News and Commentary on Arab Women, Palestine, Cultural Politics, and Everything in Between
Dear Amal,Dear Amal,My name is Assaf, I am an Israeli, served for three years in the Israeli army, currently a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I read your blog, it's interesting and gives me an insightful view into something different. I have to say something about Israel though. Israel is not an apartheid state, it's not an theocracy and women enjoy all the freedoms that men do (there are exceptions with ultra orthodox people but the society here is very complex). I sincerely believe you write what you write simply because you are misinformed about what goes on in this sliver of earth called Israel/Palestine. Israel is not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, and the occupation is a tragedy that will leave Israel scarred forever, but this is not a matter of choice for Israelis but rather a matter of survival. I know it's hard for you to see it from my end of the table, just as its hard for me sometimes to see your side. If you're as brave as you come off from your blog, I wish we'd get to talk sometime over AIM or something. In anycase, keep up the creative writing and know that even if I'm wrong, Israel and Israelis are not evil but just people who wanna live in peace.
Amal,allah y3inek. 7amel il-silam bil3ard.
Hi Assaf,If you read my blog, you will know that I don't believe Israelis are evil. I do post against the Israeli occupation and against any other unjust practices the Israeli state engages in against the Palestinians or its own citizens. Most of the posts that I use in relation to Israel come from the Israeli press, from people like Amira Hass and Gideon Levy. I agree with you that the Israeli society is complex. And I hope you will also see the Palestinian society as complex too. My Israeli feminist friends will disagree with the way you characterize the situation of women in Israel. They will say it's more complex than you make it sound. As you said, Israel is not perfect, but many of those who do not want any criticism of it want the world to think it is. As to the occupation, this is were I really disagree with you. It's not necessary for Israel's survival. Many Israelis believe that and I hope their numbers will grow so the occupation will come to an end. The only thing that can guarantee Israel's survival and the well-being of its citizens is a just solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. Everyday I get more pessimistic that this will be achieved in my life time. You knew the occupation for three years (assuming you served in the West Bank and Gaza). I've known it from the other side all my life. So who do you think is more likely to be misinformed about it?
Dear Amal,Thanks for your candid answer.So we have accomplished disagreement, that's a good start. I must tell you, living in Israel most of my life, I find the situation of women here is good, better than that of many women in much more developed western nations. In Israel today you have a large number of very powerful women, who emphasize their womanhood as the core of their success. You can find them in politics, business, art and culture, entertainment and in some cases even religion. The is still much work ahead, because domestic violence is very predominant especially in the Russian immigration, and sexual harassment in workplaces, has been taken too lightly by the public and the legal system up until three years ago. The Ultraorthodox world is of course very separate from the rest of the population, and women are maltreated within their community. In Israel you always have people disagreeing, "Two Jews, Three Opinions" the old saying goes. But it's the respect that I hold towards you and your Israeli friends, and hopefully, you towards me, that makes this contention into something good and constructive. I think the role of women in Israeli society is the best that it has ever been, that is not to say it's ideal, but it's not unusually bad either. I wish you'd tell me what you've heard of Israeli women, maybe you know of things I don't. I never thought, not for a second, that the Palestinian society is anything but complex. I've seen it with my own eyes. I find, however, that the Palestinians have a very hard time criticizing themselves publicly, while as, if you are exposed to the Israeli press as you said you are, you can see at what ferocity it attacks Israeli politicians and policies, especially Haaretz, which I read every day. It seems to me, the more the Israeli public is bent of leaving the occupation and opening a new page in its sordid relationship with the Palestinians, the more the Palestinians are bent of destroying Israel altogether. I have been an avid proponent of the disengagement from Gaza, I have actively and openly protested for the reomoval of settlements, hoping this policy would extend later to the west bank because I felt that the Palestinians just need the chance to turn Gaza into a bastion of economic and cultural Arab success. Not before long it was that Hamas was overwhelmingly elected, and the destruction of Israel