We were supposed to do a tour in Jericho today but it was cancelled. What was interesting to me telling other Israeli Jews where we were going is that many wanted to come, some did not but all said the same things: “But it’s not safe”. Most Israelis (unless they travel in the West Bank) assume that anywhere Arab is not safe for Jews. This is not a debate about the why (Israelis hear Palestinian violence or threats towards Jews daily for 100 years) or if this is fair or comparable (Palestinians also fear Israeli soldiers/it is a minority who commit violence).
My question is that if there are two peoples living on this land and we have to find a way to live together somehow- how can this be done when we are so cut off from one another and violence keeps us away from even trying to get to know each other? How do we change the mantra of ‘Arabs are violent’ or ‘Israelis are violent’?
Hi Corey - it is great to hear of your action. This respoonse is not to you directly, but a general reflection. My response is mainly from what a Jewish-Israeli could do - given there is greater opportunity (and less red-tape) for travel to the West Bank than for a Palestinian to travel to Israel.
How do you bring about softening of hearts to ‘the other’?
I believe deep seated change comes from (1) the right psychological framework (eg world view development) and (2) direct personal experience.
1. Psychogical preparation
– Educate one’s self about the conflict with new eyes identifying present and past sources of concern and hope. Learn of the struggles and examples of reconciliation in other nation-state creation stories.
To prepare the right psychological framework comes from what we do passively eg reading, watching or listening. Reading the inclusive human rights centred newspaper articles, blogs. Watching or listening to inclusive human rights centred radio, TV, online media, social media (twitter, facebook etc.). It also occurs in the conversations we have about the issue within ‘our’ own community (within our circle of trust).
For me it would involve obtaining information from B’Tselem, Gisha, Haaretz, Joseph Dana, Gush Shalom, Mondoweiss, Max Blumenthal, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Mepeace, Antony Loewenstein, BBC News, Guardian, United Nations (Security Council Meetings, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNISPAL), Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A second part is to get some perspective of other conflicts throughout time and how people have dealt with this and how reconciliation became possible. Learn about the struggles and examples of reconciliation in other nation-state creation stories. Look at the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and for one’s even more analogous to Israel-Palestine look at the creation of Liberia (and to a lesser extent Sierra Leone). Look deeply into the ancient history of the region – looking at the history of the Philistines and the conflicts within the Hebrew nation (ie civil war and the subsequent separate kingdoms) and relationships with the dominant powers of the region (Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome).
A third step is to move away from the 'me' to the 'us'. To move away from the victim and blame response and 'tribal' divisiveness, to something which acknowledges the strengths and opportunities we already have. Often we may tend to look at our own suffering, our own fears and our own concerns. To create a more inclusive open-hearted world we need to start to think of 'our' shared suffering as a people; of 'our' struggle as fellow human beings to survive despite the many obstacles that face us because of our individual national, ethnic, religious/non-religious identities. This is not to minimise our cultural roots, but to give it some perspective and look to what unites us as fellow human beings, rather than what divides us.
2. Personal experience
Go on personal visits either unaccompanied (if you are game) or accompanied (if you already have contacts who can take you on a visit to the West Bank). Visit Palestinian-Israelis. Go to Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. Go to the Old City and strike-up a conversation with a shop-keeper. Meet a family from Silwan. Go to Sabeel and participate in a ‘living stones tour’. Visit a Bedouin community in the Negev.
Connect with established solidarity groups eg as exemplified by mepeace, Jeff Halper and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions , Ta’ayush, Rabbis for Human Rights etc.
Education, Agricultural, Health, Sports exchange eg with Peres Centre
Eben Novy-Williams, Palestinians Make Peace With Israelis When Scoring Goals Is Most at Stake, Dec 10, 2010
3. Criticism of what I have just suggested may come from:
(A) Certain BDS proponents: Certain proponents of BDS may argue against sports exchange (for example as organized by the Peres Center)
Critics of Peres Center
An Open Letter to the Palestinian and International Community
“We, the undersigned, medical and health service providers and members of professional unions and research and training institutions working in the health sector in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, would like to register our protest and deep concern over the increasing pressure exerted upon us to enter into Palestinian-Israeli cooperation schemes in the sphere of health…”
(B) Other critics eg Meron Benvistsi – for his criticism of the Peres Center see
Meron Benvenisti, “A monument to a lost time and lost hopes”
The marking of the 10th anniversary of the Peres Center for Peace was a glittering event…
4. Other thoughts
Diversity Converstaion: Avraham Burg
Tendnecy we have to generalize the unkown – all of them – all of them are Bin Ladens’ – without making the distinctions between democrats….
