israeli officials requested my password in order to rummage through my inbox. Unfortunately, this is a common experience for Palestinian-Americans attempting to visit the country. Additionally, I was warned that Israeli authorities, on occasion, provoke visitors by being rude, or asking inappropriate questions-they aim to cause one to feel as though they've done something wrong. In my case, this tactic was working. I felt I was committing a crime by wishing to enter the West Bank to talk to Palestinians. Israel was getting to me already, and I hadn't left my apartment.
How things work
I reached Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport and made my way up a flight of stairs leading to a long, wide, windowed corridor filled with travelers speed-walking towards their destination. To my left were palm trees of a country I was hoping to enter, and fixed high above was the sun, whispering the arduous tale of humankind.
I had made it to customs. It resembled a race track betting area with fifteen booths and neon signs fixed to them which read, "Israeli Citizens" and "Foreigners." I got into the foreigner line. Inside the booth sat an Israeli woman, maybe 20 years old. She looked sad and beautiful.
"Passport," she said in a dry tone.
I gave it to her.
"What is the reason for your visit?"
I smiled and replied, "A tour of the holy land."
She examined my passport, then she examined my face,"Will you be visiting the West Bank or Gaza?"
I said, "No," without thinking.
"Where will you be going?" she asked.
"Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth," I replied.
She examined my passport again, "Do know any Palestinians?" she asked.
I smirked and lied, "No."
I was officially permitted into the state of Israel. I found my taxi driver, loaded my carry-on bag into the trunk, and we were off. Leaving Israel would not be so easy, but I'll save that story for another time.
Riding from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the first thing I noticed, besides the breathtaking Palestinian landscape with its palm trees, olive trees and immense hills and valleys, were walls and barbwire. There were literally hundreds of miles of concrete walls and barbwire-not the kind one sees on a Los Angeles off-ramp, but those belonging to a prison
I'd later find out that a portion of my 90-minute ride from the airport to Jerusalem gave a brief look at "Area-C." As it goes, the occupied West Bank is divided into three parts: "Area-A," "Area-B" and "Area-C." "Area-C" is controlled by the Israeli government, while "Area-A" is supposedly under the control of the Palestinian Authority (or PA), a self-governing body established to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip ("Area-B" is under glorified Palestinian municipal control and Israeli security control). The reason I say "supposedly," is because after spending a week in the country, I began wondering if the area classifications were simply a broad public relations campaign to convince the world that Palestinians have a degree of military, political, and economic power they do not have. This is not a far-fetched inquiry. Since the second Oslo Accords in 1995, the Israeli government has asserted, and the international community has accepted, the notion that "Area-A" is under PA control, but on the ground, the PA acts as a subcontracted enforcer to the Israeli occupiers.
The Reality
In Jerusalem, I witnessed great religious and ethnic diversity. I saw Arabs, Asians, Europeans, Africans, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Christians, all scrambling in Old City Jerusalem towards their various destinations. It was postcard worthy.
The variety of cultures in Jerusalem is outstanding. Similar to many societies however, Palestine-Israel presents a polished version of itself to tourists, where 5-star hotels in Tel Aviv and tourist attractions in Jerusalem cloak its brutal realities. The fact remains that our delegation was subject to a type of racism I've only experienced in the southern states of the United States of America. Of course, to a Jew or a middle class Palestinian living in Jerusalem or Nazareth, my observations may sound like exaggerations, but for the African migrant sleeping on the ground in South Tel Aviv, or for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, my evaluations are dead on.
The blatant, systemic subjugation and profiling of Arabs was most pronounced when our tour guide, a middle class Palestinian woman, was forced by IDF soldiers to exit our tour van and pass through a checkpoint on foot. As all Palestinians must do, she was told to place her thumb on a scanner to pass through a turn-style at a checkpoint. The members of our delegation were no exception to IDF scrutiny. The light skinned blacks in our delegation were interrogated and asked bluntly if they were Arab, and if not, what the last names of their fathers' were.
Palestinians and progressive Israelis told our delegation story after story of the abuses and degradation they've suffered at the hands of Israeli settlers or soldiers, and we witnessed some of this treatment first hand. Along with the rampant home and land confiscation in the West Bank (in which settlers receive state subsidies), agricultural violence is on the rise, as settlers uproot and destroy the olive trees Palestinians rely on for income and nourishment. More sinisterly, public beatings, arrests and shootings are common, particularly in the West Bank. Without charges, a Palestinian can be imprisoned and held for months or years under administrative detention. The same law does not apply to Jewish Israelis. In fact, Israeli citizens can commit a range of crimes against Palestinians with near impunity. Furthermore, Israelis benefit from being under police and civil courts jurisdiction, while Palestinians are under military jurisdiction. Human Rights Watch has documented the "Separate and Unequal" legal situation endured by Palestinians.
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Yehuda Shaul (seen in orange shirt) lectures our delegation near village of Susya. Photo: Thomas Dallal

