Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Palestinians Condemning Murder

Yesterday I linked to a Guardian story which encouraged us to believe that Palestinians and Israelis were equally shocked by the murder of the Fogel family. The reporter, Harriet Sherwood, didn't supply any facts to bolster her claim, not even one, so it's hard to know what she thought she was referring to, or if - as I understand it - she was simply inventing things from thin air.

A number of readers discussed the matter, and one, Mich, offered a fascinating report by Shlomi Eldar (not to be confused with Akiva Eldar of Haaretz: Shlomi is a reporter who's primary interest is in facts). You need Hebrew to follow Eldar's report, which of course Sherwood doesn't have, and since she gives no inkling she's aware of Eldar's report, I stand by my characterization of her as an ideologically-motivated hack. Having said that, Eldar's report deserves an English summary:
I've been reporting in the Palestinian territories for many years, and the responses I recorded today in Shchem (Nablus) really surprised me. They seem to show a substantial distance between the PA leadership and regular people. The leadership (he cites Abbas and others) are muttering a condemnation of the murder, mostly not in Arabic and not in front of their public, and then they're condemning Israeli settlements. Nothing new here. On the other hand, I went to Shchem today, and was very surprised. People on the street were willing to condemn the murder unequivocally, in Arabic and in Hebrew, with no embarrassment, in front of the camera, and even identify themselves. [He shows some examples]. I've been covering the Palestinian territories for years, but this I've never seen before. In the middle of town, publicly, people had no compunctions openly to condemn the murder of children.
At this point one of the two anchormen asks if this is real, or perhaps a one-off encounter with unusual townsmen. Eldar insists: the interviews I've just shown were representative, and I made lots of them, not only the snippets I just screened. Moreover, I didn't find anyone saying the usual things about how it's settlers and Israelis and IDF violence and all that. The atmosphere in Shchem today is that the murder of the Fogel family was a terrible crime.
OK. So what does all this mean? Shlomi Eldar says he doesn't know, so I certainly know even less. Still, being a blogger means you've got to have theories about everything all the time, right? So here are some conjectures.

1. Netanyahu's economic peace is working. Look at the store fronts of Shchem: the economy is obviously booming, people are beginning to live normal lives, and this allows them to think normal thoughts. The fact that the IDF has largely moved out of the West Bank and has dismantled most of the roadblocks, even as the settlements aren't growing, no matter what the international media reports, is creating a new breathing space for the Palestinians, and they're beginning to breathe normally.

2. Exhaustion. The economic peace of 2009-2011 is succeeding where the boom of the late 1990s didn't, because the Palestinians have lost their illusions. In their suicide-bomber war of 2001-2003 they tried to break Israeli society, but the attempt backfired disastrously. Now they're eager to pick up where they could have been in 1999, this time wiser and more realistic about what can and can't be achieved.

3. The Arab Spring of 2011 really does mean something. Over the past few months we've seen masses of Arabs all over the region wishing for the same kind of world the rest of us live in, and bravely trying to get there. It's not even remotely clear they're going to end up with liberal open societies, but then again, it's not certain they won't - and even if they don't, some of them really do seem to be striving for it.

4. Settlements aren't as aggravating as we've endlessly been told. If there really is a sea change underway in the West Bank, it has started even though the Jewish settlements are still there. This doesn't necessarily mean the Palestinian populace is willing to have them stay there, but it may mean they're open to a process where reconciliation happens in the minds before the reality is foolishly and irrevocably changed.

5. Most important of all, were it to be true: After a full century of miscalculating, the Palestinians are beginning to understand that the only way they'll get peace with Israel is by mutual recognition of our common humanity. The first man interviewed says, repeatedly: "Tell the Israelis Muslims aren't allowed to murder", and the teenager, brandishing the picture of Ehud Fogel says "Why should he have died? Isn't it a waste?"

This is all speculative, and possibly wishful thinking. Yet I'm not certain. Over the past few months, perhaps a year, I've been wandering a lot through East Jerusalem, and occasionally through parts of the West Bank, and the calm and normality have been striking. I've also had more simply normal human interactions with Palestinians than in many years. Something may be happening - unreported in the media, in a dynamic which contradicts the endless chatter of the diplomats - but potentially very important.

If so, it needs to be carefully and warily nurtured. Carefully, warily, and nurtured. And patiently. Not words that are easily compatible with the instincts of the people who've got it wrong so far, who need to see their pet solutions applied NOW, and are intoxicated with their certainties.


Y. Ben-David said...

Interesting. Only time will tell.
I have heard first-hand from someone who lives in a settlment near Hevron that relations between the Jews of the area (Hevron, Kiryat Arba and the neighboring communities) have been slowly restored with the Arabs of Hevron. They had existed prior to Oslo, but the "peace process" destroyed them. There is a considerable amount of business going on.....Hevron has light industry that is seeking Israeli markets and the Jews of the area serve as middle men. One popular product produced are shoes and sandals.

Now, people have claimed that ecnomic ties are a "sure-fire" prescription against war and conflict, forgetting, for example, that international trade reached a peak in 1914 and yet, just then, Europe's leaders decided to embark on World War I. Still, the normalization that Yaacov described is encouraging. All I can add is that removing the settlements would upset this very stability because it would then play into the hands of the extremists, who would then again claim "you see , they are weak, they are destroying their own communities without us forcing them out so if we keep up the pressure, they will eventually flee Tel Aviv"!. The settlements are the only guarantee for peace.

NormanF said...

The Palestinians condemn the murder on instrumental grounds, not out of moral principle.

The fact they're doing economically well means nothing. Their society is infected by deep Jew hatred.

Nazi Germany was also economically prosperous and it still hated and persecuted the Jews.

