What four dead Jews and a rabbi say about Israeli-Palestinian peace

DAN-CHYI CHUA
Aug 30, 2010
*Special to asia!

Before the Obama-mediated talks between Israel and the Palestinians can begin in Washington, they are already crying bloody murder in the holy land.

 

Two things happened over this past four days.

The first took place a couple of hours ago. Four Israeli Jews were killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank. They came from Kiryat Arba, an illegal Israeli settlement. (Illegal why? Because it is located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, land annexed by Israel in 1967.)

The two men and two women, one of them pregnant according to initial reports, were murdered by Palestinians.

The second incident happened last Saturday. Rabbi Ovadia Yousef expressed this during his sabbath sermon, that he wanted "all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (President Mahmoud Abbas), vanish from our world".

He went on to say: "May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel."

Seems like Jewish rabbis are not immune to the hate-filled rhetoric we hear more usually from radical Islamic clerics.

 

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (courtesy:Talsadar)

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (courtesy:Talsadar)

 

Before you dismiss his comments, you may want to know that Rabbi Yosef isn't a two-bit religious zealot. Yosef was Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi. He now serves as the spiritual leader of Israel's right-wing Shas Party, a member of the current Israeli coalition government. This is a highly respected religious leader who has the ears of the country's leadership.

The Israeli response to both episodes have been markedly different.

The hawks in the Israeli government were quick to point to the murders and proclaim, the Palestinians don't want peace.

Uri Ariel, an Israeli minister from the right-wing National Union: "Now it is clear that the most violent periods take place when there is a political process.

"Netanyahu must freeze talks and focus on ensuring peace for Israel's citizens."

As they like to say around here, Palestinian terrorist attacks always happen when there are peace talks. They want to sabotage attempts to negotiate for a resolution to the conflict. Never mind that the Palestinian Authority issued a fast condemnation of the attack. (By comparision, the Israeli parliament did not denounce Yosef's incendiary comments, which incensed the Palestinian Authority.)

When someone of Yousef's stature declares that all Palestinians should be struck down by God, if you were a Palestinian, what would you make of Israeli intentions? True, they are mere words  compared to the deed that shot the four Israelis at point-blank, but if speech was so harmless, why does Israel get riled up each time Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad pronounce that he wants to destroy the Jewish state? Because Iran has nuclear weapons?

Does Israel not? It may not admit to it, but Israel's nuclear capabilities is probably one of the world's worst-kept secrets. Is there an assurance it will not be used against Palestinians?

An occupation is not sustainable. History has shown, the occupied people will always revolt. Eventually.

Four dead Israeli Jews and a racist rabbi. The two unfortunate pieces of news with one thing in common: they do not represent the Israeli and Palestinian people at large.

To the outsider, these are easy points to accept.

Hamas, to the calls of the muezzin breaking the Ramadan fast this evening, claimed responsibility for killing the four Jews. Yes, Hamas is a Palestinian party. It represents some Palestinians, since it won the democratic elections of 2008 in the Gaza Strip, but it does not represent all Palestinians.

Here in Israel though, where many literally lived through and can still recount the deadly suicide bombings of 2000, this is an argument that comes up against much resistance.

By the same token, the anti-Palestinian rhetoric from Rabbi Yousef doesn't represent all Israelis. Yet when cast against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unwillingness to grant any of pre-negotiation concessions Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants, it is also hard for Palestinians to not question Israel's intentions.

Suspicion of the other side's intentions and extreme elements coming from both sides determined to sabotage the peace process; there is little optimism that the talks will be fruitful, given the current climate.

Yet more than anything, Israelis and Palestinians need to find a solution to the impasse between them. The murder of the four Jews today in Hebron illustrates just that.

The four come from Kiryat Arba - a settlement built on occupied Palestinian land -  and are part of the settler community put there by an Israeli governmental policy to populate Palestinian territory that it conquered in 1967.

The occupation does not justify the murder of the four Jews, but from another perspective, has Israel been reckless in placing its nationals on land it took from the Palestinians during the 1967 war? Is it not exposing civilian lives to Palestinian anger and retaliation against the illegal occupation of their land?

As today and the last four decades have shown, Israeli presence in the West Bank makes them open to attacks by Palestinians who don't want them there.

To be sure, there is absolutely no guarantee to Israelis that the attacks will stop when they return the occupied West Bank to the Palestinians. But perhaps, this is a risk Israel needs to consider taking.

An occupation is not sustainable. History has shown, the occupied people will always revolt. Eventually.

With the extremists are noisily trying to disrupt negotiations, this may be hard to consider at this juncture, but in the long run, giving up the land it occupies remains Israel's best bet for peace, or something like it.

 

 

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

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