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Late afternoon, Yosemite Valley

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Shalom, shalom, va en shalom?*

Rami Aman - facebook photo
I have a sad story to share that still gives one some hope for Easter and Passover. Shall we call it a bittersweet story? A Palestinian peace activist in Gaza, Rami Aman, wants a better understanding of his supposed enemies so what does he do, he calls them on zoom.

And ends up in a Gaza jail for consorting with the opposition. Who turned him in? Reportedly, an Amnesty International researcher, who was incensed by the call.
JERUSALEM — For five years, a small but feisty group of Palestinian peace activists in the blockaded Gaza Strip has been organizing small-scale video chats with Israelis under a bridge-building initiative it calls “Skype With Your Enemy.” On Monday, the group, the Gaza Youth Committee, drew one of its biggest crowds yet — more than 200 participants — this time on Zoom, the newly popular teleconferencing platform. But other Palestinians in Gaza, who took umbrage at the idea of befriending Israelis, were also listening in. And the resulting public uproar prompted Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, to arrest the youth committee’s leader and several other participants.The charge: “holding a normalization activity” with Israelis, which a Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman, Iyad Al-Bozom, called a crime, saying it amounted to the “betrayal of our people and their sacrifices.”
Rami Aman is 38. I think he is a very courageous guy and I salute him. His desire for friendship and understanding between the two peoples has landed him in jail. He is a threat to both power structures and they are both equally corrupt at this point. The powers that be prefer things stay in a constant state of tension, it keeps authoritarians in power.

I myself was astounded when I went back to Israel during Desert Storm in 1990 and saw how little communication there was at the time between the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews I lived with in the Western Galilee. Some of them had lived next to these people their whole lives and had never spoken to them. So idealist that I am, I organized a meeting in order to foster some communication. Brought Palestinian and Jewish people together in a room to talk.

My attempts were not looked at so favorably by the Israeli authorities, who surrounded the building and recorded the goings on. I talked to a Colonel that I knew afterwards. A meeting with an Arab village headman at his home was cancelled when things got too hot. It was pretty much a disaster, but a well meaning one on my part. Things had become so ossified, probably doubly so now. It is a much different environment than when I lived there in the 1970's or during my father's time, times when we both regularly worked and socialized in harmony with Arabs and Palestinians.

Yet people like Rami and the Israeli youth who spoke to him offer us all hope, that the younger generation can cut through the scarred hatred of their parent's generation and even further back, and ask each other "what is up?" and work together for a better understanding and tomorrow. By actually talking to each other. Let us hope so.

*peace, peace, where is the peace?

1 comment:

Ken Seals said...

That's so discouraging.