Sunday, December 09, 2007

Palestinians Must Get Out of Mental Imprisonment

The following has noting to do with the relationship between Shilo & Tumos Ayya, yet in a way it has everything to do with it. The two communities will continue to be worlds apart, although their respective municipal boundaries touch each other, as long as the "Mental Prisons" both sides create remain.

I will be the first to admit, that as long as Arabs seek to kill me and my family I refuse to intentionally purchase any goods or services grown, created or delivered by them. I see no point in providing those who wish me harm with the capital they need to purchase weapons and explosives.

Having said that, if some form og co-existence ever does come about, primarily as a result of the Arabs accepting our right to live in the land of our ancestors along side of them - as equals - I will be amongst the first to suggest joint economic projects to provide a livelihood with honor for both communities here in Emek Shilo.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Ray Hanania, Arab News

JERUSALEM, 9 December 2007 — Palestinians I meet always point to the Israeli occupation as the main stumbling block preventing them from achieving independence and driving their oppressive lives. But I think far more obstacles exist that Palestinians are afraid to acknowledge, most that begin right in their own back yards.

Maybe because I was raised in America where tyranny is far more subtle and less violent than the real threats and physical dangers facing people in the Arab and Muslim Worlds. Or, maybe it is also because I am a realist, a state of mind that apparently continues to elude Palestinian society. Palestinians live in the past. Even when they emigrate to the Western countries, they may live physically in their adopted homelands, but they remain mentally imprisoned in “the balad. “The heaviest chains of this self-oppression may in fact be something Palestinians call “normalization.”

“Normalization” is a state of mind in which Palestinians prevent themselves from living in the present so they can dwell in the long lost past. Normalization is the act of refusing to accept reality, insisting that Palestinian existence is not in the present but in the past In this “unreality,” fading memories are more important than the clarity of the present.

Palestinian activists use “Normalization” as a bludgeon to keep Palestinians in line like sheep. Extremists pull the strings of suffering and frustration, throwing down the “normalization” card whenever a Palestinian tries to break free of the mental bondage and address the reality of the Israeli occupation.

By working with Israelis, Palestinians argue, they might some how undermine their rights. Maybe Palestinians haven’t looked around, but they are dealing with Israelis in every circumstance, every location and on every level humanly possible.

Earlier this year, a group of mostly Israelis involved in a movement called “OneVoice” sought to organize an event that would showcase Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. Music. Speeches. And “normalization.” Of course, the extremists spoke out against OneVoice, and so did the so-called moderates like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas reportedly spread the word that he did not support OneVoice, and the plans for the music festivals were canceled.

Had Abbas trashed the movement because of Lubetzky’s personal failings as a leader, I might have sympathized. But that was not the reason. The reason was that they are against anything that might allow Palestinians to start thinking outside of their self-imposed imprisonment.

Visiting the PNA’s “Ministry of Information” a few years back, I was handed a business card from one of the officials that had a chuckling error. The card did not identify him as a “Public Relations” specialist, but rather as a “Pubic Relations” specialist, an unfortunate typo with embarrassing meaning. I didn’t have the heart to explain how stupid the card made him look.

During this trip through Palestine, I worked closely with many Palestinian journalists, trying to help them find ways to navigate through this real tragedy of Palestinian immobilization. All said they wanted to attend a journalism conference in which editors and reporters of several prominent Israeli newspapers were also scheduled to speak. But, they said they were pressured to stay away. “Normalization,” they said, means Palestinians are not yet ready to, well, deal with Israelis as regular people. Only as enemies. That didn’t stop many Palestinians from coming to my standup

I leave Palestine and Israel this trip recognizing that Palestinians are suffering from several layers of occupation, and a self-imposed oppression that has become the excuse for their failings. They say they want peace with Israel, but many deep down can’t accept the damage to their pride that compromise means accepting that their efforts over the past 60 years have been an utter failure caused by their own failed leadership.

While Palestinians are stifled in their aspirations, only miles away, Israelis are enjoying life, growing as a people and flourishing as a people. The ability of Palestinians to establish their own state continues to erode. That the people driving this erosion are Palestinians themselves is most troubling to me. Imprisoned in a wall of ignorance constructed by their own foolish failure to see through the rhetoric and the hatred of the past to the reality of today, Palestinians have only one option. They can either start living in the reality or they can disappear in the past.

— Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist and author. He can be reached at

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