In the land of perpetual Holy war, we find a letter from a Palestinian woman to an Israeli man that shows how close the peace process came to bringing their relationship into the open with Peace.
Read how it so far has failed and the commentary that offers a way back to this almost point of achievement.
A Palestinian Letter to an Israeli Friend
By Samah Jabr
Here we are, you and I, Standing again with a pool of blood and hundreds of dead bodies keeping us apart.
We thought we had made it. We managed to be friends in spite of all our differences, I am a religious Muslim Palestinian and you are a secular Israeli Jew. We are united because we were both- born in Jerusalem, a place that during our lifetimes has not been a very holy place at all, but a scene of constant conflict and hatred.
We have communicated in English, a second language for both of us, so the potential for misunderstanding has always been possible. We came together curiously, eager to learn about the other, to get to the bottom of why our people held forth, one against the other.
Through our personal connection, we two found a commonality in our joint realization that we are of a human family, squabbling perhaps, but much the same in our needs and dreams and wish to have fulfilling and happy lives in the place where we were born.
I told you right from the beginning of our association that I did not support the peace process which neither helped my people nor exposed the truth to a watching world beyond our borders. The peace process did not stop the Israelis from continuing to build settlements and roads separating Palestinians into Bantustans like those in South Africa.
I told you how afraid I was to go abroad because I worried that Israelis would confiscate my Jerusalem ID card and with it, my identity. I explained how many families within my own neighborhood had a son or a father in an Israeli prison. I spoke of acquaintances who had had their home destroyed as a form of collective punishment because a cousin was
suspected of a crime against Israel. The key word was suspected, not proven.
You knew I was active within the Palestinian student community. I was keen to tell you who I am because I wanted our relationship to be based on a solid foundation of truth.
In spite of our nationalistic views, yours Israeli and mine Palestinian, we made it; we maintained a warm relationship and a civilized dialogue. I remember when you had me in your apartment overnight.
We spent the evening chatting about art, literature, music, good movies. For the first time, I had Israeli bagels for breakfast. Then, you came to see me, and I introduced you to hot Salilab that warmed you on that particular cold day. You said, “This is the best winter drink I’ve ever had.”
You had friends and so did I who did not approve of our relationship. But, you and I are both Semitic people. We are both individualists, independent and we chose our own way of friendship.
My flat mate once told me, “All Israelis feed on Palestinian blood.” But I thought: “How can she lump people together like that? Israelis are individuals and Anat is my friend.”
But now we are separated by violence again. Just after I heard that the Israeli government had called on civilians to be armed and ready for a potential fight, you called. Your voice came to me through the phone asking, “What happened, Samah? We were at the peace table. Everything was almost settled.”
“What peace are you talking about?” I asked you. “Is it the peace of checkpoints, of making Palestinians take off their clothes at airports? Is it no right of return, no cessation of settlement building, no East Jerusalem for our capital, no to public sanitation in Arab towns, no to education, no to water rights? All of these plus Uzis pointed at us every day of our lives?”
We hung up, Anat, so now I trying to reach you in this letter. Listen, Anat, I live the long days of occupation. Today, I cannot leave the house because your government has imposed a siege on my people. We cannot even go to the store to buy milk. Sometimes I cannot go to the hospital to help with our injured.
Being radical being violent; it means wavering from conviction experience and an uncommon interest in truth and justice. When Israel gives the Palestinians truth and justice, then, Anat, we can cross the green line and share friendship again.
You and I almost made it, Anat. What about now? I am writing to you in the near dark and calm of my room, but outside there is chaos. I hear shooting and missiles landing. I hear cries of kids who have defied the curfew and their mother’s warnings.
Dear Anat, we both realize that this is the game of power politics. You suggest that Palestinians should save themselves and take whatever they are given, small as that may be. Don’t commit suicide, you warn referring to our Intifatada. I do not want to die, Anat. Our Intifatada is not a suicidal attempt, but a labor to bring up a new life.
I am not a military person, but I know when it is time to fight and, if necessary, to die. I fight with my pen, my prayers and my medical equipment. I close my eyes in sadness over the loss of even one of our children out there daring to throw stones. We will survive and we will overcome. We adults in Palestine will not hang our heads in seeming defeat.
