Driving along on an American highway earlier today in my car that smells of the suburbs, I heard a report on NPR about a demonstration in Gaza against the violence of the last several days. Peaceful Palestinian demonstrators gathered and several hundred of them walked through the streets calling for peace between the fighting factions. Did the fighting stop? Not at all. In fact, some people began shooting at the peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and killed two.

At the end of the piece, NPR had a report – more like an editorial – of a devastated Palestinian man, Hossam al Madhoun (be sure to click the Listen button because this is radio, after all) who was lamenting the violence and the deep setback it is inflicting on the Palestinians. He was deeply concerned for his 6 year old daughter whose future was being destroyed with the fighting which was destroying the hope of a Palestinian state, and predicted that it would take generations to heal what has happened in recent days. He then blamed the “West” and Israel for everything.

I was struck, however, by the power of his words, his strong evocation and call for peace and brotherhood. The tears bursting forth that you could almost hear over the radio. His call for the end to violence was real. His sadness at the madness of the killing and what had become of young Palestinians was that of a grieving man:

This has to stop; these young killers in the street are just boys. They’re 17, 19, and 21 years old. They’ve become killers and they don’t realize that they’re just being used — by both factions. They’re being used by the political leaders who are shouting every day on the satellite TV news shows. These so-called leaders in suits are the real killers, turning our boys into murderers.

It will take generations to recover from all this. It will take so long to change this violent culture we’ve become. If we start today, it will take years. It’s become so easy for any young boy to hold a gun and shoot. We now have a generation of damaged youth.

There were many brave people today in Gaza during the demonstration. They stood in the middle of the street — in the crossfire with bullets flying everywhere — telling the gunmen to “STOP, STOP, STOP!” Two people were killed.

In my opinion, the West is doing everything they can to weaken the Palestinian Authority. And Israel is, as well. All of their acts are aimed at Hamas, but they have also weakened Fatah, the more moderate faction here in Gaza. This is hypocrisy by the West and Israel as they steal the hope by tightening this economic embargo against the Palestinian people. Desperate people don’t think rationally. Desperate people turn radical. And that is just what is happening in Gaza.

And I thought to myself, Middle, he’s a good man. He’s a kind man. He’s the kind of person who could be your friend.

But I was also thinking, Middle, there is no peace because this good man who understands the ugliness of this violence and seeks to stop it, does not lament in the same way and does not call out for his Palestinian brethern to stop when the violence is directed at Israeli civilians.

Imagine, just imagine, dear Middle, I kept thinking, if there were a non-violent demonstration inside Gaza, attended by hundreds of unarmed men, women and children calling out for the end of suicide bombings, sniper attacks, Qassem rockets, and the denial of Israel’s existence. Imagine such a group calling out for peaceful negotiations and a compromise solution with Israel. Aah, then, I thought sadly, then my little Middle, then we will be on the road to peace and until that day, despite my deep sympathy for this man’s plight and despite my strong desire to help him, how can I see him as anything but a man who sees far less injustice when Israeli civilians are attacked? I mean, every single day he has the opportunity to speak out against Qassem rockets being launched at Israeli civilian neighborhoods. Yes, he speaks out like this when Palestinians are killing other Palestinians but where does he speak out when Palestinians target Israelis? And where are all the other Palestinians like him? Will I ever see a demonstration for peace and reconciliation in a Palestinian area?

Of course, if this is what I expect from him, I should expect no less from myself.

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themiddle

13 Comments

  • “Of course, if this is what I expect from him, I should expect no less from myself.”

    Well said – I think collectively we (Israelis, Jews in the Gola) are well intentioned. Sometimes our actions may appear to be different to the outside world.

    It’s an odd place to be for us – a strong community, and not subservient. And given that, how do each of us respond to Middle’s last comment.

  • I still can’t get by this quote from the Daily Telegraph.

    “They’re firing at us, firing RPGs, firing mortars. We’re not Jews,” the brother of Jamal Abu Jediyan, a Fatah commander, pleaded during a live telephone conversation with a Palestinian radio station.

    Minutes later both men were dragged into the streets and riddled with bullets.

  • perhaps you’re right in assuming he wouldn’t speak out against voilence towards israelis, but i feel you are making assumptions nonetheless. i think this post would be a lot more beneficial if you assumed the opposite, if only for the sake of provoking thought amongst reader, and perhaps even challenging one or two mindsets. continuing to uphold these assumptions does no one any good. you must keep in mind, there is a culture that palestinians grow up in, much as we or anyone else have our own culture which shapes us for decades. you cannot fully understand one person’s comments unless you hold them in the context of their beliefs. nonetheless, i enjoyed reading this.

  • “Stop, please, we’re not Jews!”

