OK. It’s time to take off the gloves and start getting truly radical. My proposal for the Jewish state, Medinat Yisrael, may be hated or loved by the Right and the Left – but it is at least a new direction and gets away from the Two State dogma that threatens to destroy the safety of the Jewish State and the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinians. Here it is:

One Democratic Jewish and Palestinian State:

Where Jews can settle everywhere in the Homeland, in Eretz Yisrael, and Arabs can settle everywhere in what they consider their Homeland.

Note re. Demographic challenges: The most effective way for Israel to increase its Jewish population ratio in the short and long term is by: letting in potentially millions of Africans, Asians and South Americans who self-identify as Jewish, even if they cannot prove their Jewish descent, and work on converting them to normative Judaism, if they wish, when they get to Israel; educating Arab women and men, which has been shown my many studies to be effective in significantly lowering birth rates; enabling the conversions of hundreds of thousands of FSU Israelis who are not currently halachically Jewish, and wish to become halachik Jews.

Five Pillars of the One Democratic Jewish and Palestinian Democratic State from the Jordan to the Mediterranean :

1) All citizens – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – can live anywhere in the land. Jews will return to live all over Jerusalem – Muslim quarter, Christian quarter, Silwan, City of David – and all over the promised land: in the ancient Israelite cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, and Shechem, and all over Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Just as in America restrictive covenants are illegal, so, too in the One State: Jews and Palestinians can acquire property anywhere in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, West Bank, etc. Property rights will be respected, and returning refugees will be accommodated through new housing in or close to their original housing. All Jewish settlements that are legal by current Israeli law will remain, with compensation where necessary.

2) New constitution – needing a super-majority to change – establishing a full democracy, with full separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, with both a Jewish Bill of Rights and a Palestinian Bill of Rights guaranteeing that the state can be both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state

3) Law of Return for Jews; Law of Return for Palestinians

4) The IDF and internal police and security services will stationed everywhere in the One State – there will be no “no go” areas; and these forces will be slowly integrated, at a pace consistent with the security needs of the new state.

5) Demographic issues will be negotiated with at least three possible solutions: increasing Israel’s Jewish population radically by admitting millions of Jewish identifiers from Africa, Asia and South America before the One State is implemented; returning Palestinians based on an equal admission of Jewish identifiers – perhaps limited to a certain time period; allowing for a natural growth of Jewish or Muslim – or other – populations, while the constitution guarantees that the One State remains compatible as a Jewish state as well as a Palestinian state, perhaps guaranteeing a majority representation for a certain number of years.

Crazy? Maybe. But let’s start with some simple first steps:

An immediate, indefinite moratorium on Arab house demolitions in Jerusalem to allow natural Arab growth, in exchange for official U.S. recognition of the right to build for natural Jewish growth in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This is just the first step for Jews accepting Arabs and Arabs accepting Jews.

This is the beginning of the New Era.

Step two is more radical, has downsides, but might be necessary: Immediate return of Gilad Shalit; release of Palestinian prisoners; U.S. commuting Jonathan Pollard and sending him to Israel. This is step two of the New Era.

This is an era celebrating integration, tolerance, life and growth. Rather than the old era of separation, hate, demeaning one another, intolerance.

Step three is a radical, but incremental experiment: The return of several thousand Jews to the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City where they were driven out in 1948 and to Hevron, where they were driven out in 1929, but at the same time, the return of several thousand Arabs to the areas in Old Qatamon and Baqqa which they evacuated in 1948. These populations will return as close as possible to their old houses, but no one will be thrown out of the houses occupied since the previous populations left.

The IDF and the Israeli police forces will be stationed everywhere to guarantee the safety of Jews and Arabs.

Now, let’s talk!

Asher Lopatin

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The Elders’ visit to Bilin

September 12, 2009

090911-mcintyrehttp://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10770.shtml

Jody McIntyre writing from Bilin, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 11 September 2009

A delegation of prominent former statespersons and business leaders known as the Elders meets with appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (third from right) in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, 26 April 2009. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/POOL/MaanImages) Thursday, 27 August was a special day in Bilin. Dozens of blacked-out SUVs approached the village, disturbing the quiet of a usually peaceful morning. However, unlike the Israeli occupation forces who come at night to arrest boys from the village, this arrival was extremely welcome.The SUV passengers were a truly respected group of international diplomats, known as the Elders. Among the delegation were Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former US President Jimmy Carter, both outspoken critics of the form of apartheid being imposed upon the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Also present were former Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Indian “gentle revolutionary” Ela Bhatt, the first woman president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and former Director-General of the World Health Organization, Gro Brundtland. They were joined by Jeff Skoll, founding president of eBay and Richard Branson, Virgin multi-millionaire and co-founder of the Elders.As part of their four-day trip to the Middle East, the Elders came to Bilin to see the daily impact of Israel’s occupation and its apartheid wall on the daily lives of Palestinians. They were also very interested to hear how residents are responding to the oppression they face through a campaign of nonviolent resistance. After stopping at the Village Council to pick up selected members of the Bilin Popular Committee, the Elders made their way toward the wall and the site of Bilin’s weekly nonviolent demonstrations. With Israeli soldiers looking on, they laid stones at the grave of Bassem Abu Rahme, the Palestinian man killed at one such demonstration in April of this year, when he was shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas projectile fired from close range.At the request of gathered reporters, Desmond Tutu made an impromptu statement: “Mahatma Gandhi, as a simple man, led his people to freedom through nonviolent methods. Rosa Parks followed in his footsteps, and now the people of Bilin will do the same!”Former US President Jimmy Carter added that “We are standing here on Palestinian land and on the other side of the wall is also Palestinian land! This occupation must end.”Next was the short drive back to the village council, where the Elders were to have a meeting with members of the local popular committee. Security was extremely tight, and only eight persons, selected in advance, were allowed to attend. But thanks to my wheelchair and some quick thinking, I managed to enter.In the meeting, Abdullah Abu Rahme, coordinator of the popular committee, introduced his fellow attendees and thanked the Elders for their visit, before handing the meeting over to village activist Mohammed Khatib.Khatib explained the origins of Bilin’s popular nonviolent struggle against the wall:
A few years ago, the Israeli army set up a checkpoint at the entrance of Bilin, which you had to pass through on foot. The soldiers had stretched a thin line of tape [over the entrance], one meter from the ground — anyone could cut it, of course, but because of the soldiers you didn’t dare. So, instead, we had to crawl under the tape as if we were praying. This was done deliberately to humiliate us.But there was one young man from the Abu Salim family, someone we knew, who refused to crawl under it. He cut the tape and they shot him in the leg. He sat there bleeding, in front of our eyes, for two hours, and no one was allowed to help or give him treatment. We called an ambulance but the soldiers stopped it. There is nothing more painful than being powerless in this kind of situation.The Israeli media reported that the soldier had shot the Palestinian in self-defense. That was a lie, of course, but it was published as factual.When the story about Abu Salim got out, the al-Aqsa [Martyrs’ Brigade] decided to carry out a response operation. We later heard seven soldiers at the checkpoint were killed.Our first reaction in Bilin was “good for al-Aqsa.” But later we realized that these were not the same soldiers who had killed our friend two weeks before. A new unit had taken over the checkpoint, so these soldiers had taken the punishment for what the old soldiers had done. It made us wonder — this cycle of death, of action and reaction, how can we break it?Next to speak was Rajaa Abu Rahme, a young student from the village. On 10 July, Rajaa’s father, Adeeb Abu Rahme, was arrested while participating in the weekly nonviolent demonstration against the wall. Adeeb was charged with “incitement to violence,” based on the supposed “confessions” of two 16-year-old boys the Israeli military had previously taken from the village, and sentenced to 101 days in prison, renewable for an indefinite period.”I am not talking to you as politicians,” Rajaa told the Elders, “I am talking to you as mothers and fathers.”As she told her story, I could see tears forming in Branson’s eyes.”My sister is getting married soon, I will be graduating,” Rajaa continued, “and our father will not be able to share our joy. I just want to see my father free.”Also present in the meeting was Shai Pollak, an Israeli activist and long-time supporter of the people of Bilin — “a member of the family” as Mohammed Khatib described him.”Twenty years ago, I did my military service,” Shai explained, “but if I knew then what I know now, I never would have served in the Israeli army.””Israeli society today is becoming increasingly closed off,” Shai continued, “making pressure from outside even more important. After the second intifada, I went and met with literally thousands of Palestinians. While my friends in Tel Aviv were telling me they would stab me with a knife, the opposite was true. Everyone I met welcomed me with open arms, because the Palestinian people want a peaceful solution.”The visit of these world leaders to Bilin was a clear message to the Israeli government, that they are opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people. Now, it is time for the leaders currently in power to follow suit.Jody McIntyre is a journalist from the United Kingdom, currently living in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. Jody has cerebral palsy, and travels in a wheelchair. He writes a blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, entitled “Life on Wheels,” which can be found at http://www.ctrlaltshift.co.uk/. He can be reached at jody.mcintyre AT gmail DOT com. A version
of this article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