on its agenda. Why? Do you think Israel chooses to return to Gaza? Or rather, the incessant barrage of rockets on the Sderot and Ashkelon that's been going on for 6 whole years. The greenhouses Israel left behind turned into a weapon caches instead of the fertile ground that feeds the hungry mouth of the Palestinians.Israel left Lebanon and the west bank before, but everywhere it left, it had to return, and not gleefully. I know because I was an infantry soldier when the second intifada started, and I remember what havoc that silly war brought both on Israel but mostly on the Palestinians. I served most of my service in Nablus, a beautiful scenic city, I don't know where you are originally from, but if you are from Nabulus, I am sure you miss it a great deal. Everytime I entered Nabulus the fear and disgust that resided within me had to be stowed away for future reference. Although stowed, it is not repressed. Then and now I and millions of Israelis, maybe to your surprise, resent the occupation. 200,000 of 7,000,000 israelis live in the West Bank today, not merely a quality representation of public opinion is it? But even now, when Israelis, including myself, had elected a government that is obligated to a retreat from the west bank at all cost, be it bilaterally or unilaterally, do we find the Palestinians' militant faction's will to seize shooting, non existant. I was in Junior High when the Oslo accords were signed, in school we were all gathered in the GYM where they hung a large screen, and projected the ceremony and the famous handshake on the white house lawn. I remember thinking - this is it - history in the making, the end of this conflict. How further from the truth were all of us, huh? The "marvellous Israel Occupation" doesn't exist on its own volition, it's a reaction, rather than the instigator, I can tell you that as a soldier, a voter, and an Israeli. I hope to continue this conversation with you. Thanks! - email@example.com
Assaf,You cover many grounds here, some of which I've been posting about on this blog. But let me give you a kind of abbreviated response to some of your points:Israeli women: what's intresting to me is how sensitive you are to any criticism coming from a Palestinian.Yes, Israeli women have gained a lot, thanks to their own struggle against their patriarchal society. And yes, their situation is not perfect. As you mention, domestic violence and sexual harrassment are big problem facing them. Also some Israeli women are facing economic discrimination as memebers of non-elite Israeli communities. In other words, they are like women everywhere. I don't not demonize Israeli women. But I do like to point out the hypocricy of media coverage and its double standards when it comes to speaking about Arab women. Why doesn't Palestinian society criticize itself as much as Israeli society does? various reasons. One of them is that Palestinian society does not have the solid state institutions that Israeli society has. We don't have free press. And the occupation is one big reason why (but not only one). Palestinians are scattered all over the world: they are "guest" (often unwelcomed) in countries that are watching every word they say. Their opponent, Israel, is so many time more powerful than them. And they have been putting all their energies for the past 50 years to survive in a situation of crisis. That tends to weaken internal debates. Notice in Israel itself, when the state is in a state of war, like this summer in Lebanon, the voices of the opposition were very quiet indeed. But I assure you, the Palestinians do not have any genetic inclination against democratic institutions or free speech. If you look the student elections at palestinian univesities for example you'll see a wonderful democratic process that has been taking place for years and years.Now the thing that I disagree with most in what you said is how you chracterize the role Israel played in the latest crisis. According to you, Israel is simply a victim. It wants to withdraw, but the Palestinians won't let it. Wants to end the occupation, but the rockets keep falling. I know this is how many Israelis see the issue. Which is outrageous. If the Israeli government wants to end the occupation, then it sits and negotiates with the palestinians. It doesn't withdraw from Gaza (which it never wanted any way) while keeping total control of it (borders, economy, etc), keep the choiciest parts of the west bank (around jerusalem, water resources), then tell the Palestinians, here you go, have your state. raise your flag. turn gaza and Ramallah into a paradise. That's a joke, Assaf. Oslo was a joke too. Just as the Isralis feel feel cheated by Oslo (They didnt' get their peace), the Palestinians feel a hundred times more cheated (no peace, no state). Israel has the power to do what it wants and is doing it. Before the Palestinians elected Hamas, they elected Abbas. Why did they vote differently and when? It's called being disappointed in the promises of Oslo. The Israeli public votes for their own right wing quite often, no? Shall the world punish them everytime they do so?
