“Cuando uno atribuye todos los errores a los otros y se cree irreprochable, está preparando el retorno de la violencia, revestida de un vocabulario nuevo, adaptada a unas circunstancias inéditas. Comprender al enemigo quiere decir también descubrir en qué nos parecemos a él.” – Tzvetan Todorov

sábado, 4 de diciembre de 2010

"Tarde o temprano encontraremos una solución" - Barnea y Allami


"Tarde o temprano encontraremos una solución"

ANA LORITE 04/12/2010

Ella no come cerdo y él es capaz de explicar el origen de la palabra "hígado" según Ortega y Gasset. Son una pareja de viaje atípica: Suheir Allami, de 24 años, palestina de Hebrón, musulmana, y Aaron Barnea, de 69 años, israelí, judío, militante de izquierdas. Ambos son miembros del Círculo de Padres-Foro de Familias (CPFF), colectivo a favor de la paz en Oriente Próximo.

Ella no come cerdo y él es capaz de explicar el origen de la palabra "hígado" según Ortega y Gasset. Son una pareja de viaje atípica: Suheir Allami, de 24 años, palestina de Hebrón, musulmana, y Aaron Barnea, de 69 años, israelí, judío, militante de izquierdas. Ambos son miembros del Círculo de Padres-Foro de Familias (CPFF), colectivo a favor de la paz en Oriente Próximo. Quieren comida mediterránea. Barnea pregunta por el salmorejo, lo comió una vez en España y quedó fascinado. El camarero recomienda su salmorejo, soldaditos de Pavía y ensaladilla para empezar. Suheir le pregunta con timidez: "¿Es usted egipcio?".

Barnea perdió a su hijo menor Noam, soldado, en acto de servicio en Líbano, en 1999. Allami, a su abuela Naima cuando una bomba del Ejército israelí cayó sobre su casa. Seiscientas familias pertenecen al Círculo, demasiadas vidas rotas, que han decidido unir sus duelos y compartir su dolor para lograr lo que no han conseguido años de guerras y de negociaciones políticas. "Afortunadamente, no cualquiera reúne las credenciales apropiadas para formar parte de nuestra organización", afirma irónicamente Aaron Barnea, encargado de las relaciones internacionales. Y es que el precio que hay que pagar para pertenecer al CPFF es demasiado alto: es necesario haber perdido a un miembro de su familia en el conflicto que mata a palestinos e israelíes desde hace más de medio siglo.

La joven lo apunta todo en un cuaderno infantil con un bolígrafo rosa: "Estoy aprendiendo español", dice con una amplia sonrisa. Cuenta que se dejó convencer por su padre para ingresar en el CPFF. "Creo que cometí un error, tenemos demasiado trabajo". Renococe que no siempre resulta fácil que sus vecinos y amigos entiendan su labor, "aunque sí me respetan". Con sus compañeros de universidad (estudia Literatura Inglesa) el entendimiento es mejor.

Aaron Barnea se confiesa optimista: "Tarde o temprano encontraremos una solución". Habla con admiración de los palestinos miembros del CPFF. "Hay una gran diferencia entre los israelíes y los palestinos que integramos el Círculo. Los israelíes somos, mayoritariamente, padres que hemos perdido a nuestros hijos soldados. Somos casi todos militantes por la paz y estamos familiarizados con este tipo de organizaciones. Los palestinos, no. Ellos, en la mayoría hermanos y hermanas de fallecidos, han tenido que dar un salto mortal para formar parte de la organización. Barnea se siente orgulloso de la labor del CPFF en las escuelas: "Tenemos que dar a los chicos la visión del otro lado, dar a conocer al otro, humanizarlo". Y mientras la joven alaba la merluza, Aaron "bromea" con sus principios religiosos: "Pues con vino está mucho mejor, tú te lo pierdes. A propósito, ¿queda vino?", pregunta con una sonrisa traviesa.

Diálogo, reconciliación y paz se repiten con insistencia. "Esta organización busca la esperanza". Y justifica, desde su dolor, por qué defiende la reconciliación en lugar de la venganza. "El sufrimiento por la pérdida de los nuestros no es patrimonio de ninguna de las partes. Es totalmente necesario entender al otro", afirma Barnea. Suheir no puede evitar expresar su admiración: "Aaron, eres un hombre sabio".

