image of jerusalem 2013

Moving International Solidarity?
Last week, I went to see the documentary film ‘Jeremy Hardy v The Israeli Army’ that has been described by Times Out New York as a ‘dark comedy’...

31 July   |   2003   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

... Directed by Leila Sansour, it stars the British comedian Jeremy Hardy who arrives in Tel Aviv on Good Friday 2002 and soon finds himself embroiled in the frothing tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. At first, though, Hardy is more of a spectator who resists being dragged into the conflict. However, he soon finds himself drawn to the volatile issues of that small parcel of land, and ends up echoing with comic but pungent clarity the tribulations of the Palestinian population as a result of Israeli occupation practices. Halfway through the film, Bethlehem also becomes Hardy’s favourite little town, despite the curfews, closures and the siege at the Basilica of the Nativity.

Interestingly enough, the film uses as its peg the activities, experiences and reflections of International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a disparate group of men and women from the USA and Europe who dedicate their lives to the struggle against injustice. The group belongs to a Palestinian-led movement of activists working together to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to Israeli occupation. They utilise non-violent, direct-action methods of resistance to confront and challenge illegal Israeli occupation forces or policies. Central to their mission of statement is the commitment that non-violent resistance can be a compelling weapon in fighting oppression. They support the Palestinian right to challenge the occupation, calling for immediate Israeli implementation of all relevant UN resolutions, as well as an international intervention force to protect Palestinians. However, a poignant and thought-provoking moment in the film that also encapsulates one of the dynamics between ‘internationals’ and ‘locals’ comes when a Palestinian man comments wryly that he is as much worried about his own safety as he is about the safety of all the foreigners who come to Palestine and stand in solidarity with his cause.

Having been involved hands-on with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on many different levels for long years, I must admit that I sometimes have this niggling thought that the aspirations of movements such as ISM or the Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme are at times naïve and that their actions are fraught with peril. However, those moments also cede to the recognition that such brave people highlight the rudimental issues of the conflict to a wider Western world. So what are those main issues, particularly when viewed through the lens of the ‘roadmap’ process? After all, did Chris Patten, EU Commissioner for External Relations, not welcome last week ‘the measures taken by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to begin implementation of the Road Map’? Stating that the European Commission was urgently delivering a € 100million package of financial assistance to support the implementation of the ‘roadmap’, Patten added, ‘This delicate process now needs to be fully supported by the international community. Regeneration of the Palestinian economy and restoration of basic public services will help build confidence and commitment to the peace process.’

The long-term issues that eventually need to be dealt with by Israelis and Palestinians alike are immutable and familiar. They include the future of Jerusalem, the final borders, natural resources and refugees. At this stage in the ‘roadmap’, however, it is vital to deal with those time-specific issues that could revive let alone restore confidence in peace.

A first issue concerns the freeing of Palestinian prisoners. There are around 5000 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli gaols today, and just over 500 (one-tenth of those held without charge or trial) are now being freed by PM Sharon’s government. The second issue focuses on the dismantling of the illegal outposts (a quaint euphemism for basic settlements) on Palestinian land. Interestingly enough, the hype in the media about the publicised dismantling by the Israeli army of a few scattered illegal outposts earlier this summer was followed by the building of other outposts that led to an actual increase in their numbers. The third issue relates to the removal of hundreds of Israeli checkpoints dotting the whole Palestinian landscape and preventing Palestinians from moving freely from one village to another, from one town to another, let alone between Palestinian areas and those still fully under Israeli occupation. Let me give one illustration! For the sake of four small settlements [Tel Rumeida, Kiryat Arba, Beit Romano and Avraham Avinu] housing around 500 Israeli Jewish settlers in the biblical city of Hebron, an overall population of over40 , 000Palestinians have to ‘negotiate’ daily more than 200 checkpoints in the different H 1and H2 areas! The fourth issue is the ugly ‘separation wall’ being built by Israel. This wall is literally chewing up more Palestinian land, fencing in thousands of Palestinians, separating communities from one another and prizing away Palestinian choice agricultural lands from their farmers. It is being imposed upon Palestinians as a ‘security fence’ although there is no consensus that it would provide sustainable security for Israelis from wanton and abhorrent terror-driven suicide bombers.

Arthur Schopenhauer, a philosopher whose emphasis lay on willpower, is quoted as saying that ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’ From Kenya to South Africa to India, this philosophy has ultimately led to peace and reconciliation. But for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the issues that are intimately tied with the occupation remain unchallenged. As the film suggests, is it not high time that the parties truthfully relinquish ridicule and opposition and adopt self-evident reconciliation instead?

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2003   |   31 July


Print or download a copy of this article.


Google: Yahoo: MSN: