As my time in Palestine draws closer to an end, so do my weekly posts. Next week will be my last and will feature our driver Abet. I have attempted to draft this message several times. There is still so much to say but somehow I want to capture what in my opinion is the most important to say now and what can be left for another day.
Since arriving in Palestine I have witnessed more hatred, racism and oppression than I have witnessed in my entire life. At the same time, I have experienced compassion, generosity and kindness perhaps unequalled in my life. Living in Palestine the vast majority of the compassion, generosity and kindness has come from the Palestinians, however I must say there have been occasions where Israelis have also been compassionate, generous and kind.
However a couple of negative incidents just to re-emphasize the need to bring this all to an end.
This past week three brothers of Mohammed Abu who is featured in the “True Grit” posting were shepherding on pasture that they own at Al Seefer when seven settlers from the neigbouring settlement of Mezadot Yehuda savagely attacked them. One of the brothers is hospitalized with a serious concussion.
Where does this hatred and racism come from? How can this all end now? I can honestly say that in my stay in Palestine I have not witnessed one incident of hatred or racism coming from a Palestinian. I am not naïve enough to think that none exists, but I have not witnessed it.
I was with EAs interviewing the leaders of a Bedouin community in the Jordon Valley about the pending initiative by the Israeli Government to relocate forty Bedouin communities into small areas, destroying their way of life and no doubt relegating them and their descendants to a life on social assistance. How can a way of life be destroyed and to what purpose? It is a move that they will no doubt resist until their last breath. One of these leaders had hired an Israeli lawyer to fight their case. After being paid a large fee the lawyer left his practice to take a job with the Israeli Government. On informing his client that he could no longer assist because of his new role, he further stated that Palestinians were meant to be slaves anyway and that Israelis were meant to lead.
There is no simple solution, however to go back to the “Starfish Story”, we all can make a difference. We just have to try. By “we”, I mean not just the Government of Israel, but also Governments of all countries working together, the International business and Non-Profit community and you and me.
This is where I believe friendship, sharing and trusting plays a key role. Going back a hundred years all of the people in this region, regardless of faith or culture for the most part shared their lives in friendship, in good and bad times. What changed? The Jewish people have suffered through years of persecution, oppression and the holocaust. Now the people of Palestine are suffering persecution, oppression and racism. Palestians have suffered for too long, sixty-six years, since the establishment of the Refugee Camps and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to neigbouring countries and forty-seven years since Israel began the occupation of Palestine.
Friends should be there in good times and bad, be willing to support you up but also to tell you when you are going down the wrong path. This is where I believe countries and world leaders who have declared themselves to be “best friends” with Israel should conduct an honest and thorough assessment of the situation in Palestine and then give Israel advice and support it needs to end the occupation, close the settlements and reconsider any concept of a state based on religion. It just cannot succeed and still be a democracy where all the residents are equal and have the same opportunities and privileges. A country cannot claim be a democracy and yet have different levels of society based on religion or ethnic originality, where hate and racism are not only accepted but also supported by the Government.
Friends – Palestine will need friends to assist in training and setting up the infrastructure, administration and Governance if peace can be established and they are able to get their land back.
Friends – Both Israel and Palestine will need plenty of friends to establish the organizations, programs and networks necessary to start rebuilding the relationship that once existed amongst the various faiths and ethnicities, where kids can be kids regardless of who or where they come from, where adults can participate in service clubs and sporting organizations alongside people who are liked minded, not because they happen to come from the same faith.
I believe this situation can be rectified but we just can’t sit back and claim the responsibility to clear it up is any one agency, Government or person. It requires all of us to care, to speak up and to act where possible as a friend to both Israel and Palestine. They both deserve to have a state, secure from the threat of neigbouring countries and instead confident in knowing their neighbours are friends who can be trusted and relied upon.
There are a couple of excellent sources of books on the Israel/Palestine situation in Jerusalem. I have supported them pretty well since being here and read enough to know that there is an endless amount of information available. There are authorities with varying options and solutions but none-the-less lots to stimulate one’s mind. l will never be an authority on the situation but what I can speak about with authority is what I have experienced and witnessed. One book I just picked up but have not had the time read is “Palestinian – Israeli Impasse – Exploring Alternative Solutions to the Palestine Israeli Conflict” written by Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a respected author, speaker and Editor for Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs PASSIA).
You might also check out the many web sites on “Friendship”. You may be surprised in what you find and what you can apply to your everyday life. I know I have.
Please join the many people and organizations around the world who are trying to help resolve the Palestinian situation, trying to help create a “Just Peace” for both Israel and Palestine and for the people who call these areas their home, they are just people like you and I. Let us try to give them the life that most of us enjoy.
God Bless all his children