715 Palestinians and Israelis

I am writing this Friday night as I watch the SBS documentary about the 102 minutes that changed America, on 11 September 2001. In a previous blog I asked a pertinent question: Why do we have terrorism? There are (at least) two answers ...

Here, dear readers, a little bit of light reading...

In response to my blog I received an article from professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi ... Setting the Record Straight; below I abridged the article.

The professor has featured on my blog before (543561). I deem him eminently suited to shed a light on the question. At the heart of his position is the notion - and I concur - that we have terrorism largely because of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories since the 1967 war, especially the establishment of the  settlements … 

... but wait, there's more! I've spent the last couple of days grappling with a podcast by Sam Harris, What Do Jihadists Really Want? (See also blog 536.) Harris studied an IS publication, Dabiq, with - Caution - truly shocking content. And Harris being Harris, he provides a provocative analysis.

For Harris the issue of Islamist terrorism is closely linked to the tenets of Islam ... he previously asked the question: Does Islam need a Revolutiuon?

(See also my blogs 417, and 487 with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.) Furthermore, today Harris published a blog entitled "What Hillary Clinton should say about Islam and the War on Terror" ... this is Sam Harris at his best - don't miss it.

Sam Harris, in his books, his podcasts and on his website picks up the notion put forward by Christopher Hitchens (among others, especially Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett) that God is not Great, religion poisons everything ... and where Harris stands, no religion more so than Islam.

So this is our contention, us atheists: The fact is ... there is no God; regardless of your beliefs ... and remember, there are dozens, indeed hundreds of beliefs just like yours. So if you're an Islamist, a Jihadist: There is no paradise for you, no virgins awaiting the martyr; furthermore, there's no everlasting hellfire for me ... it is all delusion, deliberate manipulation, un-truths, deception and lies.

(See also my series of blogs on God, Facts and Belief 691, 692, 693, 694)

In any case, don't let any of this distract you from Mr. Dajani's message of peace. Contrary to what Sam Harris has said in the past (he previously has called people like myself Leftie-apologists, though I can see a shift in his stance in the speech he suggests for Hillary Clinton: Go ahead, read it! It's very good.) ... I believe we must support moderate Muslims and movements like Wasatia. Their voice must be heard!

Palestinian professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi gained the respect of many Jews when he took his students on a visit to Auschwitz and lost his job as a result. However, a comment he wrote on a Facebook post after the horrific murder of Hallel Yaffa Ariel (a thirteen-year-old Israeli girl) in her sleep has raised questions in the minds of some people who previously supported him. An article was written about it in Israellycool. Professor Dajani was asked if he would kindly answer some questions, and he gracefully agreed.

A brief interview on South African television: During the Israeli Apartheid Week,

Dajani is in South Africa talking about the use of dialogue and education

to de-construct mythologies and distortions and misinterpretations.

Some background on Mohammed Dajani:

Dajani, who now lives temporarily in the United States, comes from a prominent Muslim Jerusalem family. He was born in Jerusalem before Israel’s declaration of independence … (He) went to study in England then to the United States. In 1990 he took a job at a university in Jordan. In 1993 he returned to Jerusalem.

Dajani became well-known among Israelis and friends of Israel when in May 2014 he was forced to resign from his post as professor at Al Quds University in Jerusalem after he took some of his students to visit the Auschwitz Nazi death camps. He was vilified by students, colleagues, and other Palestinians as a “normalizer” (someone who wants to normalize relations with Israel) as well as a "traitor" and a "collaborator". He was abandoned by the university administration who appeared relieved to receive his resignation.

Dajani describes himself as a “peace activist”. He takes stands that place him well outside of the Palestinian mainstream. He argues against the common Palestinian misconception of equating the Nakba with the Holocaust, and he argues for “reconciliation”. He believes that “the Palestinians had made a mistake when they rejected the partition in 1947, and that they should have recognized that Palestinians had to share the land”.

Dajani made the insightful observation that, “the only way for Palestinians to advance is to acquire the skills of critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and risk-taking that characterize their neighbors [Israelis]”. His goal is “a Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine”. He even adds that, “Both [states] should accommodate minorities of the other people”, whereas PA President Mahmood Abbas has stated that there would be “not a single Israeli in future Palestinian state”.

Dajani has received death threats and his car was torched in January 2015 outside his East Jerusalem home in what appears to have been an attempt to kill him or at the very least intimidate him. Dajani could have done his job quietly at Al Quds University, but he chose not to take the easy path. He took a risk and the result demonstrated that, in his words, “We say we are for democracy and we practice autocracy, we say we are for freedom of speech and academic freedom, yet we deny people to practice it”.

Dajani appears to genuinely want peace with Israel. He has come a long way from a Fatah-trained guerilla fighter to a professor who preaches moderation and reconciliation. He explains that his exposure to the real Israelis, such as the Israeli medical staff who tried to save the life of his mother, contributed to the evolution of his thinking and led his outlook about Israelis to change from “It is us or them” to “It is us and them”.

