[An essay I wrote right after I visited Palestine and Israel.]
Palestine-Israel conflict. More than a problem, it is a great opportunity to keep walking on the path towards improving humanity and finally leaving our proto-intelligent stage.
The starting point to solve any problem is to recognize that the problem exists. Within this line of reasoning, in an attempt to bring tools to address the conflict and move forward towards a morally evolved humanity, we (the 21st century earthlings) have to admit that we still have colonialist behavior. This is the problem: colonialist imperialist expansion. Which nation is the main supporter of the Israel war? Just in the last year, supporting Israel in its physical and psychological war has cost American taxpayers nearly $3 billion USD (~$108 billion since 1948, these are the numbers available to the public, I take it as a lower limit). Questioning this fact, I heard an urban legend in Israel, which says that Palestine is the region in the Planet that receives most aid from the World. I only agree if Palestine = Israel + West Bank + Gaza Strip. After all, the whole geographic region is Palestine.
And with colonialism comes racism. While some of us may think Apartheids were extinct systems, the reality is that they still operate and will continue to do so until we, as citizens, realize the negative effects that racial segregation brings to our diverse (and now global) society. Why? Because from the seeds of justice, flowers of light grow which guide our path towards peace.
The number of aware consciences is rapidly increasing. With current technology, however, fabricating virtual realities to control people is possible too. A young Israeli soldier told me the army must exist to protect his people from Arabs, because they want to throw Jews to the sea. Also, he said he has to protect Israelis with his life from the madman suicide bombers. His counterpart in Palestine, says he is helping to stop “Jew settlers” and the expansion of Zionism. Also, he said he is willing to give his life so that the World listen the desperation level which Palestinians have reached to defend their people, land and rights.
I asked them if they have talked to the “other side” siblings about it. In both cases the answer was no. I told Jacob that Naim doesn’t want to throw him to the sea. I told Naim that Jacob doesn’t want to be part of a cultural genocide. I take their initial silence and the light in their eyes as a positive sign for the seed of critical thinking and love, capable of transforming an enemy into a friend, into a brother. No communication between young people. The perfect way to nourish a conflict. A recent poll reveals 75% of Jewish students believe Arabs are uneducated, uncivilized, unclean. Similar stereotypes found amongst Arab students toward Jews, but in lower percentages. No communication at all, then build a fake reality and a physical wall to justify imperialism.
Some of the extremists on both sides want “security for their land” and think that violence will stop violence. Wrong perception. Violence creates violence. Or in modern terms: war on terror creates war on terror. Terror creates terror.
I’m wondering, what would happen if they held a war but nobody will show up?
What would happen if “his” people are “my” people too?
Many times problems are simpler than they appear, if seen from a different perspective. As humans, we have a tendency to fabricate the reality that fits best our interests. We build a smoke curtain and then we justify the blurry landscape. The Middle East conflict is not a religious conflict but a war of territorial expansion. Imperialism by the inch. Bit by bit, most of the times the land is stolen. Other times, the land was legally bought and opportunists want to take advantage of the improved living conditions. But why Israeli colonization of the occupied territories appears to be a defensive move rather than an offensive one? Why does the Israeli occupation interests of the West Bank and Gaza remain hidden in the news media? Why do I have to be in Dheisheh, Palestine, to know about the monstrous Deir Yassin massacre?
I’m not trying to persuade anybody, I’m just sharing my neutral perspective. Neutral not with double morals and double standards but with human rights, true democracy, justice and freedom.
In order to have a first grasp of the nature of the two perspectives of the conflict, I was provided with some useful translations. That is, for the same concepts the parts have different descriptions: Israeli Jerusalem = occupied East Jerusalem; security barrier = segregation wall; Israeli neighborhoods = illegal settlements; war on terror = justification to impose imperialist interests; national security = fascism; suicide bombers = last resource; corrupt politicians = corrupt politicians. (This last convergence might be a good start for both societies to resolve the conflict. If the change doesn’t come from top-bottom, it will come from bottom-top. Our global society in its heightened level of awareness will support it).
Then, I talked to more people and visited both places. I found beautiful kind people in both sides. The problem is the systems they are defending (many times) blindly, with no critical thinking.
I cannot imagine a society where justice, democracy and freedom are supposed to be practiced but there are buses where men sit in the front and women in the back just because it is convenient for politicians to give power to a certain group of people; where tourists can cross the border back and forward but young Israeli people interested in art, history, archeology and/or anthropology cannot visit Jericho nor Hebron nor Bethlehem; where carrying a machine gun is a symbol of tranquility and peace but a pregnant woman is a potential suicide bomber. There is contradiction and the usual double standards of persons with power trying to control regular people.
