About ten years ago, just before Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel, he was asked by Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy what he would do had he been born Palestinian. Barak replied frankly: “I would join a terror organization.”
I admired that honest answer as it showed that he may have understood the mentality of many of his Palestinian occupied subjects. He was elected on the basis of going ahead with the peace process and I always thought that if he really understood the Palestinian mentality he would do his utmost to prevent young people like from joining terrorist organizations.
Alas, he didn’t achieve peace back then, nor do his actions now show that he really understood the Palestinian mind. Being myself a Palestinian and knowing how many of my people think, I dare put myself in the shoes of an Israeli citizen and try to reach any new conclusions.
Being Israeli I would first try to analyze the situation and try to understand what makes my neighbors or enemies act the way they act. Is it plain anti-Semitism, as I have been taught in school and by the media? But why should anyone hate me for being a peaceful and, most probably, a secular Jew? I would surely ponder that question…
I would look at my personal history: I would most likely be of foreign origin. Maybe my parents came from Poland, or anywhere in Eastern Europe, and became citizens the moment they landed at the airport. My parents would have suffered because of Anti-Semitism that nevertheless had nothing to do with my fellow Palestinian Semites.
At the same time, I would realize that my neighbors have roots that go back hundreds of years in Palestine. The houses where they were born were built hundreds or years ago and housed generations of families and friends and loved ones, only to be vacated at the creation of the state of Israel.
But the deed has been done… my Jewish family came and the Palestinian one was ousted. Now what?
How can we deal with the situation? It looks simple at first. We can fight over the same house till one of us leaves or dies. But what if the other side doesn’t leave, considering its attachment to its roots? And what if I don’t want to leave nor want to kill my neighbor?
If both sides are going to be stuck with each other, then we should find a way to live together here, and in fact help each other in this small precious land. I would be grateful because this land and its people hosted me after the massacres in Europe and the Palestinian will be happy to live in peace in his father’s and mother’s land. Yet to achieve this utopia we should share equally our benefits and rights. There could be no double standards.
If I were an Israeli I would definitely look for a way to make the Palestinians feel at home in this land and look forward to a shared future. Otherwise why would they agree to accommodate me in this tiny piece of land? My benefit as an Israeli would be to have peace and move toward stability and more prosperity.
Alas, despite those long-ago hopes we had for Ehud Barak, what is going on is completely the opposite. The Palestinians have a grimmer and darker future. They have a corrupt authority, bleak political forecast,s no peace, no equal rights – in fact, they have no rights at all but for the right to die.
Why would anyone want to live in peace in that kind of situation? What’s in it for them? Many Arabs today are citizens of Israel, and they still haven’t earned equal status, nor will they ever, it seems. The situation in the occupied territories and especially Gaza is, meanwhile, desperate.
Anyway, I am not Israeli. My roots are Palestinian. My father’s house in Jerusalem was his father’s house and his grandfather’s house before him. It was built 800 years ago and has been continuously inhabited since then.
Knowing what I know, I see how Palestinians have been denied their state and their rights and their own history and culture. We have two ways to go… either we forget we are Palestinians, or try to free Palestine. Peaceful means have so far have led to nothing. What do we do?
Ehud Barak already answered that question ten years ago. He said he would be a so called terrorist – a freedom fighter- to us.
Yet in the years that have gone by, he surely missed the opportunity to work with these freedom fighters toward a shared peace. Even now, he is making sure that for generations to come, the young children of Palestine will remember these days and these atrocities and wonder about the reality of peace initiatives and the reality of who is anti-human rights and who is anti-Semitic.