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Israel: Reflecting on Israeli-Palestinian Relations

The mood in the Israeli blogosphere is contemplative. Perhaps it is the conclusion of the Passover holiday that celebrates freedom from oppression or just that Israelis have had quiet time to spend with their families, but a number of posts about relationships between Israelis and Palestinians have recently dotted the blogosphere's landscape.

Ami of Half & Half contemplates his exposure to Arabs while growing up in Israel.

The truth is, a lot of people like me grew up in Israel, and never really mingled with Arabs. I grew up in Haifa, the “City of co-existence”. But I only saw them when I went down the hill to buy a shawarma. They lived in their neighborhoods, and I lived in mine. They went to their schools, and I went to mine.

I served in the navy, so I didn’t meet Palestinians at checkpoints, roadblocks or while enforcing curfews. Even when I was shot at by Arabs (Lebanese, in this case), I couldn’t see them, they were so far away… All in all, I led an Arab-free existence in a country predominately concerned with them.

Journalist Noam Sheizaf who blogs at Promised Land observes that there is an apathy in Israeli society about international politics, and even pertaining to issues of Israel-Palestine. Sheizaf asserts:

Many people don’t think there is such a thing as “the occupation”. That’s the unfortunate result of the Oslo Accord and the establishing of the Palestinians Authority. People don’t seem to understand that Israel is still in control of almost every aspect of the Palestinians’ lives – which, as a result, have been reduced to little more than survival.

In fact, most Israelis don’t know much about Palestinians’ lives. Unlike the years before Oslo, almost nobody visits the West Bank anymore, and Palestinians don’t enter Israel. For most Israelis, the Palestinian problem is an abstract concept, almost imaginary. The drive from some Tel Aviv suburbs to the nearest Palestinian city takes about 10 minutes, but these are two separate worlds.

Lirun of East Med Sea Peace often blogs about the people in his life, many of whom are Arabs, both Christian and Muslim. He recounts a recent experience with Arab neighbors whom he usually speaks with in Arabic and who had mistakenly believed he was a Christian Arab. (He is Jewish.)

totally flattered i was also somewhat bummed that this whole time she wasnt liking me as a jew but rather as an arab hahaha.. i had been on my best behaviour trying to cultivate positive stereotypes and all the while the already well liked christian arabs were the beneficiaries :)

Michael Horesh of Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem reflects on a visit to the West Bank in an entry entitled “Israelis and Palestinians– No Way to Live.” He writes:

For all the beauty of the nature, what I also saw was the very core of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. For either side, it is no way to live (NWTL)…

Looking at the Palestinian villages from a distance and comparing them to the set up of Israeli towns, you can see that the Palestinian Authority is clearly unable (and unwilling) to invest resources in their social development. NWTL…

World leaders, including Israelis and Palestinians, must start to engage with those real, day-to-day, and on-the-ground issues, and in a manner that replaces rhetoric for realism and multi-level understanding. Then, maybe, we will see a sustainable peace process emerging for the Middle East.

Jeremy Moses considers the language of the conflict in the Mixed Multitudes blog.

I hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, HATE IT, when people put the word Palestine or Palestinians in quotation marks. It is incredibly offensive and does nothing to solve the conflict.

Even if you don’t think that the Palestinians have a right to their own state, by denying that they even exist as a people or that they don’t have a right to self identity is wrong.

Peace activist Daniel Lubetsky relates the challenge of choosing words and language to deal with Israeli-Palestinian issues. The founder of OneVoice, an organization seeking peace in the Middle East, Lubetsky writes about the difficulty of crafting an organizational mission statement in the midst of conflict.

The Gaza war caused so much mistrust and resentment that even the most ardent believers in co-existence, peace, freedom and security for both peoples questioned whether “the other” side was a true partner that respected them.”

Lubetsky confides that negotiations had almost reached boiling point when they were saved by support teams from the United States and Europe. In the end, both the Israeli and Palestinian teams:

… succeeded in re-affirming and even deepening their mission and common message, including recognizing each other’s core fears and needs.

In an entry entitled, “Child Abuse,” Bernard Avishai departs from a dual perspective of the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and instead focuses on the experience of the young men and women who people the Israeli armed forces.

Let me get this straight. We take tens of thousands of 18 and 19-year-olds, young people who are little more than children themselves, and at a time of life when showing the utmost cool is a kind of sexual ante; a time when ideas about the world are largely received wisdoms; when bodies are at their utmost strength but so is the fear of death… when the desire to prove one's loyalty is at its most intense…

We take these youth… and tell them that the Arabs, deep down, will never want a Jewish state in the neighborhood; that, in any case, the land is sacred, and giving ground is an utmost sin of Jewish law, as is showing mercy to those who would kill you; that “Oslo” offered Palestinians a deal with utmost generosity, but that they came back with terrorism nevertheless; that (though this much has been obvious) terrorism can come in any form, male and female, young and old; that protecting our civilians from random cruelties is the reason they are there.

Avishai concludes by saying that the youth are imbued with these notions of ethics and valor without having the life experience to temper their judgment. The need for quick action imperils their decision making. In the face of intense military pressure, they are subject to mistakes sourcing from a deep social obligation to protect the land and people of Israel.

It is not clear what will come of the Israeli blogosphere's collective ruminations, but these posts together peel back the skin of Israeli society, revealing the thoughts of the Israeli as s/he encounters and deals with life in the Middle East.

  • Pingback: April 17, Gaza and West Bank Links « Intern in Israel

  • Dörte

    Nice surprise Maya: a very informative post. I like it.

  • http://battutabahrain.blogspot.com Ayesha Saldanha

    Interesting post… One question: “(Neighbours) who had mistakenly believed he was a Christian Muslim” – is that meant to be “a Christian or Muslim”?

    • http://TheNewJew.wordpress.com Maya Norton

      Whoops. Good point. That’s meant to be Christian Arab, as you probably guessed. Fixing it now. Thanks, Ayesha.

      ~ Maya

  • Pingback: It’s us and them, at best | Antony Loewenstein

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