Amal, thanks for your excellent comment.I don't think I am particularly sensitive about criticism of Israel, I have my share of criticism of Israeli policies myself, and I must say, regardless of our disagreements, your criticisms are viable, honest and concrete. I don't know you but somehow I get the feeling that if people with mindsets such as ourselves would have ran both Israeli and Palestinian policies, the conflict would not been what it is today.Granted, Israel's self criticism mechanisms are much more developed than those of the Palestinians, but I don't think it's Israel's strength that gives it the ability to maintain these institutions, but rather, the values it's leadership and public uphold as a way of life. Before Israel was founded, the same criticism and was predominant, despite military and social inferiority and rudimentary institutions. Of course, Israel is an adversary of the Palestinians, that's because there's a conflict of interests, so the conflict is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be violent. What makes it violent in my point of view, Amal, and also incessant, is the Palestinian leadership's choice to uphold the values of authoritarianism, which spells the crippling of the institutions of free press and free speech. Abbas's attempts to sound a voice of reason in the Palestinian political world have been downplayed by many as mere whims of a traitor and a "Jewish American Puppet". I think that if the Palestinians want a just change, they should turn to their government, demanding a more pragmatic route, because there is no hope in the one the Palestinian government is currently taking. The residing government in Israel and the ones before it have failed the public because they deal too much with populism, rather than real viable solutions. The only ones who have dealt with real solutions are the people who wanted to promote Oslo, which was based on the idea of reciprocity. I don't think it was a joke, I think it could have worked.It's not that the opposition's voice was not heard during the recent war in Lebanon (Which, I'm afraid, is a prelude to what is coming next), simply because the opposition too understands the hate towards Israel and Jews by many peoples around us, has been from the beginning, and unfortunately still is, independent of reason. The public of these nations that surround us are mobilized by their leaders and governments under the pretense of religious and nationalistic zeal to promote the narrow goals of what I want to believe is a skewed perception of Islam, namely, not allowing the Jews a homeland. Gaza did not relent its resistance after the withdrawal, for the same reason Hizballah did not. Not because of what you mentioned, but rather because it is against their world perception not to fight the Jews. Israel left Lebanon to the last square inch and never controlled its borders and economics as you suggests happens in Gaza, but Lebanon 2006 still happened, just as Gaza 2006 had happened and will keep on happening.I disagree that political issues are what kept Israelis and Palestinians from implementing a two state solution. Israel was ready to accept the 1948 partition plan, and had no plans of expanding anywhere, and the expansion was a result of the growing need for strategic depth that will allow defensible borders to what was only 58 years ago a small and weak immigrant state. The Palestinians would have done wisely to take what they were offered, which was a lot, in Camp David 1999, and work their way up from there. They will do wisely to take Gaza now and turn it into a home to live in, rather than an Iranian weapons cache.Your explanation is unacceptable to me. You make it sound as if the Palestinians have no other choice but to fight. That is not the case. There is a choice, because if Hamas lays down its arms, there will be no war. If Israel laid down its arms, there would be no Israel.Amal, ever since I came across your blog, I've been reading through your new posts daily. Even though I honestly don't know you, I have no doubt you are a good pure-intentioned person, but I think the feeling of Palestinian victimization blurs a vision of what Palestinians could do better for themselves, and for everyone else around them. I am against victimization, on all sides, Israel's side too (and maybe especially on Israel’s side. The Jews are done being victims). Israel could be doing much better, and is making a lot of mistakes I wish it would not have. But I can promise you one thing, a proven reduction in the enthusiasm to kill Israeli civilians and to destroy Israel, will without a doubt bring a dramatic change in the perception of both the Israeli public and the Israeli government that are led astray by war mongers both here and there.Hope to keep up this very interesting debate with you!Respectfully, Assaf. (If you wish to do this by email, please go ahead and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Post a Comment