Thursday, December 20, 2007

Six documents on Israeli-Palestinian issues

Today we take a quick break from blogging our Australian delegation's activities in Israel and Palestine to note six important recent documents analysing various aspects of the conflict. There's a key paragraph and a link to the source, which I'm sure you will find stimulating reading.

A Palestinian Life
(a review of Sari Nusseibeh, Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Memoir, by Harold Fickett, Christianity Today Books & Culture magazine, vol. 13, no. 6, Nov/Dec 2007)
As I write, the two chief political factions in Palestine, Fatah and Hamas, are engaged in a civil war, as Israel ponders helping Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas restore order and the United States prepares to release previously impounded aid to Abbas' newly-formed government. One of those called upon to help Abbas should certainly be Sari Nusseibeh, the President of East Jersualem's Al-Quds University. He would seem to be the ideal negotiating partner both for Israel and the West. An Oxford- and Harvard-educated philosopher who cherishes the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy, Nusseibeh has already played a role in many peace efforts, both formal and informal, as well as being a clandestine leader of the first intifada or Palestinian uprising and head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jerusalem. He recounts all this and more, with the help of co-writer Anthony David, in his fascinating memoir Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life.

Palestine and Apartheid
(Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's keynote address at the Friends of Sabeel Conference in Boston on 27 October 2007)
Thanks be to God for the many, many Jews who know what their divine calling is and who want the Israeli Government to live it out. We believe in a two state solution -- of two sovereign, viable states each with contiguous borders guaranteed as secure by the international community. We condemn acts of terrorism by whoever they are committed. The suicide bomber has to be condemned for targeting innocent civilians. But equally must the Israelis be condemned for their acts of indiscriminate reprisal. We say please learn at least one positive lesson from apartheid South Africa. Under Mr F W de Klerk who must be commended for his outstanding courage, they decided to negotiate, not with those they liked but with their sworn enemy and they found the security that had eluded them for so long and that had cost so much suffering and blood. It came not from the barrel of a gun. No, it came when the legitimate aspirations and human rights of all were recognised and respected. That was thirteen years ago and the peace is still holding. Many had predicted that South Africa would be overwhelmed buy a catastrophic racial blood bath. It did not happen. It did not happen because they negotiated in good faith with their enemies.

Hanging Gardens and Shimmering Oases: The Middle East From Three Angles
(by Paul Merkley, Christianity Today Books & Culture magazine, vol. 13, no. 6, Nov/Dec 2007)
Why can't those people just get along? You know—the Arabs and the Jews. Isn't it obvious that, whatever is at the base of their inexplicable mutual hatred, the two parties are getting further and further away from even trying to understand each other? With each passing day, it seems, some new offense of one party against the other adds another layer of grievance, one more complication to be unwound before we can get the parties thinking again about putting it all behind and getting on with what everyone else on earth is getting on with. Perhaps if we walked the parties backwards over the chronological ground, they could observe the intensity of the quarrel getting less and less (retrospectively), until we find the moment when the two parties were actually talking to each other civilly; and then we could walk the parties forward from that same point and show them that it had all been about a failure to communicate. Amy Dockser Marcus believes that she has found that moment.

Annapolis Peace Conference and the Jerusalem Question
(ABC Radio National Religion Report, 21 Nov 2007)
For the first time in seven years the Israelis and the Palestinians are sitting down to talk peace. In 2000 the talks between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were held by Bill Clinton at Camp David, and they broke down over the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem. This time around, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas will be hosted by George W Bush at the Annapolis naval academy. Our guests Yossi Beilin, chairman of the political party Meretz, and Daniel Seidman are sceptical. Unless Israel is prepared to discuss core issues such as; a divided Jerusalem, defined borders for a two-state solution and Palestinians' right of return, they may as well stay at home.

A Moral Witness to the 'Intricate Machine'
(a review of David Shulman, Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine, by Avishai Margalit, New York Review of Books, 6 Dec 2007)
"I am an Israeli. I live in Jerusalem. I have a story, not yet finished, to tell." This is the opening line of David Shulman's powerful and memorable book, Dark Hope, a diary of four years of political activity in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is a record of the author's intense involvement with a volunteer organization composed of Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews, called Ta'ayush, an Arabic term for "living together" or "life in common." The group was founded in October 2000, soon after the start of the second Palestinian intifada.

"This book aims," Shulman writes,

at showing something of the Israeli peace movement in action, on the basis of one individual's very limited experience.... I want to give you some sense of what it feels like to be part of this struggle and of why we do it.
Struggle with whom? Shulman explains:

Israel, like any society, has violent, sociopathic elements. What is unusual about the last four decades in Israel is that many destructive individuals have found a haven, complete with ideological legitimation, within the settlement enterprise. Here, in places like Chavat Maon, Itamar, Tapuach, and Hebron, they have, in effect, unfettered freedom to terrorize the local Palestinian population; to attack, shoot, injure, sometimes kill—all in the name of the alleged sanctity of the land and of the Jews' exclusive right to it.
His diary proceeds to show how this happens. (may require subscription)

Facing the Wall: Palestinian Children and Adolescents Speak About the Israeli Separation Wall
(by Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a report co-funded by World Vision Australia)
In the first months after construction of the Israeli separation wall began, most national and international reporting about the wall focused on economic, political, security and social ramifications for the larger Israeli and Palestinian communities. There was a gap in analysis of the wall’s impact on marginalised and vulnerable members of Palestinian society, particularly the young. When Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian approached World Vision with the concept for her research, we were keen to support her focus on the impact of this wall on Palestinian adolescents, and in particular, the differential impact on girls. World Vision publishes this report to encourage awareness and discussion about the impacts of prolonged violent and political conflict on the lives of children and adolescents. We consider it important that children and young people everywhere be able to express their views on the issues and participate in the decisions that profoundly affect their lives. In the context of this report, opinions and comments expressed by children and young people are their own, and views expressed by the author are the author’s own, not the opinions of the World Vision organisation. World Vision urges an end to all violence against children and young people – whoever the perpetrator, whatever the cause.$file/Facing%20the%20Wall-LOW+covers.pdf