March 14, 2010

Of grievances and perceptions

Last week in an article about the eviction of two Arab families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Isabel Kershner of the New York Times summed it up:

For those who want to see a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the eviction of the Ghawis has touched on two sensitive nerves: the fate of East Jerusalem, where Israel and the Palestinians vie for control, and the abiding grievances of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.

She mentioned two things: both sides are competing and the Palestinians have a grievance. In fact most of the article centers around the Palestinian claims and how even some Israelis support the Palestinian case. The history leaves out inconvenient details such as:

On April 13, 1948, a convoy of ambulances, armored buses, trucks loaded with food and medical equipment, and 105 doctors, nurses, medical students, Hebrew University personnel, and guards headed for Mt. Scopus. The convoy was ambushed in the middle of Sheikh Jarrah, the lead vehicle hit a mine, and gangs of armed Arabs attacked. Seventy-eight Jews were murdered, among them 20 women and Dr. Haim Yaski, the hospital director. In the following months the hospital and university ceased to function. After the Six-Day War, when the area was returned to Israel, a memorial was built in their honor in Sheikh Jarrah on the road leading to Mt. Scopus.

Compare Kershner's care in preserving the Palestinian narrative in the Sheikh Jarrah story to the way she handled the Israeli narrative in the case of honoring Dalal Mughrabi:

The woman being honored, Dalal Mughrabi, was the 19-year-old leader of a Palestinian squad that sailed from Lebanon and landed on a beach between Haifa and Tel Aviv. They killed an American photojournalist, hijacked a bus and commandeered another, embarking on a bloody rampage that left 38 Israeli civilians dead, 13 of them children, according to official Israeli figures. Ms. Mughrabi and several other attackers were killed.

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism.

But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

Note that here the dispute is reduced to a matter of perceptions, as if a "bloody rampage" that claims the lives of "38 Israeli civilians" isn't the very definition of terrorism.

As Judith Apter Klinghoffer writes:

At no point does the reporter point out the sophistry of the position. There is nothing mysterious in the notion. It is an action designed to frighten a population. Hijacking a random public bus and murdering the passengers can have no other motivation but spreading fear, i.e., terror.

Kershner actually compounds her felony.

"We are all Dalal Mughrabi," declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party's main decision-making body, who came to join the students. "For us she is not a terrorist," he said, but rather "a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land."

Who is Col. Tawfiq Tirawi? He has an interesting record.

The Palestinian Security Organs - such as Preventive Security, as well as the General Intelligence Service and its arm in the West Bank, under Colonel Tawfiq Tirawi - have been involved in other violent actions in breach of the agreements, such as the abduction or unlawful arrest of Israeli citizens (in some cases, Israeli Arabs suspected as "collaborators"), and the murder of Palestinian real estate dealers (suspected of selling land to Jews).

Tirawi's actions took place after the Oslo Accords were signed. The idea that he would deny that Mughrabi (or anyone attacking Israelis) is a terrorist is rooted in self interest. By any reasonable definition Tirawi, too, is a terrorist. Though I don't think that's what he means by "We are all Dalal Mughrabi."

If there's anything positive about these two articles it's that in the first one, Kershner writes about "Israel's long dormant peace camp." While I don't agree with the peace camp's position here, it's pretty clear that there is no parallel one among the Palestinians.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Posted by SoccerDad at March 14, 2010 6:15 AM
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