We Have a Dream – My Palestinian Partner and I’s Plea for Peace



Two years ago, I graduated from Mount Holyoke College and took Mary Lyon’s famous words to heart, “Go where no one will go. Do what no one else will do.” With thousands of dollars of college debt, I moved back to Israel and then to the occupied Palestinian Territories on a journey to know every face of the Jewish State. I became a border crosser, one of the very few Jewish-Israelis who dared to live in Palestinian villages from Hebron to Nablus — and on the way I met many partners for peace.

Anas Maloul at home in the occupied Palestinian Territories

One of these partners happens to be my former classmate, Anas Maloul, a Palestinian politics student from Hampshire College who left his job in the United States and returned to Palestine to support his home in their struggle for freedom. In the heat of the summer, sitting in a dusty, neglected Nablus park, we spoke of the new non-violent movement which has engulfed Palestinians and their Israeli and international supporters–from Sheik Jarrah to Budrus, Bi’lin, Nilin, Nabi Saleh and more—something new is happening in Palestine.

Realizing that our destiny is inextricably linked, we dreamt of making a difference, of having the opportunity to apply all our years of study to the ground and to struggle together for Palestinian freedom and Israeli security. Our dream was contagious and shortly after, one of Palestine’s non-violent leaders invited us to join Al Tariq, a grassroots Palestinian organization working for development, democracy and non-violence.

Over the past year I worked tirelessly to take our dreams from the sky to the ground. I’ve documented the unarmed struggle against the occupation in the tiny village of Nabi Saleh, organized a Peace Day in the village, secured seedling funding for a sewing machine cooperative for Palestinian widows and brought hundreds of internationals and journalists to see the situation in Palestine first hand. In Al Tariq’s tiny office outside of Ramallah, Anas and I have developed several new projects which we believe address the most critical issues facing Palestine today. From non-violence summer camps for children, to service scholarship programs for young ambitious Palestinians — we have a dream.

Villagers in Nabi Saleh lead a non-violent demonstration - Summer 2010

We’ve come to realize that freedom and equality in Palestine won’t be achieved without American’s support. We need your help every step of the way. Freedom for Palestinians and true security for Israel will not come from politicians sitting in five-star hotels–it’s going to take people power, on the ground in Palestine, Israel, America and nations across the world. Its going to take courageous acts of support–non-violent demonstration, unarmed resistance, boycott, divestment and sanctions, speaking with supporters and skeptics, being compassionate and being unyielding. But in the end, we’re going to make — there’s no other way.

Now, we’re trying to take our message of freedom, justice and non-violence to “every hill and mountaintop” and get from Jerusalem to JStreet to attend JStreet’s historic second national conference, lobby with the Interfaith Peace Builders in Washington D.C. and to encourage churches, congregations, college students and courageous supporters across America to join us. Throughout the trip, I’ll be live blogging and sharing our message with as many people as possible.

Join our struggle — contribute to the financial costs of the journey to the USA, organize a fundraising event in your community or donate to our work being done on the ground. You can donate an amount of your choice here or support one of the projects listed below.

Help us get to the place, where we too can say, “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty we’re free at last.”

Now is the time.





Projects on the Ground in Palestine


$1000: “Golden Fabric” Project – Empower a Widow and Her Family



Sewing and embroidery cooperative

We are starting sewing and embroidery cooperatives in Nabi Saleh and Dahashe refugee camp to serve the most vulnerable women in Palestine — women who are widows or their husbands are in prison, sick or unemployed for more than six months. Since there is no social welfare in Palestine, 73% of widows and their families live in deep poverty, more than 50% below the poverty line.

Each sewing machine costs $1000 and can provide $7000 of income to a woman in a year. For uneducated Palestinian women, who have nearly no opportunities to work, this is an incredible opportunity to strengthen them and their families.

Already, individuals in the UK are organizing to fundraise for one sewing machine for Nabi Saleh. Get on board and change the future of Palestine one woman at a time.