A palestinian Anne Frank?

September 3, 2009

Girl, 15, seeks justice for Gaza in world court

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hx9p9wd31AY9f9Rc0yA8keN2-lJQ

Girl, 15, seeks justice for Gaza in world court

(AFP) – 2 days ago

 

THE HAGUE — A 15-year-old Palestinian girl who says Israeli troops killed her father and two siblings in Gaza in January, sought justice from the International Criminal Court on Monday.

“I am here to lodge a complaint against the occupying army,” Amira Alqerem told journalists in The Hague, seven months after her family was killed in an early-morning assault in the Tal Al Hawa neighbourhood that also left her severely injured.

“I hope this complaint will succeed because it is the truth,” the soft-spoken teenager said, seated next to her lawyer on his way to the ICC to file the complaint with the office of the prosecutor.

In her court filing, Alqerem says her 67-year-old father Fathi, 16-year-old-sister Ismat, and 14-year-old brother Ala, were killed by Israeli army fire in the early hours of January 14.

The three children were awoken by an explosion to find their father’s body, covered in blood, next to a crater near their house, the document claims.

Ismat and Ala went off to seek help, but were killed in another explosion. Amira, who had stayed behind with her dead father, was hit in the right leg.

“This was a crime against humanity, that is why we brought it to the ICC,” said her lawyer Gilles Devers, who claims the attacks were aimed at civilians.

“Israeli politicians and military leaders must be held responsible.”

Israel’s 22-day offensive on Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead before ceasefire took effect on January 18.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced in February he had begun a “preliminary analysis” of alleged crimes committed by Israel during the Gaza offensive.

He has to date received complaints and evidence from the Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Kashan, the Palestinian National Authority, and over 360 other individuals and non-governmental bodies, his office said on Monday.

Amira, meanwhile, is undergoing physical and psychological rehabilitation in France.

“I am doing this for all the children of Gaza,” she said through an interpreter.

“I want to do something to change the situation.”

Visit the site of the Elders for an incredible inspiring webcast of the Elders that are currently visiting the Middle East:

 http://www.theelders.org/

Who are the Elders?

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.

When it comes to Palestine, peace is the whore of anybody with a hidden agenda. The Israelis have used the struggle for peace for over 60 years now as a cover for settling on lands that belong to others, the Americans have used it to cover their complete bias towards Israel, the Europeans have used it to deal with their Holocaust guilt, other Arab governments have used it to deal with their own restless populations. Even the PA and Hamas have used it to get and stay in power. Within the peace movement itself peace is mocked by peace activists that care more about the Zionist dream than about a just peace for both. Nothing is more common than a Zionist talking about peace while maintaining that the right of return is an ‘unfair’ demand. Nothing is more common than hearing those interested in peace talk about how the Palestinians need to ‘compromise’ too. As if they have still anything left to compromise.

The Palestinians are the ones that forever are paying the price of this peace game. Besides still not having any peace, they also have no land, no nationality, no decent living circumstances, no medical care, no security and no dignity. The old peace adagio ‘land for peace’ is a joke because the Israelis over the years have gotten themselves (a lot) more land and more security, while the Palestinians have less land and less security than ever. Palestinians are killed, robbed and harassed by the IDF and the settlers on a daily basis. In a complete asymmetrical conflict situation, the Palestinians have nothing left to bargain with.

With so many parties interested (though not really interested) in peace, it is difficult to navigate possible solutions and possible means to achieve those solutions. The so-called international consensus since Oslo has been a two-state solution. Carter, Clinton, Blair, Barak and Olmert, they all professed a deep belief in two states for two people. The means to achieve such a solution would be a political negotiated process. However, besides the fact that in reality a 15 year long struggle for a two state solution has only led to more land and more security for the Israelis to the extent that whatever land was set out for the Palestinians is now populated with Jews (300000 Jews in West bank and a 150000 in East Jerusalem and counting as they continue to settle both regions!!), it is unclear how even in theory a two state solution could possible produce anything even remotely fair for the Palestinians. In a conflict in which one side is completely intertwined with the world’s superpower, has most of the land already, has the nukes and other hi tech weapons, controls the propaganda war and is economically so much more prosperous than its opponent (who to be frank has nothing), it is hard to understand how a fair deal could ever be negotiated. The underlying idea of a two state solution seems to be that the Palestinians should be happy with whatever they can get and not complain any further. The fact that such a profound unfairness doesn’t seem to bother any of the abovementioned peace activists is the clearest indication that it is not peace they are concerned with but their own agenda.

