Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some more Thoughts about the Conflict

Warning - another long post ahead! I have these thoughts running through my head, resonating and developing, and I'd like to share them here.

I truly believe that in order to change things and arrive at a solid foundation for peace, we have to learn to accept each other narratives. A narrative isn't necessarily "historical truth" if there is even such a thing. Yes, many events are documented, and I have a lot of respect for history as a discipline, but in the end of the day, we can go on arguing forever, because each side will pick the events that best suit their narrative, emphasize some events, and ignore or play down others. It's not an unimportant debate, the historical one, but it has to be done with a mind to reach the other side, teach them about our narrative, and learn theirs, with an aim of reaching a stage where we can acknowledge and respect the other side's narrative.

I respect the Palestinian narrative of the Naqbe. Yes, those villages were destroyed in the war, and it was a national tragedy of huge proportions. In the Palestinian narrative, they were driven away from their land by force by the Zionists. It's a narrative of pain and longing and one which I acknowledge and would like to work with in the future.

The Zionist narrative of the very same events is a different one. It's not myths to be put down and erased, IMO. It deserves its place in the joint space we're trying to build here, just as much as the Palestinian narrative deserves its own space. It's a narrative of a people who were (in their own feelings, as legitimate as those of any others) on the verge of extinction. Of people who lived under the fear of being slaughtered by their Palestinian neighbors (as has happened to Jews living in Hebron for example, and in other places). It's a narrative of a group of people dedicated to establishing a free national home for their people, just like the Palestinians are looking to do for themselves now. People dedicated, at least on the ideological level, to concepts of democracy, socialism and development of the land, along their neighbors (talking about the mainstream Zionism of that time, and to some extent up until now). I could go on, but I'll stop here. My point is that both sides should try and see both sides of the story, or we'll never get anywhere. I am opening my mind and my heart to the story of the Naqbe, to the Palestinian narrative. I think it should be taught in Israeli schools and hopefully that will happen someday. I agree that mainstream Zionists are not familiar enough with it, and thus many do not empathize enough with the pain of it. We have a lot to work on (not much of a surprise, eh? ;) ).

At the same time, I think Palestinians, those living inside of Israel, those living in the territories, and just anyone who right now is anti-Zionists, should maybe take the time to open their own minds and hearts too to the Zionist narrative. Get to know it, get to know us, because unless we do that, war will continue.

I'll end with something from the seminar in Givat Haviva (long post, I know - don't shoot me please!). We were fortunate to have a Palestinian older gentleman tell us his personal story of the Naqbe. His name was Adnan, or Abu Hussam, and he told the story of his village of Lajun in what we know today as Emek Yizrael. As it happens, they were never actually driven out per se, but ran away as refugees in the middle of the night after the Arab armies withdrew from their area. What touched me the most, was his story of this then 6-7 years old boy, scared out of his wits, riding a donkey in the middle of the night, and hearing the bullets flying over his head. I have a son who's the same age now, and it broke my heart. I think more Israelis should hear stories like this more often. At the same time, it made me think of my grandmother, who lived in the town of Holon, pregnant with my dad in her belly, and taking care of a 2 years old baby (my aunt), and being fired at every night, by Arabs in nearby villages. Just as scary, just as tragic, just as real. It also made me think of my other grandfather, at the same age, running through the markets of Tunisia, with his injured mother, slashed in her leg by Arabs in an outbreak of riots against Jews. Again, just as scary, just as tragic, just as real.

You see, war is always a tragedy, and no side has a monopoly on heartache. Let's listen to both stories, with respect, with empathy and with a willingness to change the future (the near future too), so that these stories don't repeat as often.


Anonymous said...

I only have two comments, the first is that the greatest piece of "cherry picking" taking place is beginning the narrative in 1948. The scene was set by what came before, and they are events including massacres, the refusal to accept a fair partition of Palestine which would have served the self-determination of both groups .. and so many things the Arab narrative can't tolerate that led to 1948, and the now familiar two narratives. If we are in the business of trying to understand, can we ignore a large part of recorded history because we don't like it. I think not.

My second comment is that history is vital in understanding what part of a narrative truly happened, what part is fictional invention, and what part is cherry-picked reality. There is a vast difference between understanding that a narrative is somebody's truth, and accepting it as having actually happened that way.

IsraeliMom said...

I agree. The narratives begin long before 1948, at least the Zionist one does (not to mention the Jewish one, one long narrative that one!).

I think history is a respected scientific discipline and historians can and do research the documents and testimonials trying to see which is which in the narratives (actual historic events vs. myths). Their research should and does slowly effect the narratives too, and that's a good thing. My point is we shouldn't disregard the other side's narrative even if it's not historically accurate, but understand its place in the national psyche and work with that.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post. I've written a number similar posts in the past.

As long as people on both sides continue to refuse to accept that we are dealing with two narratives and two peoples that both deserve to exist, we will never be able to move forward.