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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Mid-East pen friends part 5: Violence
Omneya al-Naggar, an Egyptian school teacher in the northern city of Alexandria, has begun an e-mail correspondence with Orly Noy, an Israeli journalist of Iranian origin, living and working in Jerusalem.

In this, their fourth exchange for, the two women find it difficult to get past the current violence and onto ideas on how to end it.

Hi Omneya,

Although I detest this mathematics of blood, I must mention, after your last e-mail, that on 29 January, 12 people were killed and almost 50 hospitalised after a suicide bombing on a bus two streets from my house in Jerusalem.

Does that legitimise what happened in Gaza? Of course not. Does it make it more complicated? I think it does. You ask what can be done under these circumstances. I think each side must first stop counting only their own casualties and look at the other side's grief and sorrow as well.

The fact that I believe the occupation must be ended as soon as possible and that it is wrong in every way does not take the responsibility off of the Palestinians. I think that you, of all people, who spoke so strongly about calling things by their proper name and about objectivity should realise that there is no justification to blowing oneself up on a bus full of children and civilians.

I am not trying to justify Israel's policy, I oppose it very strongly. But I think we must look at the reality, however complex, otherwise it would remain on the level of hollow slogans with no possibility to move on.

Each time there was the slightest possibility for progress, terrorist activity on the Palestinian side suddenly increased
The saddest thing is that in a strange way, this violence serves the extremists on both sides equally. It is a vicious circle. A suicide bombing gives Israel the excuse to re-enter Gaza and other Palestinian territories and act brutally there, and this in turn gives Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others the excuse to commit more suicide bombings, and so on.

I don't think it is just Israel that doesn't really want to negotiate a peace treaty, I think there are substantial parts within the Palestinian people that don't want it either. Each time there was the slightest possibility for progress, terrorist activity on the Palestinian side suddenly increased. It was a deliberate attempt to set back any serious moves towards peace.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I don't think any of that legitimises Israel's policy, but a serious discussion about the conflict can not ignore this angle.

My exam went well, thanks, but I'm mostly busy with work right now. We start broadcasting in about two weeks, and there are still many things to do. This will be the first bi-lingual radio station in Israel - Hebrew and Arabic - so we have to invent everything from zero.

Till next time,
All the best,

Hello Orly,

I hope all is well. I could not answer you yesterday because Friday is usually a very busy family day.

You mentioned a mathematics of blood, and your last two e-mails imply something of the "us against you" logic. You think I don't realise that there is violence on the Palestinian side as well. I do. But what do you expect when Palestinian territory is being occupied?

Please remember that you, as an Israeli, was never in the situation where your territory was occupied.

If we want to give things their proper names, we have to look at the concept of national resistance. This is a legitimate tool used all over the world when national sovereignty is threatened. The ultimate end of national resistance is the termination of occupation.

The suicide bombers are individuals, they do not represent the Palestinian state. The events in Gaza, and previously in Jenin and Hebron, are manifestations of how the Israeli state is responding. I can expect violence from the extremists (on both sides!), but state terrorism cannot be justified.

You talk about a vicious circle. I think this circle can be broken if the Palestinians are given their own state and allowed to practise their right to self-determination and security of their own land.

I think both sides need to understand that peace is the only alternative
The problem here is what kind of peace is negotiated with the Palestinians. Is it a peace that satisfies both sides or only secures the Israeli interests? The occupation of the Palestinian territories should be ended if acts of violence are to be avoided. Also, the terms of any peace negotiations should reflect a real desire to respect the existence of the Palestinians and a real desire to coexist peacefully.

There are so many issues involved in this, notably the status of Jerusalem, the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their land, the Jewish settlements, the water resources and the internal security.

On another level, I think both sides need to understand that peace is the only alternative. Neither side is willing to fully accept peace without an open negotiation over the question of territory. The more delays in this regard, the more victims on both sides.

Good luck for your broadcasting,

Your comments:

Every war is a civil war, because all men are brothers. But even brothers quarrel. These two civilized women, who simply chit chat about this issue are already past diplomacy. What if they had been neighbours on the same street? I think blood would spill and roll into the gutters. It will end when mothers will raise their son with love without hate. Both these women have children, what do they teach them? Do they say this land belongs to the Palestinians, but Israelis took it away. Is it the other way around? Teach them peace!!!
vadim, NYC

There is no justification for occupation. Leave the Palestinians alone. Give them the resources they owe. After then I believe then Palestinians will be the most beloved friends of Israel.
Karim Durrani,

It is very telling that Omneya talks about violence from the Palestinians as merely individuals who do not represent the Palestinian state. There is no acknowledgement that over 99% of these bombers are recruited by the recognised terror groups like Hamas. Omneya does not mention that it is the brainwashing of ordinary Palestinians by these terror groups supported and aided by both the Palestinian press and TV as well as the state run media across large parts of both the Arab and Muslim world that actively encourage hate and in some cases violence against the Jewish state. Until this stops there can not be peace and if there is no peace there can be no 2 state solution.
Julian Lazarus, London England

Interactions between the individual level I think is the best possible ways to sideline their old wounds and come forward with peaceful future alternatives. Understanding the views and opinions at individual level, like the case of Orly & Omneya are who share the concern and look from different dimension is very encouraging. Keep it up Orly & Omneya. God bless you and let people like you help bring peace in your region. Best of Luck
Tashi Dhendup, Chhukha, Bhutan

I hope they both come out of this correspondence with a more open mind
Ata, Canada
Omneya has the advantage of being a non-Palestinian, she can look at the situation more objectively and more casually. On the other hand, no matter how hard Orly tries, she cannot understand that her existence in Israel represents the shattered dreams of an independent state for a Palestinian nation. What they have in common, is that they're not listening to each other and keep repeating themselves; Omneya goes about with an air of serenity and intelligence but she's still doing the same thing that Orly does in her impatient childish manner. I hope they both come out of this correspondence with a more open mind and open their eyes so that they may understand and see the justice in each of their positions, even though they're irreconcilable.
Ata, Canada

From my point of view, I can see that Orly is being very democratic, understanding, and apologetic. But I sense that Omneya is being very aggressive to her, which I believe is unfair. Orly has attempted to make apologies for her governments actions, but Omneya has continued to attack her.

