A reader from Australia writes:
I have been an avid reader of your forum for over a year now. Recently, due to an injury I have been laid up in bed unable to do much more than read and surf the net from my laptop. Spending the last month reading various sites and blogs has brought me to write the attached essay in memory of Etgar Zitoune – a friend murdered by the Oslo accords. I thought it might interest your readers to hear a point of view from someone who grew up in Australia and lived in Israel for 12 years.
When I went to live in Israel during the early 1990’s, I fell in love with the country. Vibrant people, a country full of extremes, a country filled with people of passion. I loved to walk in Jerusalem. There, on the sidewalk, I met with people dressed in the manner of their religion, The Coptic priest, the Armenian priest, the orthodox Chasidic Jew, the Muslim mufti. The contrast between the Gay Parade in Tel-Aviv on the one hand, and the nation-wide observance of Yom Kippur on the other, inspired me.
The Gay Pride Parade of Tel-Aviv had all the pageantry that you would expect of such an event, a true celebration of Hedonism. And Yom Kippur embodied what you would expect in a Jewish country: the mad rush to get home before the siren sounded signifying the beginning of the holy day. Perfect silence would descend; there was not a single car on the road. Unless you have experienced it, you cannot imagine how magnificent it is that a whole country comes to a stop. Even the most irreligious of Israel respected this tradition.
I am not saying that the Orthodox did not complain and protest the Gay Pride parade; it was their religious obligation to do so, and in a free society it is their right. However, their right to protest was respected, and so was the right of free assembly of the gay community to hold their parade. The successful resolution of the tension between these two extremes are one of the features I loved about Israeli life.
Now to my point:
When the Oslo accords were signed I was ambivalent. However, I said, “who knows, maybe…” I was of the mindset that if you give a sixteen-year old boy an education and the choice between partying (and hopefully a chance of, you know, getting to second base with a girl) or blowing himself up, then this adolescent would choose life. I thought, “who knows maybe this will be the beginning of normalisation of relations with our neighbours. After all we ultimately all care about the same things – putting a roof over our family’s head, feeding them and spending time with them. The line from an old Sting song came to mind: I hope the Russians love their children too.. I knew from experience that our cousins loved their children because both in Israel and in Australia my Muslim friends showed the same devotion to their children that I have for mine.
Very quickly my “maybe” turned into “what the hell is going on here? Why are we continuing with this madness?”
My father-in-law was living with us at the time and he used to ask me why I didn’t want peace. My response was that I would chop off my right arm for peace but I was not willing to slit my throat and kill my children for the peace of the grave.
Of course, I didn’t really believe that peace would happen. My father-in-law accused me of being a pessimist, and then pronounced upon me the worst insult an Israeli can mutter: I was right wing (which was ironic as my father always accused me of being a Socialist). I asked him what he would do as a businessman if a person he went into partnership with did not fulfil a single one of his obligations as agreed upon in their contract, while he, in good faith, had begun fulfilling his part. His immediate response was that he would dissolve the partnership.
I then asked him what he would do if his partner had a “valid” excuse for not fulfilling the first criteria, saying he needed more time. My father in law said that if it was valid, he would let it slide.
I went on: what if his partner offered a valid excuse for the second and third and fourth criteria. My father-in-law said, “well at some point business is business and I should not have to carry someone who is unable to fulfil his part of the contract.” So I asked him to point out to me one thing that Palestinian leadership had done do fulfil their obligations.
“That is different,” he said.
“I know, I answered.” “In business it’s only money. Here…
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it is people’s lives.”
I cannot tell you how often in Israel I heard the words, “How can you think like that? You are an intelligent, educated, thinking woman.” I was told that I was racist for thinking that peace with our Muslim cousins was unattainable.
One of my best friends, a beautiful gentle soul who also happened to be gay, was the most confused by my attitude. Here I was a believing Jewess, fighting for animal rights, chaining myself to trees, fighting for honesty in Government and so on. He could not reconcile my general humanistic demeanour (which, by the way, is very much in keeping with Jewish law) and my adamant stance that Israel was committing suicide in its policy of appeasement and rewarding terror with more concessions. He was constantly trying to explain to me the error of my ways.
I would tell him, “ I am not judging Islam, I am just stating facts. They do things differently to us. If their daughters act in a manner they feel is inappropriate, they kill them. We tell our daughters off and maybe we send them to their room.” I was not judging, I was stating a fact. “They have a problem with a neighbour, they kill them. We will go to the police or make faces at them if we happen to see them in the street.” Again, not judging but stating a fact. “In their culture revenge killing is acceptable. In our culture it is not.”
And then my gentle friend, together with his cousin, was murdered while visiting an Arab village. An Arab friend of ours was with them and he begged the murderers to leave his guests alone as they were with him (up until that point, under the honour system that Arabs had if you visited an Arab village accompanied by an Arab you were safe). The killers placed the gun by the side of my friend’s head and shot it off. They told his Arab friend that if he didn’t shut up he would be next.
Here’s another difference between our culture and that of our Muslim cousins: in the early nineties there was a rash of terror attacks that took the form of knifings. One such attack took place in Tel-Aviv. Immediately, the attacker was set upon by angry Israelis. After they disarmed him, they began beating him. A woman – I think she may have been religious – threw herself between the mob and the terrorist. “We are a rule of law, not a bunch of thugs,” she said. They stopped. She did what she did knowing full well that the mob would not attack her.
So while my friend and his cousin were dragged out of the restaurant where they were eating, no one except for our Muslim friend moved a muscle. I do not believe their failure to react was due to indifference. I believe that those also in the restaurant did not interfere because they knew full well they would suffer the same fate if they said anything. They did indeed live under the tyrannic rule of a bunch of thugs.
Until we recognise these differences and accept them, there cannot be true dialogue and therefore no peace. Our leaders, driven by the left, display the height of arrogance by refusing to acknowledge the culture that they are trying to negotiate with is different to ours. They are patronising in the extreme when they let “our partners in peace” get away with the old mantra, “ we are unable to control the terrorists.”
What are the politically correct left really saying? I believe this is true not just of Israel but of Europe and the rest of the “enlightened West.” They are saying, “let us humour these Muslims. Eventually they’ll get it. I mean who wouldn’t want to be like us – the freethinking, enlightened, wonderful West where everyone is equal, and everyone is free to think and do what they like? Come on, you Muslims can’t really want to live in the prison of that seventh century way of thinking. We of the “enlightened West” are so evolved that we will treat you like three year olds and put up with your tantrums until you mature and grow up.” This kind of thinking is patronising; it is arrogant.
So now I know what they don’t want. They don’t want to be like us at all, and they are willing to kill their children to prevent that from happening.