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A family was killed Friday night. A husband, wife, and their three children died in Itamar, an ideologically driven Jewish settlement deep inside the West Bank. In response to the suspected terrorist attack, Israel approved 500 new housing units inside the occupied territory.

Peace isn’t a popular conversation topic at the moment. News of the stabbing has dominated the news here, and thousands flocked to Jerusalem Sunday for the funeral.

Saturday night, well-known Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi said the latest violence was shocking in its brutality. “This will have, I suspect, a long-term imprint on Israeli discourse and how we view trusting the Palestinian side,” he said.

But both sides can’t now retreat into their separate corners, especially among everyday people. That was the message of Aaron Barnea and Siham Abu Awwad during an hour-and-a-half discussion over their attempts to finally bring peace among the two peoples.

Both Barnea and Abu Awwad lost family members to the conflict. Those losses pushed them to join Parents Circle, a grass roots organization that seeks understanding and peace through dialogue. Members have all lost loved ones to the violence.

“When an event of this kind, this quality happens … then we have to find the words and to find the ways how to translate actually our rage into human words,” Barnea said.

The key to solving the conflict, Barnea and Abu Awwad say, is reconciliation between individual people. Abu Awwad mentioned when she speaks to Israeli children, it is often the first time they have met a Palestinian. One boy was even shocked she didn’t have horns. Even Barnea only interacted with the other side during army patrols before protesting with Palestinians the occupation of southern Lebanon, where his son Noam was killed.

Barnea cautioned Israeli political leaders not to inject Friday’s horrific killing into a larger political debate over Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the two state solution. That, he said, should be decided on a “human basis.”

Of course, Friday’s killing was not the first, and sadly won’t be the last from either side. But Abu Awwad said, despite this, the choice to continue is simple. “What else can we do? We have to keep talking.”


Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.


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4 Comments

These are wonderful sentiments and I applaud these parents for avoiding the path of anger.

However, I feel that there is an essential element of this conflict that is always ignored: Palestinian shame. Islamic tradition holds that Jews are inferior beings and not to be trusted (if you do not understand this you are not reading history or you are talking to the wrong people). Palestinians have to constantly face the reality that these "inferior beings" have turned a desert (where many Palestinians themselves once lived) into a thriving, democratic state, something the Palestinians have not been able to come close to matching. To be able to compete, without shame, with Israel in peaceful pursuits will require a major transformation of Arab culture in the direction of openness, acceptance of critical thinking, and democratic ideas - in the government, the workplace and the home. This is very frightening to most Middle East Arabs, and they have resisted vigorously (although the upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere shows a very small shift in that direction). Until this "adjustment" takes place in Arab (and Palestinian) culture the path of hatred and incitement to violence is the surest way for Palestinians to retain their dignity, for once this hatred and incitement stops, there only remains the peaceful path - in which the Palestinian is sure to appear to have failed in comparison with Israel. The recent cold-blooded murders are a symptom of this underlying issue, and of the desire to banish the "splinter" of Western culture and return things to the "good old days" where the Jews "know their place."

Until the Palestinians face this issue squarely and honestly, and stop blaming Israel and the US for all their problems, there is absolutely no possibility of real peace with Israel. And I would strongly caution the On Being team not to be overly impressed by intelligent, Westernized Palestinians talking about peace, or even well-meaning Israelis talking about peace. The only thing that counts is what the average Palestinian really thinks when they are not "in front of the camera." And if the On Being team could really hear what is being said behind these closed doors, they would be horrified to hear a racism rivaling that of the Old Deep South. Racism is an addictive drug, like cigarettes or cocaine or heroin, used by cultures to cover up the pain of deep wounds. Seeing and acknowledging the reality of that pain, and what causes it, is the first step towards healing it. This will be very very hard, and is something the Palestinians will need to find their own way to work through.

I'm very curious about this - this is the first time I've ever seen anyone claim that Islam claims that "Jews are inferior beings" - which is essentially the label which many (if not most?) Jews claim is true of any human who is not one of "God's Chosen People" - namely a Jew. I'd be interested in seeing where this idea is expressed in the Koran or perhaps any of the scriptures shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

I am constantly intrigued, and saddened, by the way in which some people such as Rmwolfe holds up a mirror image of 'the other side' which seems more accurately to describe one's own fears and paranoia.
Indeed, many Christian Palestinians and Muslim Palestinians would tell you that the shame that they find themselves struggling with in Israel/Palestine is that there are Jewish scholars and Rabbis who hold up the Old Testament or Torah and claim that only the Jewish People are God's 'chosen' and the rest of us are lesser beings.

In this 21st c there is no excuse for anyone to claim superiority over any other in our common humanity. It is simply shameful ignorance. The people in Israel/Palestine that this writer urges the USC and Being team to be cautious of are the courageous people of the Middle East today. They are the ones who, in the face of persecution by the Israeli authorities, persist in meeting with those from 'the other side' to hold claim to their common humanity and uphold each other's dignity. They work untiringly to try to rescue Israel's soul from being destroyed by occupying a people - the Palestinians- who have lived in this ancient land for as long as the Jewish people... And until 1948 they lived side by side and shared the land.

This is what these people who work so hard for peace with justice and dignity are working towards: a time where all of the people there acknowledge their common Semitic roots and can live beside each other in an acceptance of religious differences that share many prophets in common, not least Abraham. Listen to them...and their plea for compassion and understanding of each other's common humanity...they speak for so many of those at the 'grass roots' who feel they have no voice. And trust them! It is trust that is so sadly missing from the politicians that claim to speak for the people here. But these people are building trust wherever they work so that hope remains alight of what is possible...

Nancy decides in her mind that I am hiding some kind of sense of superiority, then goes on talking about it as if it exists. You need to accept that you are the one that NEEDS me to be full of hate, because then you can dismiss everything I said. As a religious Jew, I actually appreciate the religious sentiments of Muslims and their dedication to their faith, something that most atheistic liberals in America have not got a clue about.

Teaching hate is routine in Palestinian schools. It is forbidden in Israel. Even President Obama had to weigh on in this http://bit.ly/6oQsn. I did not ever say that talk of peace should stop. What I said is that too many people, like Nancy, go on with platitudes about peace while refusing to acknowledge real issues that need to be addressed. Everyone loves to criticize Israel, but I DARE Nancy to openly criticize any Palestinian about the institutionalization of hatred in their culture, in their media, in their schools. She'll be essentially told that she's either on their side or their enemy. She'll probably decide to keep quiet because it's safe.

My son was involved with Hillel House at the University of Illinois. There was a pro-Israel parade, and he decided to approach the Muslim student organization about having a dialogue and understanding, and avoiding inflammatory talk or any type of violence, since the Muslim students wanted to have a counter-parade. They had a pleasant chat, but at the end the Muslim students told him, in more or less these words: "well, it's nice you want to talk to us, but our religion teaches us we cannot trust Jews because they are not trustworthy and will stab you in the back." My son wanted to know where this was in the Koran. He was told: "It's not precisely in the Koran, but it is in many of our other religious writings."

If this is how highly educated Arab students talk in an American university, how do you think they talk in Gaza? All I am saying is: pursue peace, but keep your eyes open and realize that there will be no peace until institutionalized hatred ends. Hatred must end on both sides, not just on Israel's side. Chamberlain can come back from Nazi Germany talking about "peace in our time," but there will be no peace when children are taught to hate.

As far as the Koran on Jews, you can find some quotes here: http://bit.ly/1hRZyi