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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Mid-East pen friends part 6: History
Omneya al-Naggar, an Egyptian school teacher in the northern city of Alexandria, has been taking part in an e-mail correspondence with Orly Noy, an Israeli journalist of Iranian origin, living and working in Jerusalem.

In this, their sixth exchange for BBCArabic.com, the two women discuss their different perspectives on terrorism and history.


Hi Omneya,

I write to you at the end of a beautiful snowy day in Jerusalem, we all stayed in and had so much fun.

The last thing I had in mind when I started this correspondence is conducting it from an "us against you" perspective.

But sometimes I get the feeling that for you, there is no possibility to see or understand even slightly the Israeli side, because that would, somehow, be justifying it.

Even when you say you realise that there is violence from the Palestinian side as well, you immediately add "but what do you expect when your territory is occupied?", as if the only way to maintain national resistance is to blow up people at buses.

By the way, the Israeli national movement did have to fight the British occupation forces, and the Hagana and Etsel fought for independence while thousands of Jewish survivors from Europe had nowhere else to go, but they never targeted civilians.

The only time it happened, after the Etsel attacked the King David Hotel, the officers of the Hagana turned their fellow brothers in arms over to the Brits because they didn't want to associate the Israeli national resistance with terrorism.

The moral price that we pay as a society due to the occupation is tremendous, and we can't address any of our inner problems as long as this conflict goes on
It is very naive to present the suicide bombers as individuals, it's like saying that the people who live in the settlements are individuals. But neither of them should be considered as such.

They both represent the official policy of official sectors in their societies, be it Hamas, the Islamic Jihad or the right wing parties in Israel.

Behind every suicide bomber there is a whole mechanism of recruiting, training, logistics, money, transportation and so on, and it is inconceivable to think that the Palestinian Authority knows nothing about it.

So, either they know and do nothing about it, or they know and can't do anything about it, or they don't know about any of this at all. The last two cases are even more problematic from Israel's point of view, because if the Palestinian Authority doesn't know what's going on in their territories or can't do anything about it, than what makes them the right partner for negotiations?

But this said, I do think that it is Israel that should break this vicious cycle, because I always put the responsibility where power is.

And since Israel is stronger and it's in a position to have power over the Palestinians, I think that it should be the one to make the substantial first move, and that means withdrawing from the occupied territories immediately.

I think we should do it for our own sake as well - the moral price that we pay as a society due to the occupation is tremendous, and we can't address any of our inner problems as long as this conflict goes on.

Come to think of it, this is probably one of the reasons why Israeli governments are so afraid of a real attempt to achieve peace - because then they would have to face the reality of poverty, social gaps and so on within Israel, so it's easier to unite the people against a common enemy.

Wishing you a great week,

Take care, Orly


Hi Orly,

I think we share one more thing in common for the time being, and that is the cold weather.

I saw what you described as snowy Jerusalem yesterday on TV. Alexandria had non-stop showers throughout the last week. On Saturday, I took the boys for a morning walk on the sea front. Tumultuous sea, cold wind, water puddles - just so beautiful.

I think your reading of history definitely differs from mine. An "Israeli national" resistance against British occupation is unheard of since Israel was not even in existence at the time.

Legally speaking, Palestine was under a British mandate under Turkish rule.

That the Jewish immigrants, still haunted by the atrocities of the Holocaust, want to call this a "war of independence" to justify their existence in what was known to the whole world as Palestine, is totally another issue.

History books (not only from Arab points of view) are very clear about how the state of Israel was created.

How can Sharon negotiate peace with the Palestinians while building the security barrier and increasing the settlements? How can he negotiate with Arafat when he labels him "the enemy of the entire free world"?
I also differ with you about the issue of terrorism. For me, state terrorism is the real threat, and Israel keeps practicing state terrorism in different shapes; from eradicating Arab villages, to killing people, to exiling, to demolishing houses, to occupying Arab territories, to orchestrating massacres such as in Deir Yassin, Lebanon or Jenin, to refusing negotiable terms for real peace.

How can Sharon negotiate peace with the Palestinians while building the security barrier and increasing the settlements? How can he negotiate with Arafat when he labels him "the enemy of the entire free world" and allows the Israeli military forces to siege his compound in Ramallah?

What do the Palestinians represent for you? I know this question should have belonged to an earlier e-mail, but I think we had so many other things to ask about.

You are a resident in Jerusalem, what kind of daily interactions do you have with the Palestinians and how do they go? If there are none, what are the reasons?

Till next time,

Omneya


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