Tuesday, January 5, 2010

little mutiny

“To understand, you must go back into history. It was decided to give the Israelis the land west of jordan river. Jewish population accepted it, Arab population was against. They rejected it and when the UN decided to suport the foundation of israel, the 7 armies invaded israel and tried to ruin the country from the beginning. So try to look at the situation from the israeli point of view and understand why we are afraid. We are afraid because, after the Holocaust, when the world gave us a piece of land to create a country for a broken nation, our neighbors attacked us. Before they attacked us-- 12 years before they attacked us, they rejected another decision by the British government and started military attacks against the British. I think that loosing friends family members causes us to have this feeling that everybody is attacking us from our surroundings we are just defending ourselves.”

Something was missing, and we all sensed it. It was a narrative that we were all familiar with, and all familiar with picking apart. While valid in its own right, it comes from only one perspective-- the perspective of the Arabs living on the land prior to the Balfour declaration, for example, was missing. The perspective of the displaced people was missing. We all knew it. The students sat quietly and uncomfortably in the bus, exchanging glances dotted with question marks. It was the first day on the road without Hussein, and the lectures that day had taken an obviously one-sided angle.

For the rest of the day, we sat in mostly silence, listening to the increasingly narrative-thick explanations of war after war, attack after attack, policy after policy. “Those people don't want peace” as they recounted personal anecdotes about a friend of a friend who was murdered by an Arab, of their service in the military, of how, time after time, the Arabs caused each conflict. The Arabs ruined the environment. The Arabs waste water.

It's not that I agree with them. But I understand why they say it.

But we had enough of it, and there was a little mutiny at lunch. Perhaps motivated by curiosity or aggravation (or maybe both), our quiet american conflict analysis group began questioning the narrative of the israeli guides, inciting a defensive back and forth between narratives. Was it productive? Not really. Interesting? Absolutely.

As we exited the bus, our typically silent bus driver tapped one arabic speaking student on the shoulder and whispered something to her. She nodded and approached a group of us.

“He says to tell us that these speakers are all liars and that the israeli's won't stop until they have taken everything.”

I looked up at the driver, who stared back at us with sad, solemn eyes.
It's not that I agree with him. But I understand why he said it.

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