Tras los helados, esta pequeña Babel se despide: "Thank you, shokran, todá, gracias...". "Cualquier momento es bueno para hablar de paz", concluye Barnea.


jueves, 18 de marzo de 2010

My Mideast conference in Madrid - Ruth Eglash - Palestine Note

My Mideast conference in Madrid
Ruth Eglash
Blog Post
Palestine Note
18 marzo 2010

It looks like any other shopping mall. Colorful window displays pull in patrons already overloaded with shopping bags, promotional stands selling mobile phones cater to customers searching for an upgrade and tired shoppers rejuvenate their intense outing with a coffee at one of the central cafés.

For me, being in Amman's flagship City Mall is not a straight forward shopping trip. Even though I would love to take my time and browse some of the British chain stores or local outlets, being here is a cultural eye-opener and part of an on-going process to break down my perceptions of Arabs and Muslims that have been drummed into me practically since birth.

As a British Jew with an Israeli father, I was always made to believe that Arabs were our enemies. My convictions were compounded by big and small historical events - too many to mention here - over the past century, as well as personal brushes with terrorism since moving to Jerusalem 15 years ago.

Even though I witnessed the jubilations in Israel over the 1994 peace treaty between my country and Jordan, I was under no illusion that warm relations existed between our two nations and despite several encounters with Arabs living in Israel, breaking away from the classic stereotypes and standing up against what has been ingrained into your brain is not an easy task for anyone.

As I sipped my frozen fruit juice and watched Jordanian shoppers enjoy their free-time, I realized that just by being here I had almost managed to reverse that brain-washing process and accept that all people, whatever their beliefs or views, are human beings.

It has been a difficult process but I believe there are two factors that have really helped. The first is thanks to my education in Brent, one of London's most multi-cultural boroughs, and the other is the overwhelming sense of personal curiosity about people who are different from me - something that has propelled me to want to be a journalist ever since I can remember. There is a third reason too that has contributed to my successes at understanding my enemies and that is my personal encounters with Arabic-speaking and Muslim journalists who were just as curious about me as I was about them. In some weird way, we spoke the exact same language.

I can pinpoint exactly when my journey to challenging my own stereotypes started. It was January 2009, the 14 day of Operation Cast Lead, Israel's conflict with Hamas in the Gaza strip.

As reporter for The Jerusalem Post, I'd been covering the war from a uniquely Israeli angle and I was focused on hearing the sentiments of the Israeli people, especially those based in Sderot and the south.

However, like most people around the world I could not avoid the distressing images coming out of the Gaza Strip showing the Palestinian people's suffering. It was a tough time for me -- I naturally sympathized with my own people, those who had been victims of Hamas rockets for many years - but I started questioning whether war is justified in any context.

Against this backdrop, I suddenly found myself transported to a journalists' workshop in Madrid with 20 journalists from the Arab world, including two Palestinian writers. The night before I left to the European Union-sponsored event, I found myself with palpitations and I had a deep anxiety in my heart as to how the others would react towards me.

As we sat down to the session on the first morning, the organizers asked us to introduce ourselves, our media and the country we were from. It was the first time in my life that I had been in a room with so many Arabs, even though there is a large population in Israel we rarely interact. My heart was beating fast as I mumbled to the group that my name was Ruth Eglash from the Jerusalem Post in Israel.

"Speak louder," instructed the organizer.

"Ruth Eglash from The Jerusalem Post in Israel," I said clearing my throat and trying not to catch the eyes of anyone else in the room.

There was not too much reaction to my presence on that first morning until a young Palestinian journalist broke the ice by speaking to me in Hebrew. Gathering for the introductory meal in the evening, I felt more relaxed and was ready to answer the questions of those who suddenly seemed intrigued by my presence.

They weren't nice to me. They were all journalists, after all, and they grilled me with questions about the Gaza conflict. It was tough, but they were willing to listen to me, did not shout or make it personal. It was an open dialogue about the issues on a micro and macro scale and the conclusion was amicable.