$500: Give a Young Person the Chance to Be Leader



Palestinian and Israeli Young Leaders

Our Young Leaders project gives Palestinian and Israelis young leaders the opportunity to meet the “other” for the first time and learn how to engage in meaningful dialogue. After the first encounter, our young leaders continue on to participate in a range of national and bi-national activities which further education about the two societies and promote non-violent conflict resolution.

$500 will enable us to invite another young Palestinian or Israeli to join our group and become an active member of Al Tariq. They will write you letters throughout the year about their experience and how meeting the other and developing relationships with them has changed their perspective of themselves and their future. You’ll also be able to keep up to date with national and bi-national meetings through our news feed, which we update regularly.




$250: Cultural Resistance – Give a Palestinian Writer a Voice




Support cultural resistance

Today in Palestine, education is mostly based on memorization and there is nearly no funding for the arts. However we believe that arts — and particularly writing — is one of the most important ways that young people can deal with their trauma and learn to communicate.

A gift of $250 will provide an emerging Palestinian writer the opportunity to participate in a creative writing session. At the end of the year, we’ll be publishing a book of the young writer’s works and will share them with you.



 

$100: Non-Violence Summer Camps – Teach a Child Non-Violence




Non Violence Summer Camp for children

Our programs for the children, who make up almost half of the Palestinian population, focus on enabling them to deal with the trauma and developmental problems that they have due to the conflict, through non-violent means. Since 2006 we have organized 2-week summer camps for children during their summer vacations. These camps are attended by large number of children from villages and cities alike.

A gift of $100 will enable a child to participate in summer camp and learn about non-violence. For most Palestinian children and their parents, this is the first time that they have ever participated in a summer camp. Give the gift of non-violent education to the future of Palestine.





The Fire We Kindled – Alison Carmel Ramer

Photo from The Political Assistant

 

In the wake of being burned by my facebook “friends” and family over criticizing Israel during one of the most horrific natural disasters in the nation’s history, I am going to try to rekindle my ability to articulate my compassion for our crazy little country. Because you have to understand, I love Israel – no, not the nation of Israel, for I do not love nations, but I have a love for all the life that is on this land; the Jews, Muslims and Christians, the God fearing and the unbelievers, the plants and the animals, the flowers and the cacti–all of them.

And yet as I emphasize my humanity, the essential life I share with all human beings, I will not deny that we are living in an unequal world. There are power dynamics at play, and with all power comes responsibility. As Utah Phillips, an American labor organizer, once said, “The Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.”

So when I hear people asking the question, “Who started the fire?” Our answer should not be about the Druze or the Jews, who were smoking argeela or nargeela on Mount Carmel. No.

Our answer should not be that it doesn’t matter, “Right now we just need to come together and put the fire out.” No. Someone is responsible for this.

If you hold an Israeli ID, you are responsible for kindling the flames long before there was smoke in the forest.

If you have the ability to vote, but didn’t — you’re more responsible for the fire than the people who did – because at least they tried to change something in this “Jewish Democracy”.

If you are Jewish in Israel, today you have more “power” and privilege than anyone else in this land. So whether you voted or not – you are even more responsible. Yes.

For years the smoke from the shoah has been blinding you, the Jews. Yes, it has been blinding us. Our preoccupation with maintaining the occupation led us to spend billions of dollars, hours and resources on electing people who want to build insecurity fences and risk the lives of our youth protecting fire starting, water-stealing settlers.

But I’m not going to blame it all on the Jews. No.

Because there is someone more responsible than the Jews. His name is Eli Yishai, and he is the Minister of Interior. As Noam Sheizaf wrote in “Israel’s deadliest fire ever: Eli Yishai must go,” he  is directly responsible for drying up the fire department’s funds and the money allocated to all the people in this land – Israeli and Palestinian alike – about the real threats we are facing– from land (earthquakes), water and fire.  Yes, there is someone who is responsible for this – but it is not the Druze.

