Tuesday, October 11, 2011

11-Oct-11: Living with neighbours - and they with their neighbours

Jerusalem: The Mamilla shopping mall
We've just noted (11-Oct-11: Living with neighbours who want us all back to the stone age) the disturbing phenomenon of stoning attacks on public transportation in Jerusalem and the risks these pose to pretty much all of us.

Everyone living in this city knows first-hand the tensions and risks of living in an open city in which a large proportion of the people around us on the streets and highways and on the buses and trams belong to a population that, to a considerable extent, considers us Israelis as their enemies.

The nature of the internal communal tensions among the Arab residents of Jerusalem and its surrounding villages makes for some interesting analysis. A study published this week says a third of the Arabs living today in Jerusalem and the surrounding area "would rather hold Israeli citizenship than live in a new Palestinian state". This is based on a poll of a thousand Arabs carried out by David Pollock, who supervised US government studies of public opinion in the Middle East. Other points made in the survey:
  • Asked to make a choice between living under Israeli jurisdiction or under Palestinian jurisdiction in a new Palestinian state, 35 per cent said they would prefer to live under Israeli law.
  • 40 per cent ("at least") of those polled are ready to move to a different Jerusalem neighbourhood just in order to remain under Israeli rule.
  • Living under Israeli jurisdiction is identified as the key to maintaining the levels of healthcare, education and economic standards they currently enjoy.
  • But there is a significant minority - one-third - of Jerusalem-area Arabs who say they feel "discriminated against" by the Israeli government.
  • And this: "Even if a peace settlement could be agreed, 41 per cent said violent resistance would continue".
It's a claim that arises again and again. The media and political analysts, especially within Israel, refer to the struggle for peace between Arabs and Israelis and frequently get stuck at what they perceive to be Israeli actions that prevent peace (actions which to a great extent are calculated, in our view, to safeguard the peace and protect the population here, Israeli and Arab, from terrorist attacks). Yet whenever they are asked, the Arabs inside Israel and beyond its borders - substantial numbers of them - assert again and again that peace, whatever that means to them, will change nothing. What's really happening here, in their own terms, is a process of "violent resistance". And that violence, along with resistance to living in a state defined as Israeli or Jewish, is permanent

Whether or not this is a reflection of deeply held sentiments at the grass roots level, there is no doubt it's a central theme in the educational programming of the Palestinian Arab governments - both the PA version (click here, herehere and here for a small handful of examples from a very long list) and the Hamas (here and here and here and thousands of other published instances). 

How effective is all this? The surveys that are published from time to time confirm that there is a substantial and deeply worrying effect. But on the more positive side, living here and seeing how much of daily life is conducted in an atmosphere of live-and-let-live (visit any Israeli hospital for daily, unscripted living proof) gives hope for a better future, despite the best efforts of the merchants of hatred.

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