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Confronting racism and fear of 'the other' in Israel

Over-compensated nationalism and the fear of ‘the other’ all contribute to untenable racist attitudes among Israelis toward Palestinians. But racism doesn’t develop in a vacuum and in the context of the current reality, it is entirely unsurprising.

By Maya Schkolne

A Palestinian woman shows her ID to an Israeli border policeman, with Palestinian security forces in the background, as she crosses to Jerusalem from the Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, July 20, 2012, on the first Friday of Ramadan. (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Standing in the cold and dark by the checkpoint on Highway 60, the soldier appeared genuinely taken aback. He had called us off the bus after spotting my friend’s Israeli passport. Since we were in Area C, we were legally permitted to be there. But what were two young Jewish women – one Israeli and one South African-Israeli – doing on a bus with Palestinians? His initial surprise progressed into concern. “Is everything fine,” he asked. “Has anything happened to you?” The question felt extraordinarily ironic considering at that moment we felt more anxious than we had all day.

I started to sense a familiar, creeping unease. I feel it each time my wellbeing in relation to Palestinians is questioned, each time I hear “it must be dangerous.” It is counter-intuitive to discount the fear expressed by this soldier and Israeli society at large; it is tangible and sometimes based on direct acts of violence. However, it is the extent to which Israelis and Diaspora Jewry refuse to interrogate their fear and their refusal to examine their own behavior that I find remarkably problematic.

I gazed warily at the soldier and responded that we were perfect, that we had spent a sad but wonderful day in the incredibly beautiful village of Battir.

His nostrils flared. “Wonderful?”

My resentment was rising.

I could have left the soldier’s astonishment hanging. But I was unable to bite my tongue, and in the calmest manner possible, I proposed an idea: “Perhaps if you give it a chance, you’ll realize that many Palestinians aren’t dangerous.”

I had clearly provoked him. “Are you saying that Palestinians are humans? But they’re terrorists.”

I lost grip on my flailing composure. “Do you realize that it was anti-Semitism that killed our Jewish ancestors, yet we haven’t learnt? Any similar form of racism is extremely toxic and dangerous, both for us and for Palestinians”.

The soldier started swearing. Laughing. “Hippy. Bloody lefty.” And then he took out his camera and pointed it at me. “Are you even Jewish? Say something.”

“Yes,” I said. “It should not be so radical to think that Palestinians are also humans.”

The situation in Israel and Palestine is occurring with the goal of maintaining a Jewish state, where Jews are provided privileges that are denied to non-Jews. Jews in Israel and the Diaspora must own up to that situation, whether we choose to or not. We need to unapologetically confront the harmful and dangerous facets of our discourse and behavior. We need to take responsibility for the fact that that the army dehumanizes Palestinians. Furthermore, the education system, media and dinner-table conversations in Israel and the diaspora cloak a comfortable status quo with a sense of panic regarding the “Palestinian issue.’

Coupled with over-compensated nationalism translated into Zionism and linked with implicit and explicit racism, the same fear also deters Israeli society and Jews in the Diaspora from understanding the Palestinian historical narrative, from considering the harsh and appalling realities of life under occupation and unequal rule, and from recognizing the complexity of discourse on the Palestinian side. This palpable fear is boosted further by the fact that Israelis are forbidden from visiting parts of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and the massive red signs outside Palestinian towns reading: “Dangerous for Israelis.” Many deplore the Palestinian “propaganda of hate” against us, but aren’t infuriated by our own finely tuned propaganda machine. There is no excuse for the soldier’s comment, but racism doesn’t develop in a vacuum. Put in context, his remark is completely unsurprising.

The forced and embedded silence in Israel is dangerous as it prospers in such a way that we can recognize fear, widespread aggression, and the problematic aspects of nationalism, but they simply feed each other. This has led to a severe and hostile lack of empathy and ability for self-reflection. This has permitted the majority of Israelis to believe that we can defend ourselves, both physically and morally, yet they are abhorrent in their approaches. We will do what it takes to protect ourselves against them, but their world is filled with victim-laden narratives and tactics to destroy.

I implore Jews in Israel and the Diaspora to challenge this accepted racist and defensive rhetoric and take a sincere look within. How would we feel being treated as criminals through racial profiling, being harassed at checkpoints, knowing that soldiers unjustifiably arrested and killed members of our communities, and being woken up to nightly raids? How would we feel being trapped without the freedom to even irrigate our gardens, having our land further damaged and built upon, being taunted or attacked by illegal neighbors, only to be told that we are the security threat?

