Friday, June 27, 2003

When Allison told us about ISM's summer camp in Palestine, I went in to the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) website (I'm not linking, find it yourself) and read a bit about their planned activities for the summer and about the things they say about Israel. It's all horribly one-sided, of course. There are quite a few unbelievably blatant and unabashed lies, such as the laughable claim that residents of the "occupied territories" have no freedom of speech. Obviously they haven't been watching much Palestinian TV. (The only thing that Palestinians are not free to say is that they would rather make peace with Israel. If they happen to mention that out loud, they're likely to find themselves dragged through the streets and strung up in the town square, and that's if they're lucky).

Those who read what the ISM has to say about Israeli Arabs, for instance, wouldn't realize that Israeli Arabs are voting citizens with full citizen rights, and that Israeli Arabs have elected representatives in the Israeli legislative body, the Knesset (Okay, there is discrimination, but they make no mention of the fact that this is certainly not legal, open, state discrimination).

Those who read their site would have no way of knowing, for instance, that more than half of the Israeli Jews are actually natives (or descendants of natives) of the Muslim world, not European conquerors and colonizers. And that most of them are here as a result of circumstances not very different than those that made so many unfortunate Palestinians into refugees.

It is sad that people who are indoctrinated with a slanted, one-sided, solely pro-Palestinian view of the conflict here will never get to learn about what Israel really is. They think they already know. Or maybe they just couldn’t care less. Israelis are the big strong rich bullies. They don't have faces.

But when you stop to look at the faces you see a different picture. You see, for one thing, that we have one or two serious issues that have nothing to do with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. But more about that another time.

Bish read an article about Muhammad Darwish, the famous Palestinian poet, recently. He told me that Darwish said something about the Palestinians being prepared to take Tel Aviv, while we could have Ramallah. But the thing is, Tel Aviv was built by the people living in it, as was Ramallah. If we switched, Ramallah would soon start looking like Tel Aviv and vice versa. Israel is not an advanced, relatively modern and western style industrial country because it robbed the Palestinians.

In 1948, the fledgling Israeli state started off with nothing. Less than nothing (Far far less than what the Palestinians were given on a platter in the early nineteen nineties and p#$&ed away, excuse my language). A tiny piece of land wedged in by extremely hostile neighbors (And even the Americans didn’t like us very much in those days). Human resources, you say? What human resources? Half of the hundreds of thousands of refugees that began pouring in came from Arab countries, they knew nothing of western ideas and values; the other half were largely Holocaust survivors, wrecks of human beings who had spent the previous few years in hell or fleeing hell.

So how did we do it? I don't know. With our fingernails? With our desperation? With wisdom learnt on the crumbling streets of Warsaw Ghetto and in the winding alleyways of Fez and Baghdad?

However it came about, the result is that we seem to have done such a good job that now it is quite natural that we are the big strong rich bullies.

Most people I know can't be bothered with all this. They're too busy struggling to put food on the table.