Our delegation was introduced to Yehuda Shaul, a former commander in the Israeli army and current Foreign Relations Director for Breaking the Silence, an organization of former IDF soldiers who have dedicated themselves to revealing the atrocities committed against Palestinians, as well as the general corruption of higher-ups in the Israeli government. Yehuda, a heavyset man wearing a yarmulke, still moves and speaks like a soldier. As we drove up and down the hills of South Hebron, Yehuda's lecture quickly began to feel like a general preparing a platoon for an offensive. He even revealed Israel's plan to force rural Palestinians away from their land and into West Bank cities, making them dependent on the government.
As a liberal Israeli, Yehuda believes in granting rights to Palestinians and developing a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution. Yehuda is still a Zionist, and beyond lecturing about various land grabs, violence and injustices committed by Israeli settlers and the government, the 31-year-old steers away from revealing his personal story, which likely involves his journey as an IDF commander who terrorized Palestinian neighbourhoods, to the activist he is today who accepts that Palestinians are human.
Yehuda commanded our Palestinian driver to stop on the side of a road near an illegal Israeli settlement in the village of Susya. I point out that our driver was Palestinian because stopping in Susya was extremely dangerous for the three Palestinians in our van. Susya is home to armed, right-wing Israeli settlers who as Yehuda admitted, would "beat up" Palestinians on sight. Our Palestinian colleagues stayed in the van.
For some reason, Yehuda was compelled to conduct his lecture outside of the bus while our delegation shivered from a mountainous chill. It was then that a dusty car stopped feet away from us, engine running, with the driver focusing a murderous stare on our group. Yehuda kept lecturing as though nothing was happening, and our delegation pretended to listen as we remained vigilant for the deranged onlooker. The man examined us for a minute more, then sped off violently to return moments later to repeat this action. Sensing danger, I suggested to Yehuda we get back in the van and leave, but he ordered us to remain outside.
"This will only take a few minutes more," he said, before continuing his lecture.
The rapid fire gunshots we heard in the distance gave us our cue to finally return to the van. The moment we were about to drive off, Israeli army vehicles pulled up, and a few soldiers peered in at us. They took a quick inventory of the van and then sped off. Apparently, during our lecture, Israeli settlers were attacking a group of Palestinians. I had seen enough.
Zionism has convinced many Jews that they are preserving themselves. The common thought is that if the "savage" Palestinians stop resisting, stop shooting rockets, stop fighting Israel's inevitable domination, there can be peace. I find this peculiar because during my visit, I felt no danger from Palestinians, only from Israeli soldiers. Perhaps it's because I'm accustomed to being hunted in America. There is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict; there is only oppression.
I will never disregard the Holocaust which left millions of European Jews dead or scrambling for survival. There is nothing that will ever right the wrongs committed by the brutal German regime. On the same note, I will never minimize Germany's first, and little-known, genocide against the Herero and Namaqua of Africa, or King Leopold's bloody reign on the continent. Tragedy is tragedy, one should not be placed above the other, nor should a past tragedy justify the next.
Ferrari Sheppard is Editor-in-Chief of Stop Being Famous
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Friday, January 03, 2014

Neutral – in whose favor?

