If I Were An Israeli…

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.

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  1. Posted January 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting article. Tackles an important part of the conflict; Justice and Reconciliation.

    And most importantly it delivers clearly “who is anti-human rights and who is anti-Semitic.”

  2. Sondos Samara
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Dr.abdullatif you have truly expressed what majority of Palestinian agree with.

  3. Haneen Samara
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Thank u…
    It’s kinda frostrating for all of us trying to actually tell our ” Arab Brothers” what is really the situation in Palestine…

    I think I’ll steal the Article and post it on a note for all my friends to read…

  4. Natalia Antonova
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    If you’re going to do that, Haneen – please link back to the source and credit the author. Thank you.

  5. Husam
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    can you give us a brief translation of the dutch article in english pls… or tell us what its talking about? i liked the name of the site though…. zionazi….. it brings things inot perspective

  6. Salma Bushnaq
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I think many of the lefties in Israel have those thoughts and feelings. The sad part, however, they are not mainstream.. Coming from Europe, the mainstream are quite condescending to Arabs. Let’s not forget that they were ahead of us in science and education. In 1903, Chaim Weizmann asked for the establishment of an Israeli university in the heart of Palestine. He was able to establish it in 1915. Being highly intellectual and hard workers, they have won the British since those times, while we were absolutely clueless. Hence the lack of respect and condescension towards the Arabs, which makes it hard to dig into the roots of the problem or even think of the other side, unfortunately.

  7. Miriam Juster
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m pleased to see that there are some reasonable comments to this article, which explores how Israelis feel about the conflict. First, Israelis are far more critical of their government than anyone outside Israel, second we act out of desperation in the face of those Palestinians who hate everyone of us and everything that we stand for, and thirdly, calling Israelis “anti-human rights and anti-semitic” is to be utterly blind to the truth and stupid. Of course Israelis, and Jews around the world, want peace more than anything. We just need the other side to want peace more than they hate us.

  8. Shirley
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Dr. Abdullatif, your article succeeds in bringing so many important elements into the light in a subtle, delicate way in a very compact space. You are perceptive and articulate. There are others with this insight, even among world leaders (as you yourself noted.) How can we remove the benefits and perks that encourage leaders who do have this insight to continue to make decisions and behave in ways that are not in the best interests of their people?

  9. Shirley
    Posted January 13, 2009 at 4:14 am | Permalink

    More simply put, there are a few world leaders who “get it”. These leaders DO seem to understand the subtleties of the situation (as you indicated when you gave the anecdote about Ehud Barak). Yet they continue to behave badly in spite of the fact that they understand. They have incentives to continue the conflict that harms their people rather than leads them toward a just peace. How do we remove these incentives?

  10. Malak
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Well wrote and Said…………If only they would just stop and think

  11. pasha
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    The point of putting yourself into someone’s shoes is to try to understand what they feel and why they act the way they do, to try to identify with them… it is not to project your own ideology and to fantasize about how you would act given your current identity.

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