During these days of the Hebrew month of Elul, on the eve of the declaration of a Palestinian state, and with optimism enveloped by threats hovering in the air, I recalled an old newspaper clipping in my yellowing archive. On July 13, 2000, Haaretz published a letter from reader Naftali Raz in which the sound of silent pain echoes louder than a thousand screams.
In the letter, Raz recalls his own family history, which is interwoven with the history of the conflict here. With deafening silence, he tells the story of relatives and loved ones who have been killed since 1948, and of the milestones in the lives of several leaders. At the end of his sober report, he turns - in the name of the fallen - to then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was on his way to Camp David, and he calls on him to take action to achieve peace.
On November 19, 1974, Yasser Arafat first ascended the speakers' dais at the UN General Assembly. The headline on the front page of the newspaper Al-Ittihad read, "Palestine returns to life." In Nazareth, they distributed knafeh, and I, a 10th-grader then, invited my friends to my house to celebrate. Palestine was, and still is, a bleeding wound in the body of the Arab nation. "Our shame is in Palestine," Arab intellectuals declared, unable to offer help to the majority of the nation expelled from its homeland. Iraqi poet Mudhaffar al-Nawab warned, "We have turned into the Jews of history."
Palestinian suffering became a symbol. "Between the fainting and the awakening appeared the face of Palestine, the proud bereaved one, which appears wherever a stranger is tortured," sighed al-Nawab, who was cruelly tortured during the period of Baath rule in Iraq. Many intellectuals supported the saying, "The road to Jerusalem passes through the Arab capitals."
The desire for a Palestinian national homeland infected the finest Arab poets and writers. Nizar Qabbani wrote, "As late as they may come - they will yet come, with a grain of wheat and a lemon fruit - from beautiful sadness they are born, olive branches and bouquets of flowers." And when, on January 1, 1965, the Fatah movement was founded, symbolizing the national rebirth of the Palestinian nation, Fairuz sang her famous song "Bridge of Return" to the movement born "on a night of white darkness, like the first night of the month."
Self-flagellation also was rife among the Arabs, and they picked up a reputation for "not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Paradoxically, these "missers of opportunities" became creators of opportunities: the Palestinian declaration of independence, the Saudi initiative, the decisions of the Arab summit and more.
In July 2000, Barak promised to solve the 100-year-old conflict in 100 days, but when he arrived in Washington, instead of leaving no stone unturned, as he had promised, he underwent a change of profession and began to do the job of removing masks. In doing so, he prompted the theory that can be summed up by the slogan: "There's no partner." Today, the mask is being removed from the face of the political leadership, which at every opportunity "mourned" the Arabs' rejection of partition and a state of their own in 1948. But when the Palestinians agree today to a state based on UN decisions, a war-like atmosphere is created here. Today there is an opportunity for a breakthrough.
Let's go back to the beginning. So what is the connection between Raz's letter and my survey? Perhaps a matter of associations, and perhaps these are the circles which, after being opened, refuse to be closed. The Palestinian fellahin used to say, "The longer (the harvest ), the more crops are gathered." But in our case, the wider the circle, the more victims are gathered. Not only in the names of the fallen, but also in the names of the living, we must therefore close this circle.