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Last Thursday, in my small hometown of Metar, in southern Israel, I was about to leave home for my office at Ben Gurion University when I switched on the news to hear that there had been yet another suicide bombing on an early morning bus in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Qiryat Menachem. (AFP photo)...

 

 

 

 


Peace is always a dirty word

The world is full of self righteous religious fundamentalist these days.  You can see it in India and Pakistan as well as in Israel and Palestine.  It seems that people just never get tired of killing in the name of their God.

I never cease to questions why Allah, Jehovah and Yahweh continues to make war on Him?self.

John WorldPeace
November 26,  2002


Comment

Peace has become a dirty word

Anti-occupation Israelis need Palestinian aid to stop the killings

David Newman
Tuesday November 26, 2002
The Guardian


Last Thursday, in my small hometown of Metar, in southern Israel, I was about to leave home for my office at Ben Gurion University when I switched on the news to hear that there had been yet another suicide bombing on an early morning bus in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Qiryat Menachem.

I immediately called my 16-year-old son, who is a student at a boarding school not far from the site of the bombing. He told me he could hear the sound of the sirens on the road outside. It could so easily have been a bus he was on.

Many young children on their way to school were not so lucky - they got blown apart. Eleven more innocent deaths sacrificed to the Moloch of ethnic nationalism and conflict, now reaching a pitch of carnage not experienced in 50 years of conflict.

Soon the emails will start flooding in. Normally I receive them every Wednesday after my column in the Israeli daily newspaper, the Jerusalem Post, is read by the rightwing proponents of West Bank settlements and supporters of hardline retaliation. I am accused of being an "Arab lover" and a "self-hating Jew", while the most patriotic rightwing Israelis sitting in the comfort of their homes in Brooklyn and Toronto tell me I am a traitor to my cause. "How," they berate me, "can we make peace with people who blow up schoolchildren?"

As one incident follows another, it becomes increasingly difficult to answer them. I can continue to tell them about the evils of occupation and the legitimate rights of the Palestinians to an independent state - the same rights that we Jews have enjoyed for the past 50 years - but they are not prepared to listen. "No," they scream back, "there is only one way - to hit back hard."

Israeli society has shifted significantly to the right in the past two years. This is reflected in all the polls, suggesting that the election in January will produce a substantial increase in the number of seats held by the rightwing Likud party of the prime minister, Ariel Sharon. The pollsters joke that the only real election will be today's contest for Likud party leadership between Sharon and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Even if he loses, Netanyahu will establish himself firmly as the number two in the party, a hardline foreign minister with two simple messages - "yes" to the fight against terror; "no" to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The new boy on the political block, Labour party leader Amram Mitzna, is too far to the left of the Israeli electorate at present to make any impact before election day. Each successive suicide bombing takes even more votes away from the left and puts them into Sharon's outstretched hands.

There is only one issue on the agenda now and that is the fight against terror. No one blinks an eyelid that the military retaliation in the town of Bethlehem, as with the previous week's retaliation in Hebron after the Friday-night killings of Jewish worshippers and soldiers, has created its own carnage. Israelis see such retaliation as a natural reaction.

This alternation of terror and retaliation has replaced the peace discourse of the Oslo years. Supporters of the Oslo process have been subject to a concerted campaign of delegitimisation. Peace is a dirty word right now and will continue to be so for as long as suicide bombings hit shopping centres, school buses and restaurants. Yet public surveys show that while the Israeli population increasingly backs retaliation, there is still overwhelming support for a return to the negotiating table if and when violence comes to an end. People are tired of conflict. They realise that one day there must be a Palestinian state. Those who insist on holding on to the territories for ideological reasons are in a minority, but they are able to latch on to the widespread obsession with security.

Those of us who oppose the continuation of occupation try to impress on our Palestinian friends how important it is for them to raise their voice against fundamentalist terrorism. Public opinion in Israel must see that there are people on the other side who oppose terrorism and are not afraid to raise their voices for fear of being branded collaborators.

Easier said than done, of course. Here in Israel we may be criticised for our pro-Oslo positions, we may be branded by the more extreme elements as "traitors", but we live in a vibrant democracy where all opinions are valid. We are aware of the hardships faced by the pro-peace, anti-terrorism groups among the Palestinians, but we also believe they can no longer remain silent.

My son will travel back by bus from Jerusalem next week. On second thought, I will probably pick him up. I, too, am slowly losing faith. I want him home in one piece. I don't want him to be on the wrong bus at the wrong time.

David Newman is professor of political geography at Ben Gurion University.

newman@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

 


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?


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