I do not understand the mindset of the Israelis and I probably will never understand them. For that matter, they may not understand the mindset of the Palestinians, and may never understand us. Yet there are so many similarities amongst our two peoples that it is hard to understand why we cannot understand each other.
Since the founding of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, the Israelis have never enjoyed one day of peace. Israel was born out of violence, i.e., the tragedy of Deir Yassin in April 1948 and the bombing of the King David Hotel. Jews in Israel have lived and continue to live through a daily encounter and fear of violence ever since the inception of the State of Israel. Prior to 1948, Jews encountered an event in history that nearly wiped them out of existence as a people–the Holocaust.
The Palestinians are not without their own violence, whether inflicted, i.e., the airline hijackings of the 1970s and the Munich Massacre, or whether received, i.e., Sabra and Chatilla and Intifada I and II. Throughout the over three decades of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, Israeli leaders have done virtually everything they can to wipe out the Palestinians as a people or at least to remove the people from the land. Golda Meier went as far as saying there are no Palestinians. Ariel Sharon has even stated that Jordan is Palestine.
Thousands have died on both sides and as seen in recent months, the death toll mounts daily–although at a much greater pace for the Palestinians.
The extremists on both sides have taking control of the agenda. Whether it is the Uzi taunting Israeli settler, who is a daily reminder that Palestinian land has been illegally confiscated, or the Palestinian suicide bomber who is a daily menace to the such simple tasks as going shopping in Israel, the extremists are winning. Neither wants peace without exterminating the other.
In Israel, the peace camp cannot muster to obtain a majority in the Knesset and thus every Israeli government is beholden to small insignificant extremist parties and their narrow agendas in order to retain power. Thus no final peace agreement is foreseeable until an Israeli majority wants peace.
Although the majority of Palestinians want peace, it is elusive because the formula recently offered by outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ahud Barak did not cater to the views of the right wing Palestinians. Thus, the views of the extremists have prevailed again and again and no peace is foreseeable until Fatah, the Palestinian Party led by Yasir Arafat, can convince the right wing Palestinians that it is in their best interest to accept a compromise for peace.
With so many shared tragedies, so much of a chaotic political environment and so much need for one from each side to step forward and control the agenda, one would think that the moderate camps within Israel and Palestine will join forces and demand peace. Maybe moderates in Palestine and Israel should try to understand each other; maybe the peace camps of both sides should organize a nonviolent demonstration where each side meets for a rally at a checkpoint between Palestine and Israel. Let the Israeli military try to stop them.
Maybe it is time for the moderates on both sides rather than the extremists on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to take control of the Middle East peace agenda. Maybe it is time.
(Mr. Fadi Zanayed, is an attorney practicing in Chicago, Illinois; a writer and poet (author of “Cycles of Frustrations” a collection of his poems about Palestine. He is currently working on a poetic fictional novel of a Palestinian born in Palestine in 1948 under an olive tree as his mother dies. The story is all in rhyming poetry which will tell the story of the plight of the Palestinians.)