Uri Avnery Gush Shalom July 9, 2016
A PALESTINIAN youngster breaks into a settlement, enters the nearest house, stabs a 13-year old girl in her sleep and is killed. Three Israeli men kidnap a 12-year old Palestinian boy at random, take him to an open field and burn him alive.
These are the manifestations of a hatred so terrible that it overcomes all norms of humanity. THIS WAS not always so. A few days after the 1967 war, in which Israel conquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, I traveled alone though the newly occupied territories. I was welcomed almost everywhere. At the time, Palestinians did not dream of an eternal occupation. They hated the Jordanian rulers and were glad that we had driven them out.
Within a few years, all this had changed. The Palestinians realized that the Israelis did not intend to leave, but that they were about to steal their land, quite literally, and cover it with their settlements. Hatred is everywhere. The settlers terrorize their Arab neighbors, Arab boys throw rocks and improvised fire-bombs at passing Jewish cars on the highroads where they themselves are not allowed to drive.
BY NOW, the two peoples seem to live in two different worlds. A centuries-old Arab village and a new Israeli settlement, situated one mile apart, might just as well exist on two different planets. From their first day on earth, children of the two peoples hear totally different stories from their parents. This goes on in school. By the time they are grown up, they have very few perceptions in common.
In the Palestinian view, Jews ruled Palestine in antiquity for a few decades only. The Jewish claim to the country now, based on a promise given to them by their own private Jewish God, is a blatant colonialist ploy. The Zionists came to the country in the 20th century as allies of the British imperialist power, without any right to it.
Every Jewish child in Israel learns from an early age that this land was given by God to the Jews, who ruled it for many centuries, until they offended God and He drove them out as a temporary punishment. Now the Jews have come back to their country, which was occupied by a foreign people which came from Arabia. These people now have the cheek to claim the country as their own.
I AM convinced that it is in the vital interest of Israel to make peace with the Palestinian people, and with the Arab world at large, before this dangerous infection engulfs the entire Arab – and Muslim – world. The leaders of the Palestinian people, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are still comparatively moderate people. This is true even for Hamas, a religious movement.
I would suggest that for the West in general, supporting peace in our region is also of paramount importance. The convulsions now affecting several Arab countries do not bode well for them, either.
Reading a document like this week's Quartet report on the Middle East, I am amazed by their self-destructive cynicism. This ridiculous document of the Quartet, composed of the US, Europe, Russia and the UN, is intent on creating an equilibrium – equally blaming the conqueror and the conquered, the oppressor and the oppressed, ignoring the occupation altogether. Verily, a masterpiece of hypocrisy, a.k.a. diplomacy.
Absent all chances for a serious effort for peace, hatred will just grow and grow, until it engulfs us all. Unless we take action to stem it in time. [Abridged]