May 25, 2013
State of Denial: Searching for Peace in Israel
Posted on Feb 12, 2010
By Robert Fisk
In Gaza, I find Palestinians living in tents beside homes that were destroyed in the war a year ago, living in mud homes constructed by the United Nations. One family greets me amid a pool of water and mud, the woman slopping through the filth in her plastic shoes. Her family of 11 children has been dispossessed by a greedy landlord who wanted more money, no war victims these but refugees from society. They were Bedouins. Indeed, their family, the Moughasibs, originally came from a village near the Israeli town of Sderot – yes, that very hamlet so beloved of Hamas’ rockets, original name Deir el-Balah, though of course we don’t mention that today – and before the ‘Nakba’, the disaster of the Palestinians, they lived there, in a tent. In a tent before their catastrophe and in a tent after the Gaza war. I splash back to the car, but there is to be a meeting with the Hamas ‘Deputy Foreign Minister’, Ahmed Youssef. My driver, Ashraf, is worried about my shoes. He washes them, one by one, under a garage hose-pipe and then he cleans the rubber floor of the car.
And when we arrive at the home of Ahmed Youssef, the ‘House of Wisdom’ – it might also be translated as the ‘House of Reflection’ – I understand why. Shoes are left at the door. The sofa and pillows are immaculate, the marble floor spotless. No muck from the Moughasibs must stain this place. Nabil Shaath has just been visiting, that scion of the Palestinian Authority. They talked about the lifting of sanctions and the rebuilding of Gaza (some hope!) and about the preparedness of Hamas to allow Palestinians loyal to the Authority to return “unless they were involved in bloody clashes”. Odd, this. The Israelis refuse to free Palestinian prisoners who have “blood on their hands”. Now Hamas uses the same terminology about its enemies. It’s like the Israeli government demanding that the Lebanese government disarm Hizbollah – an idea that would split the Lebanese army and create a new civil war. Just as the Palestinians demand the withdrawal of all Jewish colonies in the West Bank – which the Israeli government won’t contemplate for fear of, yes, civil war. The Hizbollah and the settlers have more in common than they realise (as perhaps my finance officer at the King David Hotel knows all too well).
Youssef is all smiles. Yes, Mohamed Dahlan, the hated PLO security boss, can return to Gaza – but he must use Hamas’s own security men for his protection. He wanted to come back with his own protection – this could not be tolerated. “He did not accept Hamas security. He wanted other political factions to take care of his security.”
I ask about the Hamas murders of collaborators during the Gaza war a year ago. They killed 35 Palestinians, almost three times the number of Israelis who died in the war. Youssef is a little cowed by this. The police and security authorities were attacked, he said. Individual people who wanted revenge for the death of their loved ones wanted retaliation. In some cases, they were waiting at the homes of the collaborators to kill them. “Revenge is part of our culture here. If there is no law-and-order, people will sometimes take the law into their own hands.”
And of course, it all boils down to this. The Israeli-Arab conflict is about land. It is about colonies and walls and about bi-national states and two states and – in the end – about who has power. The Israelis with their eternal American supporters? Or the Palestinians, hopelessly divided and soaked – in Gaza, at least – in corruption and nepotism. The tunnels that feed Gaza are skimmed for profits by Hamas.
But what of the hatred of the soul? I went to Hebron and saw, on the walls, for the foreign tourists, the words of the Jewish settlers: “The Torah, kindness and happiness.” Then, just up the road, where the Palestinians are being driven out and tourists do not venture, another graffiti. “This is for the Arabs,” it said in Hebrew. And beneath was drawn a dagger. Strength and rectitude, moral image and human values. What would Ben-Gurion have made of this?
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