I was shocked; it was not what I had expected.

As the days past, we began to discuss different matters. We turned our attention from war and conflict to stories about our families, where the best tourist sites and shopping spots were in Madrid, and, of course, the shared passion of food.

Obviously all trying to avoid pork, I even found myself one day sharing a Big Mac Meal with two Egyptians, a Palestinian and a Jordanian, it was a surreal experience, one that most at the United Nations would be jealous of!

Health issues aside, I realized that it is exactly these experiences that are needed to dispel stereotypes about the enemy.

While our days in Spain came and passed, thanks to new technology -- email, Facebook, Twitter and more - I continued to be in touch with my new friends, especially one Jordan Times journalist who had more in common with me than most others I have met in my life.

It was this connection that pushed me to visit Jordan a few months after the Madrid conference. It was a trip I took against the advice of my father and with surprised reactions from neighbors and friends.

Arriving on the other side of the Sheikh Hussein Bridge, my newly found Jordanian journalist friend showed me traditional hospitality, insisting on showing me every historic and cultural site in Jordan. Later, I reciprocated his hospitality when he visited Israel. West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were all on our tour list.

From here I could go on to describe both of our reactions to visiting the others country but what is more important to point out is what we have learned from our interactions with each other. How he has felt free to ask questions about Judaism and its connection to Israel and how he has helped erase my ignorance about Islam and the Arab world.

Obviously neither of us provide a complete picture of the other persons culture and religion, there is a wide range of views that each group of people express, but we are both journalists and we can just keep on asking.

For my part, these interactions with journalists from the Arab world has helped to see the people of this region more clearly and to realized that differences aside we are all just human beings, who love eating, shopping and life. We all have more in common than we realize.

I know its clichéd, and I am sure that many in either camp will say this is naïve, but ignorance breeds hatred. It is much easier to justify hating someone that you do not know as opposed to making the effort to understand and accept the differences between you.

Anyway, I am sure you are all wondering why I am taking the time to tell you this story. My Jordanian colleague and I were trying to find a story that could highlight the commonalities between our countries but the more we investigated certain issues - refugees, education, health and more - we realized it would only show the hate, anger and strengthen the stereotypes held by all in this region.

Stories of co-existence and shared projects about our two countries are not sexy enough for the mainstream media, they do not sell papers and in some circles are frowned upon for normalizing relations. That is why we decided to tell our personal stories -- if we can change our opinions, anyone can.

My Mideast conference in Madrid - Blog Post

viernes, 26 de febrero de 2010

Training our boys to be bullies - Larry Derfner

Common Ground News Service - Middle East


Training our boys to be bullies
by Larry Derfner
25 February 2010

JERUSALEM - The main thing that drew me to Israel was that here, you put your life on the line in a great political struggle, unlike in the West, where political struggle is something you talk about from a safe distance.

The political struggle for Israelis, as far as I’m concerned, is to find a way to live in a rough neighbourhood without acting like bullies on the one hand, or like pushovers on the other. To be strong enough to deter attack, but not to pick fights. To stand up for your rights, but to know where your rights end and the neighbour’s begins. It’s not easy, but that’s the challenge—to live with both a backbone and a conscience. In short, to be (if I may apply this term to both genders) a mensch.

For Israelis who aren’t pacifists, part of being a mensch is serving in the “citizen’s army”. I was glad for the chance to serve, and I want and expect my sons to do so as well. It’s part of this whole idea of not living a sheltered life, of not letting others fight your battles, of doing your part to protect your country.

But I’m afraid that today, the idea of going into the army is not about becoming a mensch, or about learning to stand up for yourself without pushing others around, but mainly about pushing others around.

In this ultra-nationalistic atmosphere, way too many teenagers see the army as an opportunity to take revenge on the country’s enemies, to show the Arabs and the whole hostile, hypocritical world how strong we are, how fearless, how much greater than any other nation we are.

