90 posts tagged israel
If you’ve never read it, I’d suggest it.
From the Sun Sentinel:
Yoram Binur, 34, an Israeli journalist fluent in Arabic, went underground for six months to document the abuses suffered by Palestinians living in Israel`s occupied territories. He surfaced with a book predicting grave trouble for his country, but events moved ahead of his publication schedule.
The intifada, the Palestinian uprising that has left hundreds dead and threatened Israel`s ability to govern the occupied territories, erupted while Binur was still writing My Enemy, My Self, his harrowing tale of how the Israeli establishment humiliates the Palestinians.
Unlike political essays, his book is uncomfortably personal. The reader suffers with Binur, a former lieutenant in the Israeli Defense Forces, as he is beaten solely for “being“ a Palestinian at a right-wing Jewish rally.
The reader experiences his fear at roadblocks and comes to admire the Palestinians who protest with dignity against their second-class status. Perhaps most painful, the reader experiences the hatred he feels for his Jewish employers, who give him backbreaking tasks, filthy accommodations and pitiful wages.
He takes readers into the sweatshops where self-respect is the first casualty and into the camps where sanitation is unfit for humans and there is constant fear of police raids.
The impact is undeniable and offers a clear explanation for the Palestinian revolt, a development so serious that classified Israeli intelligence reports suggest it will force Israel to negotiate with the hated Palestine Liberation Organization.
A talk with Binur is even more sobering. He holds that the future of Israeli democracy is at stake — as a natural outgrowth of the decision to hold the territories seized in 1967.
“I don`t believe Israelis are racist or hateful to Arabs, they just ran into a situation dictated by the occupation and they behave accordingly,“ said Binur, who concedes that he, too, considers Arabs as Israel`s enemies.
“If you respect them and their rights to freedom and independence, you have a problem, but if you just ignore it, you fall into a greater risk and this is the reason I wrote the book, because I feel the biggest risk is just around the corner and no one paid attention. Israel will not be a democracy anymore. You cannot apply a dictatorship to Palestinian camps five minutes from Jerusalem, as we do now, and keep a democracy,“ Binur said.
The constant switching back and forth between his real identity and his adopted persona took its toll on Binur. It was hard for a Jew to feel hatred for his own people — but he did.
“My whole emotional situation was very complicated,“ he said, citing a rally where he was roughed up by Israeli soldiers.
“I felt very much like a Palestinian at the time and I was very frightened and filled with hate, as anyone harassed by police for no reason would be. But I had commanded troops like that. They were just kids. I knew what they were feeling. I was a pain in their neck and I knew they just wanted to finish their shift and get away from the demonstration and get to Jerusalem and chase some girls. I could feel that, too. I could feel both sides, and it`s much easier to simply hate than to feel the whole picture.“
His transformation from Jew to Arab was risky. He changed his appearance, smoked a brand of cigarettes favored by Arabs and scorned by Jews, and wore the traditional red keffiyeh headdress, but he still had reason to think he would be killed if his ruse were discovered — because the Palestinians would not believe that he was a journalist and would assume he was a police infiltrator.
There was a special risk too; Binur talks in his sleep when he is tense, and he feared he would talk in Hebrew while dozing in a squalid dormitory with other Palestinian workers.
“First I spoke Arabic all day long, then I started to think in Arabic, then I started to dream in Arabic,“ he said.
“I forced myself. It was hard because I was scared all the time, both from the Israelis and from the Palestinians. When it was over, I felt very bad. I was in bed surrounded by bottles of cheap brandy and a lot of cigarettes. I didn`t want to talk to people for about a month and I felt no one could understand what I was going through, and very, very slowly I recovered. It`s very hard for you to feel this guilt — for me it was the guilt of being Israeli and being responsible for a lot of evil and at the same time knowing these are your enemies.“
After experiencing the problem first-hand, Binur has come out in favor of the creation of a separate Palestinian state, a position sharply rejected by the Israeli government. Binur conceded that there are risks to this proposition.