Tel Aviv Diary May 19, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from May 19, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

May 19, 2004

Next week we move out of Gaza, but in the meantime 20 people were killed last night. There IS a logic in the desire to blow up the tunnels and to arrest those in charge. But how can you justify 20 deaths?

Ah the concept of enemy is so complex around here. While we acknowledge the tragedy of Palestines becoming refugees all over again, we are the ones making them refugees. If we're so humane and we absolutely must destroy those houses why don't we build alternative houses first, bring mobile homes, etc.?

Complex? I can't get my mind around the 5 minute morning news - If the destruction in Gaza is the first item, the second is the national soccer championship going to Bnei Sachnin, and Arab-Jewish team. "This is the first time," says Avri Gilad, "that I've seen an Arab happy in a public event - and adds sheepishly - and not because we're being put down." There is actually general rejoicing in the country. LOTS of people are smiling.

Then an israeli doctor comes and complains about the lack of medical services for the Palestinians in Rafah, and a lack of access of the medical services to the wounded. that we are not taking care of the people. this is considered a very very serious crime here. and when someone mentions that the soldiers in this operation might be influenced by the fact that they just witnessed these same citizens parading around with parts of their friends' bodies a silence falls on the television studio.

immediately after a pr expert is brought on and asked how we can improve our image in a situation like this. (Nachman Shai) His response is technical - what needs to be added to the program of pr.

But every minute it becomes more clear that more and more violence is inevitable -

Given the presence of the soldiers in Rafiah, the resistance of the Palestinians, the deaths today were inevitable. The army warned the demonstrators with warning shots, were not acknowledged, and then apparently screwed up. The Israeli army has already accepted responsibility, apologized, offered aid, and all that, but how can the Palestinians accept it?

Anyway I'm willing to bet that this incident gets us out of Gaza.

of course, as the BBC points out, we do have some reasons to be there. BBC

May 20, 2004

The City of Oil. Oil City. I can't decide how the translation of the play's title would go in English. But Hillel Mittlepunct's latest play "Ir HaNeft" is one of the best I've seen in a long time. It takes place in Abu Rhodis in 1969- when Israel was pumping oil in Sinai and making money hand over fist. This, according to this play, is when we got the sense of ourselves as an imperialistic society.

The army entertainment troupe, with its songs that have punctuated all public occasions in Israel for decades, sing here in the background between scenes of prostitution and other corruptions, counterpointing the corrupt actuality with the dreaming self-image.

May 21, 2004

Medical treatment in Rafah: the army claims it isn't stopping any supplies from getting through. the residents claim they're not getting any. Electricity: The army claims there are only a fewisolated pockets without electricity. I've heard People in Israel have gotten phone calls from Rafah telling them they're in the dark. I usually try to figure out the truth by adding both sides together. But these facts don't figure.

May 22, 2004

I've always liked Marwan Barghouti.

I'm pretty sure I've written about him before in these pages. All right he's been convicted by courts I respect of 5 murders.

And he probably doesn't like us very much now that we've kept him in prison for a few years already.

But he's wise and he's a good and charismatic leader.

He claims: "while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel (emphasis added), our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom." Sounds good. But the day after he said this - in january 2years ago - six people were killed near Hadera in a terrorist attack on a bar mitzvah party - and he knew about it in advance and agreed to it.

He still makes me smile when I see him, but I know I'm a fool for a pretty face.

A few years ago when asked about the solution to the problem here he said in an interview in Ma'ariv. "It's simple: You must understand, once and for all, that you must end the occupation. You must announce that the occupation is over and that Israel is leaving the territories. Present a timetable of a month, six months, a year. The important thing is that you present a timetable for withdrawal from all of the territories and the dismantling of the settlements, and announce that you recognize an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Believe me, such an announcement on the part of Israel will change the situation from top to bottom. Everything will work out. Everything. I have no doubt of that."

Now how could I not like him?

Now, in my experience, when you are presented with two antithtical versions of the truth, what you have to do is expand your understanding of the situation to include both versionsand/or redefine the concept of the truth. How would this work in the two examples above.

I was thinking about all this at the shiva of our friend and neighbor, who died of hepatitis he contracted in an Egyptian prison in the 50's and 60's. He was part of some strange and cloudy chapter of Israeli history known as 'haparasha' - and although he and his comrades were released in the prisoner exchange of 1967 - the truth of what really happened is only coming out next week in a big tv series.

Afterward we were walking around the block and Ezi was telling me about the parts other people in the neighborhood played in the history of this country, and not all the stories were all that heroic.

Which got me to thinking again about Mittlepunct's play "City of Oil," and how he blames the imperialist attitude that followed the '67 war. What if the only difference before and after the '67 war is censorship. That nobody's any different, only more photographed.

And it goes way back. I mean from the stories Ezi was telling about what the British did to the Arab residents of Palestine, we're even gentle.

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