Besides the two state solution there are peace activists who are promoting a one state solution or some type of binational state. The merits and fairness of such a solution are obvious, but the voices for it are scattered and unorganized. Israel itself remains pathological attached to its ethnicity as the most important criteria for citizenship. It is not clear to what degree the Palestinians would tolerate such a solution, and the peace movement itself with its jargon of peace but lack of intentions for it has not decided upon such a goal. In fact the peace movement as a collective still seems to think a two state solution is within reach.

Besides the lack of common goal of the peace movement, there is also no unity as to what should constitute the means to achieve any kind of goal. Dialogue, interfaith exchanges, political summits, backroom diplomacy, terror, civil disobedience and BDS actions, are all common practices in the peace game. The other day Faris Giacaman wrote an interesting article about the peace industry. You can find the article here: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10722.shtml. The author made the interesting point that a lot of effort is being wasted, a lot of money being spent on efforts that have not made a fig of difference. Giacaman argues for a focus on boycotts, sanctions and divestments as non-violent means to pressure Israel into a deal. There is a lot to be said for such a focus. Besides the fact that it originates in Palestinian Civil Society, is non-violent in nature, does not depend upon the whims of politicians but upon global grassroots efforts and solidarity, such a strategy has proven itself to be successful once before. Israel is similar to south-Africa in the sense that it wants to be part of the global community, wants to be taken serious as a democracy and is vulnerable for economic and cultural pressure. The only reason why such a campaign is not widely promoted is because the Palestinian peace movement is infiltrated by people that have their own agenda in mind rather than a just peace. There is not one solid reason why a peace activist would oppose such a strategy. And yet many do and label it anti-Semitism.

I fear for the Palestinians.  The lack of a common and clear goal, the undermining of the peace movement from within by people with their own agenda, the complete asymmetry and overwhelming bias in favor of the Israeli makes it hard to believe that anything fair will ever be achieved for them. If even a peace movement can become a peace industry and is sabotaged and fractured from within then where is the hope? What means do we as people possess to make this world a little bit more human for us all?

Iqbal Tamimi – Abraham bought a cave, he did not buy Palestine | Palestine Think Tank

I have been reading an article by Robin-Yassin Kassab, entitled ‘A visit to Hebron’. Yassin Kassab is the author of ‘The Road from Damascus’. This time he was not writing about Damascus, he was writing about my home town Al-Khaleel, known to the Western world by the name of Hebron. In his article he describes his visit to Al-Khaleel accompanied by a number of wonderful writers and publishers, amongst them Michael Palin, Henning Mankel, Deborah Moggach, Claire Messud and MG Vassanji, and he describes the misery of the people in my hometown under the illegal Israeli occupation. Those writers have been able to witness the very painful reality when they travelled to Palestine to participate in the Palestine Festival of Literature.

As usual, the Zionists were ready with sharpened teeth to shred his efforts by their usual Hasbara methods of sending their false poisonous comments in an attempt to mask any efforts at explaining what is really going on in Palestine. One of the comments left by one of those Zionists on his blog complained that ‘Hebron Arabs today have access to 98% of the entire city. Jews have only access to 3% of Hebron’.

In the comment of this ‘anonymous’ reader, what seems to look like an innocent number of complaints, should the reader not know much about that part of the world he/she will fall a victim to the false impression that the presence of the Israeli Occupation in my hometown is justified and not an illegal occupation according to international law and even by Israeli standards. His comments sounded like as if they are coming from a victim who is supposed to have equal rights of access.

The 3% of the Jews in Hebron he was talking about are not supposed to be there, the occupying force according to international law is not supposed to allow or facilitate the transfer of its own citizens to the occupied areas.

He complained that the owners of the city – the Arab Palestinians – have access to 98% of their own city and the occupiers who are called for well-known media manipulation reasons ‘the settlers’ have access to 3%. ‘The expression settlers’ seems to be a very benign use of the language for a malignant reason. Of course the total according to his figures makes the population of Al-Khaleel more than 100%, this is a good example of what happens when Israeli authorities employ cyber amateurs to defend its crimes against the Palestinians, they work very fast so that they conjure numbers that do not make any sense. The Zionist state employs thousands every year to work on character assassination of the writers who bring to light any information about the absurdity of the Israeli occupation in Palestine, like Mr Kassab.

This shows how far they can go to fabricate false stories by throwing numbers without any verifications or referencing, and as usual, the Westerners swallow it all because the numbers and figures are connected in their experience with studies and statistics, and methods we all respect and do not doubt their credibility. I want to surprise ‘Mr anonymous’ and tell him that the people in Al-Khaleel are supposed to have 100% access to their own city because it is their home. It seems that the Zionists are full of themselves to a point they think that people can’t figure out that it is unacceptable for a total stranger to come from as far as Russia to occupy the living room of any Palestinian by hooliganism, and deny the owner access to his own kitchen or bathroom. Blocking the way of the locals is preaching their human rights and this is what the claimed 3% Jewish ‘settlers’ are doing in my hometown.

Those Jewish ‘settlers’ who have access to 3 % of my home have killed three students while walking on campus in 1986 for no reason whatsoever. Those 400 gun-wielding settlers are guarded and protected by 1,500 Israeli soldiers who witness their daily attacks on the unarmed local Palestinians and do nothing about it even though they are supposed to protect the locals according to International law. The Israeli authorities tend to demolish any home, should the owner build one brick without their permission, but at the same time claim that they could do nothing to handle the illegal presence of the Jewish settlers in the heart of Al-Khaleel, occupying the roof tops of the Palestinians homes and throwing their rubbish on them every day, and calling the Palestinian women whenever they open their doors ‘whores’.

