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March 29, 2002
          Palestine-Israel Conflict: When Will the Horrors End?

 Ami Isseroff

The horrors will end when each side in the Israel-Palestine conflict stops pointing fingers of blame at the other side, and starts mending their own moral failures.

The latest terrorist attacks in Israel, one of  which killed 20 people and wounded about a hundred others, followed by a second one on March 28 and another on March 29, should cause honest persons to think again about the middle east . The rather obvious and empty gestures of the PNA regarding a unilateral cease fire, and equally empty and cynical condemnations of violence against civilians, look like a rerun of a bad movie. The reactions of all other interested parties, including the Israeli "peace camp," the Israeli government, and Palestinian supporters will very likely follow the usual scripts. Already, there are preparations for an Israeli "incursion" into Palestinian areas.

An Israeli dialog facilitator wrote,

""There are certain crimes which do not have two sides or even if they do we should not spend time trying to understand the other side. These are crimes against humanity. Going to a place where people are eating dinner, not caring who the people are and what their beliefs are, that there are women and children among them ...and killing them simply because they are Jewish is a crime against humanity." It is like trying to justify Sep.11 - how can one justify that? "

There is a lot of confusion among Israeli activists about the nature of the other side - and also a lot of confusion on the Palestinian side about what they want - and about the nature of Israel and Zionism. The Palestinians who live in the W. Bank and Gaza want independence for themselves. That is why they started the first Intifadeh. They have a legitimate complaint - the occupation. The PLO and the constituent Palestinian organizations that co-opted the Intifadeh in 1987 want something else. The Hamas is not fighting a war of Independence. The Fatah are not fighting a war of Independence. They make it clear in their charters. It is a war of annihilation.

So there are really some bad people on the other side. It is not surprising that they blow people up in discotheques or in the middle of a meal. It is hard to accept the truth, but it is necessary,

Likewise, we have to know our own truth, because we are confused. It is one thing to resist annihilation. It is something else to cynically use the threat of annihilation by the leaders of the Palestinians in order to excuse stealing the land and throwing out all the inhabitants.

However, not all Zionists are right-wing fanatics, and not all Palestinians are Hamas fanatics. That is another truth that must penetrate to both sides.

At a recent dialog meeting, we were asked, as an exercise, to spend 5 minutes telling our partners about ourselves - and the other way 'round. Then people were asked to repeat in public what the other partner had said.

Among other things, I said, that in the morning I may wake up furious at Sharon and the government for building more settlements, or for some brutal atrocity like crushing ambulances with tanks. Then at noon there may be a terrorist attack, and in the evening I am furious at the Palestinians - both those who really want to kill us, and those who apologize for terror attacks and justify them.

A Palestinian who is active in dialog wrote that he is conflicted. On the one hand he is against violence of all kinds. On the other hand, he is branded as a traitor - after spending 15 years in Israeli jails - if he even speaks to Israelis. He cannot condone the occupation and he cannot condone the terror.

For me there is no moral dilemma. What is right is clear. Israel must end the occupation, the Palestinians must end the violence and dismantle the terror organizations that are intent on destroying Israel. So we must speak out for what is right. If we condemn one side without speaking out against the wrong on the other side, then we are not helping peace, but are rather part of the propaganda war. If we speak out against Palestinian violence alone, then we are justifying the occupation. If we speak out for ending the occupation alone, then we are justifying and perpetuating the violence.

Those on each side who ask innocently, "who is causing this nightmare?" should look in the mirror first. The horrors will begin to end when people on each side are ready to criticize their own "side" as quickly and as sharply as they criticize the other side. The horrors will end when both Palestinians and Israelis will speak out for peace in unequivocal terms. Not peace with "justice" - meaning destruction of Israel, and not peace with "security" -  meaning settlements, but peace that allows both sides to live in dignity and safety.

It is not enough for one side only to speak out. It is not enough for Israeli peace activists and Palestinians to condemn Israeli actions. People on each side must condemn the horrors committed by their own side, and struggle actively to stop it.  It is not treachery but patriotism, for the way of violence, the current road of insanity, is an express ticket to Hell for both Palestinians and Israelis, and getting us off this train must be national priority number one for those who really care about their own people on both sides.

Ami Isseroff

Rehovoth, Israel

March 29, 2002

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