you are residing in a besieged city, having lived
in your occupier's neighboring land for ten years
previously. You and your neighbors exchanged visits,
and their children were part of your family home.
You know the children's names and their favorite sweets.
You know the things that make them laugh. You and
they have shared experiences stored up for years.
one of these children is a soldier bearing arms against
you. When you meet him in the street wearing military
fatigues, you cannot call him by the name that brought
a smile to your face in former times because people
will consider you a collaborator with the oppressor.
He cannot talk to you for the equal and opposite reason;
his government will consider him a traitor or will
try to exploit his relationship with you. It is safest
to avoid eye contact when you happen to meet.
being in this situation. For some, it is a reality.
It is the reality for the middle school teacher I
met in Jenin recently, and for others like him. In
addition to Palestinians who have made their home
in Israel, many West Bank Palestinians have worked
in Israel for years. Their families would dine with
Jewish friends in Israel, and Israelis paid visits
to Palestinian friends in the Occupied Territories.
Jewish Israeli shoppers frequented Palestinian cities
like Jenin where they found friendly service, lower
prices, and a continuity of welcome.
would it make you feel to see your former neighbor's
child bearing arms against you? Would it make you
feel angry? An energetic supporter of Palestine whose
solidarity is based on righteous anger can take a
page from the attitudes expressed by Palestinians
living here now. Understanding takes shape as you
expand your framework with great patience and increased
inclusiveness. Anger is a luxury for which few can
afford the price here.
you be willing to welcome joint economic activity
with Israelis, the loss of which is one of the biggest
concerns here? Would you be nonchalant about wearing
a teeshirt with Hebrew writing on it? Would you enthusiastically
belt out the Hebrew word for "okay/be-seder?"
Would you welcome a phonecall from an Israeli citizen
who is checking on your safety even as her government
has arrested your family members and locked you in
your home? People I meet here daily can answer "yes"
to these questions.
how would it make you feel to see your former neighbor's
child bearing arms against you?Would it make you feel
sad? Would it make you want to dispossess him of his
would it make you long for the day that you know will
come, when the soldier of the occupying Army, your
neighbor's child, puts down his weapon because it
has become obsolete? You are in harmony with the vast
majority of Palestinian voices if you align yourself
with this view.
my view seem one-sided to you? I am speaking from
where I am, in the reality of Jenin Refugee Camp in
the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I welcome another
voice from inside Israel. Bear in mind that there
is no Palestinian Army occupying Israeli territory,
nor are there overflights of Palestinian F-16 fighter
aircraft in Israeli skies, nor a single Palestinian
tank parked in front of any Israeli school.
you long for the day when your neighbor's child puts
down his weapon because it has become obsolete? You
are not alone. You are in good company. Let us work
for what we long for.
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