In Friday’s Ha’aretz there was a story about “Footsteps of the Fighters”, a motivational camp in the Golan Heights for 12th graders being run by Avigdor Kahalani, a Yom Kippur War hero and former “Labor hawk” in the Knesset. Since he started the programme five years ago, some 180,000 12th graders have come to “tour battle sites, meet combat soldiers, watch a live-fire exercise” and listen to Kahalani’s stock motivational lecture.

“I was an MK, I met with Arafat, I hosted Abu Mazen in my home, I did a lot of things for peace. I tell you, the hatred for us cannot be bridged. Peace can be made if tomorrow we all move to New York. Nobody will take us in there anyhow. We can’t stop protecting ourselves. We have no other country,” Kahalani told the young crowd, according to someone there who quoted him back to Ha’aretz, which in turn confirmed the quotes with Kahalani.

He poured out his bile on Israeli draft-dodgers, saying gruffly how he could have “killed” one celebrity who got out of the army and how he would “deal personally” with others who tried.

“Those who don’t serve won’t pay taxes, they’ll bring crime, drugs—don’t accept them! Cast them out!” he said.

But that wasn’t all—he even ridiculed soldiers who ask to do their service close to home, calling them the equivalent of “mama’s boys”. For the big emotional climax, Kahalani held up a large Israeli flag and said, “I want to give you a gift. I want to give you this flag. The whole world has flags. But they’re ugly. Red, black, green. Who has a flag with a Star of David on it? Who has one that is blue and white?”

The note-taker reported that the 12th graders responded to Kahalani’s speech with “stormy applause”. Some 180,000 youngsters have been put through this indoctrination, just before they go into the army. In the last five years, that means a huge proportion of IDF recruits. And if they’re anything like those in the Ha’aretz story, they ate it up.

I don’t blame the 12th graders, of course; “Footsteps of the Fighters” just reflects the times they’re growing up in: There’s no chance for peace, the Arabs hate us, always have, always will. We have no other country because no other country wants us, and besides, they’re all ugly anyway; only our country is beautiful—blue and white. Listen up, everybody—it’s us against the world. Now go get ‘em.

I remember when there was an Israeli type called the “soldier for peace”, when it was believed entirely possible, when it was considered no contradiction at all, to be a dedicated IDF soldier and a dedicated opponent of war and conquest. Until this last rotten decade, Israel’s military class, as far as I know, was the world’s only military class that tended to the left side of its country’s political spectrum—that was a voice for peace.

No more. Now the voice of the military establishment comes from the retired generals showing up in the TV newsrooms urging us to war, congratulating the IDF, Shin Bet or Mossad for every reckless bombing and assassination they pull off.

There’s no balance anymore, no tempering of the soldier’s spirit with an urgency to prevent killing and dying. There’s no more attempt to see if we can simply stand up straight and survive—no, it’s either swagger or cringe, and we prefer swagger.

In 21st century Israel, this is what it means to be a man. But it’s nobody’s idea of what it means to be a mensch.


* Larry Derfner writes for The Jerusalem Post. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from The Jerusalem Post.

Source: The Jerusalem Post, 17 February 2010,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.


lunes, 15 de febrero de 2010

Middle East Report Online: Confronting Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem by Joel Beinin

Confronting Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem
Joel Beinin

February 14, 2010

(Joel Beinin is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University and a contributing editor of Middle East Report.)

The neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a 20-minute walk up the hill from the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem, has become the focal point of the struggle over the expanding project of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In the first week of February a settler in Sheikh Jarrah attacked a young boy from an Arab family evicted so that Jewish activists could move in. The al-Ghawis were displaced in August 2009, and since then they have been living in front of their former home in a tent, refusing to move in protest of the eviction. Settlers have gone after them more than once. On this occasion, an older al-Ghawi, Nasir, was beaten and menaced with an M-16 by a settler when he attempted to protect the young boy. Police arrived on the scene and disarmed the settler. But they also served Nasir with a restraining order forbidding him to enter Sheikh Jarrah for 15 days. Then the police destroyed the al-Ghawis’ tent. The makeshift abode was rebuilt, but the next day police and municipal officials came to the site and threatened to dismantle it a second time.


