Monday, October 24, 2016

Setting The Stage For Peace : Israel/Palestinians

"We consider ourselves part of the family, part of the people of Efrat."
"Seventy percent of our village works in Efrat. They treat us very well and we are very good to them, too."
Ahmad Mousa, 58, contractor from the neighboring Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis

"This is good [meeting as a group, Palestinians and Israelis]. Our relationship is evolving."
"[Jews in Efrat] should stay on their land. These are their houses. They bought them with their own money. We should have no problem living together — if there is peace."
Noman Othman, 41, construction worker from Wadi Al Nis

"I came for a reason. I came to talk about our relationship, between you [Israelis] and us [Palestinians]."
"[There is a locked gate blocking the entrance to my village, enforced by Israeli security ­forces.] That gate should be removed."
"And that racist sign? That should also be removed. It’s outrageous. [Signs posted across the West Bank warning Israelis it is against the law and 'dangerous to your lives' to enter cities and villages in control of the Palestinian Authority."
"It prevents our Jewish friends from visiting us."
Ali Musa, 49, from the village of Al Khader

"Some people say there will be one state, some say two states. As neighbors, we are already living together."
"[Those who responded to the invitation to come to his home were] true men, courageous men."
"I know there were men I invited and they did not come, because this takes initiative and courage."
"It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority." "Initiatives that seek to foster cooperation and peace between people should be encouraged, not silenced. It’s time the Palestinian Authority asks itself whether it would prefer to fan the flames of conflict instead of working to bring people together."
Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi

A view of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, a few miles south of Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
There are those among the Israelis and the Palestinians who view one another as potential friends and certainly as neighbours since in effect they are neighbours. The mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, Oded Revivi, who happens also to be a lieutenant colonel in the country's army reserve had, in his capacity as mayor surrounded by Palestinian villages, gone on his own initiative to visit with some of those villages on the occasion of Palestinian holidays. He obviously viewed this as time well spent, getting to know some of his neighbours a little better.

Seeking to return the compliment as it were, he sent out invitations to surrounding villages in an open invitation to Palestinians that they would be welcome at his house to help celebrate the festival of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, where palm-roofed huts are traditionally built, in memory of the biblical 40 years of desert wandering as Moses led the Jews out of Egypt to a land promised them by God. His invitation had garnered the willing response of several dozen Palestinians.

Who arrived to find themselves in the company of friendly, welcoming but armed settlers, few of whom spoke Arabic though the Palestinians themselves spoke passable to excellent Hebrew. Perhaps not surprising in that these were also Palestinians who familiarized themselves with the language, as labourers in the Jewish enclaves. Employment is sparse in the West Bank and Palestinians are eager to find employment wherever it is offered. There is no general social aura of stigma in taking these jobs.

On the other hand, a senior Palestinian security official said days later that "any Palestinian co-operation with settlers is viewed as violating the law, as he co-operates with the enemy". What that security official is referring to is the generally accepted agreement among the Palestinian Authority's Fatah and Hamas, that friendliness between Jews and Arabs is to be discouraged, as "normalization" in social neighbourliness would lead to Palestinians overlooking the Israeli 'occupation' of land they secured when joint Arab armies failed repeatedly to conquer Israel.

On this first-time occasion when a Jewish West Bank settlement invited neighbouring Palestinians to celebrate a holiday with them, there was a general relaxed atmosphere and some surprising statements were made as those at the celebration shared refreshments. Some of the Palestinian guests among the 30 settlers expressed complaints over their treatment, though none of those present mentioned either Israeli President Netanyahu nor PA President Mahmoud Abbas. In response, some of the settlers spoke of the wave of Palestinian stabbings.

Within the Efrat settlement, over a thousand Palestinians come to work daily at shops, infrastructure maintenance, street sweeping, work on solar panels, on construction of new homes and remodeling of older houses. Work that the Israelis feel they are not suited for, and which the Palestinians are content to accept, to keep working and earning a living for their families at the settlement located a few miles from the Palestinian militant Gush Etzion Junction from which over a dozen Palestinian attacks against Israelis emanated in the past year.

Palestinians from nearby villages visit the home of the mayor of the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the West Bank on Oct. 19. Mayor Oded Revivi invited the Palestinians to his home to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. (William Booth/The Washington Post)
To everyone's surprise, after the amicable parting, when the Palestinians returned to their villages and the settlers no doubt congratulated themselves that their representatives out of their population of one thousand had warmly welcomed the several dozen Palestinians who responded to the invitation to take part in the Sukkot celebration, Palestinian Authority security arrested four of the Palestinians who had been present in Efrat for that singular event. One of those arrested was Riad Abu Hamad.

It wasn't his first time to be apprehended by PA security. Earlier in 2016 he had been interviewed on Israeli television to discuss his relationship with West Bank Israeli settlers. That too was considered to be an outrageous insult against Palestinian values that determine "normalization" attempts are viewed as criminal activities harming Palestinian 'resistance' against the 'occupier. Abu Hamad explained to his interlocutors that he had not committed any harm to Palestinian interests.

"I've spoken out against closing [Israeli] factories in the West Bank. We need the work. Where are the Palestinian factories?", he later said to an interviewer with an Israeli news outlet.

https://twitter.com/WorldJewishCong/status/788716790901829632
Israeli media reported the breaking news that four Palestinian men who had been detained since Thursday by their own government for visiting with their Jewish neighbors over the Sukkot holiday last week were finally set free. 124News
Perhaps the arrest of the four Palestinians represented a reaction by the Palestinian Authority meant to remind all Palestinians that it remains verboten to have any discourse or personal relations with Israelis, all of whom the PA considers enemy occupiers. Occupiers of a land mass that was traditionally heritage land of ancient Israel and which had never been completely vacated by Jews, although an influx of Arabs from Egypt and Trans Jordan had settled there at the turn of the 20th Century.

Partition, offered by the United Nations in 1948, to serve the needs of the two populations after the Second World War, was meant to solve the problem of Jewish-Arab clashes sometimes of a truly violent dimension when many lost their lives to intra-ethnic hatred and competition for land. That offer was gratefully accepted by Jews, and rejected uncategorically by Arabs, co-opting the original Palestinian designation that was Jew-centric for their own, to identify them in the mind of the international community as a deserving indigenous people wronged.

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