1 April 2009
A conversation with Avraham Burg
Burg’s 2008 book: “The Holocaust is Over”
The widespread use of the Holocaust langugage within Israel and the effect this psychologically has on the nation. Burg’s hope for Israel to move from trauma to trust.
He views whenever one Israeli is killed it is always 1 person killed on top of 7 wars on top of the Holocaust on top of 2000 years of persecution…Burg is looking for this type of thinking to change.
All the best Corey.
The likelihood of violence is probably exaggerated, but I am sure it would not be safe for Israeli Jews to travel in the West Bank unless they had good security.
It is not a good idea for Jews to visit the area because it constitutes a form of passive provocation - Palestinian Arabs used to be able to live and work anywhere, and they are now restricted to increasingly tiny patches of land. Plus, Arabs in Israel do not have the same rights as Jews - an obvious source of resentment.
The violence will be present until there is a proper peace settlement, that gives all Palestinians the justice they desire.
The peace settlement will either be extremely expensive - Israel could afford it, or it will be a one State Solution with equal rights for everyone.
I am sure there will be plenty of people on this site who could give examples of Jewish-Israelis or Jews from abroad who do visit the West Bank on a regular basis without security and without it being considered provocation.
Here is an example of a recent trip of American Jews to the region
The trip was led by Rabbi Brant Rosen
If you take a look at Taa'yush they will give examples of regular visits of Jewish-Israelis to the West Bank to work in solidarity with Palestinians.
A good documentary for you to watch is Budrus. It gives examples how Jewish-Israelis regularly went to support Palestinian communities during the building of the separation barrier. Just google Bil'in and you will find another example of Jewish-Israelis standing in solidarity with Palestinians in Palestine in response to the the taking of land by the Israeli Government ('for security purposes').
Also see the work of
On the flip-side take a look at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs example of collaboration on Wind.... Whilst initially reading the article it sounds promising. The wind turbine with the Israeli flag embedded does little to assure Palestinians that their interests are really being considered. Has anyone seen such wind turbines in the West Bank? Is this just a feel good article - a PR exercise - that hides the underlying trauma of occupation? Are Palestinians like these men being used by the Israeli Government to sell to their domestic public and the world Israel's advances for peace? When if one delves deeper the quest for more land and endless 'peace talks' only serves to solidify the settlements and the fragmentation of the West Bank and the isolation and ghettoization of Gaza.
How we can make term "Arab+Jew=friendly brothers" as normal fact,something that is commonly accepted???
My oppinion is that we must do this all we want personally.I don`t think that main problem in this "conflict" - masses brainwashed by CNN and other pro - American anti - Islamists are ready to stop to think in this "brains - in - TV - cage" scheme.For them "Arabs - Jews = enemies" is clear as I am terrorist in their view.And that biggest part of our Mother Gaia will refuse to let these stereotypes go away, because they are relieving people fear of thinking and taking response.
If I`ll destroy your home, I`ll destroy my own too, because we both live in one home - Gaia.Everybody knows that, but taking response is really hard thing to do, so, it`s easier to put these "sunglasses on brains" and do not contradict with what the guru CNN says...
I`ve learned to take a deeper insight into my relationships with Jews,and I`m spreading my messages of peace,but I`m sure that I`ll continue to pay for it with misunderstanding and condemnation from my closest ones forever...
But it`s not so helpless...look how many we - Arabs and Jews are here, in this project, trying...whispering...and crying.Louder voice and bigger self-confidence will help.
First thanks for trying to provide positive feedback. I know it isn't easy in conflict.
Actually, the tour is by a group called Visit Palestine made up of Israelis and Palestinians working together to give tours for Israelis in the West Bank (there are other groups that bring Palestinians to Israel). So you have an Israeli tour guide and then a Palestinian tour guide joins in the West Bank to give the Palestinian perspective. There are other Palestinians who come along too so it is a very unique encounter and opportunity for learning.
Israeli Jews have lived side by side with Palestinians for many many years. Most Israelis have been to the West Bank. But Israeli tours of Jews always have an armed guard and there has been little interaction between Israeli Jews and Palestinians since the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987. As you know, Jews have a culture based on commemoration of tragedies and traumas that have occurred to the Jewish people. So a Jew traveling in Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain, etc. will know about the historical significance to the Jewish people of that place (how non-Jews tried to kill Jews). So Israeli Jews also have that habit when it comes to Palestinians- remembering what was done to the Jewish people in the past. So today, when Israelis think of an Arab place or an Arab person, they associate the place or person with danger. So, telling Israelis that Palestinians will accompany us is further cause for concern- what if it is a trap to kill Israelis (I have been asked this). To Israelis, the idea of going to an Arab place at all is frightening (including Arab neighbourhoods in Israel). To go without an armed escort is unthinkable for many. At the same time, there is an openness to the idea- I went on a tour of the West Bank with settlers and their supporters last week and told some about the tour to Jericho. They were very interesting in the idea of getting to know Palestinians but without armed guards or some kind of guarantee of safety, none of them are able to take that step away from fear.
