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Friday, 9 January 2009

9 January 2009

Sometimes, it’s useful to try to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. So here’s what I might be writing today if I were a Palestinian living in Gaza.

"You want to know what it’s like in Gaza at the moment? It’s Hell on earth. But that’s nothing new – it’s always Hell on earth here. Since the day I was born, I have lived in a stinking, rotten prison, with no freedom and no dignity. I remember my grandfather telling me about the beautiful home he once had, and of the lemon trees and olive groves he tended – I still have the huge metal key to his house, and he told me before he died that one day I would be able to go back and live there again. Yeah, right. I doubt it still exists: it was probably buried under the Tel Aviv ring road years ago …

"Do I support Hamas? Yes, I do – because they stand up for me and they fight for me. I’m not a fundamentalist – I like to drink beer and I don’t pray very often – but I don’t see anyone else taking on the Israelis, and I can’t live my whole life like a snivelling dog, just waiting for the next blow to fall.

"The rockets? Sure, fire rockets at the Israelis. Let them feel how it hurts when children are killed, when you live every day in fear. Let them learn how it feels to be a Palestinian. If they want the rockets to stop, tell them to stop killing us, to give us back our land, to lift their blockades. Give us a chance to live like ordinary human beings.

"Ah, you want to know if we can ever live in peace? Perhaps you should ask the Israelis. Ask them if they will end their illegal occupation, give us back the land they stole to build their settlements on, let me go home to my grandfather’s house, if it’s still there, and plant more lemon trees. When they say Yes, then, maybe, we can live in peace. Salaam."

And here’s what I might be writing if I were an Israeli:

"You want to know why Israel is attacking Hamas in Gaza? Do you really need to ask? Do you know how many rockets they have fired at us since we left Gaza? How many times they have tried to send suicide bombers into Israel to kill us in our shopping malls and our bus stations? Have you any idea what it feels like when your neighbours are terrorists?

"Am I worried that we’re losing friends around the world? Let me tell you something: the Jewish people have learned over hundreds of years that friends don’t save you. For hundreds of years, we have been both hated and weak: if it’s a choice between that, and being hated and strong, well, I’m sorry, I know which I prefer.

"Look at a map. Look how small Israel is. It’s all we’ve got, and if we lose it, we lose everything. I’m sorry if some Palestinians have lost their homes – but so too have hundreds of thousands of Jews, in Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and many other places. We all know what it means to suffer.

"I repeat, we have nowhere else to go. But the Arabs? If they feel so sorry for the Palestinians in Gaza, why don’t they offer them homes in Egypt, or Jordan, or Saudi Arabia? There’s plenty of space for them there. I’ll tell you why: because they still hope that one day, Israel will disappear, that the Jews will vanish into the sea, and that they can have all of Palestine back.

"Sorry, it’s not going to happen. We won’t let it happen, because we have been victims too often. We remember the Holocaust, even if you don’t. Strength is our only defence – and we will use that strength until our enemies understand that we are here, in our God-given homeland, to stay for ever. When the Palestinians say Yes, they understand that, and accept it, then, maybe, we can live in peace. Shalom."

Let there be no misunderstanding: these are not my views, but based on my experience of more than 20 years reporting from and about Israel and Palestine, I’m pretty sure they’re the views of a great many Palestinians and Israelis.

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