If we fail to change our discourse and behavior, we will continue to perpetuate a situation that should weigh heavily on our conscience. Furthermore, we will certainly not alleviate any of the fears that we fester. As Dorothy Naor – a woman whose Austrian husband escaped the Nazis to find refuge in Israel – emphasizes: inevitably, we will pay the price.

Maya Schkolne was born in Israel and grew up in South Africa. She just finished a year at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies based in the Negev, which brings together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and internationals to find solutions to regional environmental issues and gain a deeper understanding of the Israeli and Palestinian narratives.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. rsgengland

      The author wants Israelis to visit and intermix with Palestinians.
      It used to be like that.
      Then along came those pesky intafadas.
      And all those dead Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.
      Now in the Palestinian areas they talk about not dealing with Israelis, to prevent normalization.
      Schools and the Arab media are not particularily partial to Jewish Israelis, and make no attempt in the Arab press to progress co-existance.
      I was recently at an anti-Israel meeting in London, where the Palestinian ambassador said,”My hat is on, lets have peace and a two state slution”, then he said,”Now I take my hat off! there is no two state solution. Only one state from the river to the sea”.
      That is not talking co-existance.

      Reply to Comment
      • “The author wants Israelis to visit and intermix with Palestinians.
        It used to be like that.”

        There used to be one population under civil law and one population under martial law, just like now. There never was some golden age of equality and coexistence. ‘Mixing’ consisted of Jewish Israelis coming into Bethlehem to pick up cheap groceries, and Palestinians going into Israel to work in menial jobs – just like now, only without such a bureaucratic permit system. Only members of the privileged group (who are blithely unaware of their own privilege) would be capable of viewing this as peace.

        “Now in the Palestinian areas they talk about not dealing with Israelis, to prevent normalization.”

        I’m not sure what you mean by Palestinian areas, but I presume you’re talking about Area A. The military signs at its edges read: “Palestinian Authority Area A ahead. No entry for Israeli citizens. Entry illegal under Israeli law.” Fairly recently the IDF changed the wording on some of the signs. The one at the top of the Beit Jala hill was replaced with this thing: http://bethlehemblogger.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/bethlehemsignredux.jpg

        When Israelis come here, they do so illegally. Obstructing Israeli civilian entry to the primary Palestinian population centres is a matter of law and policy, which makes it difficult to pin down lack of contact between people as the fault of Palestinians opposed to normalisation. (There have been numerous hair-splitting arguments as to the meaning of that word, and I won’t go into them again here, even though conflation of refusal to normalise the occupation with refusal of all contact with Israelis is a particular frustration of mine.) Bottom line: they are not the ones with the power here, but you keep trying to give vague ‘Arab’ attitudes equal weight with Israeli military might, as though, “But a PA representative once said a mean thing!” is enough to counterbalance official (ruling) Israeli policy. The PA is not a government with the same sort of power as Israel, it is the body to which the military/Civil Administration subcontracts certain aspects of the occupation, nothing more. It depends on that same occupation for its own survival as an institution. This is why it makes even less sense to greet ‘The Israeli government implements systemic racist policies’ with anecdotes about the PA ambassador to London not being nice, because the PA feeds off the former.

        P.S. The comment you attribute to the ambassador is odd coming from a PA official, even without context. What was the date and venue of that meeting?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          There were no borders. Israelis would go to the Palestinian cities to buy goods, eat at restaurants and for various services. Palestinians would go into Israel to work, go to the beach or any other reason. The West Bank was not annexed and the Palestinians remained Jordanian citizens until the late 1980s. They were at this point occupied citizens of an enemy state.

          The Israeli authorities prevent Israelis from entering the PA areas because there is legitimate concern for kidnapping. Israel can not assure the security of its citizens in those areas and doesn’t trust the PA authorities. Israeli citizens have in the past been lured to the PA areas and murdered. The fear of Israelis for visiting those areas arises first and foremost from those historical events and not out of some kind of deliberate Israeli policy.

