Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Those who read my blog know that the chances of me ever becoming an honorary member of the national settlers' fan club are minimal. As little as I did sympathize with their cause until recently, at least I did my best to understand how difficult it must be if you are forced to leave your house and move elsewhere. Obviously many of the settlers will leave quietly, as long as they receive a fair compensation and an honest chance to start a new life within Israel proper. My opinions regarding the whole settlement enterprise are becoming more negative and more radical, following a path of polarization that appears to be followed by many Israelis these days, leading them into different directions. The verbal abuse and violence directed by rightwing militants against soldiers and police(wo)men, the fact that our security forces have to neglect the fight against 'ordinary' crimes and against Arab terror because they are forced to deal with the often violent and criminal behavior of settler militants, their use of children to block roads, all that doesn't help to convince me of the worthiness of their cause. Yesterday evening it became clear to me how easily we forget that no matter how much the settlers' causes are incompatible with the interests of Israel as a Jewish, somehow democratic state, the main injustices and crimes perpetrated by the settlers and by those who for decades sent and supported them, allowing them to feel that they are ( above ) the law, are still being committed against the Palestinians. I started watching the first part ( out of five ) of a series called "Diary of a journey", a documentary filmed with a simple videocamera by Haim Yavin, the anchor of Channel 1 television and one of the founders of Israeli television ( he is even called "Mar Televisia", Mr TV ). I am ashamed to admit that, like most people in Israel, I suffer from moral insensitivity and from escape behavior. During a certain scene I zapped away. My anger and frustration I express - either here, in other media or among friends - but I am unable to find the time, the strength or the courage to really do something about it. The scene that caused me to stop watching has members of Physicians for Human Rights ( whose important and blessed work cannot be praised enough ) arguing with an Israeli Border Policeman ( whose mothertongue is Arabic ) about whether to let a father pass through a roadblock with his daughter, who is ill. The scene shows how an ordinary, sympathetic soldier-policeman - with his justified concerns and fears, and a heavy responsibility on his shoulders - easily becomes a toll in the hands of an evil system. Seeing the poor father and his little girl, I imagined me standing there, waiting in the burning sun to get permission for something that is a basic human right, not a favor to be granted by a young man with a gun in his hand. When I want our pediatrician to see our daughter or son, all I have to do is pick up a phone, make an appointment, and in the afternoon or early evening we are in the health clinic. If there is something urgent we can be there, or in a hospital, within half an hour at the most. I was reminded of the - very unwise, but not totally unjustified - words of former PM Ehud Barak, who once said that if he was born as a Palestinian he might ( or would ) have become a terrorist himself. Nothing justifies bombing or shooting men, women and children in malls, restaurants or buses, but the same goes for humiliating and starving an entire population, and hurting and often killing innocent civilians, making them suffer only because we refuse or are afraid to decide where our borders should be, and because we are afraid of confronting our own, homegrown Hamasniks and their supporters. I am not saying that we are the only guilty party ( we certainly are not ) or that the Palestinians are blameless ( they certainly are not ), but we have to understand that we do not have the right to be there, that the occupation hurts 'us' as much as it hurts 'them' ( in different ways, of course ), that there has to be a border between Israel and the territories, and that only the establishment of a border - negotiated if possible, unilateral if necessary - will give us the right and opportunity to effectively, legitimately and finally deal with Palestinian terror. It would be brilliant if the Palestinians were to build a peaceful, prosperous and properly functioning state in Gaza and the Westbank, but continuing to say that any Palestinian 'entity' will be a pirates' nest is not an acceptable excuse to continue the occupation. After Israel will sof kol sof have defined what its external borders are, an even harder task awaits us: defining what our internal boundaries and personal definitions of Zionism are. Will we ever get there?
PS: Mr Yavin deserved kudos for his work, and I will watch at least parts of the following episodes. It is very telling that the documentary is broadcast as some sort of swan song of a television network that has nothing to lose anymore, having lost its bid for a renewed franchise on Israel's channel 2. It does not also come as a surprise that settlers immediately asked the Israel Broadcasting Authority to fire its most famous and visible employee.

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