I am 100% pro-Palestinian, but feel that if we were in the situation of discussions to resolve this problem I would much rather communicate with Orly as she seems more sincere and understanding to the problems on both sides as opposed to Omneya who is finding it difficult to understand that this is a two way problem. Good luck to both of you!
DarrellC, Birmingham, Birmingham UK

How is it that the only Israeli the BBC could find to discuss this was one who is vociferously opposed to the Israeli government and majority Israeli opinion? Is this supposed to give us a realistic view of both sides' arguments, or is it just another opportunity on the part of the BBC to promote its own views?
Matthew, New York

The correspondence is in name only. Neither wants to listen, only to argue
David Herman, Chicago, USA
The correspondence is in name only. Neither wants to listen, only to argue. It is a shame two bright individuals can't look at each other's world with an open mind. The propaganda on both sides have corrupted their views.
David Herman, Chicago, USA

This conversation is slowly dragging itself into the usual you-did-this-and-I-did-that dialogue. We all know who did what, when, and why. We also are very aware of the evil on both sides. Let's get constructive and start laying out detailed steps, issue-by-issue, of how we can "solve" this.
Samizaza, USA (originally from Yafa, Palestine)

Keep at it guys, despite your differences. Thoughts like yours are really all that stand between even more massive bilateral slaughter of innocents.
Omar Khan, Burlington, Vermont

It seemed as if things were getting ruff, but now it looks to me that the talk has gotten more friendly. Orly seemed to have taken words right out my mouth about how the Palestinians an Israelis are using each other as excuses for more violence. The same goes for Omneya when she said neither side is going to except peace without an open negotiation over territory. Obviously though, we should all know two different states just will not work. Israel/Palestine is now the home of Israelis and Palestinians. They should just except that they are one people and live together as neighbours.. .in peace.
Emma, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

I especially agree with the point that one violent event does not justify a retaliation
Becky Curtis, Houghton MI, USA
I am fascinated to read the correspondence between Orly and Omneya. It benefits people like me to hear personal perspectives straight from people living in the Middle East. I especially agree with the point that one violent event does not justify a retaliation, and that both sides must understand each other to achieve peace. This kind of communication is priceless and if everyone followed this practice, the world would be a better place.
Becky Curtis, Houghton MI, USA

It's a good idea to show real correspondence between two women from opposing countries. It shows the feelings of people that are living through these events and know what they are talking about. It also gives the issue of Palestine and Israel a reality to it that makes people feel closer to the problem rather than feeling like it is not an issue that has anything to do with them.
Roza, Berkelely, USA

Omneya is right when she makes distinction between terror made by Palestinian civilians and terror made by Israeli Government. However, it is satisfying the fact that both Omneya and Orly are well-behaved with constructive approach to the issues concerning Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Admirim Haliti, Tetovo, Macedonia.

I think the problem with what Omneya is advocating is in her belief that 1) the violence is completely related to the occupation, and 2) the violence will cease when and if a two state solution is achieved. I agree it would be harder for groups like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to maintain their memberships without the occupation, but there is a larger issue at stake here. Much of the Palestinian propaganda in the media as well as school systems teaches an inherent hate towards all Jews as well as Israel. Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, do not agree with Israel's right to exist. The belief that the violence will stop with the creation of a Palestinian state cannot become reality unless accompanied by a cessation of this state sponsored hatred.
Gabriel Maser, Montreal, Canada

This exchange shows why the Israeli peace camp is unable to forge links with the Palestinians
Jack, Tampa USA
This exchange shows why the Israeli peace camp is unable to forge links with the Palestinians. Orly decries her government's actions, while also decrying the actions of the suicide bombers. Omneya is only willing to denounce the actions of the Israeli government, while tacitly justifying suicide bombing. There is no doubt that suicide bombers are motivated in part by Israeli military action in the West Bank and Gaza. But the Israeli actions and the Palestinian bombings create a vicious circle of violence, which even when Israel has let up, the Palestinian extremists have reignited. There are extremists on both sides, and until BOTH sides are willing to face down and control their own extremists, this conflict will be insolvable.
Jack, Tampa USA

Why didn't you pick an Israeli who supports her government's policies? After all, Sharon was elected by a huge majority in the last election. Orly isn't representative of the people I live amongst in Jerusalem.
Judy Bloomfield, Jerusalem, Israel

Omneya's latest letter is shocking in its cold-heartedness. Orly wrote about a suicide bombing that happened almost at her doorstep, and Omneya responded not with concern for her correspondent, but with support for so-called national resistance. And, by the way, does Omneya really know what it is like to live in an occupied territory? Perhaps she could learn something from her correspondent who is living in the middle of the conflict that Omneya is preaching about.
Elizabeth, Canada

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