Uri Avnery's Column
January 4, 2014

A FORMER Israeli army Chief of Staff, a man of limited intelligence, was told that a certain individual was an atheist. “Yes,” he asked, “but a Jewish atheist or a Christian atheist?”

Lenin, in his Swiss exile, once inquired about the party affiliation of a newly elected member of the Duma. “Oh, he is just a fool!” his assistant asserted. Lenin answered impatiently: “A fool in favor of whom?”

I am tempted to pose a similar question about people touted to be neutral in our conflict: “Neutral in favor of whom?”

THE QUESTION came to my mind when I saw an Israeli documentary about the US intermediaries who have tried over the last 40 years or so to broker peace between the Palestinians and us.

For some reason, most of them were Jews.

I am sure that all of them were loyal American citizens, who would have been sincerely offended by any suggestion that they served a foreign country, such as Israel. They honestly felt themselves to be neutral in our conflict.

Bur were they neutral? Are they? Can they be?

My answer is: No, they couldn’t.

Not because they were dishonest. Not because they consciously served one side. Certainly not. Perish the thought!

But for a much deeper reason. They were brought up on the narrative of one side. From childhood on, they have internalized the history and the terminology of one side (ours). They couldn’t even imagine that the other side has a different narrative, with a different terminology.

This does not prevent them from being neutral. Neutral for one side.

By the way, in this respect there is no great difference between American Jews and other Americans. They have generally been brought up on the same history and ideology, based on the Hebrew Bible.

LET US take the latest example. John Kerry is carrying with him a draft plan for the solution of the conflict.

It was prepared meticulously by a staff of experts. And what a staff! One hundred and sixty dedicated individuals!

I won’t ask how many of them are fellow Jews. The very question smacks of anti-Semitism. Jewish Americans are like any other Americans. Loyal to their country. Neutral in our conflict.

Neutral for whom?

Well, let’s look at the plan. Among many other provisions, it foresees the stationing of Israeli troops in the Palestinian Jordan valley. A temporary measure. Only for ten years. After that, Israel will decide whether its security needs have been met. If the answer is negative, the troops will remain for as long as necessary – by Israeli judgment.

For neutral Americans, this sounds quite reasonable. There will be a free and sovereign Palestinian state. The Jordan valley will be part of this state.

If the Palestinians achieve their long-longed-for independence, why should they care about such a bagatelle? If they are not considering military action against Israel, why would they mind?

Logical if you are an Israeli. Or an American. Not if you are a Palestinian.

Because for a Palestinian, the Jordan valley constitutes 20% of their putative state, which altogether consists of 22% of the territory they consider their historical homeland. And because they believe, based on experience, that there is very little chance that Israelis will ever willingly withdraw from a piece of land if they can help it. And because the continued military control of the valley would allow the Israelis to cut the State of Palestine off from any contact with the Arab world, indeed from the world at large. 



And, well, there is such a thing as national pride and sovereignty.

Imagine Mexican – or even Canadian - troops stationed on 20% of the territory of the USA. Or French troops in control of 20% of Germany. Or Russian troops in 20% of Poland.  Or Serbian troops in Kosovo?

Impossible, you say. So why do American experts take it for granted that Palestinians are different? That they wouldn’t mind?

Because they have a certain conception of Israelis and Palestinians.

THE SAME lack of understanding of the other side is, of course, prevalent in the relations between the two sides themselves.

On the last day of anno 2013, Israel had to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, who had been held since before the 1993 Oslo Accord. This was part of the preliminary agreement achieved by John Kerry for starting the current negotiations.

Every time this happens, there is an outcry in Israel and rejoicing in Palestine. Nothing exemplifies the mental gap between the two peoples more clearly than these contrasting reactions.