I guess those ‘chosen by God’ people show the Almighty as an under-achiever, he could not even choose a respected lot who behave themselves when he went to choose his own loved lot. I would imagine no ordinary person would ever choose to be a friend with someone with a bad reputation and despicable manners like the Jewish settlers, let alone a wise compassionate God, but it seems that they know that the Western world is a hypocritical lot, they would support their claims even though they are a secular majority who deny even the presence of God, but when it comes to Israel suddenly they turn to be serious believers of every claim told by the Zionist lot, and the angel halo appears shining, bright and glowing above their heads, you can almost touch their holy wings. Even those who have just converted to Judaism only yesterday for visa reasons to work in Israel and care less about Moses, Jacob, Solomon, or any other prophet mentioned by any holy book, turn by a swift magic wand into very religious people even when they are posing naked in adult magazines to promote tourism in ‘the Holy Land’.

My brother-in-law is a doctor whose clinic is located in the heart of the city of Hebron, where the settlers are turning the people’s lives into living hell because they are God’s chosen brats.  His practice is located in an area where poor, sick, underprivileged people need medical attention. The soldiers who are supposed to be guarding the locals according to international law are not doing so, on the contrary, they are helping the settlers to occupy the rooftops of the neighbouring houses including his clinic, the soldiers themselves used to urinate in the water reservoir on the rooftop of his practice to drive him out, and to evacuate the area from the last few Palestinians who were persevering and trying to get on with their miserable lives against the odds. For years he used to go every single day to his practice and just set there, even though he knew perfectly well that he could not treat the ever-decreasing number of sick people who could reach his clinic, not because of the intimidation of the settlers and the hygiene problems only, but because they are hindered by tens of roadblocks and obstacles as well. But he never gave up on his mission, he continued to go to work every morning anyway – to send the Israeli occupying forces a clear message of ‘I am not leaving’. All his patients knew about his daily struggle and used to knock on his home door asking for help at odd hours, he could not turn them back, but one can imagine what kind of life this must have been for him and for his wife and children who hardly have any privacy at home, and who could not anticipate when the next banging on the door will start.

Many times he would go to his work and could not come back home that day because a new curfew had started while he was in his practice.

This is a reality every single Palestinian in my hometown has to deal with day in day out. I remember asking him once ‘what you were doing in the clinic then if you could not treat your patients’? He smiled and said I used to help my wife in her housework. I have been able to pick the leaves of almost 30 Kg of Oregano one summer to dry them for family use for the rest of the year’.

Storing food to manage during the curfews is another problem. The Israeli authorities used to cut the electricity of the city on purpose until all the stored food kept in homes’ freezers rotted and was no longer edible, besides subjecting the lives of sick people in the operation theatres at the hospital to great danger. My late husband told me about a number of surgical operations he had to perform at Princess Alia Hospital which turned to be a challenge when the electricity was cut off, besides the fact that most drugs including anaesthetics were banned, many patients were stitched without any sedation. Those are only a few kinds of inflicted pains the people had to deal with.

Year after year of hardships taught the Palestinians to find their own solutions, the people knew that the curfews can be imposed at any time, and for no reason whatsoever, no one is allowed to look through a window or walk outside the door during such enforced siege, no shops will be opened, no cars are permitted to take a dying person to hospital. The people of Al-Khaleel had to find solutions to this hard reality. They were forced to become self-sufficient and learn how to survive, no more they rely on freezing their food, they started drying, pickling, salting, and bottling the very little they managed to cultivate in their home gardens.

The same paid Zionist to attack the article and assassinate its writer’s character says ‘Close to 100 Jews have been killed in the Hebron region by Arab terrorists, in cold blood over the years and this number does not include 67 Jews murdered in Hebron 80 years ago, during the 1929 riots and massacre’.

I dare this person who threw at us the first rounded figure using his ‘close to’ expression to come with any evidence of his claim, but still I would like to tell him that according to official statistics by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics the number of reported innocent civilians killed in Hebron by Israeli soldiers in only 8 years not 61 years, between 29 September 2000 – 31 December 2008 is 265 people, those were all innocent civilians.

This same person evidently employed by the Foreign Ministry of Israel to bleach its burned image is complaining about what he described as ‘noise’ in my occupied home town, he claims ‘the Muslim call-to-prayer begins at about 4:00 AM and is repeated five times daily, with other public interludes, until after 11:00 PM, waking up sleeping people and preventing them from sleeping, with this noise being broadcast from numerous points in the city’.

For goodness sake, if you do not like living there just go back where you came from, you are living in our home, you have no right to tell us how to behave or complain about our worshiping rituals, at least the not chosen people who still worship God unlike his own chosen people who smeared his name. So…this chosen by God man considers calling for prayers a ‘noise’, while shelling, bombing, and demolitions of homes, snipers’ bullets whizzing all the time, and hovering military aircrafts since 1967 are not? How about sleeping somewhere else where you will have the right to sleep without being disturbed by the ‘non chosen people by God’.

The same chatterbox complains as well about the Ibrahimi Mosque which no more is treated with the dignity and respect it deserves, he says ‘the largest hall, the Isaac Chamber, is off-limits to Jews so that Moslems may hold their prayers there’. I guess he forgotten to mention that the Israelis occupy more than half the Mosque and as such Muslims have no access to their own place of worship, and the 3 main entrances are fitted with metallic security doors and Muslims have access through one entrance only where they are searched and humiliated, men and women, before every prayer by God’s chosen people. But most of all he forgot willingly to mention that a fundamentalist racist Jew shot down 29 Muslims while kneeling in prayer in that same mosque and was considered a hero by the Jewish Zionist society.

Not only that, he lies through his teeth, he claims that ‘Most of those 400 settlers are children, and they aren’t gun-wielding’. Oh really, that is fascinating information, so…the fourth strongest army in the world could not handle less than 400, people the majority of which are children? I would indicate such a story-teller to the Israeli Foreign office should he want to knit a lie, to do some research… and make a lie-proof story because there are people who read and there are those who do their own research. And by the way, when 4000 years ago, the prophet Abraham came to my city as an Iraqi immigrant, he bought the cave which became later the burial place for his wife from us, we the Palestinians, the people of Al-Khaleel…surely you are not serious to believe that whoever buys a cave owns the whole country, and pass it as an inheritance to his believers wherever they are!!!

Visit Palestinian Mothers to see some films of the scenes this article talks about.