So as our hearts beat heavily, as we witness the cold, blue sentiment of “national disaster” rushing through our veins, let’s not reach for the familiar cloak of victimhood. Let’s not act as we do in wartime and blind ourselves to cindering self critique. Let’s come together and struggle to breathe in the little oxygen we have left here, so perhaps next time, when people are screaming FIRE before the flames (article written by Aviv Lavie in Maariv), we’ll be responsible enough to stand up and put it out.

Israeli Occupation Forces Attack Nabi Saleh with Skunk Water and Long Range Tear Gas Missiles

This week during the demonstration against the occupation in Nabi Saleh, six civilians were wounded and dozens of men, women and children suffered from the high quantities of tear gas, rubber and plastic coated steel bullets and large quantities of skunk water that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) used against civilians.

Starting at 9:00 am IOF made Nabi Saleh into a closed military zone and denied Palestinians, internationals and journalists with government issued ID cards to enter the village.

During the demonstration, the IOF expelled the residents of a house and occupied it for the afternoon, using it as a barrack and point for shooting further tear gas (including long-range tear gas missiles) and bullets at unarmed civilians. More than half a dozen homes were  damaged when skunk water and tear gas shot directly into the homes forcing women and children out onto the street. After the demonstration, several residents found that the windows of their cars had also been broken by steel bullets.

Young people in the village responded by throwing stones at the IOC and their bomb proof jeeps. No members of the IOC were injured.

The Non-Violent Movement in Palestine Gains Strength

On Saturday, we took our dream of a World Peace Day in Palestine from the sky to the ground and saw months of our hard work come to life in the Palestinian village, Nabi Saleh. It wasn’t easy, but in the end – we made it.

Even though the Israeli army attempted to break down the event by putting dozens of checkpoints on the roads to Nabi Saleh, closing all of Ramallah, every entry into the village, several Palestinian, Israeli and international supporters (who were told by Israeli soldiers that they were not allowed to enter the village) trekked through the mountains on foot to get to the Peace Day. One group, students from Birzeit University, were met by Israeli soldiers as they neared the village and detained in the school for most of the day (see photos here).

However, the villagers and Israeli and international activists didn’t let the army’s presence distract them from the Peace Day events and continued as planned to clean the streets of trash, gather under the Peace Tent we erected and demonstrate non-violently against the occupation and for their freedom.

In the opening ceremony, Bassam Tamimi, one of the local leaders from Nabi Saleh, read a call from a woman in the village who has lost half of her family to the Israeli occupation and whose son has been in prison for the past seventeen years. She called for the Palestinian prisoners and Gilad Shalit to be released. Several other leaders, including Ali Abu Awwad, a leader of the Palestinian Non-Violent Movement, gave speeches in the Peace Tent.

After the opening ceremony in the Peace Tent, we went to Nabi Saleh’s cultural center to view the exhibition of photographs from the past ten months of demonstrations in the village. Then we marched to the school where the students were being held and non-violently broke the army blockade by linking arms and slowly but surely marching forward. In response, the army released the students and started arresting Israeli activists. In solidarity several internationals and Palestinians piled on top of the Israeli activists protecting them from the army, even though the army threatened to arrest everyone present. In the end, five people were arrested and taken to the army’s base in Halamish, the nearby settlement, and held until ten o’clock at night.


More photographs of non-violent resistance throughout the day.

Continuing on, we marched through the village to the junction where every Friday demonstrators are confronted with the Israeli army as they try to reach the spring. We faced several jeeps and armed soldiers, and holding the sign which we planned to erect at the spring, staged a sit-in and song songs of peace and freedom. After thirty minutes, we turned our backs on the army and returned to the Peace Tent where we resisted with pleasure and enjoyed an evening of inspirational music and Debka, traditional Palestinian dance, together.

Even though we attempted to get financial support prior to the event, we only received a small amount of money from a Palestinian organization and Israeli activists, who paid for their own transportation. However, this event cost much more and in order to make it happen, we took out a loan – “I have become a slave for my own dream,” Ali Abu Awwad said. If you are willing to support this day and make a donation, please contact us.