For Israelis, these prisoners are vile murderers, despicable terrorists with “blood on their hands”. For Palestinians, they are national heroes, soldiers of the sacred Palestinian cause, who have sacrificed more than 20 years of their young lives for the freedom of their people. 

For days, all Israeli networks have reported several times a day on demonstrations of bereaved Israeli mothers, clutching in their hands large photos of their sons and daughters, crying out in anguish against the release of their murderers. And immediately after, scenes in Ramallah and Nablus of the mothers of the prisoners, clutching the 
portraits of their loved ones, dancing and singing in anticipation of their arrival.

Many Israelis were cringing at this sight. But the editors and anchormen would be astonished if they were told that they were inciting the people against the prisoner release, and – indirectly – against the peace negotiations. Why? How? Just honest reporting!

This revulsion at the other side’s rejoicing seems to be an ancient reaction. The Bible tells us that after King Saul was killed in the war against the Philistines, King David lamented: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns) ; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel. 1:20)

Binyamin Netanyahu went further. He made a speech denouncing the Palestinian leadership. How could they organize these demonstrations of joy? What does that say about the sincerity of Mahmoud Abbas? How could they rejoice at the sight of these abominable murderers, who had slaughtered innocent Jews? Doesn’t this prove that they are not serious about seeking peace, that they are all unreformed terrorists at heart, out for Jewish blood? So we cannot give up any security measures for a long, long time.

The prisoners themselves, when interviewed by Israeli TV immediately after their release, argued in excellent Hebrew (learned in prison) that the main thing was to achieve peace. When asked, one of them said: “Is there a single Israeli, from Netanyahu down, who hasn’t killed Arabs?”

THIS GAP of perceptions is, to my mind, the largest obstacle to peace.

This week Netanyahu gave us another beautiful example. He spoke about the continued incitement against Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks. This item of right-wing Israeli propaganda pops up every time the other tired arguments are let out to grass.

How can there be peace, Netanyahu exclaimed, if Palestinian children learn in their classes that Haifaand Nazareth are part of Palestine? This means that they are educated to destroy Israel!

This is so impertinent, that one can only gasp. I don’t think that there exists a single Hebrew schoolbook that does not mention the fact that Jericho and Hebron are part of Eretz Israel. To change this one would have to abolish the Bible.

Haifa and Hebron, Jericho and Nazareth are all part of the same country, called Palestine in Arabic and Eretz Israel in Hebrew. They are all deeply rooted in the consciousness of both peoples. A compromise between them does not mean that they give up their historical memories, but that they agree to partition the country into two political entities.

Netanyahu and his ilk cannot imagine this, and therefore they are unable to make peace. On the Palestinian side there are certainly many people who also find this impossible, or too painful.

I wonder if Irish schoolbooks have obliterated 400 years of English domination or abomination. I doubt it. I also wonder how English schoolbooks treat this chapter of their history.

In any case, if an independent (neutral?) commission of experts were to examine all the schoolbooks in Israel and Palestine, they would find very little difference between them. Of Israel’s four main school systems (national, national-religious, western-orthodox and eastern-orthodox), at least the three religious ones are so nationalist-racist that a Palestinian competitor would be hard-pressed to trump them. None of them says anything about the existence of a Palestinian people, not to mention any rights on the country they may possess. God forbid (literally)!



TO BE more than a mere fragile armistice, peace needs reconciliation. See: Mandela.

Reconciliation is impossible if either side is totally oblivious to the narrative of the other, their history, beliefs, perceptions, myths.

John Kerry does not need 160 or 1600 experts, neutral or otherwise. He needs one good psychologist. Or maybe two.

One can easily understand the feelings of a mother whose son was killed by a Palestinian militant. If one tries, one can also understand the feelings of a mother whose son was ordered by his leaders to attack Israelis and who returns from prison after 30 years.

Only if the American intermediaries, neutral or otherwise, understand both can they contribute to furthering peace.