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ps: I was intrigued by the idea that Hebron, a biblical place that drives the settlers crazy, was inhabitated before the israelites conquered the place.  Excavations and Egyption historical records do indeed show a lot of discrepancies with biblical claims. The book of Joshua has the Israelites living in Hebron in the late Bronze age. However, archeology shows that there was no habituation by Israelites in Hebron in the late Bronze Age. But there were people living there in the middle bronze age:

“In contrast, excavations at Tell Rumeideh [note: Hebron] have revealed no evidence of Late Bronze Age occupation, and there seems to have been a gap between the Middle Bronze Age town and the Iron Age I settlement.” (p.283 of  
The Archeology of Ancient Israel, Amnon ben-Tor (ed.), Yale:1992). This suggests that Iqbal Tamini has it right. Somebody was living there first, and it wasn’t abraham. I found this on
http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_early.php. which isn’t exactly an arab-friendly site. Incidentally I also found the following quote from Ghandi there, I throw it in for curiosity’s sake: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs… Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.” (from ‘The Jews in Palestine 1938’). I guess Ghandi was an anti-Semite. Who would have thought?

(the Owl)

Cuba has always been one of those countries that were on the wrong side of the political equator. In a way there is nothing worse than being ruled by a leftist dictator. Good old fashioned market oriented dictators (see Pinochet) are at least occasionally opposed by the left. Communist dictators are more often than not excused by an apologetic left with a disproportioned nostalgia for a utopian society that has never existed. You would think the right would naturally oppose the communist dictators, in some sort of cosmic check and balance. But we all know that the right doesn’t care for opposing anybody unless there is oil, military contracts, or casino’s involved. And even then they not really care for victims, only for profits, and they gladly replace a non-money making fascist dictator with a money making fascist dictator (see Saddam, see Pinochet).

So that leaves communist dictatorships with nothing but the deafening silence of its victims.

Cuba, 50 years after communist hell broke loose, is in ruins. Literally. Most houses have not been painted since fascist dictator Batista left the building. Most people (except the communist top) do not have enough food to eat on a daily basis, most people cannot freely chose where they want to live, what they want to study, what they want to do for a living, and what they want to say. Most people do not even have decent healthcare. Not because there are no doctors, they are plenty of doctors, in fact there are too many doctors. One day Castro decided that Cubans were going to be doctors, and forced everybody to become one. There is one doctor for every 10 people. Cuba has so many doctors that they export them to Venezuela in exchange for cheap oil. But in Cuba, the doctors are useless because they have no supplies, no medicines, no syringes, no chemo, no nothing. This lack of medical care is extremely infuriating, as Cuba presents itself as a medical Mecca to the rest of the world.

Embargos certainly don’t help. But anybody that spends a little bit of time in Cuba, and travels around with an open mind, can see that the heart of the matter is an economic system that doesn’t work, with or without embargos.

Anyway. Even if it was the embargo that was the problem, one still should be able to speak one’s mind about the fact that there is nothing to eat. But not even this basic kind of stress relief is granted to Cubans. Complaints about the system and the regime are rewarded with extensive time in jail; which of course explains why it is hard to find a Cuban that speaks his mind in Cuba. The potent combination of terror with the isolation of an island surrounded by oceans is sufficient to keep people in line for years, hungry or not. This basic truth has long been denied by the nostalgic left. The nostalgic left has always denied that Cubans were hungry to begin with and that complaining about it would land you in jail. I wish I could talk to the nostalgic, apologetic left now. Now that Panfilo has arrived on stage.

Panfilo is a man that consumes a good amount of alcohol on a regular basis. Not uncommon in countries where there is no hope for improvement. In Cuba they can make alcohol from feces. I am not kidding. Desperate men can make alcohol out of anything. I mention this because there are always ignorant/cynical idiots who would argue that there is enough food if there is enough alcohol.

Panfilo, not too long ago, came across a small film crew that was filming another man explaining the popularity of a new type of music called Reggaeton. Panfilo the drunk saw the other guy blabbering on and on about the reggaeton, and suddenly felt a surge of rage exploding in his body. He jumped in front of the camera and began to scream ‘lo que hace falta es Yama!’ (translated it means something as ‘we are hungry we need food!’) Over and over he screamed the same thing. This clip found its way to youtube. God bless youtube.

300000 people saw the scene. Another clip emerged, an interview with the same Panfilo, this time explaining that he was still hungry but now also afraid that he would end up in jail. He had been questioned a couple of times by the secret police. He was explaining that he hadn’t wanted any of this to happen. That he had no political affiliations. That he was drunk when it happened. A hundred thousand people saw that clip.

Guess what. He was right. He did end up in jail. The Cuban government sentenced him to two years in jail, apparently for being ‘dangerous’. In Cuba they can put anybody in jail when, on completely subjective basis, if they decide you are a danger for the revolution. They say revolution but they actually mean bad PR for the regime. One can hardly still talk about a revolution when the same government has been in power for 50 years. They put people in jail for decades for singing a song that jokes about Fidel. They put people in jail for suggesting that maybe once; they should have elections with more than one party, more than one option. They put you in jail when your communist party-neighbor doesn’t like you and accuses you of something you never did. Think about these travesties, when you celebrate Castro’s 83rd birthday, apologetic left. And think about how you ignored these people decade after decade because you cared more about your ideology than about people.

Sandra (a non-apologetic leftist)

I am sure there are more than three attitudes towards this conflict. Not because this conflict is so complex (in fact the conflict is astonishing simple and so are its possible solutions), but rather because there are so many people with opinions about it. These opinions overlap, presuppose and contradict each other. I only want to examine three types of attitudes into which most opinions can be categorized and the consequences of these attitudes for a possible solution.

Solipsism

The first attitude is completely focused upon Jewish identity to such a degree that the existence, identity and/ or history of the Palestinians are being denied. It is usually the first attitude anybody that takes an interest in this conflict is confronted with. It takes on many shapes, often sneaks up on you when the least expected, is the hardest to combat and gives one the experience of operating in the twilight zone where nothing makes sense anymore, where truth becomes lie and vice versa. When it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, a lot of things can be denied. A classic denial and one of the most infuriating ones is the denial of the fact that there are Palestinians ( “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”– Golda Meir, statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969.). If there are no Palestinians then of course there is no problem, because there is nobody to talk to and there is nobody to negotiate with. The consequences of this absurd denial in terms of possible solutions are simple: no solutions whatsoever. The Palestinians that don’t exist will continue to live like animals in their refugee camps, or as secondary class citizens in neighboring countries and Israel itself.

Another famous denial is the denial of the rights of Palestinians as a people. This denial will focus around the idea that the Palestinians don’t really have an identity of their own and therefore shouldn’t have a land of their own. They exist only to bother the Israelis, to take their land and to drive them into the sea. The irony of this argument is that one has to acknowledge their existence to deny their identity. The consequence however is the same, since the identity of Palestinians as a people are not to be taken serious, then again there is no problem and no solution. Again the Palestinians continue to live like animals in their refugee camps, or as secondary class citizens in neighboring countries and Israel itself.