Currently, we are busy preparing for a trip to the United States and the UK in order to gain international support for the Palestinian Non-Violent Movement (October – November). If you are willing to organize an event in the United States or the UK, please contact us. We would be happy to come share our stories, strategy and vision for the future of Palestine and invite you to become part of our movement.

Lastly, at the bottom of this post is an incredibly sensitive and inspirational account from one of the Israeli activists who came to support us. We truly are so honored to have Israeli and international support in this struggle and know that we need your support to end the occupation and make our way to freedom.

Personal Account of World Peace Day in An-Nabi Salih

by David Shulman

Something new is happening in Palestine. I saw and heard things today that are relatively rare in my experience. I saw conflict erupt in the village between those who wanted to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers and generate more violence, as in the past, and the no less passionate people who intervened fiercely to prevent this from happening. I heard tough words of peace and hope. I saw the most dignified and brave demonstration I’ve ever seen. I also saw the army react with its usual foolishness,
which I’ll describe, and I saw the soldiers hold back when they could easily have started shooting. It wasn’t an easy day by any means, but it was good.

An-Nabi Salih is a hard place. When Ezra heard me say yesterday, in Sheikh Jarrah, that I was going to the village, he said, “Take a helmet. They’re violent there–all of them” (he meant: settlers, soldiers, and villagers). Yesterday, at the usual Friday demonstration in the village, the soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition along with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas and stun grenades. I was expecting more of the same today.

The village, north and west of Ramallah, has the great misfortune of having the hard-core settlement of Halamish as its unwanted neighbor. An-Nabi Salih lost its lands to the settlement along with access to a fresh-water spring, a precious thing in this arid, sun-scorched landscape; the settlers stole the spring, but the villagers were not prepared to surrender it, so there have been many violent clashes, spread over years. The settlers do whatever they can to make the villagers’ life miserable, with much success, and the soldiers, as always, back them up. All this is standard practice.

Today in honor of World Peace Day, Ali Abu Awwad one of the leaders of the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance, and local leaders from Nabi Saleh planned a “Day of Social Action and Resistance to the Occupation” in Nabi Saleh. Hundreds of Palestinian activists were supposed to arrive from all over the West Bank—but the army turned all the buses away and closed all the roads connecting the village to the rest of the West Bank. We run into the same roadblocks at the main turn-off from Highway 60. The soldiers laugh at us when we tell them we’re going to Nabi Salih. No chance, they say, of getting through. But this is the West Bank, and there is always a way, maybe not an easy way, but some back road or goat track or dirt path that will get you where you’re going; so we wind our way for close to two hours, through Jiljiliya and other quite lovely villages close to Ramallah until we fetch up at Qarawat Bani Zeid, close to our goal. But there is, we know from Ali and Alison, an American-Israeli writer, another army roadblock at the entrance to the village. The Tel Aviv contingent tried to get past them by running a few hundred yards over the hills, and several of the activists were caught and arrested. Do we want to attempt the same tactic?

At least some of us may get through, but we hesitate: is it worth the hassle of the arrests and the violence? On the other hand, having come so far, how can we simply turn back? Seven of us are prepared to run the gauntlet. Finally, at high noon, Ali leads us down into the rocky terraces and olive groves underneath An-Nabi Salih. Leaping over the rocky ledges, we descend to a level that is hopefully beyond the soldiers’ range of vision, and for twenty minutes or so we creep stealthily from tree to tree and rock to rock, in near-total silence, playing hide-and-seek, outflanking them, crouching, holding our breath, hoping to emerge far enough past the roadblock to elude capture. It’s very hot, and I’m thirsty and, by the end, physically depleted; it’s been 33 years, I calculate, since I last engaged in such games, in my Basic Training in the army. So absorbed am I in the trek that I hardly take in the splendor of the hills rolling dizzily toward the horizon, but at one point I do see, just above my head, an olive branch laden with green fruit almost exploding with ripeness. Soon autumn will come, and the olive harvest; on the way in the minibus, bouncing over the back roads, there was even a sweet moment of rain, with the sharp smell, unlike all others, of wet dust settling to the ground.

