We refuse to be enemies
All photos by Richard Swift
Jeremy is a member of Rabbis for Human Rights, which champions a more humanistic Judaism than the more fundamentalist religious authorities. The Rabbis defend the rights of Palestinians and others (Bedouins, guest workers) against housing demolitions and other restrictions on their human rights. Jeremy believes that Israel is a society ‘wrapped up in its own traumas that suffers from a deep insecurity that allows it to lash out with great ferocity. It is an immigrant society that concentrates on its own needs and everything else is wilderness.’ Milgram believes that ‘while we can never forget the holocaust, we need to share it’. He is rare in Israel (or Palestine) for his belief in a bi-national state in which Palestinians and Israelis would live together.
Jeff is one of the key people behind the Israeli Committee against Housing Demolitions. He and other members of the Committee go and sit in front of the bulldozers sent to destroy ‘illegal’ Palestinian houses. According to Halper: ‘A Palestinian doing what I do would get shot.’ He believes Israeli authorities are consciously trying to create a Palestinian housing shortage to force people out of the greater Jerusalem area in a process he calls ‘quiet transfer’. Halper talks of an Israeli ‘matrix of control’ extending over the occupied territories and points out that the number of settlers has doubled since the Oslo agreement. Halper is highly critical of those in the Israeli peace movement who feel ‘betrayed by the Palestinians’. The Committee refuses to work with organizations that aren’t explicitly against the occupation. According to him ‘most Israelis know little of the daily brutality of the occupation. They just don’t get it.’
Fatín is a Palestinian writer who lives in Beit Jalla, a Palestinian town that has become ‘a hotspot’ because of its proximity to the Israeli settlement of Gilo. An attack on Gilo brings down holy hell on Beit Jalla. Curfew, periodic shelling and gunfire have become normal. ‘Our small children are crying at night,’ she says. ‘You have heard of an eye for an eye; this is a hundred eyes for an eye.’ Fatín says that curfews last for days and that 10 Palestinians were killed in a little over a week. She talks of how the soldiers go up to shop keepers and shout: ‘Why are you open? Close!’ She believes that ‘if you give a young man a weapon he becomes a God’. In normal times Fatín used to host tour groups with talks on Palestinian life. There are no tours any more.
Ra’ad Is a gentle, soft-spoken intellectual who is an editor of the quarterly journal Palestine-Israel. The journal started with the peace process as a way of maintaining a sense of dialogue between the two communities. The editorial board is balanced 50/50 between Palestinians and Left/liberal Israelis. Ra’ad believes that at present the journal is one of the few places a dialogue goes on. He thinks there is a colonial mindset in Israel that makes dialogue difficult. For Ra’ad, ‘the demonization of the other’ is something carried on by both sides. In his own work Ra’ad is looking at the studies of the traditions, lineage and movements of ancient peoples as a way of undermining some of the more outrageous claims of biblical justification.
Cedar Duaylis fled her home in Haifa in 1948 and now lives in Ramallah around the corner from Yassar Arafat’s compound. Her house was taken over as an IDF command post shortly after I had tea with her there. ‘I want Sharon to know that he cannot do what he wants with us. But I hate the suicide bombings of innocent civilians. It is completely against my nature. I am caught between my human feelings and my Christian values and the struggle of my people.’
Mohammed Abraham Sad
I interviewed Mohammed in the burn unit of the Palestinian hospital on the Mount of Olives. He is a nurse who drove on an ambulance into Jenin Camp in a negotiated arrangement to pick up the injured. ‘We had to go slow. Suddenly a voice shouted out to stop. Then there was a big explosion under our car and it was all flames. I tried to get the doctor out in the middle seat. But the door was jammed and we had to jump from the windows with the soldiers shooting at us. He is dead. I will return to my job. I am not a soldier, I do a humanity job. I hope the Israelis realize I am doing a humanity job.’