The end of my visit here is drawing near. I'm going home to a very busy and important time in my life, but even so I'm looking forward to getting back. I'm writing this from our hotel room which I have to say feels very restrictive. Basically this is because there isn't an internet connection in the room, and Unreal Tournament does not play well on my lap top.
Todays itinery was to go to a memorial for my fathers brother and then to come back to Tel Aviv. As with most things here it's the setting that interests me. So it was with the journey to the memorial that my attention was drawn to an issue that Ohad had brought up the other day when he popped in for lunch. He had just read an article in a news paper that was about the "Beduin time bomb". For the last three years I have been told by Israelis that Beduin Arabs, who traditionally have a nomadic existence pass through Israel and are generally seen as a benign group. This year there's been a change in the attitude towards them. Now it seems that tens of thousands of Beduins are camping permanently on land that is not theirs, and then building on the land. Eviction orders are so costly to enforce, sometimes requiring up to 600 police officers, that so far the "squatters" have got away with it. The Israelis feel threatened at their boarders, threatened by their Arab township occupants, pinned down by world opinion and now the Beduins are apparently changing centuries of tradition in an act of subtle colonisation. Add to this a weak economy, and a belief that through population growth the Israeli Arabs will shortly out number the Jewish ones and you get a glimpse of the general feeling welling up in the Israeli general mentality. What I continued to write on this subject got quite heavy so if you wish to read it click on this line if not continue scrollong downwards.
We were already late setting off from Arad and halfway into our journey Jonathan declared that without an ice cream from McDonalds he would surely die.
I sat their tutting until Jonathan got the ice cream then I had to have a bit. I saw the disgust on Jonathan's face as I ate the ice cream from his plastic spoon. He is a Virgo, Virgo's are particularly in to clenliness and hypachondria, he asked Miri to wipe the spoon clean for him, which just goes to prove astrology is true! I said "you're not going to like kissing girls if you're so fussy." he said "ice cream is not the same as girls". I could feel a recital of one of those email jokes you get where numerous similarities are pointed out between sex and chocolate, or men and rats, or ice cream and girls, but I thought better of poisoning such a young mind with my own cynicism.
Shoval kibbutz sits opposite an Arab settlement in the middle of Israel. My father fought here in the '48 war along with one of his brothers, Lazer, who stayed here to pioneer a kibbutz. Lazer is someone who 15 years after his death is reveered as a very special person, mainly due to his extraordinary kindness and humour. Bluma is Lazer's wife, she was a resistance fighter (or terrorist as far as the Nazi's were concerned) and ended up in Auswitz. She is tiny, has a high pitched voice and is still very much a powerful character. All the members of my fathers side of the family from this generation had extraordinary lives, and have lived through a transition in the the type of world we live in that is hard to comprehend. Their lives started in a world where the horse drawn cart was the main mode of transport and severe poverty and oppression was the norm.
One of the striking difference between here and being in Britain with regards the memorial service was that no one got dressed up for it. A few days ago I'd brought up the issue of politeness with Ohad and he had said that the British often find the Israelis rude because they don't say thank you and please as often as we British do. He enjoyed pointing out that while our way of speaking to people is very polite, we were not so polite to the nations we conquered, plundered, and left divided. I've heard it said that. "The English smile at you with their front teeth and bite you with their back teeth." Sadly hearing that made me feel very pleased to be British, it's quite nice to be seen as a bit dangerous.
As we entered the cemetery there were some Beduins
hanging around nearby. Recently some of the graves had been desicrated
and some things stolen. As a response the members of the Kibbutz put up
the sign shown below, which in both Hebrew on one side and Arabic on the
other mentions that
After the service we had a family get together, then returned to Tel-Aviv.
Continued from the first paragraph
On the News tonight, a Jewish father stood over his injured child who had been a victim to a nail bomb and shouted to the camera while waving a jar with the removed nail in, "Kill all the [swears in Russian] Arabs". Both Ohad and Eliave told me they rarely watch the News because it is so inflamatory. Probably the same feelings are running riot in hearts and minds of the Palestinians and other peoples of the Arab states.
One Palestinian spokesperson said on the Isralei News, that the Israeli policy of "hitting back" was not working and that a dialogue should be renewed, the Israeli response was "We won't negotiate until we see the Palestinian leadership do more to stop terrorism against us."
Ohad told me that after the '73 war when Israel's neighbours had been pushed back a great opportunity was missed. The Palestiians were at that time being controlled by either Egypt on the west side, or Jordan and Syria on the East and northern flanks. When Israel pushed these countries backwards the Palestinian saw Israel as having partly freed them from oppression, at this point, had Israel negotiated clearly defined areas of land and self determination with the Palestinians then possibly the Palestinians may have felt they too had their own land, and we would not be in our present state. Now whether this is a correct political analysis is neither here nor there in some ways because what is important is that Ohad has a different view of the Palestinian mentality regarding Israel's existence. Now days the general view is that the Palestinians and other Arab state's do not want Israel to exist at all, and therefore there is nothing to negotiate. The truth of the matter is probably that as with all societies there are mixed views and some parts of the society have a flexible attitude effected by the prevailing media portrayal of the situation.
Because the Palestinians turned down the last offer from Israel and insisted that control of Jerusalem be hand over to them, it's in the minds of the Israelis that an impass has been reached. However it may be that many Palestinians would in reality accept a compromise, but this may not be manifested for a long time. When I came here three years ago it was a hopeful time and there was a feeling that an agreement would be reached. After the Palestinians turned down Barak's deal and hostilities started the Israel's voted in Sharon, who had a reputation for forcefully dealing with the Palestinians. Now the Israelis are tiring of the killings and effect on their econony, and seem to be forming two main groups, one which wants to either escalate the "war" or partition the country fully (Arabs on one side and Jews on the other) and the other who wish to re-enter negotiations. On the whole though it's the former's voice you hear most.
In many ways our social situation is not controlled by singularly powerful people who either pull the strings out in the open or from behind the scenes. Instead the often uncoordinated actions of groups of people within a society tends to have very profound effects. Especially small groups of people who use violence to make their point. A disproportionate amount of control can be gained through violence, which if you agree with the point being made may be seen as freedom fighting and if you do not then it's terrorism. People who feel the need to use violence often justify it by saying that their oppression is particularly more accute than others, and that their voice is not going to be heard otherwise. Having seen how much oppression disabled people have to endure I would reckon that the world is very lucky that most of these people don't have either the access or ability to become terrorists. The feeling most humans have when they are ignored is pretty much a primeval one, that being "I'll do everything possible to make you pay attention then" (A baby cries, some people harm them selves and others hurt others and so on ).
The script for most people when violence is enacted on them is to try to hit back and in the process of defending themselves they naturally stop listening. We all make pressumptions about what the other person's thoughts and state of mind may be, and act according to what we believe they are likely to say. (This dynamic is easily recognised in a domestic row). At the moment the Israelis believe they know what most Palestinians are thinking / saying / demanding and are locked into that world. It may be accurate but it may not, however because the loudest voices coming from the Palestinians right now is that of the uncompromising radical groups it's hard to know what the Palestinian society's thoughts are really comprised of.
One of the relations I saw today had gone to the top of his profession and beyond. In all the time I've known him he has related to me on an equal level. He once told me a great saying which was "Don't be right be clever" and this has often come to my mind when I've felt myself getting into a reactive situation. In practice that means not responding to someone immediately but providing a moment for reflection. It seems to me that this part of dialogue is non existent here.