          Reply to Comment
          • When supporters of the occupation talk about the ‘mixing’ that happened prior to the Second Intifada, they are referring to something very different from what most people would understand ‘mixing’ to be. Israeli Jews moved into houses in the West Bank and Gaza, but could a Palestinian rent the house next door? Move to Tel Aviv? Obviously not. Even prior to the intifadas, harsh penalties were imposed on Palestinians who fell afoul of military law, and even though these punitive measures were invoked nowhere nearly as frequently as they are now, the Palestinian population was aware of their existence in a way that Israeli Jews never were. (Hearing some of my neighbours talk about that time, I’m reminded of a passage from a Roddy Doyle novel: “Months went by and nothing happened, but it was always there – the promise of it…There wasn’t one minute when I wasn’t afraid, wasn’t waiting. Waiting for him to go, waiting for him to come. Waiting for the fist, waiting for the smile.”) It’s pretty disingenuous for people to make out that this situation corresponds in any way to what Maya envisages.

            The idea of Area A as some wild waste beyond army reach makes little sense. This is not some vast expanse of uncharted territory we’re talking about here, but non-contiguous cantonments spattered about the map, ringed in by watchtowers and control posts and other military infrastructure. IDF incursions are frequent, routine. Secondly, Israeli Jews have also been killed in Areas C and B, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that Area A has ever had a higher rate of killing. It would be interesting to see figures on that if there are any available.

            I don’t doubt that people are really honestly afraid. But I also recognise that fear can be exploited as a political tool, and this is what is happening here. The IDF did not replace those original warnings with more luridly worded signs in the aftermath of a spate of killings. They were changed quite recently, during a very quiet period. Separation is a core part of the occupation’s maintenance, and those Israelis who visit Area A routinely (somehow still in possession of their lives) are aware of that. So are the occupation authorities.

            Are there any risks in coming here for Israelis? Yes, some. Are they substantial enough to warrant or even explain this separation policy? No. I’m reminded of Yuval Ben-Ami’s description of his trip to Hebron, ending in his detention by the IDF, in which he tried to explain to his agitated dad, “Your son is not someone who leaps off the roof. Your son is someone who understands that this is in fact the first floor balcony, and tells others about it.”

            Reply to Comment
      • I suspect, RSGD, that the ambassador meant one State is inevitable given Israeli policy on settlers, which constitutes a bantuization of the land. He did not mean a Palestinain State from the river to the sea.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          I suspect that the ambassador said the same thing that people like Erekat says. He said that the Palestinians can pursue either option depending on which one they think gets them to where they want to go. In other words, the commitment to the two state solution and the desire for a Palestinian state is tactical. These are means of demanding Israeli concessions not goals in themselves.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            This whole conflict is simply tactics in pursuit of a goal. Settlements, refugees, are all the same. To create bargaining chips for final status negotiations. No one here has any sort of moral authority (except of course, the civilians whose human rights are callously denied).

            Reply to Comment
      • Monir

        You wish to mention and relive, what negative things the Palestinians have done to the Israelis. Do you also have it in you to tell what did and still the Israelis do and have done to the Palestinians? In any case, that is living and dwelling in the past and its negativity. If we will have a future, we need to think about the future. The writer, does not want you just to visit. She wants you to reflect, and take a look in the mirror, and see what are you doing. We all need to learn to look at ourselves, before we point the fingers at others. Maya, has shown her humanity and compassion, which the Israelis and most Jews have lost, in their journey of the blinding hat, and the Zionist misleading history. We need to learn the facts, then base our judgement and behavior accordingly. Jews deserve to have a home land, but not on the corps and ruins of the Palestinian bodies and homes.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Battir was a city Jews lived in until the Romans massacred all of them circa 135. In Battir there is a place called “Khirbet al-Yahud.” The Jewish ruins. On the other hand, expropriating their land and livelihoods is despicable, regardless of the fact they came to the land of our fathers from the Arabian peninsula. But they are there, and so are we. And neither is going anywhere. Have you seen Beitar Illit? Our brothers and sisters there have taken over a lot it is true. But is Battir “Palestinian” or Jewish? What of Jewish history in Battir?

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        The Palestinians in Battir have probably been living there since well before 135. The ruins are theirs.

        Reply to Comment
        • rsgengland

          Palistina only came into being due to the Roman defeat of the Jews at that point.
          Palestina was a punishment against the Jews.
          Howcouldthere have been Palestiniana there when there had never been a Palestine.
          Get your facts in order.

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            The Romans gave it the name, but the place was always there, and so were the people, and they still are.

            That’s the fact.