There are eleven of us: seven Ta’ayush volunteers, two Palestinian women in modern dress, heads covered, from Beit Ummar, Alison and Ali himself, tall, graceful, careful, prescient. At one point we almost make a bad mistake, start climbing up too soon, too close to the soldiers; but Ali catches this in time and leads us back down through the trees and brambles. When we do move up to the road, we find ourselves very much inside the village, welcomed warmly by two elderly gentlemen, who come to shake my hand, and then by a contingent of teenagers. The first thing I see is a huge sign, in Arabic and English: “The children of this land deserve our struggle and sacrifices for peace.” Fifteen yards down the main street, another one: “We believe in non-violence, do you? We are making social change, are you?” A few yards further along: “La salam ma’a wujud al-ihtilal, Making peace means ending the occupation.” Biggest of all, draped over the entrance to the town meeting place: “Keeping our political prisoners behind the bars of tyranny and injustice is inexcusable on International Peace Day.”

Do I believe in non-violent struggle? Yes, with all my heart. And I see that I’m not alone—indeed, far from it. We sit at first, re-hydrating, under the enormous tree in the village square, just like in India. Our hosts serve us Turkish coffee and mineral water. We make some friends. One of the village elders says to me with irony (remember yesterday’s live ammunition): “Welcome to Eden.” Actually, though, he
just might be right. The heat intensifies. Eventually, inevitably, it is time for the speeches. Popular Arabic music is blaring at deafening volume from the loudspeakers as we take our seats under a wide canvas. It goes on and on, until, mercifully, a young poet takes the microphone and recites a poem. A passage from the Qur’an is sung. The poet introduces the speakers one by one. I’m weary and, at first, a bit bored.

Normally, I have no patience with political speeches in the villages (how many hours of rhetorical Arabic have I sat through?), but today’s surprise me, shake me awake: “We are against violence, we condemn it, we want to be free, the occupation with its hatred is destroying hope but we persevere for the sake of our children, we will win.” More poems, dramatically sung or recited, punctuate these orations. Now Ali rises to speak—in English, so that all the Israelis and the foreign volunteers can understand: “I bow my head to all the volunteers who came to An-Nabi Salih today, who struggled past the soldiers and the roadblocks and didn’t turn back. Our struggle is complicated and hard, a struggle that we all share—local leaders of the villages, women, children, families—the first large-scale Palestinian non-violent movement on the ground, aimed at building a just peace with Israel. When I see Israeli activists coming here to the village, my heart cries with happiness; I am honored to have these people with us. To all the Jews I say: you are not my enemy.

The occupation is your enemy, as it is ours. The Israeli state is a state that eats its children by sending them with weapons to kill and be killed. When you hurt us to the point where we lose our fear of dying, all of us together lose our love of living. They closed off An-Nabi Salih today to keep us out; they know how to put up checkpoints, but they do not know how to fight the feeling of freedom we hold in our hearts. We say to you today, on the Day of Peace: Peace itself is the way to peace, and there is no peace without freedom. I am proud to be in An-Nabi Salih, and I promise you: we’re gonna make it.”

As if on cue, soldiers roll into the village in their jeeps; they do what soldiers do, that is, they threaten, they bully, they make arrests, they take their hostages to an olive grove on the other side of the houses, facing Halamish. Our hosts ask us if we would be prepared to take water to the new arrestees (they don’t want to approach the soldiers themselves), so of course we set off through the village streets and down the hill until we find them. Some ten to fifteen soldiers, weighed down by what looks like tons of equipment, green camouflage netting on their helmets and rifles in their arms, are guarding a group of twenty-some students from Bireit university who came to join today’s festivities. We bring water, we chat with the captives, and suddenly it transpires that we’ve been added to their number; the soldiers won’t allow us back into the village. They don’t want outsiders in there, they’re glad they’ve thinned the ranks. (The presence of foreigners, especially Israelis, makes it harder for them to shoot.) After a few minutes we tire of this and strike out uphill, dodging the soldiers, who are clumsy, weighed down by their guns and all the rest, as they join hands to create a wall and hold us back, and skirmishes develop, and then the first stun grenade, and it ends with four activists, including Sahar and Lihi, caught, handcuffed and forced to the ground. I am too quick for them, as often, and escape their clutches by following Jonathan farther into the trees.