Are we breaking the mild UN resolutions, the International Law and manipulating it as we want to justify our territory greed? Are we supporting impunity and the control of people through ignorance and fear, lots of fear? Unsolicited tour guards that want to protect us from “the terrorists”, without knowing that they are part of the psychological terror. The reminder of violence in any entrance, or the smell of fear in many food-courts where 18 year-olds are carrying guns honoring brutality as means to resolve problems. A machine gun on the table, by the salt and pepper, it is a condiment that makes me sick, my system cannot handle it. It just doesn’t feel right.
Check points? I thought check points where just at the borders. No, check points are inside Palestine too, hence the use of the word occupation. If you go from Bethlehem to Hebron (~20km) you can be stopped by soldiers as many as five times. A foreign passport will be the wild card in each check point but not for your Palestinian friend who might be the target of authority abuse, humiliation and jokes: “Do you live in Bethlehem? Where is Bethlehem?”. What a nightmare and what a torture to cross those check points every time to go to school, work or to simply visit your family.
Suicide bombers? Violence creates violence. I cannot justify the murder of other siblings by any means. Palestinian society needs to attract more true Israeli citizens to join the struggle, Israelis that stand for justice and the defense of human rights. The physical and moral murder of civilians only proves detrimental in the struggle, because the use of force justifies the use of force in retaliation. Yes, many times the suicide bombers are born in check points where Israeli soldiers don’t understand Arabic and women are harassed and humiliated; or when teens try to sneak away from the soldiers to go to school, instead they are arrested and sent to jail; or when they are blocked from helping their grandmother who receives dialysis treatments on the other side of the check point. In spite of all these provocations, violence is not the way to achieve our legitimate right to live in dignity as world citizens. Suicide bombers push us even further away from our goal to win friendship, brotherhood and understanding. Nonviolence and resistance is the way to show to the World the unbearable injustice, poverty and violence in the region. True Palestinian citizens don’t want to be part of the escalation of violence. There is a spiritual solution for every problem.
Future generations of young Israelis and Palestinians, have to learn how to identify and eradicate negative thoughts and cultivate the positive states of mind.
Security barrier? Walls will hardly resolve the problem because it is a militaristic and violent solution to a social-economic-political problem. As a Mexican, it sounds familiar… is there a correlation? The Israeli-Palestinian wall is a tool of systematized oppression, annexes land, isolates wells, separates Palestinian communities, and causes wide scale destruction of the environment. When a wall is built as far east of as many settlements as possible, it makes me wonder: is it really about the security of Israeli citizens or is it about territorial expansion? (Upon completion, 46% of the west Bank will be annexed by the wall and settlement blocks). If the wall is solely for security and not an effective way to annex land, why not build it on Israel’s international recognized border pre-1967 occupation line?
I’m not saying Israel’s security concerns are not genuine. I’m questioning the reasoning for such barrier and the effective outcomes of the wall, which clearly indicate double standards of the directors of this unnatural boundary.
My sympathies are all with my Jewish siblings and their age-long persecution. I cannot understand, however, their attitude towards their Palestinian siblings, especially when they were historically in a similar position. What are the humanitarian and rational arguments that support the Israelis imposition on the Palestinians? If I were a Palestinian, I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. My sympathies are all with my Palestinian siblings too. As a citizen of the world, I neither can support cultural genocide nor organized and shameless persecution of any kind. Let’s comply with the childhood of the International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights.
My sympathies are all with the grand human family. Here is an analogy that might broaden the perspective of the situation:
Perhaps, in the near future, rewarding intrepid and bold souls of people like Jill Tarter, listening, seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling in 9 or more dimensions, the movement of progressive perspectivists will make “contact” with an advanced truly intelligent civilization. Decoding one of their messages, we read: “Go to the Promised Land and make it your home”.
If we take the message literally, probably the senders will be very disappointed and they will be reluctant to send a new one. But let’s pretend we are trying to leave the proto-intelligent phase.
Does that mean that we, as progressive perspectivists, have the right to invade the promised land and expel the indigenous people from their ancestral home? Do we have the permission as an enlighten group to took over the promised land and drove out people from their homes through widespread acts of terrorism under the perspectivist flag? Can we call amnesia as our code of moral conduct to forget the root of future problems?
Do we have the right as humans to promote racial segregation because of our particular beliefs? Aren’t we true perspectivists regardless of our physical location on the Planet?
Are there any Mexican, French, US, Taiwan, Cuban, Chinese, Kenyan, Palestinian, Israeli perspectivists or does it mean that all the perspectivists on Earth have to leave our original countries and move to the promised land? If so, do we have a double nationality?
After all, aren’t we ALL earthlings? If we need any passport that is the Universal passport. The earthling passport which erases all the imaginary lines that we draw in the dirt.
There is hope. Tons of hope. Here are 3 proofs.
1. The paradox of the Kind Israeli Soldier and the Pregnant Palestinian Woman.
I was chatting with another Israeli young soldier and the two of us proposed the following scenario:
How would you address an emergency situation where a pregnant woman shows up at the check point where you are at, and you know that there have been fake pregnant women that turned out to be suicide bombers?