            Reply to Comment
          • Oriol2

            England came to exist because of being invaded by Saxon and other Germanic peoples, first, and by French Normans, later. The establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms began in 5th. Century AD (much later than 135, you know), after dispossession of native Romano-Britons, and William the Conqueror (also known as William the Bastard) crossed the straits in 11th Century. Given the obvious cultural and historical ties between French Breton, Irish, Scots, Welsh, and even Galician (Spanish Galician, not German Galician) people, and ancient Britons, I hope you will agree that all of them have the right to claim old Celtic territories and to expel English people to other lands? There are several Anglo-Saxon states around the world where they could live (USA, Canada, Australia, Republic of South Africa, New Zealand, and even Hong Kong), and also Germanic states (Germany, Netherlands, Flandes when it separates from Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and even the island of Äland). It is pretty obvious that the roots of Anglo-Saxon people are in German Saxony, so they don’t belong to England anyway.
            By the way, Irish folklore knows of the sidhe, sinister spirits which dwell in the hills and molest ordinary people. I think they also are bearded, but I don’t believe they engage in organic agriculture.

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      • Haifawi

        And if the ruins are Jewish, so what? There are non-Jewish archeological sites in Israel, there are Jewish archeological sites in non-Israel. Just because someone who didn’t mix milk and meat went to the bathroom somewhere, doesn’t mean you can plant the blue and white wherever you want.

        Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Terrorists are human. To accept this truth is the beginning of understanding.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yes, they are. And I think the are those in Intelligence services that know that.

        Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Indeed, they have parents and friends and an ideology and a society who think they are heroes for going into Israel and killing the maximum number of Israeli civilians. That human reality certainly needs to be taken into account and is part of the reason why it is dangerous for Israeli civilians to visit PA areas. Half the population, according to polls, support the murder of Israeli civilias. What crazy government wouldn’t try to prevent its citizens from being exposed to that?

        Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      What has made Battir what it is today is not only Jewish. It is Roman and Palestinian too. The unique irrigation system is that built by those Romans who massacred the Jews; the people who managed it, maintained it and made it work for the benefit of the region until today are the Palestinians. The Romans are not longer around, it’s up to Palestinians and Jews to cherish it – it’s beautiful – (and also each other).

      http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2012062032843.jpg

      Reply to Comment
      • Several DNA studies have shown that the Palestinian population must have incorporated large numbers of Jews at some time. Jews became Christians and Muslims and stayed in the land. Races inter-married. There is no ethnically pure division historically.

        That should put the fantasies and myths about the past (from both peoples) into context.

        Reply to Comment
    5. “I had clearly provoked him. ‘Are you saying that Palestinians are humans? But they’re terrorists.’

      I lost grip on my flailing composure. ‘Do you realize that it was anti-Semitism that killed our Jewish ancestors, yet we haven’t learnt?’”

      Maya, I agree with everything you’ve written about people’s obliviousness to propaganda, especially the image of Palestinians as dangerous to life and limb. But I think you may be missing something here. If a soldier said something like that to me (so visibly over the top), I would translate it as, “Oh great, here comes another of them, here to tell me how evil I am.” He might well be very prejudiced against Palestinians, but what he said to you suggests he also felt antagonised and defensive. I’m not sure that appealing to people to learn from anti-Semitism is the best way to get past that. Another option might have been to make a simple neutral statement (“You seem surprised that we enjoyed Battir”) or maybe to ask a question of your own, in a non-confrontational way: “They didn’t eat us, why are you so surprised?” You had a person who appeared to be concerned for your welfare and curious about your day (if very rattled). Giving him a chance to speak to you might have enabled you to speak more to him about your experiences in Battir.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        I agree. It sounds like sarcasm intended to piss her off based on an accurate assesment of who he was dealing with. It is a pretty common style of conversation in Israel.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      Really Aristeides? Really?! Palestinians have been there before 135. How? ISLAM became a religion in the 7th century. That means 600s CE. Palestinians: Arabs (Christians, Jews, and Muslims). There were no Arabs living in that area then. There were Jews. When did Palestinians live with Jews and Romans?!?!

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Really, Ben, really.

        The Palestinians didn’t come from the Arabian peninsula, they were always in Palestine. Sometimes they were called Jews.

        I know it’s inconvenient when reality contradicts your myths, but that’s just too bad.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Sharon

      this article captures the most important fact about this region – no group has the opportunity to learn about the others – and it is to our own detriment as it is very easy for anyone to demonize the other when you have no first hand experience. there have been violent people who killed and there are problems, but the fact is the majority of people (and yes they are human) want peaceful and good lives for themselves nad their children and they want safety ! We need to meet each other and learn about each other and find ways to cooperate instead of attack or oppress.

      the only way to move is up and forward – and the only way is to understand each other.

      Reply to Comment
    8. “we will pay the price”. This is certainly one of my concerns, that hatred and oppression will be repaid.