LEER EL ARTÍCULO COMPLETO EN: Middle East Report Online: Confronting Settlement Expansion in East Jerusalem by Joel Beinin

jueves, 11 de febrero de 2010


"¿Quieren ayudar a la paz de Israel y Palestina? Vengan"

Los dos hombres abrazados en la fotografía han sido enemigos mortales. Uno es Daniel Atar, quien llegó a coronel de la Brigada Golani, la más prestigiosa del Ejército israelí. En 1982, Atar iba en la avanzada de la invasión israelí de Líbano con una misión muy concreta: liquidar a militantes del movimiento palestino.

Los dos hombres abrazados en la fotografía han sido enemigos mortales. Uno es Daniel Atar, quien llegó a coronel de la Brigada Golani, la más prestigiosa del Ejército israelí. En 1982, Atar iba en la avanzada de la invasión israelí de Líbano con una misión muy concreta: liquidar a militantes del movimiento palestino. El otro es Qadura Musa. Periodista. Fue el máximo responsable de Al Fatah en la zona de Yenín y pasó 12 años en las cárceles de Israel. Viendo cómo, tras la cena, Musa se saca del bolsillo unos palillos y, en un gesto de familiaridad indudable, le pasa uno a Atar, la cuestión de cuál es la clave de la paz entre israelíes y palestinos obtiene una respuesta automática: la voluntad de personas dispuestas a arriesgarse.

"Lejaim [por la vida]", alza su copa de vino el israelí en el restaurante marroquí que ha elegido porque es un tipo de comida con el que se siente "como en casa". El palestino responde entrechocando su copa de agua. Ambos son muy diferentes. Atar come en mangas de camisa, mientras Musa no se quita la chaqueta ni la corbata. El primero es de respuestas cortas, mientras el segundo se alarga. Pero ambos se sientan juntos en el mismo lado de la mesa y se tocan mientras hablan. Atar se refiere siempre al palestino como Abu Musa, que refleja familiaridad y respeto. El palestino utiliza Danny para referirse al ex militar.

Hoy en día, Atar y Musa son los respectivos alcaldes de Gilboa y Yenín. Ciudades vecinas y hermanadas pero separadas, primero por años de violencia y luego por la barrera construida por Israel. Y son los impulsores de un proyecto que en poquísimo tiempo está consiguiendo unos resultados espectaculares y que ahora explican por todo el mundo. Atar, que milita en el Partido Laborista y es admirador del asesinado Isaac Rabin, ha logrado que el Gobierno israelí acceda a abrir la separación entre ambas ciudades y el resultado es un intercambio sin precedentes. Más de 10.000 israelíes cruzan cada semana al lado palestino. Ahora quieren que Yenín sea conocido en Europa no por los violentos combates de 2002, sino por ser un ejemplo de convivencia y seguridad. "Hace poco estuvo Tony Blair comiendo falafel en la calle. No llevábamos escolta y no se lo podía creer", explica Musa. "El mensaje es éste: hemos logrado cambiar las cosas en muy poco tiempo. Yenín es uno de los lugares más ordenados del mundo gracias al coraje y la visión de Abu Musa", dice Atar mientras ordena al periodista que tome menos notas y coma más. "Danny Atar está dando un ejemplo de convivencia excepcional entre judíos y árabes. Ha comprendido la necesidad de dos pueblos en dos Estados", replica Musa.

Las familias de ambos alcaldes se conocen y Atar hace encendidos elogios de la hospitalidad de su amigo. El israelí ha sido elegido por sus vecinos en cuatro ocasiones consecutivas. En 1995 conoció a Musa en un kibutz. El palestino había sido enviado allí por Yasir Arafat para estudiar ese modelo de productividad. "Hay mucha gente en Europa que dice que quiere ayudar a la paz. Yo les digo: vengan, pasen varias noches en Yenín, gasten allí su dinero y ayuden a su economía", subraya Atar.

Antes de irse, Abu Musa resume lo que piensa. "Danny conoce la guerra y no quiere que sus hijos la padezcan. Yo conozco la cárcel y no la quiero para mis hijos".


© EDICIONES EL PAÍS S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 - 28037 Madrid [España] - Tel. 91 337 8200