Photo: Reuters
Hammas' gunman in Gaza
Photo: Reuters

Time to end blame game

Response to Palestinian who bemoans closure of Gaza crossings

Dear Laila,


I read your description of what it's like for Palestinians to wait for the Rafah Crossing to open with great sadness. I was sad not only because of the dejected existence you describe, but even more so by your apparent inability to grasp your - and indeed, our - reality.


You wrote about sitting and thinking for endless hours while waiting for the crossing to open - "we drive ourselves crazy with thought," you said, yet all this thinking enabled you to come up with were the same old, tired clichés we've heard a thousand times before. "Israelis are bad"; "Occupation is guilty"; "Palestinians are miserable"; What a shame.


You wrote more than a 1,000 words about the closure of crossings, yet not even one word, one tiny word, about what brought us there. Because the crossings were not always closed, you know.


Not even one word about the unprovoked attack on an Israeli outpost and Gilad Shalit's abduction. Not a word about the Qassam rockets that keep raining on Israeli towns. No mention of the immense quantities of weapons being smuggled into Gaza in every way possible. Not a word about Hamas.


But why think of all that, when you can just go the easy, oh-so-familiar route – "It's as though they take pleasure as we languish in the uncertainty," you write. Yes, bad Israelis, again.


To set the record straight, we do not "take pleasure" in anything that is happening in Gaza. We do not enjoy the fact our sons are again sent to fight in your refugee camps and neighborhoods. We are not happy to read about yet another soldier dying in battle or a Sderot resident blown up by a rocket on her way to work.


We want nothing more than quiet in Gaza, and open crossings, and children with smiles on their faces when they go to school, both there and here. We're just not so sure you really want all that.


What about Hamas?

You bemoan the "thousands of penniless Palestinians" who end up on the streets of al-Arish as they wait for the crossings to open. Have you given any thought - any serious thought - to how they became penniless? After all, Palestinians are used to getting quite a bit of international aid. After all, the crossings were not always closed, and the economic situation in Gaza was not always so grave.


Do you at all see a connection between the Qassams and the economic disaster in the Strip? Any link between Hamas' rise to power and the growing isolation you are facing? Have you ever wondered if the millions of dollars used by your "resistance fighters" to buy more weapons and explosives could be used for other, more useful ends? I guess here too it's easier to blame the Israelis. Why think when we have ready-made answers we've used for years.


You write that for Palestinians, borders are a reminder of displacement and dispossession. Yet amazingly enough, nothing seems to remind you of what led to displacement and dispossession in the first place. You were offered a state decades ago but didn't take it, because it wasn't good enough. You rejected other compromises ever since – they too were apparently not good enough. Time and again you chose armed struggle. Is that good enough? Where did it get you?


After all those years, there you are, still waiting for the crossing to open, vulnerable, not belonging. It pains me to read of your experience, it truly does. I do not take joy in your misery. Yet it pains me even more to realize it doesn't have to be that way.


Whether you fully understand it or not, you chose to be that way, by blaming us for everything instead of looking at what's wrong at your end; by deciding that no compromise is ever good enough; by electing Hamas – a group that does not even recognize my right to exist - to lead you.


We both lose 

And now come the bad news: Despite the harsh words above, I am part of Israel's moderate camp. You may snicker, but it's true. I strongly believe that the conflict between our people can ultimately be resolved only through negotiations. I believe that our control over the lives of Palestinians must end.


I have befriended Arabs and Palestinians and view them as human beings who deserve, just as much as I do, a home, peace, and prosperity. When I read about children killed by an IDF shell in Beit Hanoun my heart aches. I am your potential partner for peace.


Yet despite this, here I am, directing those harsh words at you. Because I think that my country has done plenty to show it wants peace; certainly more than your people have done. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have hit the streets to call for peace, or at least an end to occupation. Our former prime minister went further and removed all settlements from Gaza. Do you remember that? It was only a year ago, and our national wounds have not yet healed.


Yet beyond anything, the disengagement sent one clear message: We do not want to live amidst you. We do not want to rule over your lives. We are here, and you are there. Isn't that what you want too? Perhaps it isn't.


We even elected a government whose main vision was "realignment" – or in simpler words, withdrawing from more territory; clinging to less occupation. This vision is probably dead now, after thousands of Qassams in the south and Katyusha rockets in the north. What have your people done, Laila? Oh, yeah, you elected Hamas.


Making Palestinian society better

But maybe there's a glimmer of hope. This week we saw an intra-Palestinian agreement that may lead to a sustainable truce, after last week we read that a majority of your public thinks that Qassam attacks on Israel hurt the Palestinians.


In his column, Ron Ben Yishai argued that the willingness for truce is directly connected to pressures exerted by the silent Palestinian majority. Maybe it's time to be a little less silent? Instead of spending your days at al-Arish thinking about the bad Israelis, maybe you can spend the time thinking about how to make Palestinian society better?


I believe that peace is possible, but that in order for peace to take root, a sea-change must take place among Palestinians. We have already gone through this change here in Israel to a large extent. Like it or not, most Israelis, both on the Left and Right, know we cannot and should not be clinging to the Territories forever.


The willingness displayed by Ariel Sharon, the ultimate hawk, to dismantle settlements and withdraw from Gaza was the final verification. Now we're waiting for you.


So as you sit there waiting for the crossing to open, and I sure hope you don't wait for too long, perhaps you can devote some time to thinking about fixing your side of the equation. If you can do that, I promise you that peace can prevail here, and that both of us can win. Until then, we shall have war; until then, we both lose.


פרסום ראשון: 11.28.06, 12:02
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