By the time I regain the village, the main procession—the ritual dénouement of the day– is already forming. Originally the idea was to reach the stolen spring, but the soldiers, waiting for us in force at the turn in the road, put an end to this dream. Tear-gas canisters and cartridges of rubber-coated bullets are loaded on to the rifles pointed at the crowd of women, children, men, young and old, many carrying in their arms green olive tree saplings to plant around the spring. We apply non-violent resistance by sitting on the pavement with the soldiers almost close enough to touch, they’re aiming at us, and I’m a little afraid they might open fire like yesterday, and even more afraid that one of the kids will throw a rock and all hell will break loose, but not one person throws a stone and there’s suddenly no end to the happiness that is washing over me in this crazy late-afternoon moment that I am lucky enough to witness as the light softens to a golden glow and a blessed wind gusts through the trees. People are singing: freedom songs. They swell to a sweet and strident chorus. Thirty minutes later, we turn our back on the army and go back to the Peace Tent to listen to music and see a performance of Debka, traditional Palestinian dance.

If the Israeli army had a brain, which it apparently doesn’t; if the government of Israel had even an iota of generosity of spirit, which it doesn’t; if the people of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world could open their ears and hear the voices I heard today, in Arabic and English, but they can’t; if the world weren’t all upside down and crooked and cruel, but it is—if all these ifs could only stop being ifs, then they, whoever gave the orders, wouldn’t have tried to stop us from coming to An-Nabi Salih today, in fact they would have welcomed the arrival of this new generation
of proud peace activists from Hebron and Ramallah and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance wouldn’t be pushing the heavy rock uphill, day after day. I guess it’s in the nature of such movements to struggle with the rock. Human hearts are heavy as stone.

Something new is happening in Palestine.

How to Struggle Against the Occupation in Tel Aviv

The other night, when I was coming back to Tel Aviv after spending nearly two weeks in Occupied Palestine, I fell asleep on the bus. When I woke up I was underneath the overpass next to Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. In my exhausted state, I thought that the column of the overpass was the base of one of the many watchtower throughout the Occupied West Bank — I was carrying the occupation into Tel Aviv.

While some of the most active human rights activists and Palestinian supporters live in Tel Aviv, the majority of people live isolated intellectually as well as physically from the situation in Occupied Palestine — that is the point of Tel Aviv — to feel normal, to be isolated, to enjoy human rights like art and culture, drink and dance. I myself did this for a number of years, due to a desire to know a “normal” Israel. However, since I started engaging the occupation and traveling to the Occupied Palestinian Territories three months ago, I’ve found it very challenging to move between the near ghetto that we have created in the West Bank and Tel Aviv without saying something.

When I come back, I feel a responsibility to engage my Tel Avivian friends, who rarely think about or discuss the conflict — I must bring the occupation to Tel Aviv, confront the Tel Avivians. At the same time, I know that it has to be done gently. In order to have an open constructive dialogue, I have to be thoughtful about how I engage my friends and neighbors. One example of this, is using art.

In this post, I want to share with you a photograph recently taken by Ben Kelmer, an Israeli photojournalist, in al-Arakib (August 4, 2010), the day the Israeli Land Administration, came to the village for the second time in a week and destroyed the temporary homes (why? read here) — which were built in solidarity with Jewish – Israelis (If you don’t know about this issue, you can view this video which was released the same day that the re-demolition happened).

