uploaded : Saturday 14th Jun 2003 at 22:45
by : The Editors/Amos Oz
We recommend the following article to accompany our June 14tth editorial:
It's All in the Head' by Gideon Samet
9 July 2003
I went out tonight in London with a strongly Zionist friend who thinks Ariel Sharon is God. We found ourselves on Edgware Road, where we had a delicious dinner in a Lebanese restaurant and then we ?migrated? to the Green Valley Supermarket to shop for groceries. The Green Valley is owned by Palestinians who made an effort during the height of the Intifadah to tell the London media how much they welcome their Jewish customers.
The supermarket proprietors were friendly to us and seemed unmoved by my friend?s strong North American accent. The graciousness of our Lebanese waiters and Palestinian shopkeepers was breathtaking.
Then we got into the car. We had a conversation that could have been held by two members of Peace Now. No, it was not just a happy meal and obsequious shopkeepers that made us suddenly decide we want peace. It is our deeply felt Jewish ethics that have begun to rule our thought patterns. I was disgusted by the homicide bombing in Jerusalem but was also moved by the footage of the young bomber?s family in tears of despair at his wasted life.
Let me explain: I live outside Israel and have no comprehension of the life Israelis live every day. I get on a bus, sit in a caf? and walk around London?s ?little Arabia? with no fear. None. Having once written about the way Israel should handle the Intifadah I received an angry letter telling me that Diaspora Jews should stay out of Israel?s affairs. However, there is one aspect of the events of the past two weeks that I must point out to Israelis. It is a point of view only a Diaspora citizen can comprehend.
In the lead-up to and during Aqaba, for a few days Dr Rantisi began to look like the Iraq Information Minister. He seemed so out of touch with the reality of the historic handshakes that he was rapidly becoming a figure of levity and of insignificance to Palestinian aspirations of statehood. Israel?s image abroad was burgeoning as Hamas and Jihad kept shouting for violence whilst the world watched Ariel Sharon using the ?O? word; endorsing dismantling of settlements and shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas. And for those Israelis who feel Israel?s image abroad is of no importance I say: nothing made me prouder than seeing Rabin and Peres get the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, a year in which Israel?s economy was jumping and the slump of today was unthinkable.
What did Ariel Sharon do? He decided to attack Dr Rantisi. Yes, the Americans are doing the same in Iraq. But six million Americans do not live inside Iraq. For the first time in my life I felt that an Israeli Prime Minister was threatening the security of his people by suddenly attacking a high-profile figure who had been the target of negotiations by the new Palestinian Prime Minister.
The disgraceful conditions in which Palestinians have lived for decades could never have befallen any Jew anywhere in the world. Our aid agencies would never countenance such squalid neglect. The ?neglect? is that of the oil-rich Arab world and of the Palestinian leadership. Why have other Arabs not mobilised to provide aid and infrastructure for these benighted people? Yes, I know that the sight of refugee camps is used by the Arab world as a tool to discredit Israel and the Zionist movement. But I also condemn Europe, the perpetrator of the Crusades and centuries of racism and anti-Semitism, for not being the leader in turning the Holy Land into a place of peace and reconciliation. However, to see houses being bulldozed by Israel, as my -- yes, Right-wing Zionist -- friend said last night, is rubbing salt on the wounds of an already-degraded people who know no recourse but terror and violence. Visiting the immaculate and beautiful Green Valley Supermarket in Upper Berkeley Street tonight, we wondered why such enterprises could not thrive in the West Bank and Gaza. The irony is that the supermarket?s clientele is about 50% Jewish; people come from all over London to buy their superb sweetmeats and produce.
I know what Rantisi represents, and I have no affection for him whatsoever. I know that four Israeli soldiers had been slaughtered in the West Bank by terrorists before Sharon targeted Rantisi.. It is said, and I believe it, that the bombing of the 14 bus was planned long before the Rantisi hit. In these pages I have countless times said that bombs went off in Israel when Rabin was making peace and not attacking the Palestinians. That is not the issue. The issue is timing: Sharon?s action was that of a bull in a china shop. The process of peace had been given a new lease of life at Aqaba after the Americans? noble liberation of the Iraqi people, and respect ought to have been paid to the efforts of yet another American President to bring the two peoples together.
The delicate, priceless china is the Israeli people. They cannot afford to be put in jeopardy by anyone, let alone by its leadership. I am not happy about settlers being uprooted but if peace can come to the land and the ?bigger picture? can be one of mutual respect and cooperation by a majority of Palestinians and Israelis it will be a blessing for everyone.
The following essay by Amos Oz was written before the 14 bus atrocity.
It's Simple: Two Peoples, Two States
6 June 2003
For the first time in 100 years of conflict, the two peoples - the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs - are ahead of their leaders. The people know that the disputed land must be divided into two nation-states, while the leaders are being drawn into the peace process reluctantly.
The basic facts are actually very simple. A country that is roughly the size of Sicily is now inhabited by 5.5 million Jews and 3 million to 4 million Arabs. They cannot share the land - so they must divide it into two. The Czechs and the Slovaks did the same not very long ago without shedding any blood at all.
After three years of bloody Palestinian intifada and of bloody Israeli oppression, it has become clear to the majority of the Israelis that most of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza will have to be removed; otherwise there cannot be a viable state of Palestine. At the same time, more and more Palestinians realize now that the 1948 refugees will have to be resettled in Palestine, not in Israel; otherwise there will be no viable state of Israel.
This process of sobering up hurts. For both sides it means an injured self-image, a compromised sense of justice, shattered dreams and a heavy sense of loss. Both parties are going to feel as if they were amputated once the two-state solution is implemented.
This is the time for the rest of the world to offer both sides as much help, empathy and understanding as possible. This is the time for well-meaning governments and individuals to come forth with a mini-Marshall Plan in order to resettle the Palestinian refugees in the state of Palestine. It is also the time to offer Israel the security guarantees it will need in return for renouncing the occupied territories.
This is time for compassion, not for historical accounting and not for blaming. The photos out of Aqaba mean little. Neither Ariel Sharon nor Mahmoud Abbas is likely to become a Nelson Mandela. But whether they like it or not, it looks as if their sleeves are now caught in the cogwheels of the peace process. They are being pulled into it, kicking and screaming and trying to appease their fanatics back home. Yet it will be almost impossible for those two leaders to run away from the peace process now.
Let us not expect a sudden honeymoon between deadly enemies. Let us expect and encourage a painful divorce and a partition of the very small home into two even smaller apartments. The time is ripe.
Amos Oz is an Israeli novelist.
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