Yup, it is our common problem - constantly to remind ourselves...that Jews had done to me....that Arabs had done to me...And even when we have friends "from that enemy side" we still remember...
In this case genial words came out from one Combatant For Peace - Israeli soldier killed his daughter and now he - member of CFP - said: "We shouldn`t nationalise our pain"... good food for thought...
Armed guards are appropriate, provided they treat everyone with dignity. Better to have a guard than run the risk of the trauma of yet another killing.
The culture of honouring martyrs will pass, quicker than most of us imagine. Where there are martyrs, there is seedy politics. Martyrs are a symbol of all else having failed.
Culture is not static. Children often refuse to repeat their parent’s patterns of behaviour.
I believe a proper peace settlement will move things along much faster than everyone’s efforts to get-to-know the enemy as a friend.
I am not sure the culture of honouring martyrs will pass. Since the battle of Karbala, Shi'a Islam has valorized suffering and martyrdom. My impression is that it is a deep-rooted and positive value that has enable Shi'a Islam to survive in a religiously hostile environment. (Shi'a are not regarded as true Muslims by conservative Sunni Islam.)
At a Shi'a women's meeting I attended about a year ago--the theme of the meeting was the meaning of the hijab--there was a question-and-answer period. One young woman asked a question that unleashed a lively discussion. She wanted to know what she should do, given the opposition of her family to her wearing the hijab.
In response, many of the women present related similar stories of family opposition; in fact, contrary to what we read in the press, there was consensus that there was less hostility from non-Muslims than from friends and family.
The speaker answered, to the approval of all, that the woman should continue to wear her hijab, despite all disparaging remarks. She explained that the experience of opposition is a form of suffering that strengthens the hijab wearer in her faith, strengthens her relationship to Allah, and makes her a better Muslim.
Suffering--of which martyrdom is but one form--is thus a form of spiritual testing and purification.
With Shi'a being persecuted and killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, I would not expect the respect for martyrdom to diasappear any time soon. The Shi'a, too, remember their dead.
You may be right, Clara, none of us really know what the future is.
Where I was holidaying over summer, although the hijab was being worn by some Muslim women, it was done with such a trendy effect, you had to look twice to be sure it was hijab. The same is happening locally. In one of the places where I shop, the sons are all refusing to wear turbans. They wear hats, but you can see there is some low level family discord - more precisely, paternal disapointment - but they all work hard for the family business.
Baha’is, who are a break from the Shi’a, are also into martyrdom, but since they have been experiencing less problems, and have no recent martyrs, they are much less focused on martyrdom.
The true purpose of religion is to serve the spiritual needs of the membership; maybe martyrdom is what is needed at present. I have strong religious values myself, but have never been enthusiastic about either martyrs or heroes, so maybe this affects my view.
We live in a fast moving world, so I'll hedge my bet that martyrdom will soon peak.
The only thing that I would amend would be "There is Arab violence, but when it comes to violence we are more on the receiving end [and add] in the context of what has happened in the last 60 years within Israel and Palestine]".
The counter response to your original response might be be what about the violence impacted on the Jewish community in Europe given the Shoah and the pogroms in Eastern Europe, etc? Responses such as what about Palestinian terrorism? Whilst political terrorism is a serious concern and causes the tragic loss of life, it needs to be considered in light of the profound impact of State terrorism. When State's exercise violence to control a population, there is vastly greater impacts on the life and death of people than individual terrorist actions. The classic example of state terror is the Israeli campaign in Gaza in 2008-09, that led to the deaths of 1400 people with tens of thousands injured. The argument that 30 people killed by rocket attacks in 8 years is justification for such violence loses its moral weight if the end result of what that war is considered and if consideration is to given to underlying reasons for Palestinian resistance in the first place ie the failure over the past 60+ years for a just resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The counter response to what I have written would say what about the Arab Jewish refugees from 'Arab lands' post creation of Israel. My response to this is, agreed, Arab nations should have protected religious minorities within their communities. However, Basil's point (to me) is focused on the violence occurring between Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis. Certainly, when limited to that context, the level of violence perpetuated against Palestinians by the state of Israel (and its predecessor) has been far greater.