Thursday, April 17, 2003

Defeating Evil Rationality with Absurd Hope by Bert de Bruin On March 30th this year Israelis became aware again that their lives are affected by two of today's most dangerous parallel realities, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the war in Iraq. Linking these realities is unwise and reprehensible, but to consider them as totally isolated affairs would be just as wrong and ill-advised. Because of all the preparations Israel has been making for a possible Iraqi rocket assault and of the media's attention for the Allied attack against the regime and country of Saddam Hussein, we had almost forgotten the reality that should concern us most, our relationship with the Palestinians. The bomb attack in Nethanya reminded many Israelis for the umpteenth time of the fact that Israel needs to definitely define for itself what kind of state it wants to be, and what sort of relationship it wants to have with its neighbors. The government of Ariel Sharon should not wait for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to come up with and start promoting their roadmap for the Middle East peace process, right after the end of the current Gulf War. For a change, instead of having reality force itself once more upon the country, Israel's leaders of government and opposition should decide for themselves what kind of relationship they want with their neigbors, and what they want a post-Saddam ( and post-occupation ) Middle East to look like. Only then will they be able to successfully conduct the negotiations that most probably will decide the future of the Jewish state. Because of the latest Nethanya bombing I recalled what I read about someone who was killed in a suicide bombing about a year ago. Considering his life and death, one is simultaneously filled with hope ( maybe against one’s better judgment ) and convinced of the evil rationality that is at the root of the schemes and world view of those interested in causing every effort to improve the lives of both Palestinians and Jews to fail. I thought it to be worthwhile to remember this remarkable person here, as a source for possible inspiration for the leaders of the country where I chose to live. On the afternoon of Sunday, March 31st 2002, a suicide bomber entered a crowded restaurant in Haifa. By blowing himself up he killed fifteen innocent people and injured and maimed dozens of others. One of those killed was Dov Chernovroda, a 67-year-old architect, father of three and grandfather of six. Even in Haifa, a city characterized by remarkably livable and often warm relations between Jews and Arabs, the professional, political and personal relationships which Dov had with Arab friends, colleagues and fellow-activists were exceptional. As an architect and town planner, and as a Zionist and socialist, he dedicated a large part of his career and life to co-existence and peaceful relations between the Jewish and Arab populations. Many public and residential buildings in a number of Arab towns and villages were designed by Dov. Besides his professional activities he also spent much time working for - mostly left-wing - political organizations and NGOs. He was among the first Israelis to initiate meetings between his personal friend Faisal al-Husseini, the late spokesman for many moderates within the Palestinian leadership, and members of the Israeli political and academic establishment. The bombing of the Matza restaurant in Haifa was not aimed personally at Dov Chernovroda, and probably not even at Jews only. It is assumed that the site became an ' alternative target ' after security at the nearby Grand Canyon mall appeared to be too tight. One of the other victims was Suheil Adawi, a waiter who worked in the restaurant owned by members of his Israeli-Arab family and popular both among local Arabs and Jews. Still, it is by attacking the very people who dare to dream about some sort of coexistence that those whose absolutism excludes the very notion of compromise attempt to realize their distorted world design. The memory of women and men such as Dov Chernovroda and Suheil Adawi should inspire us to continue believing in an Israeli-Palestinian future in which both a Jewish-Israeli and an Arab-Palestinian nation-state will have room for Jews and Arabs who want to work and to enjoy life together. May our leaders and those of ' the other side ' one day embrace that belief, and adopt it as the basis for their policies. I am sure that after such a watershed, all the problems that have been plagueing us for too many years suddenly will emerge as remarkably solvable.

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