Saturday, April 17, 2010

46 Days of Palestinian Videos

I have now watched 46 days of videos on You Tube of “Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem” . Six days a week Palestinian women (primarily media producers) in Jerusalem, Gaza and Ramallah are videotaped talking with Palestinian people in various settings. While certainly the videos are “political” they also tell a story which a critical viewer can not readily ignore. They expose life in its complexities amongst Palestinians. They show the diversity of the people of the West Bank and Gaza.

The more that I watch the more that I feel a variety of things including shame, anger, admiration, sadness and much more.

Before I began watching the videos I was not aware that Gaza had an educated middle class population as well as people in poverty. I’ve also learned of different communities within the West Bank such as the Samaritans, whose religious faith seems closer to Judiasm than to Islam.

It seems increasingly obvious to me that the Israeli leadership unfortunately either does not want a peaceful permanent settlement with the Palestinians or is so scared of Palestinians per se, that nothing will convince them of genuine cooperation from “the other side”. In either case, it clearly is a situation where the status quo will not change for the better without increasing pressures to force serious negotiations on the part of the Israeli leadership.

It also seems obvious that “peace” is more than creating borders (which is most difficult in of itself). Peace is a recognition that the Palestinian people are the equals of the Jews of Israel. The situation seems clearly similar to how the dominant feelings were in the U.S. amongst White People in relation to Blacks in perhaps the late 1940’s. At that time talking of “freedom” for Black people did Not mean that a Black person would have the right to buy a house next door to a White person. That was “radical” and not realistic.

Today it is “radical” to deem Palestinian needs for water and other resources as being equal to those of the Israeli Jews.

Absent a radical shift in Israeli perspectives whereby Palestinians are miraculously turned into people who accept Palestinians as – “just like us”, building a future peace is in some ways much more complex.

There is a now a total paradox between two conflicting “realities”. With Israel so powerful and Palestinians in a weak position, seemingly Palestinians will need to compromise greatly on whatever is “reasonable” to achieve a true peace.

At the same time the combination of Israeli superiority complexes and their fears of Palestinians requires that Palestinians have a very secure, established state established where Israeli interference in internal affairs Can Not be carried out (as is done today).

It is often stated in the Israeli and American presses that the Palestinians and Arabs have repeatedly been shown to be “untrustworthy” and worse. What is not said is how the increasing apartheid or similar on the West Bank builds upon pre-existing feelings and makes peace more and more difficult to achieve.

Clearly any peace agreement will require that the West Bank be a single, contiguous Palestinian country, with No Israeli “islands” within it. IF there are to be any sites that Israelis maintain access to and partial control over they will need to be under the ultimate control of the Palestinian State. Israel’s recent track record has shown unfortunately that it can not be trusted to be fair and accepting and just to the Palestinians.

Perhaps 15 years ago it might have been possible for some small areas to remain under Israeli control surrounded by a Palestinian State. Ironically now as Israel expands its settlements trying to create “new realities” it seals future possibilities. The choices are either a total Apartheid and a state of permanent near war if not low level combat or a very clearly separated two state solution. (One can only hope that with a two state solution that continued trade and commerce and other existing connections can be continued and developed in new non-exploitative ways.)

It is sad to look back and see how things could have and should have been done differently. Absent the corrupt and ignorant leadership of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Israel might well have come to be a much smaller state than it now is. Absent the poor leadership of the neighboring Arab countries, peace might have been possible before the 1967 War.

It is easy to see how some of the Arabs of the Middle East have made mistakes and helped, particularly going back many years, in helping allow things to get bad for the Palestinian cause. One can also readily criticize the leadership of Arafat in various ways and use him as an excuse for various failures.

It is more difficult to look back with criticism upon how Israel has become a world military power and the oppressor of an entire people. It is more difficult to see how we as Americans have developed into both the apologist for and the key force preventing peace from developing in the Middle East.

It is fortunate now that President Obama is seeing how Palestine-Israel is a prime impediment to stopping the growth of radical Islam in much of the Muslim world. I can only hope that his insights will lead to real change in U.S. policy, despite the intense pressures in the U.S. to maintain that status quo via Israel and the Palestinians.

Thank you!

1 comment:

j said...

I have been watching Sleepless too. Its amazing and has shown me so much more than the bombed out streets I had seen before. I so admire the courage of those young women.