A third variation is that Palestinians do indeed exist and have some sort of identity but already have a country, namely Jordan. In this case the denial is the denial of a difference between Jordanians and Palestinians. So those unlucky people that were living on the spots the Jewish people had decided to settle on, have nothing to complain about, since they can always move to Jordan which is the real Palestine. The consequence of this particular variant is that there are a lot of proponents of the notion that all Palestinians should move to Jordan and Israel might be so generous in that case to give up West Bank to Jordan. They consider this a solution to the problem. Since the Palestinians are obviously not Jordans the consequence of this denial and solution is that the Palestinians will continue to live like animals in their refugee camps, or as secondary class citizens in neighboring countries (including Jordan) and Israel itself.

A fourth type of denial is the denial of Nabka. Nabka is the historical event in which a few hundred thousand Palestinians fled their homes when confronted with Israeli violence. Nabka denial itself takes on a few shapes. Some deny that such mass exodus ever took place; others admit that a mass exodus took place but was caused by Arab leaders urging the Palestinians to flee for the upcoming Arab-Israel war. Others admit that terror tactics were being used that led the Palestinians to flee but still deny responsibility for what is up to this very day an enormous refugee problem. The latter base themselves upon the notion that there is a lot of evil everywhere else in the world as well, that in war everything is justified. In other words, they believe in true Darwinian fashion that the founding of Israel justified terrorizing people out of their home. It is the same logic that is being used to this day in Israel’s expansion politics that demolishes Palestinian houses or simply evict Palestinians out of their houses to make room for Jewish boarders. To the extent that Nabka is denied, Palestinians continue to live like animals in their refugee camps, or as secondary class citizens in neighboring countries and Israel itself.

Finally, the most common type of denial, directly related to the denial of Nabka in all its variations, is the denial of the right to one’s own property and land. Even the most peace-loving activists, who acknowledge the horrors committed by the Irgun, they have no trouble denying Palestinians this basic human right. Whether the Palestinians fled the region on their own free will or out of terror, very few are capable to acknowledge the basic truth that one’s home and land remains one’s home and land, whether one temporarily leaves it or not. It is a fact that forms the basis of our economic system, without which a global market system would collapse, yet this basic right has been denied for 60 years now to the Palestinians. Palestinians that left their home before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war have according to these deniers no right to their old home and land. The consequence of this denial is the fact that no peace agreement can ever be complete as long as this denial is part of it. There cannot be a just peace as long as basic human rights are being violated. It is that simple.

Dualism

A second attitude towards the Israel-Palestine conflict is what can be called the politics of identity. This attitude acknowledges the identity of two separate people and their right to self determination. Most of the peace activists that work to see this conflict solved operate within this framework. They look at the conflict from a particular identity while at the same acknowledging the identity of the opposing group. From a Jewish point of view, the identity that has to be preserved is one that has been under threat for a few thousands of years culminating in a Holocaust only 60 years ago. This fear of annihilation and the resolve to not let it happen again is not an accidental aspect of the Jewish identity but is central to it. Furthermore the thought took root that the only way for Jews to survive and preserve their identity was through establishing their own nation. The land of Israel thus became essential to the survival of the Jews. Zionism is the expression of this emphasis on identity and survival. To be a good Jew is to be a dedicated Zionist. To be a Zionist is to care for the land of Israel.

Solipsism and dualism both have Zionism in common. Both believe that Jewish identity cannot be preserved without the Jewish land; Jewish land in the sense that it has a majority of Jewish people living on it. What distinguishes the attitude of denial from the politics of identity however is that the latter also acknowledges the identity and rights of the other. While the deniers have no other and therefore don’t have to deal with the rights of the other, the identity politician struggles with the question of how both people can be treated fairly.
From a Palestinian point of view, their identity is equally linked with their struggle for survival. In their opposition to what was happening to them the Palestinians were forced to define and redefine what used to be a dormant identity for centuries. As a consequence of losing their lands and houses they were forced to develop an identity and symbolism of resistance.

Identity thinkers struggle with zero sum thinking. An acre of land can only belong to one people. The more the Israeli have the less the Palestinians have and vice versa. ‘Separate but equal’ is the paradigm. Identity thinking however is inherently false. As identity fundamentally is formed by the exclusion of the other, the other can never be fully incorporated in one’s own thinking. Denial unavoidably sneaks in. The more denial of the Palestinian as other occurs, the more rights of the other are being sacrificed on the altar of Jewish identity. The universe is forever divided between self and other, Jew and Arab, Jew and non-Jew. The identity of the other is being acknowledged, but the question remains to what extent the survival of the Jewish people warrants overriding the rights of the other. This question manifests itself in the proposals that identity thinkers form as a solution to the I-P conflict. Two state solutions are expressions of identity politics. However, as the other (the Palestinian) forever remains juxtaposed to the self (the Jew), the debate of how much the other should, could and will get is endless. The more one side wins the more the other side looses. The more land, water, resources etc the Palestinians get the less land the Jewish people will get. This rephrasing of the same thought is important, as it is at the heart of identity politics and the type of solution that follows out of it. The solution that follows from the identity attitude is always a bargain, the result of a negotiation process in which the strongest side will get the most. Within the context of the I-P conflict, it is obvious that the odds are heavily tilted towards the Israeli. They already carved a state for themselves, they have the support of the most powerful military in the world and have themselves developed the fourth strongest army in the world. It is hard to see how a two state solution could ever deliver a fair deal to the Palestinians.

Solipsism and dualism have defined the terms of the conflict since its beginning a century ago. The results are that the Palestinians to this day are living without a state and in effect under an Israeli occupation. In the most favorable proposals (the camp David proposal is to this day viewed as the most generous proposal the Palestinians ever received), tentative solutions carve up the land heavily in favor of the Israelis, leaving the Palestinians with patches of land that could never function as a sovereign nation. Furthermore, Israel, an economic and military powerhouse demands total military debilitation from the Palestinians as part of the bargain. The rights of the Palestinians to their old homes and land are usually not even part of the discussion as if it is normal to expect from the Palestinians to surrender their basic human rights. It is clear that neither solipsism nor dualism has lead to anything remotely fair for the Palestinians.

