as i have commented on occasion on this blog and much more often in conversation i am disturbed by the widespread anti-israel sentiment that permeates the arab world.
although israel hardly featured in my upbringing (apart from being blacked out of our atlases and history books at school), the country became increasingly interesting and appealing to me as i started to come of age politically. surveying the middle east in the mid to late 90s i was struck by the stark difference between israel and the rest of the middle east. a reasonably well functioning democracy with pockets of real innovation in industry and academia, a press that i trusted more than any in the region. i admired (and continue to admire) the young, small country’s achievements.
i also grew up with many palestinian friends. one of my earliest loves was palestinian. i sympathized with their sense of loss, insecurity and bitterness. but that sympathy rarely translated into support for their politics. the plo reeked of the corrupt incompetence that was familiar to me from my visits to egypt. i was (and still am) pro the palestinain people but have more often than not not sided with them politically.
a noteworthy personal event took place in 1996. i was living in london and took that early love to a screening of chronicle of a disappearance. elia suleiman’s post screening q&a was fascinating. elia was deeply conflicted about having made his film as an israeli with israeli funding. it occured to me at that point that no other middle eastern country at the time would have allowed, never mind funded a similarly dissenting creative work. it seemed that even an admittedly second-class arab citizen of israel had more rights than the citizens of the non-israeli middle east.
in 1998 i was in new york during israel’s 50th anniversary and merrily joined in the 5th avenue celebrations.
the following decade complicated my feelings. although my support for israel has not wavered, all sides of the conflict have been petty, ugly, at times hijacked by each side’s extremist factions and depressingly underhanded – ignoring the human suffering for political gains.
a few years ago i came close to marrying an (update: american / israeli) israeli (and former zionist). an experience that deepened my understanding of israeli society and certainly humanized the israeli idea in the same way my palestinian friends had done earlier. there is a small but vocal minority in israel that stand up for palestinian right to statehood and self-determination. unfortunately i find it much harder to find arab’s who are vocally for israel’s right to exist peacefully. so here’s me being vocal about it.
i (a born as a moslem egyptian) support israel’s right to exist pecefully and admire its achievements.
who’s with me?
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