      But we have the example of South Africa where a large section of the whites believed there would be an immediate and total bloodbath if the ‘natives’ gained the upper hand.

      The fear of mass revenge for the terrible treatment of the non-white population seemed quite logical, particularly when the ‘other’ was portrayed to be barbaric, hate-filled and so on.

      But it didn’t happen. Now, South Africa isn’t perfect, and the specific reasons that the transition was largely peaceful as far as the former white rulers was concerned, need to be studied and understood. (One being that a responsible and credible leadership was imprisoned and not all assassinated in extra-judicial killings).

      But it shows that there are positive outcomes to societies that transition, and in Israel’s case, the balance of populations is much closer than in S Africa.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      There are transitions possible, and it comes from humanizing the other, rather than dehumanizing.

      It clearly happens from both communities, and the healing has to come from both.

      The 50-50 demographics in river to sea, is more difficult than a help in integration than in South Africa.

      For all the commentary that the two-state approach is dead, the reality of two distinct communities desiring to self-govern (rather than be governed externally) remains and should be supported.

      My sense is that the only possible two-state is the Fayyad version, in which settlers are permitted to reside in democratic Palestine as a minority with full civil rights.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Kiwi

      Yea just about everything that is written on this blog and just about all comments on it ring true.

      There is only one thing that worries me about it. The inversion of reality.

      The only way that the hatred and distrust between two peoples can ever stop is if BOTH sides make an effort to stop the demonisation of “the other”

      The problem that I have with this blog and many of the comments, is that it pretends that the hatred and distrust emanates ONLY from Jews. That is simply incorrect. Anyone who is familiar with the history of this conflict cannot be fooled into believing that the Jewish people alone are the haters. And the hatred and mistrust from each side feeds on itself and generates more of the same.

      So what is the solution? Work on BOTH peoples to stop this cycle. Working on Israelis alone will only generate resentment because they know that thare are many haters on the other side. And no amount of rhetoric will convince them otherwise. The only thing that will convince them is real evidence of a mass movement to attempt at peaceful reconciliation. .

      Reply to Comment
    11. Kiwi

      … By the Arab population too.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Shmuel

      The Lyncing of two Israeli reservists who strayed into Ramallah by accident is not yet a distant memory to most Israelis. Just look at the horrifying picture in the link below:

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Ramallah_lynching

      “The 2000 Ramallah lynching was a violent incident in October 2000 at the beginning of the Second Intifada in which a Palestinian mob killed and desecrated two Israel Defense Forces reservists, Vadim Nurzhitz (sometimes spelled as Norzhich) and Yossi Avrahami (or Yosef Avrahami),[1] who had accidentally entered the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Ramallah in the West Bank and were taken into custody by PA policemen to the local police station. The event sparked international outrage[citation needed] and further intensified the ongoing conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces.”

      Reply to Comment
    13. Shmuel

      Why won’t you post my link describing the Lynchings of two Israeli reservists who accidentaly strayed into Ramallah in 2000?

      Because it gives a lie to this article which suggests that the hate ONLY emanates from Israelis?

      Reply to Comment
        • sh

          Just as pictures of Baruch Goldstein’s victims in 1994 and the subsequent antics of his supporters in East Jerusalem and Hebron over the years that followed must horrify many Palestinians. So much in common, so easy to empathise.

          Reply to Comment
    14. Shmuel

      ” So much in common, so easy to empathise.”

      Yes. But not if the preaching is ONLY done to Israelis and NOT to the Palestinian Arabs.

      Where is the + 972 equivalent in Palestinian society?

      Reply to Comment
      • You are asking Palestinians to show horror over the deaths of not just Israelis, but the killings of occupying soldiers.

        I do think it’s right to be horrified over those deaths, and I know and work with several Palestinian peace and justice groups who would agree. (In fact, they are the ones who helped me to think in a more empathetic way about people in the army.) But can I ask, do you feel any horror or empathy or concern over the torture of Islamic Jihad members in military prisons? With the assassinations as such people? I’m asking honestly, not rhetorically, but judging from comments you’ve made here in the past I would say no. There is a blind spot in Israeli society where the murder of those reservists is concerned: they are perceived not as occupiers who had strayed into Ramallah whilst wearing the uniform of an army that had left so many Palestinian civilians dead, but as innocents. Meanwhile, Palestinians who are arrested and tortured (or killed extrajudicially) on the grounds that they belonged to this or that paramilitary group inspire little sympathy, even if there is no hard proof of their affiliation. Double standards like this make it particularly difficult to foster empathy and compassion. On one level, people try to claim parity, as though this is a conflict between two equal sides. But the idea of equivalence that they were promoting only seconds before is rejected vehemently the moment when images of dead soldiers are placed alongside dead Palestinian paramilitaries.

