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From the Misfortune of Hate and Fear to Paths of Hope

Att. Nidal Othman*

first Published  : 10/12/2015   Last Updated: 12/10/2015 

   

Following the deterioration of events against the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the present situation in Israel is most severe.  A serious and murderous wave of violence, which finds expression in attacks against Jews and against Arabs, has struck and strikes us all.  These eruptions of violence lead to strong feelings of fear, frustration, hate, and great despair.

 

One who observes and follows these pronouncements of mutual hate and incitement can only lose hope in the possibility of a more normal future for all of us in this country.  The number of believers and activists working toward a shared future and peace has even begun to contract and has entered the circle of this terrible despair.

 

In the beginning of October 2015, the status of a young Jewish woman was displayed somewhere on Facebook in which she said: “Hating Arabs isn’t racism, it’s principles.”  Yes, this is a “status” that a young woman posted on her Facebook page and it got more than 15,000 “likes.”

 

Of course, similar posts were displayed by young Palestinians, whether they be from Gaza, from the West Bank, or young Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.  A few months ago, we were witnesses to a trend in which hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish youth added “Death to Arabs” alongside their names on Facebook.  The response of Palestinian youth, which was no less horrible than the first, was not late in coming.

 

During these days of November and December , the Coalition against Racism in Israel is leading a campaign under the banner, “I, too, am against violence and racism,” which will continue until the middle of December.  The campaign has been seen by hundreds of thousands of surfers on Facebook and has received at this stage thousands of “likes.”  One should note that along with the “likes,” the campaign has gotten hundreds of responses, most of which are positive.

 

Nevertheless, alongside the positive, responses of hate from both Jews and Palestinians are displayed.  Here are some examples from the responses of three Palestinians: “I, too, am a big racist and not against violence.” / ”Against racism and against violence? A nice expression with which they want to defeat us, is protecting our homeland violence” / ”Proud to be a racist and with strength.”  And also examples from the responses of three Jews that do not contribute to the atmosphere: “Keep on dreaming ... you’ll wake up in the grave that your “friends” have already dug for you, stupid is a compliment for you.” / ”I am for driving out all the Arabs, the left, the High Court of Justice to Syria, it’s all great in Syria!!” / ”Disgusting, interesting who is causing terror, to be a racist, that’s principles.”

One should also note that, while the majority of the responses are positive and support the campaign along with thousands of “likes,” there are still these responses that symbolize the deep crisis in which we are stuck and that is the crisis of faith.  The hate and the violence continue because that active minority, which does not believe in the possibility of a shared life and peace, sets the pace.  That group benefits from the silence of the majority and that situation leads to the falling away of active believers.

 

Recently I spoke with a Jewish woman from Israel who, with her two children, has worked and lived for a few months in Berlin.  She told me about a racist incident that happened to her: a drawing of a swastika on the window of her house.  She told me about the fast and supportive attention she received from the authorities there.  But even more, she stressed the responses of the German community in her neighborhood, which came out in opposition and expressed their solidarity with her.

 

And I ask how long will the silent majority in Israel continue in this status?  What are we waiting for?!  For some “mega-event”?  What exactly has to happen in this country in order for us to grow into the place where the German nation is today, where the authorities fight the fanatic right in Germany with no compromise?

 

We are stuck in a violent and murderous conflict, which brings more and more pain and suffering, more reasons for hate and for feelings of revenge, to thousands of families on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side.  I constantly wonder: who is leading us to this abyss?

 

On the route to the paths of hope, I thought, perhaps with some naivety, of the possibility of forgiveness between the two sides and I asked myself: Is the time ripe for forgiveness?  Forgiveness requires maturity, wisdom, containment, and a process that heals the wounds. And as I continued to think, I was reminded of a poem by the late great Palestinian poet, Samih Al-Qasim, from Kafr Rameh in the Galilee, who asks his murderer to use the travel tickets that were in his pocket to travel to peace!

 

Travel Tickets – Samih Al-Qasim (Trans. A.Z. Foreman)

 

The day Imed,

my killer, rifling through my pockets,

will find travel tickets:

One to peace,

one to the fields and the rain,

and one

to the conscience of  humankind.

 

Dear killer of mine, I beg you:

Do not stay and waste them.

Take them, use them.

I beg you to travel.

 

* The author is the director of the Coalition against Racism in Israel.