“Alien” is an epic science fiction film made in 1979 depicting a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature that stalks and kills at will. We never really see the Alien in full frame. All we know is that the Alien is bad, very bad. It is always present somewhere, and even when nearby, somehow it is unseen. We prefer not to observe its full profile. Rather we see a claw, teeth and a vague outline. Finally – the ultimate catharsis – it is sucked out of the spacecraft, the rockets blast the spaceship forward at full thrust and the Alien is incinerated in its wake.
I am reminded of this science fiction fantasy more than often when reading some of the material presented in these blog posts especially when relating to Palestinian Arabs within our midst, whether in Israel or in occupied territory. So blatant is the ignorance, the uncouth presumptions, the clouded history, the pre-judgmental inferences and conjectures that frequently illustrate to the reader a poor knowledge of life in Israel and opinionated arm-chair platitudes from afar on one end, while on the other extreme, a grounded well-honed Jewish Israeli identity without a shred of knowledge of who Arab people really are that live among us, little understanding of the culture and ethos, and most likely not a shred of knowledge of Arabic aside from “wahad”, “lah” and “koes emak”. Like in “Alien” these people believe that somehow Palestinians will just go away, get sucked out of the spacecraft and disappear from the landscape. Am Yisroel Hai. Amen.
It really is time to think outside of the spaceship. The good Arab Ibrahim who labors in the sun building your settlement who says, when you bring him water, “If only the politicians would go away, we could all live together in peace” is not so good. Believe me. His twelve year old son is throwing stones at border police and when he, the father, becomes a non-person by shabak rules of collective punishment commonly known as “manua shabak”, he won’t be the nice guy on the hill. Likewise, Marwan, the bad Arab, sitting in Jail in a security prison is not the “Alien”. He is not all evil. He questions, reasons, has intellect and skill and may even seek solutions. And in between, there is a vast population of people many of whom are as creative as any Jewish Israeli, industrious, business focused, educated and are good solid human beings. Jewish Israel must reach out both to the Arab minority within our recognized borders and beyond towards occupied territory. When we look at the red roofed settlements that dot the hills, our vision must not filter out the hamlets with their minarets that are part of the landscape, part of this land, part of the history, culture, with roots that go down very deep into the earth.
Only by stepping out of the spaceship and leaving the myth of the Alien behind can one begin to listen. And only when one listens, really listens, can one begin to engage. And only when one begins to engage, is one equipped to negotiate solutions.
On the 20th December of 2012 just before the elections, Forum Tzora together with the Geneva Initiative hosted a gathering of politicians from several parties in order to assess and understand policies. One of the guest speakers was Sufian Abu Zaida. I have taken the time to translate and subtitle parts of his talk because he is asking us – all of us – to listen.
During the worst times of the second intifada polls showed a clear majority of Palestinians both from the West Bank and Gaza, in favor of peace and a two-state solution. Yet within the space of the previous five years where the short settlement freeze (which was only partial in effect) was followed by rampant mindless settlement, blatant support of illegal arrogation of land and wild promises of massive construction as appeasement of settler needs and as compensation for high court rulings, the people of Palestine have lost heart in a peace process. The third wave is coming, whether by violent resistance or whether by a devastating non-violent onslaught that fires the imagination of nations and takes Israel to isolation.
It is time to move out of the spaceship, step outside and observe the landscape and humanscape without limited vision from within, to leave the Alien behind for the myth that it is and to find solutions.