        +972 is obviously not a uniquely ‘Israeli’ blog site (it has two Palestinian contributors, and it has featured many others) so I don’t think it is reasonable to ask where the ‘Palestinian’ equivalent is. I am also not sure how exclusively Palestinian blog reportage on Israeli society could be facilitated. People like Maya are able to travel to Battir and write on what they see. Could my neighbour go into Beit Shemesh and do the same? And what would she say? “They were enjoying their unimpeded freedom of movement and uninterrupted water supply”? I believe very strongly in the need for more empathy and compassion towards Israelis (Ilan Pappe recently wrote an article on this very topic), but perfectly parallel initiatives are not always the best way to create it – because the situation isn’t perfectly parallel. It’s impossible to cultivate empathy without recognising the huge disparity in power that exists, and acknowledging that the best means for fostering it will vary because of that disparity. When his daughters were killed during Cast Lead, Izzeldin Abulaish wrote a book called ‘I Shall Not Hate’ and set up a charitable foundation, Daughters for Life, that helps girls with their education – including Israeli girls. He didn’t set up a sympathetic blog site on Israeli society, no, but that would not have been the most effective thing for him to do in his situation. So he contributed as he judged best, by making known his willingness to support girls like his daughters even in Israel. And I know for a fact that his decision to do that generated some interesting conversations in Palestinian communities. There are some good efforts going on here.

        Reply to Comment
    15. Shmuel

      “Double standards like this make it particularly difficult to foster empathy and compassion.”

      You are making my point for me Vicky. Either both societies confront their fear and racism against the other, or what you say above applies.

      Now I don’t want to enter a competition of who commits greater and more atrocities but so long as you do, I’ll stay with you. Here is another case that horrified the Israeli public:

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Shalhevet_Pass

      “The murder of Shalhevet Pass was a shooting attack which was carried out on March 26, 2001 in Hebron, West Bank, in which a Palestinian sniper killed the ten-month-old Israeli infant Shalhevet Pass. The event shocked the Israeli public, partly because an investigation ruled that the sniper had deliberately aimed for the baby.[2] The murder became a “potent Israeli symbol as an innocent victim of the raging violence”.[3]”

      That was even a worse example of hate by Palestinians than the murder, by lynching, of captive Israeli reservists right under the noses of the PA police who did nothing to stop it.

      Now Vicki, you can do one of two things.

      1. Make excuses for Palestinians by saying that the situation is not parallel and that their acts of hatred are more understandable.

      2. Or you can condemn ALL acts of hatred committed by BOTH sides and demand change from BOTH sides equally. No ifs buts or maybes.

      + 972 Magazine, including its Palestinian contributors, took it upon itself to admonish ONLY Israelis, not Palestinians. Thats what I object to. And thats why I am asking where is the Palestinian equivalent of + 972 magazine? If it exists, it keeps a very low profile. Too low in fact. If you have a link to their site, please be so kind and post it.

      Reply to Comment
      • I’m not sure you understood my meaning. To a bereaved parent, it doesn’t matter all that much whether their dead child was killed alone or was one of thousands, which is why I don’t play the numbers game with atrocity. Grief is grief, so losing one life can be as bad as losing thousands. Pointing out that Israel is in control of the OPT, rules its population, and carries the responsibility of an occupying power doesn’t diminish the truth of that. But the power disparity isn’t some minor detail that can just be ignored, as it shapes the entire situation.

        Asking ‘why isn’t there a mirror of +972 in Palestinian society’ is the wrong question, for the reasons I’ve already given. A question that you could ask in better faith would be, “What empathy-building projects exist in Palestinian society?” I can point you to many of those if you honestly want them. However, your insistence on using willingness to replicate a specific blog site (which already has Palestinian participation) as some universal litmus test for empathy makes me doubt that you do. It shouldn’t be so difficult to grasp that there are many thoughtful ways of creating empathy, tailored to the situation, and that one is not necessarily better than another.

        Reply to Comment
    16. Shmuel

      Vicky.
      You think I don’t get your meaning? Well, I do. I just don’t agree with your approach. And obviously you don’t agree with mine.

