Thursday, November 14, 2002

We're no angels.
Yisrael Harel gives us some food for thought in today's Haaretz. Before you automatically write him off as a lefty, let me just mention that he's one of their two token right-wing commentators (the other one is Moshe Arens). I often find him too right wing for my liking and wonder if Haaretz editors are even aware that there are people who see reality as somewhere in between these two extremes, and that maybe they should be bringing some more mainstream views.

Today Harel replies to members of Kibbutz Metzer who have been blaming the terrorist attack in their kibbutz on the occupation. He assumes they mean the 1967 occupation and not the 1948 occupation, but points out that this differentiation is maybe not so clear to Palestinians. Kibbutz Metzer makes its living, he points out, off the lands of Arabs whose villages were destroyed in 1948. According to Harel, they are the occupiers in the eyes of their Arab neighbors, with whom they take pride in having such good relations. They are even worse than Jewish settlers in the West Bank who built their homes in unbuilt areas, on state land, he says and asserts that there are still people living not far from the kibbutz who claim that these are their lands. Go read it. He says it better than me. Interesting stuff, although I must say, I don't agree with his conclusion.

His article reminds me of Ein Hod. Ein Hod is a lovely, picturesque artists' village, just south of Haifa, that used to be an Arab village called Ein Houd. (Some of?) the original villagers still live nearby in an illegal village with no electricity or running water. I'm not aware of the historic story that brought about this situation. Some of the good-hearted residents of Ein Hod occasionally organize outreach projects for the children of Ein Houd who are desperately poor. This summer I saw on TV that they helped them renovate their school. Sometimes, I hear, they invite them to art exhibitions for children in Ein Hod or organize picnics for the children and parents of both villages. The people of Ein Hod who engage in these activities really are well meaning, peace-loving people, at least the one or two of them that I have encountered are, but, understandably, none of would dream of evacuating their lovely "olde worlde" homes and giving them back to their original owners. And they seem to fail to see the cruel irony of their well-meaning actions.

Maybe the good people of Metzer should be a bit more humble, a little less sure of themselves in blaming "the occupation" for the murderous attack in their kibbutz. Maybe it wasn't an attempt to show that coexistence doesn't work, as the kibbutzniks claim. Maybe someone is trying to tell them that their famous coexistence is a fake. Will they be able to see this? I doubt it. For them, the difference between this occupation and that occupation is existential. It very well could be for all of us.

It's so easy to believe in simple solutions. Even Harel, in his conclusion to the article, says a rapid end to the war is the answer. I think he means by using harsher means, although he is careful not to spell it out.

Ignoring the difficulties and complexities of the situation by both the Israeli left and right will not make them go away. We're no angels, but then angels get to be angels because they are too good, don't they?

Survivors can't be angels, it seems. Take your pick, people. Time for us to be a bit more honest about who we are.

But let us not forget that, with all our faults, we have been the ones prepared to make painful compromises for peace and coexistence all down the line. It was the Palestinians who turned us down again and again. 1948 was avoidable. 1967 was avoidable. 2000 was avoidable. All were forced on us.

[By the way, I hadn't noticed before, that the Ohayun family were not kibbutz members, they just rented their small home there. This being the case, the kibbutz members could hardly be seen as speaking in the name of the Ohayun family, but they could be seen as speaking in the name of Yitzhak Dori, the kibbutz secretary, who was also killed in the attack.]

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