From afar, it’s hard to recognize them. They are swaying human shadows, staring out into space, faces gaunt and their bones protruding from the skin that’s meant to cover them. But if you look at them closely, you’ll see who they are: They are the children and grandchildren of those who were expelled in 1948 (or who fled, or migrated – choose whatever word salves your conscience).
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You can claim that you are not involved; after all, the decapitating sword is not your sword, and the hand that besieges and starves them is not your hand. All you (and your parents) did was lead them and their parents respectfully to the jungle, and then you turned on your heels to enjoy the villa and get drunk on the fragrance of the orchard and vineyard.
But what did Abd el-Hadi do to you (from the Arabic poem by Taha Muhammad Ali, “Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower”)? Since his expulsion from his Garden of Eden a curse pursues him, generation after generation. This Abd el-Hadi, “In his life, he neither wrote nor read/In his life he didn’t cut down a single tree/Didn’t slit the throat of a single cow/ In his life he did not speak of The New York Times/Behind its back/Or raise his voice to a soul/Except in saying ‘come in please, by God, you can’t refuse!’” (English by Peter Cole).
Meanwhile, in the northern part of the jungle, the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad (the lion) are besieging the Yarmouk refugee camp and preventing the distribution of food, drugs and basic items. To the question of why the siege – after all, the camp didn’t rebel against Assad – there is no answer. Nor is there an answer as to why the Islamic State is butchering the camp’s residents. And when logic evaporates, all paths lead to more and more atrocities, until one reaches “the deepest circle of hell,” as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it. Ban is apparently a bit too optimistic, because the Arab hell has an infinite number of steps en route to the lowest rung.
Meanwhile, no moral question is being raised regarding Israel’s role in creating the killing fields there. On the contrary, one literary knight has established that the world is divided between the Jews and the Jew-haters, so perhaps now is the time to ascertain whether those human shadows lined up for slaughter at Yarmouk are Jew-haters. If so, then they’re apparently getting what they deserve.
But among Jews there are many who think differently. Amos Oz’s unsettling book, “The Gospel According to Judas,” is likely to arouse many thoughts in the reader. In my view, the book’s central question is: Was there no other way aside from the brute force of David Ben-Gurion? Was there no other way to establish a state for one people without destroying the present and future of another people?
History, as we know, can’t be changed, but examining historical events is crucial to changing how we relate to the past. And if we succeed in creating hypothetical options for events of the past, perhaps we can change the future. Given the horrific tragedy of the Yarmouk refugee camp, it is time for Israel to think differently about the Palestinian people, some of which is part and parcel of this country and its future.
Is it not time to whiten the black image of the Zionist movement a bit among Palestinians, as a refreshing start to forging a relationship between the two peoples? Why doesn’t Israel coordinate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Arab leadership to absorb Yarmouk refugees in the PA-controlled territories and among Israeli Arabs, as was suggested in the Haaretz editorial on Thursday (“Help Yarmouk’s refugees,” April 9)?
Instead of running to the end of the world to show the beautiful face of Israel, extend a hand to your neighbor. Learn something from Jordan, a country that has no moral or political obligation to Syria yet has already absorbed more than a million refugees from there. For once in your life, do something that you can relate proudly to your grandchildren. Let them say with pride that in Yarmouk, the process of reconciliation with our cousins began.