    Bhudda-bhudda-bhudda-kaPWING!

    How’s that working out for you, Achmed?

    Not so much, I guess.

    Hey, say hello to ol’ Yasser when you see him.

  • Pete, I admit to making assumptions, but I did google him and went in several pages into the results. I found nothing that suggested that he believes anything but what he said in the report, which is that it’s all Israel’s fault. It also seems to me that his touching report stems from the violence going on in Gaza right now and his words are representative of what many Palestinians feel: save it for the Israelis. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the report about the march I describe above included a woman who says exactly that. In other words, she is willing to walk on a march for peace, unarmed, to stop Fatah and Hamas from killing each other, but is perfectly willing to have those guns turned on Israelis.

  • A great point. For now, what most Palestinians seem to feel about Israelis is that all of them are viable targets because all of them will be in the army (and therefore they are not civilians under muslim law). While it is clear that there is work to be done in Israeli society to elevate the perception of Palestinians, there is far more work to be done in the other direction. Palestinian children are schooled to hate Israelis or Jews (they are interchangable labels), and to blame them for all the problems in the world. For any hope at peace, this has to stop.

  • Pete, these assumptions are accurate. Palestinians—certainly the leadership of Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad—lament the internecine fighting that is taking place. They are sad that Palestinians are killing Palestinians. But when a terrorist from any of these factions kills or kidnaps an Israeli, they celebrate. And it isn’t only the leadership. Many, if not most, Palestinians feel the same way. It isn’t pretty but it is reality.

    As to the culture they grow up in, yes, this is a problem. It’s a problem when parents encourage their children to become human bombs. But who’s responsible for the Palestinian educational system? Who is printing the texts that educate Palestinian children to hate Jews? Who’s responsible for creating media that demonizes the Jewish people? I think most Israelis are pretty clear about the culture that the Palestinians grow up in, it is those outside the region that need to wake up and see the sort of vitriol that is being pumped into these peoples’ brains.

    http://www.pmw.org.il/

    http://www.memri.org

  • good reading the replies – thanks to both. i hadn’t thought about the ‘education’ that palestinian children receive. but again, i have to wonder that this is not 100% across the board. there may be a majority, but who is monitoring the at least relative percentages? surely there must be some faction of palestinians, no matter how unrepresented in the media, that believes in a peaceful solution. but, i suppose i’m getting too specific, and ignoring the larger problem which must be dealt with first.

    I fully agree that the outside world needs to be made more aware of the hatred being taught to children, which is more often than not tantamount to child abuse.

  • I agree with pkemble that there must be Palestinians who want a peaceful coexistence. However, this group must come into being despite the cultural and educational backgrounds afforded to them (just as all religious school students do not stick to the path so to speak).

    I am not certain who WESV1 considers to be “outside the region”, but I am certain that every Islamic nation is quite aware of the material in the textbooks, and that they even use them or have similar books of their own.

    We cannot stop them from using such books, which they will surely justify as being “the other side of the story”. However, what can be done is to educate the rest of the world to the bilious hatred that is there (and that is clearly more than just an alternate view of the conflict).

  • Dear writer and reader, from my side, I will not hesitate a moment to participate in such demonstrations against Suicide attacks and HMR or targeting Israeli civilians.
    But please per in mind that the main cause for the violence in the area is the occupation it self.
    In that day, what happened in Gaza between brothers was so strong that no one in my place could be able to think about any other thing. I do bray every day for peace, I do bray every day for the end of violence, I o bray every day to live free and nothing ells but free.

  • Dear Hossam,

    The issue is what you mean by “occupation.” Hamas and Fatah both use “occupation” to mean the land which is currently the state of Israel inside the ’49 borders.

    If you mean the presence of Israeli soldiers among Palestinians and the control over Palestinian lives, I have to point out that Israel left Gaza in 2005. Even though it controls the borders, as we know from these past couple of weeks, it supplies energy, electricity, water, medicines, food and other supplies. In return, it has received over 4000 rockets launched at it, primarily at Sderot and the Western Negev. This is from Gaza, where there are no Israeli soldiers or civilians. In other words, you cannot call this an occupation. You can claim brotherhood with West Bank/Judea and Samaria Palestinians who still live under Israeli rule, but Gaza is under Hamas rule and before that under PA rule.

    I would suggest to you that if Hamas and its sub-groups stopped launching rockets into Israel and instead of using their funds to buy bomb-making materials and other weapons would use this money to build parks for children, plant trees, build sewage and running water capability, improve the electric infrastructure, attempt to establish an infrastructure for businesses, etc., that you would be doing much better in life and nobody would be seeking to attack Israel. Perhaps it isn’t the “occupation” that is the main cause for the violence, but your violent leadership that has preferred war to peace for decades?

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