A Lost Identity

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An African refugee goes to complete paperwork for his asylum status, while at the bus station to return home, an attack occurs in which the assailant is killed. The refugee is shot later by a security guard. Why? According to the police spokesman, “because of his looks.” As the refugee lay on the ground bleeding, a mob attacks him and begins stomping on him, throws a bench on him, and in the end kills him. The refugee was innocent but because he was poor, black, non-Jewish, he was killed all the same.

An elderly British volunteer is attacked by Jewish armed settlers who attempt to stone him to death. The man is rescued but not before serious injury. His offense to the settlers? He was standing as a witness to Palestinian farmers trying to harvest their olives. After the man was attacked, settlers set fire to the fields and trees.

Two hundred Jewish settlers attack a Palestinian village in the middle of the night and try to burn the residents out of their homes. The army doesn’t intervene and residents are left to defend themselves and save their families.

A Czech airline crew were physically assaulted aboard their flight by Jews who began yelling they wouldn’t have non-Jews operating the plane. Police at Ben Gurion airport had to rush to the scene to rescue the flight crew, which as you can imagine, was as perplexed by the incident as anyone.

A wall has begun to be put in place separating East Jerusalem, home to about 250,000 Palestinians, from the rest of the city. In essence, Israel is creating a Jerusalem ghetto where the Palestinian residents need special permits to leave and must pass through checkpoints to exit their neighborhoods. The historical irony of Jews herding anyone into ghettos can’t be understated.

All these incidents have happened in Israel since the weekend. It is as though Israel has lost its identity and in doing so, is playing to the worse elements of its society. The open racism, the open hatred of anyone non-Jewish are things I have encountered in the country before but it has always been the rare instance not the norm as it is now.

I can’t help but hark back to only 30 years ago when Israelis and Palestinians openly tried to work through their problems. There are prime examples of both sides making an effort to live side by side and often succeeding. Teddy Kollek, the Jewish mayor of Jerusalem, was in office for a long time because both sides respected him and he made the attempt to keep a balance in the city between Jewish interests and Palestinian ones, trying to treat each as equals.

They are forgotten episodes now but Ted Koppel on Nightline use to have a series of town hall meetings between Jews and Palestinians where problems and solutions were often discussed. Higher ups were always there from the Palestinian side and I remember Yael Dayan – then a MK and the daughter of Moshe Dayah – was almost always present.

When I first started going to Israel, Arabs and Jews openly mixed. Even if trouble was underway, politics was a secondary issue and the personal relationship came first. Now, even before this latest trouble, I’ve seen Jews complain because there is an Arab or African in the store. (Ben Gurion’s African policy has really gone by the wayside.) Arabs complain of their second-class treatment and the constant hassle they receive. The 15 miles from Ramallah to Jerusalem can take you half the day due to all the checkpoints and restrictions.

Israel needs to ask itself who it is and who it wants to be. The status quo hasn’t worked for years. Occupation, controlling sub-class of citizens based on race, creating walls and ghettos, all of it leads to no productive outcome. At some point, the country is going to have to admit to itself there are problems in its own ranks that have to be dealt with, otherwise there is nothing but trouble to be written on those walls it is erecting.

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Categories: British, Czech, history, Intifada, israel, Jerusalem, Jewish Settlers, Palestine, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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