Question: You have written a response to the Israellycool article in which you said, “If this means that I am anti Occupation then it is true. If it means that I am against injustice, then it is true”. However, the author of the article did not say that you were expected to support the occupation or any injustice. What he said is that when you wrote “it is about the occupation”, you appeared to justify the murder of a young girl on the grounds of the occupation. Do you believe that the killer was any less guilty than any killer of a sleeping child anywhere else in the world?

Answer: Not at all. Nothing I wrote "justified" terrorism and the quotes cited in the mentioned article support this. The idea that if I do not see things exactly the same way they do then that means I am ‘justifying terror’ is a distorted thinking process that extremists on both sides use. They fail to mention that I published posts expressing my deep sympathy with the bereaved family of the unfortunate victim 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel.

Had there been no occupation would this Palestinian youth have committed this crime thinking he is doing a ‘heroic act’? Had there been no occupation, would his family been pressured by the community not to condemn his act? This does not imply that “the killer was any less guilty than any killer of a sleeping child anywhere else in the world” but if it would have happened anywhere else he would have been diagnosed as “disturbed” or “mentally sick” and then they would have studied what caused him to do what he did. In analyzing what pushed this Palestinian kid to do what he did does not mean justification of terrorism …

… I do believe that the occupation is the source of most evil taking place feeding enmity, hatred, hostility, and violence on both sides. Let us not forget that there was a Palestinian youth and a Palestinian family on the other side burnt to death by Jewish extremists. I condemn all acts of terrorism committed for whatever cause. On both sides, these evil acts are symptoms of a deeper disease. Let us not remain in denial for what causes these evil actions in order to put an end to them.

I do recognize the imbalance in knowledge between Israelis and Palestinians about each other .... Jews were victimized by the Holocaust during the Second World War, and the Palestinians were victimized also … but are still traumatized by the ongoing occupation. Thus, it is hard for them to express empathy with Jewish past agonies when they are presently occupied with their own pain on a daily basis.

When Israel clamps down on Palestinian travel, exports and imports; this is occupation. When Israeli checkpoints delay people and those seriously ill patients travelling from one Palestinian city to another; this is occupation. When it takes hours for Palestinians to drive from Ramallah to Jerusalem or from Nablus to Hebron; this is occupation. When you hear the cries of bereaved parents; this is occupation. When you waste your life sitting in a jail cell for a crime you did not commit; this is occupation. When you look at me and do not see me or hear me; this is occupation. These things are what the occupation means to Palestinians.

Question: It was reported that you believe that “the Palestinians had made a mistake when they rejected the partition in 1947”. This seems to imply that you recognize that Arab violence against Jews is the root of the conflict …

Answer: I do believe that the Palestinians pressured by Arab governments made a historic mistake by rejecting the UN partition plan in 1947, but this in no way implies that “Arab violence against Jews” is the root of the conflict and the reason for the Israel-Arab wars. During the 1947-48 state of conflict there was violence from both sides against each other which made compromise, reconciliation, and peace hard to achieve. Meanwhile, Palestinian and Jewish voices of moderation had been silenced by extremists in their camps. Given this, moderates on both sides are calling for end of violence and are working to achieve a comprehensive just settlement that would end the occupation.

Question: You said that Israel has “a right-wing government with no interest in making peace”, yet you are clearly far more moderate than mainstream Palestinian politicians, not to mention extreme Palestinian politicians like Hamas. Do you agree that the main reason that the Israeli government, whether right or left, is reluctant to support a Palestinian state is because of Palestinian extremism, and that in fact, Palestinian extremism has pushed Israelis voters towards the right?

Answer: The Israeli government, whether right or left, is reluctant to support a Palestinian state in fear of Palestinian extremism which has pushed Israeli voters towards the right. When Palestinians call for end of occupation, Israelis interpret it to mean 1948 and not 1967. Many Israelis believe the Palestinian leadership of Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank seek to build a state not as a neighbor to Israel but on the ruins of Israel.

When Israelis look at the current Palestinian leadership, they conclude that a Palestinian state ruled by such “leaders” will be a threat to the national security of Israel. This is confirmed by Palestinian leadership refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Israelis believe that the percentage of Palestinians who believe in peace, reconciliation and two states solution is very low and are convinced that only few Palestinians are willing to give up the dream of Mandate Palestine to co-exist with Israel as peaceful nation. Here, the rise of radical Islam among Palestinians make Israelis worry about having the next caliphate rise on their borders. Looking beyond their borders, the regional political instability pushes Israelis to circle the wagons and oppose making any concessions to the Palestinians.

That is why the Wasatia movement I founded in 2007 aims among other goals at promoting a moderate culture within the Palestinian community in order for the Israeli public to feel safe and secure in supporting a democratic secular state for the Palestinians. The Wasatia Academic Institute in partnership with the Jena Center for Reconciliation at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, are jointly implementing a doctorate program specialized on reconciliation to have qualified and skilled Palestinian educators in this field to establish a solid foundation for a peaceful future.