Humanism

The third attitude I would like to discuss is the attitude that transcends both solipsism and the politics of identity. It is an attitude that sees beyond dividing the world into mine and yours; that in fact recognizes the dangers of doing so. This attitude speaks a different language. It has no need to rigidly defend itself because it is at ease in the world and its place in it. It realizes that identity is not dependent upon acres of land but upon the connection with the other. It realizes that there cannot be a self without the other. That both presuppose each other and that an error is being made when one assumes that one can exist without the other. It does not see the world in terms of Jews and Palestinians, or Jews and non-Jews, or Arabs and non-Arabs, but in terms of people that all belong to the same family. It doesn’t deny that there are differences between people, but understands that there is a deeper truth that underlies those differences. This attitude understands that one part of the family cannot take precedent over another part; that in fact the whole suffers when one part suffers. This attitude understands that our inter-connectedness ultimately does not allow for usurping the rights of others in order to preserve our own. By attempting to destroy the other we destroy ourselves as well. This is what Bishop Tutu means when he says that separate can never be equal. Ask anybody that lived under the Jim Crow laws or South African apartheid. Separate always means that some are better than others. Equality is based upon our connection to each other. It is based upon the fundamental truth that we have more in common with each other than we differ from each other. This communality invalidates any attempt to see some people as superior to other people, or to prioritize the rights of some over the rights of others. Communality invalidates the politics of identity. The latter can never lead to an authentic existence as long as it does not understand that what we share is more important than what separates us. If this language sounds rosy and soft it is only because one does not fully understand what this means. There is nothing easy about coming to realize how dependent we are upon each other. It is a lot easier to think of ourselves as autonomous and superior. Dualism is always easier for the mind to grasp than the underlying connection between self and other. Even more importantly, there is nothing easy about making this reality concrete. As anybody that was involved in the American civil rights struggle and had to battle the identity politics of white Americans, or ask those that were confronted with the fears of integration of South Africans if there is anything rosy about the battle for equal treatment. If it seems utopian it is only because it is so hard to achieve and we are so attached to the idea of ourselves as separated from the other. But when this illusion is broken, and we manage to create a society that has a place for everybody, we feel that we come closer to approaching true humanity.

It is obvious what such an attitude means for the Israel-Palestine conflict. True humanism is not satisfied with a bargaining process that emphasizes identity over communality, especially one that is so heavily slanted towards one side. It cannot find peace in the thought that some are worse off than others. It is not happy with zero sum thinking and doesn’t believe in dividing humanity into people we care for and people we don’t care for. While dualism believes that separation is necessary to preserve our identity and therefore our humanity, humanism believes that overcoming this separateness is what ultimately preserves our humanity. Identity is not lost in this process but transformed in such a manner that it includes our connection with each other. Dualism leads to two state solutions, humanism leads to one state solution. The same way that humanism incorporates the merits of dualism (the acknowledgement of otherness) and yet goes beyond it (in that it acknowledges the connection between self and other), so do one state solutions incorporate and transcend the merits of two state solutions. Jewish and Palestinian identities won’t be lost but enriched in such a reconfiguration. The paradox of identity is that it grows and expands when it is let go of. Holding on to old identities makes them bleed with hatred for otherness. Letting them intertwine with that otherness does not annihilate those identities but instead makes them more ‘true’. Jewish and Palestinian identity might blossom when they won’t have to worry about themselves so much. The sadness about battling identity politics is that ultimately it is not even in the benefit for identities to be kept separated from other identities. It is in the nature of identity to be intimately linked with others. Peace activists that are working towards a one state solution are often confronted with the accusation of anti-Semitism. It is the false assumption that identity requires separateness that leads to accusations of anti-Semitism. Once one understands how self and other are related to each other, the accusation of anti-Semitism becomes nonsensical. Instead one understands that the opposite is true, that the Jewish identity only has a future when it understands how it is intertwined with the rest of humanity. The one state solution, as the symbol of this inter-connectedness, does not lead to the demise of the Jewish people but their salvation.

None of this is foreign language to anybody living in a modern day multi-ethnic nation. It may sound high minded, but it is part of daily life for us that live in societies that attempt to be tolerant. We might not walk around formulating high minded thoughts on how connected we all are, but we all live in these connections and we become outraged when we see manifestations of racism and supremacy. The hope is that ultimately, Jews and Palestinians learn to care for each other in such a way that one hurts when the other one is hurting. That people living as animals without water and electricity or as secondary citizens cause as much uproar in Israel/Palestine as they do here in the US. For all the talk about the biblical origins of both Jews and Palestinians, a one state solution might be the only way to make this land truly biblical.

mother of the world

May 24, 2009

If I was the mother of the world, and countries were my children, Israel would be my problem child. The child that was born out of pain and persecution, its birth itself an act of sin as it had to kill in order to make room for its place in the world. The child that had lost its faith in people before it had a chance to grow up.  Being the mother, I wouldn’t know how to protect my child from itself. I see it kicking and screaming and bullying the others and I instinctively know it is hurting and afraid. And I am hurting for it. I see old anger and new anger mixed with fears in my child and I am afraid for its future. I see my child using its talents and brilliance against itself building walls of security, dividing and exploiting and reigning over its victims. I have seen the body of my child grow more powerful as its soul is contracting. How can I stretch the mind of my child so that it can understand that happiness cannot unfold in a vacuum?  How can I teach my child it is human and that being human means being strong and being weak at the same time? How can I teach my child it doesn’t have to negate the others in order to be? That it doesn’t have to continue to destroy in order to continue to be? That in fact it can only grow into adulthood  as it learns to share the land and the waters and the skies and as it learns that there are no real others, that in our humanity we are essentially the same?  How can I teach my child that it has to let go, that it can inhabit the space between the sea and the Jordan but not own it in any true sense of the word? That ultimately it will also have to let go of all its anger and all its past pains and see in the other his mirror imagine.  That in the end, the answers do not lie in possessions, identity and self-defense, but in community, exchange and vulnerability, and that otherness insofar it is not illusionary is not a thief but a brother.  How can I teach my child that only the future can bring redemption for the past? How can I teach my child that it is not possible for him to fight, undo, or even completely understand the past?  That all one can do with the past is accepting it?

How can I teach my child all these things when my child is raging in anger and won’t listen?  How can I teach my child before it is too late, and my child has destroyed himself in its attempts to destroy the other?

classic optical illusion: how old is this woman?

classic optical illusion: how old is this woman?