      So lets just leave it at that, shall we?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Maya

      Vicky, I so appreciate your perspective and thank you for your thoughtful responses. I really hope that many are able to understand your position: absolutely no life is less valuable than the other. The power dynamics in this situation are incredibly warped though, and overlooking that is disingenuous.

      In this article, I wanted to be completely honest about what I said to the soldier, even though in retrospect I agree that I could have responded to him in a better way. I also realize that it is important to approach soldiers correctly as once angered they could become more aggressive. This is also the way that I see approaching the Jewish community in Israel and the Diaspora, as they tend to become even more aggressive when they feel attacked, which is dangerous.

      At the time I was shocked, yet again, with the soldier’s attitude. It is representative of so many and as such I am not surprised when Palestinians are treated badly by soldiers, not just at checkpoints. I was also really uncomfortable with the idea that he was concerned for me not as an Israeli citizen, but specifically as a Jewish person. (The first thing he asked was if I am Jewish). Again, with this attitude it is no surprise that Palestinians in Israel (or Israeli-Arabs, however they’re identified) are discriminated against and overlooked.

      I wanted to make the comparison to anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany because we as Jews are generally unable to recognize that we were also considered a ‘threat’. Nazis exploited this, which is why so many people at the time either supported or were indifferent to the idea of having us ‘dealt with’. It is ironic that we are not trying to prevent the same from happening to another people.

      I am certainly not saying that Palestinians are all innocent in any of this, and I don’t believe in painting over that. Violence is never the answer and there are actions committed at the hands of Palestinians that should be seriously condoned. But this does not justify the shocking things that are happening to Palestinians by Israel. My point with the article is to ask us to recognize the terror in ourselves too – people are generally very unwilling to do that. Also, Israel’s approach does very little to minimize any ‘terror’ that it claims to fight, and in fact it only serves to create more hate and rage. It’s therefore ironic that actions are done in the name of ‘security’ when it does not make Israeli citizens any safer, at least not for any sustainable period. Also, the media here does not show Israelis that Palestinians have been protesting non-violently for many years. In fact, this is completely overlooked by the majority, and is often suppressed militarily (check the story on Babs Al Shams, Budrus, Bil’in etc). I can’t help but feel that Israel exploits ‘Arab terror’ in order to maintain the status quo.

      Shmuel – your comments typify the approach I’m trying to call attention to in my article. Being defensive and saying ‘but they don’t do it so why should we’ is getting us nowhere. In fact, it’s doing harm to any sort of process. We are in the position of power: Israel is the occupying force with the military might so we must recognize that it is in our power to change our attitude and the situation (otherwise let there be sanctions until things change). It is a scary thought to trust ‘the other’ but it has to happen. I am not attempting to ‘preach’ but if you see it like that, so be it. I am saying these things because I genuinely care about the safety of everyone in this place, with genuine equal rights, and not in some quasi-democratic state.

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    18. Kiwi

      “I wanted to make the comparison to anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany because we as Jews are generally unable to recognize that we were also considered a ‘threat’. Nazis exploited this”

      I have to say this comparison is plain disgusting. The Jews never conducted indiscriminate suicide bombing campaigns, rocket attacks or other forms of attacks against Germans. Unlike the Palestinians who conducted violent attacks against Israelis and Jews from the 1920s to this very day.

      I’ll say it again. This comparison is odious. And I am saying this as a non Jew who has many Jewish friends. I am saying it on their behalf..

      Reply to Comment
    19. Shmuel

      “Shmuel – your comments typify the approach I’m trying to call attention to in my article. Being defensive and saying ‘but they don’t do it so why should we”

      Thanks for admitting that they don’t do it Maya. That they are not being self critical and introspective about their acts of hate. Certainly not in the way that +972 Magazine is doing with Israel.

      Now I ask you. Why do you consider it so wrong to ask that they should do it too? That they should stop pretending sole victimhood in a war that they contributed to at least as much as Israel and more, at least in my opinion.

      And it isn’t just my opinion. Even arch doves like Shlomo Ben Ami and Benny Morris clearly said that Palestinian leaders like Arafat and his predecessors never accepted the Jewish state and waged an existential war against the it for nearly 100 years.

      So in the context of two warring peoples, what is wrong with demanding that BOTH sides should pull their weight if there is to be a process of reconciliation?

