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An appeal for international intervention
in Palestine and Israel

Dan Bar-On, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, December 2001

This is an appeal for an immediate international intervention to stop the bloodshed of Palestinians and Israelis. Both Arafat and Sharon, our so-called "leaders" (they are today leaders only in the sense that they lead us further into hell) are caught up in a game that they had started in 1982 in Beirut and have not yet finished. They show no responsibility whatsoever for the lives of the people who live in these two countries today. The leaders of the United States, on the other hand, are right now stuck with their own concept that terror can be uprooted only by force, a concept that Sharon tries to implement now in our region.

This is a dangerous escalation, as we are not the US and Afghanistan but two peoples deeply interwoven in a very narrow and painful piece of land. There is no way for us to drive out the Palestinian people, as there is no way for them to drive us out. But our "leaders" still behave as if this option is their preferable alternative and we are all paying the consequences. The present cycle of violence is an indication of the depth of the dream that one group can drive the other group out through terror of one kind or another. I assume that within the two nations there are many more people that want a compromise that will enable them to live and not to die. These people do not want a "final solution", based on ideals that were perhaps relevant in the past, but they want a compromise one can live with, in dignity and mutual respect. As I understand it, such a compromise will mean a Palestinian state composed of the occupied territories and Israel, as a state with a Jewish majority in 1967 borders (which means that most of the Palestinian refugees will not be able to return to their original homes). There are a few others who may want to die for their ideals based on hatred and total exclusion of the other. We, as people, must find a way to let the many talk and not the few. We did not yet find this way. Perhaps an international crisis intervention will enable the many voice their wish and need.

I was on my way home from Northern Ireland when I heard about the casualties of the last two terrible suicide-bombs in Jerusalem and Haifa. I came back from a residential, organized by practitioners with whom I work for the last three years . We heard stories of British and Northern-Irish people, deeply traumatized by violence they have committed or that was done to them. They could start to talk only now, after their cease-fire got some momentum. For them the "troubles" are not over yet, as they are still haunted by fear, pain and distrust that will take a long time to be relieved from. Their way to look for relief was to listen and become more sensitive to each other's pain and sorrow. I envied them for the fact that they could talk about the violent events in the past tense. For us it is still daily reality. Most of our people are still blocking their feelings of relating to the pain of the other. They are full of hatred and wish for revenge.

But where are we led to right now? Ten innocent Israeli youngsters being killed in a Hamas suicide attack in Jerusalem won't increase Israeli sensitivity towards the innocent death of five Palestinian children, who walked into a booby trap placed by the army on their way to school at the Khan Yunes Refugee Camp. Fifteen innocent bus passengers in Haifa, blown to death in another horrid explosion, will not open the eyes of Israelis for the fact that by killing Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu-Hunud a week ago, our army was actually putting an end to a tacit understanding between Arafat and Hamas, that had prevented this kind of suicide bombing over the past few months. As we just heard, as an immediate step of retaliation all Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank are now expressly forbidden to use the roads - the logical culmination of travel restrictions that became increasingly tight over the past year. Collective punishment of a whole people. Millions of people are to be completely imprisoned in their town or village, with going to the next community becoming a criminal offence - an offence which, as enforced by soldiers, may come in daily practice to be punishable by death. Will any of these increase Palestinian sensitivity to Israeli pain? Will it deter the next suicide bomber and the one after? Or will it make even more young Palestinians destitute and angry and desperate enough to take up the explosive belts offered by Hamas?

Uprooting terror can not be solved by force only. As its roots are many and deep, resting on layers of despair, poverty, lack of legitimacy and ideology of hatred, it may be slowly reduced only by a delicate combination of short-term use of legitimate power and long-term solutions of legitimacy, political and economic change and education. Only a change that will provide hope for people who have become destitute by the current state of affairs will slowly reduce the extent of terror, both in our region and also elsewhere. This delicate combination of short term, top-down crisis interventions and long-term bottom up initiatives is a combination we lack so much, both in our painful context but also in other conflict-ridden societies. Before I went to Northern Ireland I participated in an event called Kids-Guernica, in South Tyrol, Italy. Paintings in the size of the original Guernica of Picasso painted by kids from all over the world where displayed on Kronplatz, a local ski-resort. Our kids, the Israeli and the Palestinian kids could not compose a painting at home, because of the current situation and were therefore invited to do it in a small village near Kronplatz. They sat for a few days and designed a painting made of three parts: the Palestinian part, the Israeli part and a joint part in the middle. The Palestinian children painted Muhamad Al-Dura, who was killed at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, while his father tried, unsuccessfully, to protect him from the shootings. The Israeli children painted a girl sitting bent head and clutching arms, full of fear, all alone with a red huge background. In the middle part they painted a kind of a flower with the words in Hebrew and Arabic — "hoping for Peace". When journalists interviewed them about the meaning of their painting, one of the kids explained that in the current situation the adults are not able anymore defend their children. If we want to think of what has to change in the current situation in the Middle East I would take this painting as a model: We want to have back a situation in which adults can defend their children. Right now we are in a violent situation in which some children seem to be wiser than their parents.

Dan Bar-On, December 2001

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