The bottom line is Ya'acov, without a fundamental transformation in Palestinian society of a moral and humane nature, peace is going to be impossible, no matter how well off they are.

You're are measuring their supposed health by the wrong yardstick! I'm really surprised at your naivete. Consider the following: if society isn't morally healthy, it won't be a democracy, it won't be a conscientious society and it won't be a society that would keep agreements it makes with its neighbors.

The PA and Hamas as we have seen over the past weekend, are none on all three counts. There won't be peace with the Palestinian Arabs in our lifetime.

Morey Altman said...

My sense, for what it's worth, is that the average West Bank Arab may oppose settlements, and may even repudiate Jewish nationalism as a whole, but is not prepared to dehumanize Jews to the extant that the radical Left and Islamic clergy has done. And I suspect this is because the willingness to dehumanize was predisposed and not at all a result of the settlements, as some of these radicals attempt to suggest. In fact, the whole idea is an affront to rational thought, that political opposition to Jews settling in the West Bank should logically provoke not simply protestations but rather brutal and vicious behaviour. I'll leave why they are so predisposed for the psychologists and historians but I have a few theories.

Ed Halper said...

There's one more lesson to be drawn: the intransigence of the PA leadership in negotiation is aided and, perhaps, sustained by one-sided Western condemnations of Israel.

NormanF said...

Morey, the young Arabs grow up on nothing but a steady diet of Jew-hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. The older generation has had some personal experience of contact with Jews to know the propaganda is false but the young have nothing to tell them it isn't true.

That's another reason we won't have peace in our future any time soon. And Ed makes a good point that Western anti-Semitism helps to sustain the moral corruption and intransigence evident in the PA.

Therefore in our lifetime, given all of the above, only one conclusion can be affirmed: peace is not just difficult it is in truth impossible to achieve with the Palestinian Arabs and for that matter with the entire Arab World as well.

Morey Altman said...

I'm not quite so pessimistic. Young Arabs have also been exposed to Israeli and foreign media, the internet, popular culture; many work with Israelis. The majority aren't so unsophisticated that they can't recognize Islamic rhetoric for what it is (even if a minority are manipulated by it). The real truth of the matter is that for decades, going back before 1948, the Palestinians have been overwhelmingly and even at times unexpectedly ambivalent. That could work, in theory, in Israel's favour; if we we weren't so damn indecisive when it came to making some very hard decisions. Which has permitted both Arab and Israeli interest groups to set the agenda (sometimes by default). But don't give up just yet. I haven't.

Danny said...

There is another possibility: That they are afraid of the consequences, e.g. closures, or war; or even just more building. Or, put another way, maybe they think that Israel is the strong horse?

Y. Ben-David said...

I think Danny has put his finger on it. After all, there is much hatred and mutual suspicion within the Arab/Muslim world but it doesn't always degenerate to violence. For example there is the Shi'ite-Sunni split. They lived together for years in Iraq under Saddam's iron-fisted rule. When he fell, some extremists managed to inflame the populations against each other. Even in times of peace, I am sure people of different groups could get together, drink coffee and talk. Unstated, but obvious to all involved was the fact that "the groups we belong to hate each other but neither of us is in a position to kill the other, so we might as well enjoy ourselves for the moment".
The place to watch now is Libya. No matter whether Qaddafi succeeds in suppressing the revolt, a lot of arms have gotten into the hands of the population and they may start using it to settle personal scores, as happened in Somalia when Siad Barre's regime collapsed in the 1990's.

AKUS said...

I thought that this video was one of the most hopeful and reconciling things I've seen in a long time.

As for Sherwood - she is an utter fool that for some reason was sent to wander around like a village idiot in the most complex area in the world. Probably to get her out of London at any cost.

Barry Meislin said...

Hmmm. Here's something a tad less hopeful:

(Which probably means it should be suppressed.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece by Larry Derfner on Itamar and the Palestinian reaction:

Kind regards, André

Aryeh said...

I live in Nokdim in the Gush Etzion block. The relations between some of the local Arabs and some of the local Jews are cordial and at times friendly. While there are unquestionably Arabs who would like to harm Jews, there are others who are decent people who want to live in peace.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov: you point conjecture three
second sentence first clause. Will
your desire a wish emanating: your
failure apprehending shadow side a
failure appreciating Arab human do
succeed if and only when? Obstacle
overcome overruling Ra sun god who
continue forgetting Yosef. Balance
you struck strike now may or not I
believe parallel Arab Muslim grief
transmuted in our Israel interest:
more equity more justice community
less happiness freedom individual.
Cardo sales (what next: Jesus oil)
outstrip viability trinket sales:
so I believe Arab kings emirs bad
rulers must pay damages building:
our undivided eternal capital for
to benefit all humans acknowledge
Israel devotee temporal temporary
always sovereign sowing shmitah a
discharge of synthetic CDOs. Amen.
Muslims revenge kinds minds small?

The Steel General said...

NormanF said...

Morey, the young Arabs
grow up on nothing but a steady diet of JewArab-hatred and de-legitimization of Israel Palestina. The older generation has had some personal experience of contact with JewsArabs to know the propaganda is false but the young have nothing to tell them it isn't true.

What's so amazing about this, is the baseless self0victimisation comcommitant with a steady eradication of everything Palestine.

It's a bit like this:
"I'm a poor helpless victim", said the Israeli soldier, while he gunned down another batch of about 15 Palestinian children.

Jack Bresler said...

I got to this post while looking for something else, and read it thru before realizing that it has aged five years.
Could you comment on the relevance/irrelevance of your post to the current situation?

I perceive signs of grass-roots dialogue that either may or not be developing?

Do you think I am venting wishful thinking? Or do you share my thoughts?