It seems to me that believe that your people believe in Uzis, money and power can overcome truth and justice.
You and I live in a place far from civilization and modern sensibilities about humanity’s value. Will you read what I have said, Anat? Will you read this and not just throw down the paper in disgust? Will you be my friend again and I yours?Truth will tell.
The writer is a Palestinian medical student living in Jerusalem. She contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
Richard R. Tryon
This letter provides the perfect introduction to the subject of U.S. Foreign Policy and the difficulties surrounding American’s natural quest for quick answers to complex questions.
The letter shows what all Americans tend to know. Living in a country that is a melting pot of peoples of all races, colors, languages, religions and cultures, we have seen many examples of how mixing can happen when people of good faith accept one another as individuals not as members of a stereotypical group!
It is the major tenant of socialism that we must struggle to pit one class against another in order to destroy in a wanton way so that socialist leaders can come in to save the day after much destruction. Such revolutions have to continue because otherwise they fail for lack of any achievement. Without continuous warfare that keeps most people seeking a ‘low-profile’, so that the killing is limited to those who make the mistake of trying to call for a halt to madness.
No American can read the above letter without feeling an automatic empathy for the fact that here is the story of how life in Israel should be found- a land where Jew, Moslem and Christian can live and work and mix together without fear or reprisal. In Israel, all three religions can be said to represent different parts of the same Semitic racial stock, so there is no real reason to make race an issue. So, they make religion do the job of providing the reason for conflict.
Yet, all three believe in the same God by different names! Allah, God, or Yahweh all represent the concept of recognition that man is bound on earth to a mortal life under control of an immortal master. All should be able to agree that each has found, like the blind men of the Aesop Fable, a different part of the Elephant to behold, and thus obtain a different perspective.
Obviously they are all wrong in trying to define God, like the Elephant, by only examining the part known to them in ways consistent with their family history.
The same problem of Israel is found in Ireland, in Bosnia, and Kosovo, in Pakistan and India, and indeed in many other parts of the globe. Religious wars and persecution are not much covered by the media. They are too complex and too dangerous for writers. Ask Salmon Rushdie or any other who has dared to examine in a critical manner what any major religion claims to know and you will find a person in danger of being persecuted. It doesn’t matter if the charges are real or just trumped up, once ‘fingered’, the persecutors will not let up until the offending person is destroyed.
What will ever put an end to such madness? It is my contention that such can only happen when all major religious groups come together to find their points of common understanding with an obvious willingness to risk giving up on other points of difference that fail to pass the test of objective reasoning. Easy to say, tough to do. Yes, but that is exactly what the God, common to all, has in mind for us.
We will have to go back to the origins of each faith and sort out the man made errors that have been invented and maintained when modern science and obvious logic that relates to a world that is much better known shows us that we can forgo one tenant or another without being accused of ‘throwing out the baby with the bath-water’.
Will such an exchange happen via organized religion, politics or state craft? Not until it has been achieved millions of times over by the likes of the two writers in Israel- one Jewish and the other Palestinian. When that is common, then the political and religious leaders will not be afraid to risk losing their position by communicating with each other in ways that lead to a common understanding and mutual support and appreciation.
A church in Grand Rapids, MI is unique in America. It is a Jewish Synagogue on Saturday and an Anglican Episcopal Church on Sunday. Both own the building and they even allow an annual exchange of speakers- Priest and Rabbi trade places. They must find the letter above to be very interesting.
But, where does this fit into the question of U.S. foreign policy? Neatly it describes the dilemma between the need to know when the level of accomplishment at the individual level can be expanded to the national level as in foreign diplomacy. To his credit, President Clinton seized upon the quest for global peace as the capstone for his presidency. The credit is due as all must love the peace-maker.
As a splendid student, Bill Clinton has certainly had a wonderful opportunity to travel the world in search of the quest for success as the global peacemaker. What he has learned must first and foremost be that he has found that even the enormous prestige of the U.S. presidency is not sufficient to force peace on unwilling partners via his mediation. It just takes a lot more time than is available to any one man who is about to become the ‘lame-duck’ president. It will be a minor miracle for him to deliver any real evidence of success at bringing about peace in the middle east or even in Ireland, but he has to be given some credit for the effort. Perhaps he will get an opportunity to continue in such a role should Al Gore become the next president.
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