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Friday, August 31, 2007

Their culture is not our culture

My friends at Gates of Vienna published a brilliant essay this week that was written in memory of Etgar Zeitouny, who was abducted from a Tulkarm restaurant in January 2001 and murdered. For those of you who, like many Israelis, cannot understand why 'peace' is not possible with the 'Palestinians,' perhaps this will help you:
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…
- - - - - - - - -
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.”

Read the whole thing.

There's also a follow-on post that you can find here. And here's some more of the Newsweek article from 2001 to which they are referring (I have it on my computer from the Matzav email list days):
Nearly a year after he failed to achieve a deal at Camp David, former president Bill Clinton gave vent to his frustrations this week over the collapse of peace in the Mideast. And Clinton directed his ire at one man: Yasir Arafat. On Tuesday night, Clinton told guests at a party at the Manhattan apartment of former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke and his wife, writer Kati Marton, that Arafat called to bid him farewell three days before he left office. "You are a great man," Arafat said. "The hell I am," Clinton said he responded. "I'm a colossal failure, and you made me one."

CLINTON SAID HE TOLD Arafat that by turning down the best peace deal he was ever going to get-the one proffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and brokered by Clinton last July-the Palestinian leader was only guaranteeing the election of the hawkish Ariel Sharon, the current Israeli leader. But Arafat didn't listen. Sharon was elected in a landslide Feb. 6 and has gradually escalated his crackdown on the Palestinians despite a shaky ceasefire negotiated two weeks ago by CIA chief George Tenet.

Clinton has refused most interview requests since he left office Jan. 20. But at the party-which was held jointly by Holbrooke and the International Crisis Group to celebrate a new book, "Waging Modern War," by former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark-Clinton captivated guests for nearly an hour with an insider's tale of the Camp David talks. Among the listeners, who gathered around the former president as he cheerfully downed Diet Cokes and hors d'oeuvres, were Holbrooke, Clark and John Negroponte, who has been nominated by President Bush to replace Holbrooke as U.N. ambassador.

Clinton said, somewhat surprisingly, that he never expected to close the deal at Camp David. But he made it clear that the breakdown of the peace process and the nine months of deadly intifada since then were very much on his mind. He described Arafat as an aging leader who relishes his own sense of victimhood and seems incapable of making a final peace deal. "He could only get to step five, and he needed to get to step 10," the former president said. But Clinton expressed hope in the younger generation of Palestinian officials, suggesting that a post-Arafat Palestinian leader might be able to make peace, perhaps in as little as several years. "I'm just sorry I blew this Middle East" thing, Clinton said shortly before leaving. "But I don't know what else I could have done."

Clinton also revealed that, contrary to most conventional wisdom after Camp David ended on July 25, 2000, the key issue that torpedoed the talks in their final stages was not the division of East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israelis, but the Palestinian demand for a "right of return" of refugees to Israel. On Jerusalem, he said, the two sides were down to dickering over final language on who would get sovereignty over which part of the Western Wall. But Arafat continued to demand that large numbers of Palestinian refugees, mainly from the 1967 and 1948 wars, be allowed to return-numbers that Clinton said both of them knew were unacceptable to the Israelis.

Clinton said he bluntly contradicted Arafat when, in one of their final conversations, the Palestinian leader expressed doubts that the ancient Jewish temple actually lay beneath the Islamic-run compound in Jerusalem containing the holy Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. This was a critical point of dispute, since the Western Wall, a remnant of the temple's retaining wall, is the holiest site in Judaism and one the Israelis were intent on maintaining sovereignty over. "I know it's there," Clinton said he told Arafat. The so-called Al Aqsa intifada began after Ariel Sharon made a controversial visit to the disputed compound on Sept. 28, 2000.
Assuming that emphasis on the 'right of return' still holds (and there is no reason to believe it does not), I doubt Olmert will be able to reach any arrangement. The 'right of return' is one of the few things that is anathema even to the Israeli left. But I wouldn't put it past Olmert to try to make major concessions on that point as well.

Last night, someone commented to me that it would be appropriate for Olmert to give the country away on Yom Kippur. He won't. It's the one day of the year that the airport is closed, which would preclude Olmert's escaping to France immediately after he signs a deal.

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