We live in a world where there are as many perspectives as there are people. These perspectives are often only a mouse click away. Now more than even we have the opportunity to learn about the many different ways people interpret events, relationships, politics etc. Yet, despite the overwhelming amount of information, people seem to be just as alienated from different perspectives as they were before the internet hit the masses. Democrats hate republicans, and vice versa, Arabs dislike Jews, and vice versa, Europeans don’t understand the Muslims in their midst, the Muslims don’t understand the Europeans, Americans dislike Hugo Chavez, Hugo Chavez dislikes Americans. The French and the Americans, The Turks and the Kurds, the Shii and the Sunni, the Hutu’s and the Tutsi, This list goes on and on.


One would assume that the enormous increases of information at the tips of our fingers would be instrumental in bridging those differences. Not so. One only has to browse through different blogs, articles, message boards, chartrooms, newspapers etc to find out that the wealth of information is being used to reinforce one’s own perspective instead of trying to understand the perspective of the other. Information is being selected, processed and redistributed in such a way that nothing ever changes, and instead of seeing each other as more human, we end up dehumanizing each other further. In conflicts in which lives are on the line, these differences in perspectives matter. As the ability to see something from the perspective of the other goes hand in hand with the ability to have empathy for the other, both necessary and interdependent prerequisites that allow human beings to see other as human. Perspective, empathy and humanity are the three pillars in creating a more human, more peaceful world. Vice versa, conflict resolution and peace negotiations can’t take place in an environment where people no longer see the perspective and therefore the humanity of the other.

In my previous blogs I have written a little about differences in perspectives. They play a role in the Israel-Palestine conflict where two different perspectives on the conflict clash as hard as the people having the perspectives. The Israelis sees the Arabs as the modern day Hitlers, bent on their destruction, while the Arabs see the Israelis as colonizers and land robbers. Differences in perspectives play a role in the rising islamophobia in Europe’s capital where the western mind for example can’t understand the eastern demand for Sharia laws and the eastern mind for example can’t grasp what it sees as western decadence. (see https://owlminerva.wordpress.com/2009/04/15/a-few-thoughts-on-dunbar-ii-and-the-clash-of-civilizations/)

So what is going on?

Perspectives are stranger than we think. They are mental habits, as comfortable to our brain as an old pair of shoes is to our feet. They are mental layers that protect us from too much difference, without telling us however that the price we pay for this comfort is less of the truth instead of more. Perspectives are self-perpetuating. Once they are there they find ways of reinforcing themselves as if they have an existence of their own. Existing perspectives resist competing perspectives by influencing the individual to perceive the world selectively, to process information erroneously and to remember information selectively or worse, wrongly. We can call these the defense mechanisms of narrative perspectives. We think we are in control over the way we judge things. We believe we have chosen our perspectives freely and we believe that we judge fairly. But we don’t own our perspectives. They own us. And to the extent that we are dominated by our perspective, we are incapable of judging anything fairly. For the comfort, safety and stability that perspectives offer us, most of us accept the prison they impose on our minds.

I like to compare perspectives to optical illusions. For example, look at the picture of the young woman above. If you look long enough, you will see a very old woman appear in the same picture. Once you see the old woman, it is very hard to see the young woman. And vice versa. I believe our perspectives of the world around us are like that. Even though these differences in perspective are narrative and not optical in nature, the same dynamic holds. It is possible to see the same event from different narrative angles. There are many reasons why something in us decides upon a certain angle to begin with. The angle can be taught to us, it can fit in with a pre-existing cognitive scheme, it might complement our religious, political, ethical values, or it might be the most convenient angle or most self-serving one. However, once we have decided upon an angle, it becomes nearly impossible to shift and see a different angle. Most of us are not even aware that we have these perspectives to begin with. Our brain resists such awareness. If we are that lucky to be aware of our angle we try our hardest to justify that angle, making it into a matter of right and wrong, thereby decreasing the chances that we would try to shift our perspective. Perspectives are tyrannical in the sense that once they have a hold over us they have strategies to maintain that hold and bar other perspectives from flooding our consciousness.

One might ask: “what if my perspective is the right one? What do I have to gain then from seeing something from a different perspective?” And to that one might answer, that first of all there is no perspective that is 100% correct, as nobody up to this point in history knows everything there is to know. So everybody can learn something from another perceptive. Narrative Perspective Blindness, as I like to call the inability to switch perspectives, deprives ones brain of the information it needs to formulate more appropriate conclusions. Second of all, how can we know whether or not our perspective is right or wrong if we are locked in the perspective to begin with? We have no point of reference in deciding how right or wrong our point of view is. One needs to be able to be outside perspectives in order to be able to judge them. Since we can’t look at anything without a perspective to begin with such outside reference point is in principle impossible. Thirdly, even in the impossible case that our perspective was 100% correct, not understanding the perspective of the other will still prevent us from understanding the humanity of the other. Perspective and empathy are mutually dependent upon each other. Unless one has no interest in creating a more peaceful and just world, there is nothing more important than understanding the perspective of the other so that once can remain in touch with the humanity of the other. Not only is this ability to see different narratives a moral necessity, (one simply can’t be a good person without the capacity of seeing different perspectives); it is also a matter of intelligent strategy. One can’t be a good statesman, a good lobbyist, a good peace activist, a good lawyer or a good humanitarian without this capacity to see something from another human being’s point of view.

The good news is that it is possible to break the oppression of our perspectives. Just like we can practice and we can get better in optical illusions to the point that it is possible to switch perspectives in the blink of an eye, even up to the point that it is possible to see the young woman and the old woman at the same time, and extend this ease to new optical illusions, it is also possible to train our brain in understanding different narrative angles. The more open, flexible and wider we train our brain to be, the less our ‘orthodox’ perspective controls us. Part of this training is getting used to the uncertainty and the anxiety that accompanies seeing different angles at first. Entering a different narrative perspective is as scary as entering a foreign land of which one doesn’t know the rules, the language and the customs. It is leaving behind certainty and opening oneself up to the possibility that what one believed before could have been wrong. It is learning to live with uncertainty and vulnerability. It requires mental strength and moral courage. Not something a lot of us have; but something that a lot of us can learn to cultivate. We don’t have to be the victim of our own mindsets. We can learn to juggle perspectives, learn to hold them in suspension in the air so that we can examine them, study them and learn to understand them. What seems like a miracle now can become a mental habit as familiar to us as brushing our teeth. Surfing the internet and reading the articles, essays and blogs of a lot of smart, well intentioned bunch of people, I am getting the impression that no matter how smart and well intentioned one is, without this capacity for shifting perspectives and empathy, nothing will ever be gained. No matter how well intentioned one is, without the ability to ultimately see the other as human, one will always do more damage than good.