In order to create an opportunity to discuss the occupation with a friend of mine from Tel Aviv, I shared this photograph with him. In a short analysis of our chat conversation, I try to show how a structure created and reinforced by politicians, the media and other powerful actors creates and uses fear — typically attributed to Hamas — to justify violence and make the population compliant with the occupation.

Resident of al-Arakib next to home rebuilt with aid from Jewish – Israelis and redestroyed by the Israeli Land Administration by Ben Kelmer, August 4, 2010


Analysis

This conversation, like many others I’ve had, reveals how perceived threats and fear result in disengagement with the conflict and compliance with the occupation. The photograph, which can be interpreted in many ways, creates a space for us to have dialogue about violence indirectly.

After my friend agrees to have a conversation with me about the photograph, he looks at the photograph and immediately connects to the human struggle. He says, “It shows the hell and heaven living together in this woman’s life”. Knowing that this woman has just seen her home demolished by the Israeli government a second time, he tries to ease his pain and guilt by saying, “It seems she is happy at this point when the pic was shot, because she knows this is how it goes, it’s a hard life.” Thus, in order to affirm his lack of responsibility, he frames her life as a victim of a force that cannot be changed, she becomes a bi-standard in a life that is predetermined to be horrific or “hard” as he puts it.

In order to blame someone for the pain he sees, he starts arguing that I am biased and demonizing Israel.  ”What bothers me is that you only show the weak side, which is the Palestinians…[Israel] has to sacrifice in this situation and prove to the world that its not its fault.” I remind him that this woman is a Bedouin, who lives in the Negev (not a Palestinian) and ask him, “Who is responsible for this?”

Even though I provide him with an answer, the Israeli Land Administration — the Israeli government — he continues to evade my question and starts to de legitimize my choice to write about the oppressed. He does this in two ways that journalists will be familiar with: one by telling me that a good journalist doesn’t take sides — a good journalist is “balanced,” “objective” and must remain neutral (or silent), two because I haven’t lived here long enough.

When we start to go into the history of the conflict, using the “facts” that he so desired, he tries to use the “let’s agree to disagree” card to end the conversation. I ask him as a friend to continue in dialogue with me, and to know that this conversation is framed to be a win-win situation for us both — it’s about listening to each other not about solving or conquering.

Once we regain common ground, he engages again in dialogue and admits that sometimes Israel is wrong. He also opens up and speaks about how he personally did not want to go to the army “to kill people” but justifies this act because he needed to protect his home. This thinking shows how Israelis view service in the army as a the solution to their fears — a way to feel secure.

However, the army and the army spokespeople are responsible for creating a perceived connection between fear and military service — protection and “legitimate” violence. Hence, I ask him what is the connection between protecting your family, home and the army? “Is it possible that you could protect your home better by listening to people, forgiving and building trust with your enemy?”

And then we arrive at the most common site of legitimate fear Israelis can articulate — Hamas. ”As long as the Hamas is there, Israel will never help [the Palestinians],” he says. According to him, Israel wants to talk to Hamas, they are just waiting for Hamas to change. This puts the responsibility in the hands of Hamas — not in the European Union, the United States or Israel which declared Hamas a terrorist organization and ended all dialogue with the organization. While my friend acknowledges that the seige is created to communicate how strong Israel is, he isn’t able to acknowledge that Israel doesn’t want to open dialogue with Hamas. Instead, as I try to explain to him, Hamas is used as a legitimate excuse to keep people scared, to keep them complicit and continue accepting of the seige and the occupation.

This is the end of our conversation, which starts with a photograph of physical violence and ends in a discussion about the subtle violence of politics and rhetoric — the violence that is created and amplified in order to make the population fearful and compliant with further human rights violations and violent acts (Lisa Wedeen, “Ambiguities of Domination”). In addition to traveling to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and demonstrating amongst supporters, we must also struggle against the occupation in our minds — we must speak with people that we don’t agree with and bring our anti-Occupation work to the Tel Avivians if we ever hope to see the end of it.

