The case of Atallah Mansour
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-dimensional tangle. To start untangling it, we must put an end to our habit of looking at the other side through stereotyped lenses. The Palestinians, in Israel and beyond, are not necessarily one angry, violent, hate-filled mass. The Israeli Jews are not necessarily all arrogant, blind to the other side's plight and haunted with fears.
The name Atallah Mansour is not new to longtime Haaretz readers. Mansour was the first Israeli Arab to work in a Hebrew-language newspaper and his reports and essays enriched Haaretz readers with his insights and wide knowledge of the Arab population within the Green Line, and after the Six-Day War also about the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem and the territories. Being a man of broad horizons and an author, his writing occasionally touched other matters, too.
Beside being a proud Palestinian, Atallah Mansour was always an Israeli in the full sense of the word. He was born here, grew up here, acquired his education here and was a natural and integral part of the human mosaic that is Israeli society. Today Mansour is in a frustrating situation. His daughter, Samar, cannot live beside him in Israel and take care of her sick mother, because she is married to Rejai Samawi, a Baptist priest with Jordanian citizenship. Samar is a graduate of the Technion in Haifa, a food engineer by profession who worked for six years in the Health Ministry. Her brother, Boutrous, is a lawyer and director-general of a school in Nazareth and her second brother, Bader, is in high tech and owns a successful software company in Nazareth.
The family is the salt of the earth, yet the state will not let it live together because Samar fell in love with a Jordanian citizen, married him, gave birth to a daughter and for the last two years has been living in Amman.
Now that her mother, Evelyn, is sick, Samar wishes to return to Israel and settle here with her family, to be near her mother. But she cannot. The Interior Ministry will not extend her husband's tourist visa and refuses to let him live in Israel permanently, as part of a family reunification process.
Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, whom Professor Amnon Rubinstein approached on the matter, explains that according to procedure, he must obtain an approval for Rajai's eligibility to live in Israel from the defense authorities. However, the Shin Bet has received an order from the prime minister to stop all the examination procedures, due to his policy to block the immigration of Palestinians and citizens of Arab states to Israel. Poraz adds that in his opinion, Sharon's order is illegal, and therefore he has queried the attorney general about it. The attorney general's reply has not arrived, and tomorrow Samawi's visa is to expire.
Atallah Mansour's case relates to Nazir Majali's article in Haaretz on Friday, about the blindness of the Israeli public to the Palestinian point of view and its practice of lumping all the Palestinians under one label. It also relates to the hot-headed statement of Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim last week. Boim expressed contempt and anger over the efforts of MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash) to end, without further violence, the incident of abducted body parts from Israelis killed in the Zeitoun quarter in Gaza. It also relates to the prevalent concept in the army general staff and other power centers in Israel that sees the entire Palestinian nation - those who live in the territories and Israeli citizens - as one hostile community that won't accept Israel's existence as a Jewish state.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-dimensional tangle. To start untangling it, we must put an end to our habit of looking at the other side through stereotyped lenses. The Palestinians, in Israel and beyond, are not necessarily one angry, violent, hate-filled mass. They have shades - there is a mainstream and there are fringes. The Israeli Jews are not necessarily all arrogant, blind to the other side's plight and haunted with fears. There is a wide mainstream among them that yearns for a quiet life and is ready to give up most of the territories, and there are fringe groups - on the left and right.
To dismantle the barricades of alienation and suspicion nourishing the conflict and condensing it, we must overcome our prejudices and distinguish between a potential terrorist and the Jordanian son-in-law of Atallah Mansour.