Ignorance Knows No Borders
Those who seek peace, understanding and good will in the Middle East are constantly confronted with actions which demonstrate a complete inability of some Israelis and Palestinians to transcend their narrow nationalisms. Two recent stories illustrate this.
The first reported what happened when a Palestinian youth orchestra from Jenin played for holocaust survivors in the Israeli town of Holon. “We wanted to bring people’s hearts closer together” said a spokesman for the charity which organized the event. That was a noble ambition, but the response in the Jenin refugee camp was to disband the Strings of Freedom orchestra and bar its conductor, Wafa Younis, from the camp.
Adnan Hindi, the head of the camp’s popular committee, accused Younis of dragging the unknowing children into a political event and he went on to explain that while “the Holocaust happened … we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves.”
Of course his comparison is appalling, even if all too common among his people, and his reaction to an attempt to bring Jews and Palestinians together, even if for only a moment, is reprehensible and evidence of the ignorance and fanaticism of Hindi and his supporters.
A small event such as this shows just how difficult it can be to take the slightest, humane step to reach out to “the other”. Wafa Younis, an Arab-Israeli, tried to do her small part to establish our common humanity but an innocent attempt to bring music into the lives of aging survivors, met with scorn and repression.
The second story came from Israel with the lead – “Israeli Arabs, non-veterans fired from railway.” Israel’s government owned Railway Company evidently wanted to favor veterans for employment. Nobody would quarrel with that, if new jobs were opened for that purpose but this new program has its victims. At least 40 Arab-Israeli workers, along, it was asserted, with some Jews were fired to make room for the veterans. Now, we all know that Arab-Israelis are the victims of various types of discrimination including the distribution of tax revenues, the right to acquire lands and the like but this blatant act of discrimination by the Railway Company is a very public demonstration of the second class status of Arab-Israelis.
In this instance, it is double discrimination because these same people have no right to serve in the armed forces or any alternative.
Thus, the stipulation that employees of a state company have veteran’s status is particularly vile. I do wonder if those Jews who have had religious exemptions from military duties will be similarly treated. Personally, I deplore the use of the term “apartheid” when applied to Israel. However, there is a distinct resemblance between this kind of treatment of Arab-Israelis and the segregation (pre civil rights) era in the United States.
Israel’s treatment of her Arab citizens is a stain which the whitewash of apologists will not hide.
So, today I despair as we witness two more demonstrations of Israeli and Palestinian hatreds and ignorance. Where are the leaders on both sides who will stand up to denounce such actions? The path to justice and peace in the Middle East seems longer and more arduous than ever before.