If she is truly pregnant, but you don’t let her pass because you think she has a bomb, there is little we can say about your inhumane action. It is just disgusting to think of making a military inspection on her while she is having an emergency. If she is not pregnant, but you let her pass, then you are putting at risk the lives of many innocent Israeli civilians.
Then, he came with three solutions for the paradox:
a. Why do I have to be there? I don’t have to be a soldier and support the occupation. Why is that I am a soldier in first place?
b. Why does the pregnant woman have to cross the check point? Ok, there is 1 doctor for 12,000 people (this is for real in refugee camps) and there is no hospital where she can be helped. Then, I will help to construct a clinic/hospital in the area; I will bring Israeli doctors and nurses to the Palestine community, so that she doesn’t have to cross.
c. I will go with the pregnant woman and treat her as if she were the mother of my child. I will go with her to the hospital, show to her as much love as I can, and leave evidence on the Palestinians and people at the check point, that I will trust her as if she were my wife and that I will give my life for the Israeli people AND for the Palestinian people. I will ask the others to spread the word of my action that day in a bidirectional way (in Israel and the West Bank). Let the World know that we care about each other. If she was a suicide bomber it was a good day to die, but let them know what I did. If she was pregnant, the child will be not a whisper of violence but the shout of peace and I will become a contagious love soldier. I better know some Arabic for this solution, which is my favorite he said.
2. Ibdaa: a true Oasis.
I thought Ein Geti was an Oasis. But I found in the middle of hatred, indifference, repression and violence a true Oasis: The Ibdaa cultural center in the West Bank. A place that, despite the violent atmosphere of the surroundings, stresses the education of hearts, the culture of nonviolence and promotes compassion. I only could feel love in there. Teaching young people about art, music, dance, sports, science, media, human values AND compassion is the priority there. I agree with a close friend when she told me Ibdaa is one of her favorites places on Earth. I was in the other side of the planet and I felt I was in home, I felt I was with my family, the grand human family.
Ibdaa, which in Arabic means “to create something out of nothing“, is a grassroots organization that provides educational, social, and cultural programs for the children, youth and women of Dheisheh refugee camp. The people living in this overcrowded and impoverished community have very few outlets for constructive expression of their hopes and fears. Ibdaa strives to empower these children, youth and women, instilling in them confidence and strength while also educating the international community about Palestinian refugees.
Through art, dance, music, media, education, and sports, Ibdaa helps children and teenagers to share their experiences and dreams for the future with each other and with people around the World. Every activity at Ibdaa incorporates the values of democratic process and respect for human rights, providing a secular, humanist, and coeducational experience for Dheisheh’s children, youth, and women.
Young people that were in prison for a year are still smiling. Elder people that were in prison for 10 years are still smiling. I sensed an outstanding degree of forgiveness, which determines the degree to which they are able to love their “enemies”.
Ibdaa is another example of the Astronomical wings of the human spirit, which flies over any barrier to the relationship among siblings.
3. The Palesrael Bridge.
This was a magic moment, something very hard to understand for a non-religious agnostic scientist like me. Siblings Nora, Chris and I went to visit the historic Nativity church in Bethlehem, the West Bank. It was a sunny day and in the air there was an almost imperceptible gentle breeze. I went into the church and soon my heart started to fill up with an uncontrollable wonderful emotion. Meditating by the spot where Jesus was born, I started to cry with no apparent reason. Somehow, I felt I was lighter than ever. I started going outside of the church with my soul full of energy, compassion and love.
In my way out I made 4 new friends, all children.
The landscape was completely different. It was raining and it was cold, but then the great revelation:
A rainbow crossing the sky unifying a Palestinian refugee camp and a Jew settlement. One people, One planet, One future.
At the same moment my tears were rolling down my cheeks, the rainbow appeared. Attached is the picture that sister Nora and brother Chris captured. It was (and still is) an overwhelming feeling.
As members of the great generation, we are starting to leave the denial phase of our colonialist-imperialist problem and move forward to a successful recovering. We are not saving the planet (Earth will be around for at least another 3.5 billion years with or without humans), we are saving us and the conditions on Earth that brought this magnificent biodiversity.
The defense of ideals is the engine of progress. This is an excellent opportunity to grow. The grand human family is crawling. Another kind of intelligence might arise once we accept our ignorance and limitations. A part is a model of the whole and the whole is reflected in their parts. Humanity has to become a fractal of compassion in order to survive. Nothing is harder than conceiving what has not yet been imagined.
For some people the rainbow was the gentle voice of God, Allah, Jehovah, Jah, Mwari, Shang Ti… (God is too big for just one religion) speaking to us. For the non-religious people it was the harmonious music of Mother Nature building not a wall but a Bridge.
If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.
Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle
January 9th, 2007