      Saying that because one side, Israel, gained the upper hand in this 100 year old war, that side should make more sacrifices for peace is just a red herring. You brought up the example of Nazi Germany so I will too. Did the allies ease the pressure on the Nazis towards the end of the war after Germany was on the brink of defeat and was weakened? I suppose if you and Vicky were alive then, you would have demanded that the allies should make all sorts of concessions in the name of peace. Because the allies were all powerful and by then Nazi Germany was weak.

      Did you like that comparison, Maya? I bet you did not. So in the future please be a bit more discerning with the types of comparisons that you bring up too. I fully agree with the comment that Kiwi made to you about it.

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      • This is not about ‘two warring sides’. This is about an occupier and an occupied. No one is saying that Palestinians don’t need to shoulder any responsibility in peacebuilding, but we are pointing out that the type and nature of that responsibility is categorically different.

        As for reconciliation, that occurs when injustice ends. The TRCs were established in South Africa after apartheid, not during. It’s hard to talk about reconciliation when whole communities currently lie under demolition order, there are government plans afoot to forcibly transfer all 27,000 Bedouin residents out of Area C, families have been torn apart on the basis of the birthplace recorded in the ID assigned to them by the military, it’s possible to detain a person indefinitely without a charge (let alone a trial), and two-year-old children are threatened with arrest by the army. (That last is no exaggeration; it happened in Kufr Qaddoum.) I travel regularly across the Green Line, I have many Israeli friends and contacts, and while I know that they have all been adversely affected by the situation here, they don’t live under the power of Palestinians. They aren’t subjected to systemic structural violence. An unfortunately large number of them would have the luxury of going about their daily lives without even knowing that the above mentioned abuses exist if they so chose. Luckily they don’t choose, but a lot of others do, and I think these are the people whom Maya is addressing.

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        • Shmuel

          “This is not about ‘two warring sides’”

          This has everything to do about warring sides Vicky. The following link lists terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians against Israelis, dating back from the 1980s to 2000. If you want, I can post similar links that date back to the 1920s. And there wasn’t even an Israel then, let alone occupation.

          http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_suicide_attacks#section_2

          Name Date Location Death toll Notes
          Mehola Junction bombing April 16, 1993 Mehola junction 1 Hamas claimed responsibility.[2] Carried out together with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

          Beit El car bomb October 4, 1993 Near Beit El 29 injured Hamas member Sulayman Idan was responsible.[3][4]

          1994 (5 bombings)
          Name Date Location Death toll Notes
          Afula Bus suicide bombing April 6, 1994 Afula 8 Hamas claimed responsibility. Carried out together with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
          Hadera bus station suicide bombing

          April 13, 1994 Hadera 5 Hamas claimed responsibility. Carried out together with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

          Dizengoff Street bus bombing October 19, 1994 Tel Aviv 22 Attributed to Hamas.
          Netzarim Junction bicycle bombing November 11, 1994 Netzarim 3 Hamas claimed responsibility. Carried out together with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
          Jerusalem Binyanei Hauma suicide bombing December 25, 1994 Jerusalem 13 injured Attributed to Hamas.

          1995 (4 bombings)

          Name Date Location Death toll Notes
          Beit Lid massacre January 22, 1995 Beit Lid Junction 21 Two bombers. One detonated at rescue party. Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

          And there is much more on that site.

          Reply to Comment
    20. Maya

      Hi Kiwi and Shmuel. The situation is incredibly complicated and as I hope I’ve made clear, there is profound mistrust on both sides, and each for good reason. I did not mean to make an offensive comparison, Kiwi, and I agree that each context is completely different. What I wanted to point out was that it is dangerous to think that an entire group is a threat. This is unhealthy in any situation, regardless. I really feel that we would be better off at least attempting to pick apart and understand what we’ve been taught about the ‘other’.

      Reply to Comment
      • Shmuel

        ” I really feel that we would be better off at least attempting to pick apart and understand what we’ve been taught about the ‘other’.”

        No arguments about that. The only thing that I disagreed with you about was about what you meant/mean by the word “we”.

        If you mean/meant ONLY Israelis, then I disagree. If you mean/meant Palestinians TOO, then I don’t disagree.

        However, if it is the latter, then we don’t see too much effort to do that on the Palestinian side. As I said, where is their +972 equivalent? And if they haven’t got one (which appears to be the case), then at the least, the Israeli +972 should write a fair few articles directed at Palestinians to redress the balance. It is a credibility issue.

        I say that because those of us who may be prone to be influenced, won’t be influenced under the present format. Because the current format of +972 is way, way unbalanced against Jews and Israelis. It may just be perception, although I don’tthink so. But in any case, perception is reality.

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