Full Text

Engagement

me: I have a picture I want to show you and I want to know what you think. Interested?
Friend: sure
After seeing picture.
Friend: it is very symbolized
me: in what ways? what does it remind you of
Friend: it shows the hell and heaven living together in this woman’s life
me: oo i like that interpretation. i like that it’s in black in white–it reminds me of the connection of this moment to history, how many times this moment has been experienced
Friend: it seems she is happy at this point when the pic was shot, because she knows this is how it goes, it’s a hard life
me: and some how she smiles.
Friend: yes that’s the whole point

Who is Responsible?

Friend: yes but showing one image make people believe that all Arabs in Israel are suffering and it makes Israel looks liked its blamed while it really has to sacrifice in this situation and prove to the world that its not its fault
me: Who is responsible for this?
the Land Administration, a government organization
our Israeli government
Friend: As i said you don’t live here long enough to understand all history that is responsible for this shit
but you should not blame Israel
This situation is existed even before Israel was announce as an independent country
you see now the results
me: Yes, these villages existed before
and colonization existed before Israel
the British

This is Just One Side

Friend: What bothers me is that you only show the weak side, which is the Palestinians
You need also to show the hard side of Israel
to remain balanced
and not take one side or opinion, it will make you a better journalist to be objective
at this point its very clear you are totally subjective
this makes all the world watch the reality and judge it, you need observe and not to take a side if you work for the press
me: not necessarily, i think this perception of a need to be objective has to change.
Friend: its a choice
me: no, it’s impossible to be objective. you can strive to be, but you will never be purely objective.
i should not listen to two sides and pick one
me: i should listen to many sides and create places for dialogue
Friend: the media need to show all facts and not be a part of it
me: there is no such thing as facts
“facts” are created and defined by the media
as well as the people
governments
economies…
there are several groups that make something “true” or “fact”

Making a Change, Accepting Some Responsibility?

Friend: ok i dont want to get into this again
we wont agree
but its ok
me: well it’s important to discuss
this is the way to make a change, it is to talk with your friends
i’m trying to share something with you, and you me — you don’t have to be fearful that we won’t agree
perhaps just being thoughtful and learning from each other is enough.
Friend: i understand you side
which is very important
i’m not saying that Israelis are innocent
me: yes, that is good. we must accept responsibility
Friend: i really don’t say it
me: no one is purely innocent.
Friend: i even didnt want to go to the army
to kill people
but
i know where is my home
and i need to protect my home
me: well what does the army and killing people have to do with protecting your home?
Is it possible that you could protect your home better by listening to people, forgiving, building trust with your enemy?
Friend: this wasnt what i said
Israel in one hand need to protect itself and from the other hand need to help these people rebuild themselves and live like normal people

The Problem Is Hamas, God and Fear

Friend: the biggest problem Israel is facing is Gaza, which is controled by Hamas
And as long as the Hamas is there
Israel will never help them
Once Israel will see someone that they can have a dialog they will do it
me: I wish that were true
I dream that some day
we will come to that place
but I think that today, we don’t have a leader that wants real dialogue
he wants to say he tried
but creating a space for dialogue is not what’s important to him
Friend: Israel see everything
they just ignore
its easier
me: no one can see everything
no government
no religion
only god
and we can’t see god
Friend: I never said Israel doing good things here
god isn’t here, this is the issue
The issue here is that Israel want to show the world that she is powerful
me: The Israeli government doesn’t want only to show the world, but Israeli population as well — we need to be fearful and have our material comforts, or else we won’t comply with the status-quo.
So tragedies like the flotilla, become opportunities to scare the local population, and cry to the world that they came to harm us so we had to respond with disproportionate violence.
A long pause.
Me: so much in a picture :)

Alison Avigayil Ramer is a writer, independent journalist and new media consultant who specializes in using the internet to engage people in peaceful political dialogue. If you would like to hire Alison for consulting or donate to her efforts you can send a donation to her through paypal.

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